Can I ask you something as we get started today?  Have you ever noticed how many people you come across that have been hurt by someone they look at as a Christian or a church person?  It’s amazing just how common it is to know someone who has felt the weight of judgement, the gut punch of religion from somewhere in there past and they seem stuck dealing with those hurts from someone they look at as a Christian…which if you think about it, really pushes them away from Jesus reach, which is the ultimate tragedy right because why would I ever want to be like that person, right?  You probably know lots of people who can tell you ever reason why they would never want to be a Christian. They can tell you in detail the reason why they would never go to church and often times it comes down to the fact that they have felt hurt, judged, and have been deeply wounded by someone inside the church and those hurts are a HUGE set back to their spiritual growth aren’t they?  It just pushes people further and further away from Jesus, which would be the very thing we all need.  It’s amazing to me just how common it is to know someone or to have personally felt the pain and hurts that we all can feel from someone who is a Christian.  Now putting aside the fact that we are all human and Christian or not we will all make mistakes, I mean seriously people are people whether we do the church thing or not but I want to talk about something very important with you today.  Maybe the better question isn’t do you know someone who has been hurt but maybe the better question becomes, why?  Why is this happening?  Why is there so much hurt, judgement, guilt, shame, even hate found around people who would say they love God?  Around a faith that is built on love, and grace, and forgiveness…it’s quite a contradiction isn’t it?  Where’s the love right?  Well this is really what we are going to talk about today as we take yet another step into Emotionally Healthy Spirituality…this step, is all about growing into an emotional adult.  The reality is this lesson is about the one thing that is often missing when it comes to our spiritual journey or our own growth…and that step is a step into adulthood, which according to the Bible is very clearly a step into love.  Listen to me, the very essence of our faith is love.  The literal goal of Christianity is about changing your life, literally taking us from a self-centered life that is all about me, into a life of love.  Do you buy that?  Well if that is actually what Christianity is all about then why do we see so much pain, and hurts around our churches?  Well it’s because we are missing something.  I believe religion hurting people is the ultimate set up to keep people from Christ, but I also believe if we understood the goal of Christianity as life changing love we wouldn’t see so many people walking with so many hurts that have come from or around the church.  Today is so important because again we are going to get very real, and we are going to talk about the fact that in general something is missing as we grow in our faith…that something is love, it’s found in how we relate to people, and it’s our ability to grow up and see the bigger picture of life.  So here’s the deal, I would like to pray and get this started today…because today is such a big deal.

This journey into Emotional Healthy Spirituality has been such a big deal, and I have just loved the practical steps we have been working through.  Just quickly think through where we have been, we started with looking at our emotions, we have looked at our pasts and our families of origin which helped us move forward by going backward.  We talked about the walls that we all face in life, and how God can squeeze so much out of us in those moments and just how much better we are as people as we not only face but overcome the walls of our lives.  We have talked about turning towards our pain and realizing the importance of facing our hurts, grief, and sorrow rather than running from it and last week Ken talked to us about the importance of rest.  Of actually faithfully stopping our work, so that we can reflect and be aware of God.  Rest is so important yet we struggle to stop working and actually engage Sabbath rest.  I think that was such an important moment and I believe all of those steps come before today’s because when we can engage in each of those practical steps it leads us to grow into the emotional healthy adults we are talking about today.  Really all the practical things we have looked at so far, lead us into a life of love…so today while the step is growing, the product of all the other steps may be that we live the life of love that we are all called to live.

First things first, do any of us like to be told to grow up?  I mean it’s pretty disrespectful isn’t it?  I mean no one wants to be called a child, but interestingly enough this comes up a good bit in scripture!  So if you’re tracking with me so far today, you are picking up that I keep bringing up two things…growing up, and love.  Did you notice that?  Well it’s because the idea of growing up comes up a lot in our scriptures.  In fact Jesus and Paul bring it up a lot and challenge us to grow up often and here’s the thing…they just don’t tell us to grow up, they tell us what growing up looks like.  Look at Jesus here in the famous Sermon on the Mount!

Matthew 5:48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it.”

And if that isn’t enough, let’s check out Paul’s words here in 1 Corinthians!

1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. NIV

So wow Jesus, and Paul can we soften this up a little bit.  I mean, no one likes hearing that they need to grow up like this right?  I know I don’t want to hear this, but you know what it is so important.  It’s so important that these guys are often challenging us to grow up, and here’s what is really interesting about it, the idea of growing up always is tied into love.  Look first at what Jesus is saying here…

Matthew 5:43 43 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44 I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best — the sun to warm and the rain to nourish — to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. 46 If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. 47 If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. MSG

So Jesus is talking about love, and trying to push his disciples to even love their enemies and those that give them a hard time!  He is saying it’s time to grow up and love!  How about Paul he is talking about putting our childish ways behind us and acting like a grown up…so that we can what? (Love!)

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. NIV

So there is a very clear connection for both Paul and Jesus in us growing up, and us loving.  So I want you thinking this through, our emotional growth and maturity into adulthood leads us to love.  We speak all the time of how we really get excited around here for life change because life change is so real…and here’s the thing, asking Jesus into your life is an incredibly awesome thing.  Going to church is an awesome thing, but you can do both of those things and read you’re Bibles and still be missing it.  You can do all the good Christian type things and work very hard on not sinning, and still not be growing and maturing into emotional and spiritual adulthood.  How would you know?  It’s in the love you show and share with others, or not.  The goal of this Christian life is to get us all to a place where we grow from our own self-centered childlike ways, into loving adults.  Now it’s easier said than done but it is the goal.  We started this talk by discussing just how many people are not experiencing love from the church…so it’s not easy.  But Paul, and Jesus are challenging us to grow up…which means we move from selfish to self-less.  We move from the “give me give me” life of children to loving and giving and serving adults.

I want you to think about life as a child.  Think back to your own childhood for a moment.  As we grow up we hopefully start to slowly realize that we are not the only people on this planet right?  I mean when you were young you want things, and you don’t see the bigger picture.  As we grow we experience life, and slowly (hopefully) over time we start to realize something amazing…we are not the center of the universe!  We start to understand the bigger picture that there are others on this planet too!  We must grow up because love matters so much that the book actually calls love the essence of true spirituality…But…

I know, you knew there would be a “but” right?  If our Scriptures are constantly bringing up love, and Jesus is constantly pushing us towards growing up and loving…and Paul challenged us to grow up and love, why aren’t we seeing love?  If this is such a HUGE part of everything in our faith, why are so many people hurt by the church or by someone they would look at as a Christian?  Something seems to be missing here because for so many of us we go and do the church thing.  We can truthfully tell people that we love Jesus.  We pray, read our Bibles, and believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior but somehow we can miss the whole love thing.  We read about it, quote it, and know what Jesus asks us to do and somehow it never leaves our brains and our mouths and enters our hearts.  We can go to churches that talk about “It’s not about you!” and the mission of Christ and we can even very proudly and passionately tell others that we go to a church with that identity but somehow it’s something we say, and maybe not live out…cheerfully telling people it’s not about me, as I quietly wonder what is in it for me?  So what’s the deal?  I think this is so important to look at because if we can see this disconnect we can do something about this thing that is missing from so many of our Christian journeys…that missing piece is love.

The Three Points of Connection. So in our Spiritual journey there are three points of connection that we all must have, if any of these three aren’t connected we can have major issues, and I want you to see these three very important areas that we must stay connected to or things just get out of whack in our lives.  Those areas are:

  1. Our connection with God
  2. Our connection with ourselves
  3. Our connection with other people.

Think about the whole point of this series and what we have been doing with all this emotional healthy spirituality stuff.  We have literally been asking you to connect with God through knowing your emotions and engaging into essential spiritual practices like Sabbath rest, and rhythmic time with Him.  We have literally been asking you to connect to yourself.  We want you to see and know yourself so that you can know God through your emotions, your past, and all of how you feel and think.  And today what am I trying to show you and ask you to do?  We are looking at connecting to other people and loving others.  So you see it right?  There are three essential connection points…I’m pretty sure you are begged 52 weeks of the year by us to spend time with God and connect to Him so while that is stressed often not many people recognize their need to be connected to themselves and others…and that is the problem…we don’t really all three are important.

You know these three points of connectivity have me thinking, I don’t know if it’s my Juniata County roots or if it’s because I hear so many of you getting ready for hunting season, but it reminds me a lot of my Uncles back in Juniata County trying to teach me how to shoot a gun.  Now if you notice you heard me say try, because I’m not a big hunter…and in Juniata County let’s just say they have concerns about someone like me who lives in the “big city” and doesn’t hunt, and didn’t wrestle growing up in school…but despite how scared that made them of me, they still taught me how to shoot, and the one thing that was pretty apparent was that my Uncles were really good at it.  They could stand there and hold the gun free hand and hit anything, but for me…some big city kid whose toughness was definitely in question – I mean who would choose a winter sport like basketball over wrestling for crying out loud…my instructions were clear.  No free hand shooting for Sam.  And it actually helped me.  The more points of connectivity I had, the easier it was for me to hit the target.  No points of connection I couldn’t hit the target, one point (like leaning against a tree), I improved!  Two points where I’m like resting on the rail of tree stand, well now I’m looking good…give me three points where the gun is resting on a sand bag…well now I could hit the bullseye too!  I choose to ignore the amount of trash my family spoke about me needing those three points of connection to shoot straight and focus on the positives…I didn’t shoot myself in the foot or face, and I hit the target…and I lived to tell the tale!  So check this out, I wasn’t very successful free hand with a rifle but when I had three connection points I was a lot more successful in shooting…well it’s really no different spiritually.  Just like my humbling shooting experience life can humble me as well.  Spiritually speaking there is great imagery here…if I stay connected to all three points God, myself, and others I do pretty well.  When I start to disconnect from just one of them, I begin to struggle but I’m no hunter, so I would like Kim to come up here and give us a good lesson right before we head to the woods!

Kim’s conclusion – when you have these three points you can shoot so much better…and spiritually this is no different for all of us!  I want you thinking about this as you kids go to school this week, and as you adults go back to work, you don’t have to be a great marksmen to hit the bullseye you just need to stay connected.  Spiritually the same principle applies…if you aren’t staying connecting to God, yourself, and to others you will struggle for many of us we remember to stay connected to God, but we forget the importance of our own health, and we also forget the importance of loving others well.  We need all three connection points or we will continue to miss out on the most important thing…which is love.

I am so glad we could have Kim come up here and teach us how to shoot, not that I am revealing my damage or anything but my family in Juniata County will be relieved to know I wasn’t messing up your shooting skills by trying to teach that myself…big city living, non-wrestling guy who doesn’t hunt…lol.  Thanks Kim!

The two things we are invited into the presence of each and every day. 

  1. We are invited into God’s presence every day. 
  2. We are also invited into the presence of people every day. 

Now we don’t have to choose to engage either of them…and for some of us we choose to engage just one or the other.  We can choose to only enter into God’s presence everyday but want no parts of people. (This would lead us to the hurts and pain caused by good Christians we spoke of earlier.)  These people have the God thing down, but miss the people thing.  The most popular choice would be to engage into the presence of people while completely blowing off God…I mean who has time for God in this day and age anyway?  And people are always there, in my face all the time!  We see people who engage one or the other but it’s very rare to find someone who actually is in engaged in both the presence of God and the presence of people…but I found someone who was awesome at it.  His name is Jesus.

Jesus was the best at both engaging God’s presence and engaging people well.  He was so connected to God that it allowed Him to have the amazing ability to live his own life at His own pace…which allowed Him to connect extremely well with people.  He listened and paid attention to others and He felt them.  Jesus was able to focus, and feel, he was compassionate and I will tell you why.  Jesus engaged all three of the connection points consistently and well.  Jesus was connected to God.  Because of this He had love in His heart.  Jesus was connected to Himself.  He knew who He was and stood in His true self better than anyone ever has on this Earth and He also was connected to others and here’s the deal.  We are to do the same thing!  We are to live as Jesus lived and we are learning that if we don’t have these three connection points well, we simply can’t love the way Jesus did.  There is just no way to read your Bible and come to a different conclusion, it’s just so clear.  We are to grow up in Christ.  What that means is we are to love.  Everything about our Faith leads us to a brand new life of love, one that we can’t have without Jesus in our life.  So here’s what is really interesting.  The Bible is so clear and time and time again our challenge is to love.

1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  NIV

If we love one another God’s love is in us and His love is made complete in us…everything in our faith brings us back to love.  Our scriptures our clear the very essence of Christianity is life changing love.  But this has me thinking, if this was the case and this kind of love was put into practice by Christians…wouldn’t Christianity just be taking off like wild fire.  Churches over flowing, needing more seating and parking because everything we read in these scriptures sounds amazing right…I’m thinking everyone would want this type of lifestyle.  This is why it’s so heart breaking to hear about people wounded by people they look at as Christian’s…feeling judged, hurt, or just unloved…it’s completely opposite of everything our faith stands for, which is why it’s so hurtful.  If our lives and belief system were centered on God who is love and that love was flowing out of us then the churches should be bursting at the seams with people…and here’s the thing…they are not.  I keep hearing terms from people smarter than me talking about a “Post-Christian Era” I see people denying Christianity and running around with love wins signs, people searching for love all over the place and it hurts my heart because the very essence of what we believe is actually, love.  Here’s what is so amazing to me…Jesus fought with people over this same idea.  Jesus fought with the religious leaders of His time about love…not so much the loving God part but the loving others thing was by far the biggest hang up that people had with Him.  The hate Jesus felt was from people who loved God was unreal, and what fueled their anger the most was His love for others.  I want you to think about that for a moment.  Jesus was eventually killed by the religious leaders of His time…the people who knew the Bible, those who lead the charge back in the day of loving God, they were the very people Jesus was in constant conflict with who eventually murder Him.  It’s amazing, because I think we can very easily look at the religious leaders of that time and read the stories and just decide these were horrible people but I want you to think about this.  These people loved God.  These people memorized books of the Bible.  These people prayed 5 times a day.  These people tithed on all of their income and gave to the poor, and you know what else…they told people about God and tried to get people to believe in God.  But, something was off.  They were missing at least one, maybe two of our connection points.  They loved God sure but they were missing the direct connection that loving God has to others…it was all in their brain, it never reached their hearts, and it never pushed them to a life of loving others.  They missed the direct connection between loving God and loving others.  It’s wild to really think about but their biggest issue with Jesus was the fact that He loved others and was so connected to them.  It wasn’t just that he was connected to known religious people, but Jesus hung out with sinners!  You know, “those people!”  The religious leaders hated this about Jesus…

Matthew 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”  NIV

Jesus was connected to people, he loved others…and because of the company he would keep, the religious were furious.  This was so difficult for the religious leaders to understand because they were so focused on the rules and regulations of scripture that they missed the very heart of what God is…which is love.  This still happens today, many of us get so wrapped up in being good or doing good that we blow by people all around us who need to know God in a real way.  This is one of the biggest challenges in our churches still today.  We have people who want discipleship, small groups, programs to entertain…and often times what that person is looking for isn’t life changing love…it’s entertainment.  When we are entertained in our churches we can stay inside our churches and feel really good about ourselves, doing a lot of good Christian things…but here’s my thing.  If we actually do live out scripture we wouldn’t be inside our churches looking for more programs, small group studies, or discipleships…we would actually be out in our community loving on people right where they are…not for any other motivation than because we have God’s love in us, changing us, so we can love others right where they are…even “those people” who sin.  This is the big conflict we see in church today, we get really busy doing a lot of really good things, and we miss out on the very heart, the very essence of what we are being asked to do…which is love.  It’s very clearly written in our Bibles, and to live out scripture would mean less inward churches and more outward love towards people who need to know Jesus like we do.

Jesus always connected love to faith…ALWAYS.  He always connects love to spirituality…ALWAYS.  He connects growing up to love too in fact He doesn’t separate loving God and loving others…but ties them together even as He debates with the religious leaders of His time…who struggled to see the need to delight in people.  So these guys debated Jesus, they hated Jesus, and they were scheming on ways to trip Him up so they could get rid of Him.  Think of the irony here…they wanted to commit murder because Jesus wanted them to love.  God is love, they served and loved God…and their answer to Jesus pushing them towards love is to respond with hate…juts wow.  Listen to Jesus here we read this a lot, but look at how He ties loving God in with loving others…this is just amazing.

Matthew 22:34 When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. 35 One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: 36 “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?” 37 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ 38 This is the most important, the first on any list. 39 But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ 40 These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” MSG

So one of the most famous of Jesus’ statements is found here…and again who is He addressing?  It’s a church leader of His time and what is He trying to do?  He wants them to understand the connection point is love.  We love God and we love others…it’s not one or the other that matters it’s both.  Jesus is trying to help them see that at its very core spirituality is about love…and they just couldn’t go there.

I want you leaving here today thinking this all through…today we talk about something that can sound pretty insulting right?  I mean who wants to be told to grow up?  We don’t want to hear that right?  Well if you think about it…when Jesus is asking you to grow up into a mature adult you are really being asked to live a life of love…its love that everything we believe centers around.

So as you leave here today I want to ask you, how are you doing with these three connecting points?  Are you connecting to God?  Are you connecting to yourself and understanding how you feel?  Are you connecting to others?  Listen to me everything ties together here…if you are missing any of these connection points things will be a little or more than a little off…which is really what this series is all about!

Think on this as you leave here today as a church if we practiced this life of love that Jesus spoke of what would or should we do?  Do we need more programs, more small groups, maybe more discipleship classes…maybe more picnics?  No, we need to practice love…I’m not even saying these are bad things but often if we are really honest we aren’t asking for more spiritual growth, we are asking for the church to create more entertainment for me…which completely contradicts what Jesus asked us to do.

How about for you for you personally.  Do you see real love in action in your life?  Do you see your faith leading to a love coming out of you?  If not it’s time to really look at this, because the very essence of our faith is love and growing into an emotionally mature adult will come out in the love we show and share…not in our church attendance, or how many scriptures we memorize, but in the love coming out of our hearts.

What would your life, your family, your relationships, your community, and your church look like if we lived out this type of life?  If we could grow up and live out this life of love.  Would we be as busy?  Would there be as much need in this world?  Would we see so many people hurting and wounded by religion?  I don’t know about you but I would love to find out what this world would look like if we could simply live out this life of love that we read about and talk about and see in the life of Jesus…this will only happen if we stay connected to God, ourselves, and to others.