Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses 1 John 4:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:9-12, 1 John 4:19 Downloads & Resources God's Family: Are You Connected? Dr. Jon Morrissette - 11/2/2003 The leader of the music group named Black Eyed Peas wrote a song called "Where is the Love?" The song is filled with cynicism as he asks, "Where is the love?" Everywhere he looks he only sees violence, discrimination, hatred, terrorism, and gangs. He writes, "People killing, people dying, children hurt and women crying." The weight of the world is on his shoulders. People seem to be growing colder. Most everyone is concerned with "money-makin." Selfishness has people following the wrong direction. Where is the love in our world? The media is showing wrong information. Negative images are infecting the minds of our youth faster than bacteria can multiply. Kids want to become like the characters they see in the cinema. And all this causes him to ask, "Whatever happened to the values of humanity? Whatever happened to fairness and equality? Where is the love?" As you watch this clip, notice the anger as the artist describes our world. (Note to reader- a video clip of the song was shown to the congregation.) Where is the love? The leader of Black Eyed Peas doesn’t have the answer, but toward the end of the song he vows to keep his faith alive until love is found. He knows that love is the only thing that can transform our world. And he knows that the Father in heaven is the ultimate source for that love. This is why he keeps his faith alive. But his problem is that he does not see evidence of God’s love. He only sees hate. He only sees violence, anger, selfishness, greed, negativity and people growing colder. The refrain of his chorus is a prayer to God, "people killing… people dying… children hurt and… women crying… will you practice what you preach… and would you turn the other cheek… father father father, help us… need some guidance from above… these people got me got me questioning… where is the love?" God is the source of true love. There are a lot of people these days rightly asking, "Where is the love?" But I wonder where it is that people are to go in order to experience the love? The simple answer is that people should go to God to experience the love. After all, the Bible does say in 1 John 4:16 (NIV), "God is love" and in John 3:16 (NIV) it says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life." And there are hundreds of other passages that declare the love of God for us. Romans 5:8 (NIV) says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." 1 John 4:9-10 (NIV) says, "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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." So people should go to God in order to find the love. Jesus Christ is God’s love personified. He is God's love made real and tangible. Jesus Christ is the love the world so desperately longs for. But there is still a problem. The problem is that people aren’t looking to God for love. They're looking everywhere else, but they aren’t looking to Jesus Christ. People need a compelling reason to consider God's love. This morning I want to suggest that people need a compelling reason to consider God’s love. I further want to suggest that the Church, you and me, are to be that compelling reason. If you watch the complete video "Where is the Love" you will notice that they post a question mark in every place where love should be found but is not. A question mark is placed on the Statue of Liberty and at what appears to be the United Nations building. A question mark is found in the city skyline, on its streets, on its signs, and on billboards. A question mark appears on the television, on cinemas, in newspapers, and fliers. A question mark appears on Wall Street, on public transportation, on the things children chase after, on men and women, on the homeless, on the faces of the poor and disadvantaged, on the elderly, in families, and in technology. In one clip a question mark appears on a Bible that is being shaken in the air by what appears to be an angry street preacher. The point of the video is that no matter where you turn, no evidence of love can be found. As I thought about all those question marks, I wondered if Lakeside deserved one? Is our church a sanctuary where people can come and experience God’s love? Are we a counter-culture community that is being transformed by God’s love, or are we just another church on another block in another city doing religious services? Do the people you and I encounter on a daily basis develop a voracious appetite for God’s love or do they become cynical and disillusioned about love? Church is to be a place where the world can taste God's love. We sometimes act as if the only thing that matters is that God loves people. And so we put so much of our energy into preaching and teaching and talking about Christ’s love. But it also matters that we love people. Christ’s vision for this church is that when people encounter us, they encounter something distinctive and living and real. This is to be a place and we are to become a people with whom the world can taste God’s love. This week I came across 1 John 4:11-12 (NIV). "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." This passage makes a number of important points. God’s love causes us to love others. 1 John 4:19 (NIV) says, "We love because he first loved us." One thing that will always intrigue me is the difference between wild and domestic animals. What intrigues me is how human love can tame even the wildest animals. The love we show our dogs keeps their tails wagging and their vocal cords barking. Strangely enough, they even begin to take on human characteristics and behaviors! But take that same animal and deprive it of human love, and it will become wild. It will stare you down. It will growl. It is liable to bite you. It will rebel and destroy. I have a friend who has two gray squirrels living at his home. The one squirrel climbs up the tree during the day, but checks in at night and runs through the house, playing. The difference between that squirrel and wild squirrels is that it has been loved. Those persons who know the love of God have the ability to love others freely. God’s love has the same impact on us as our love has on animals. Those individuals who know the love of God, have the ability to love others freely. They forgive. They give generously. They show the fruit of the Spirit— love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and self-control. But people who do not have the love of God grow wild. They live by their sinful natures. Their consciences become seared. They're negative and pessimistic. They harbor anger and resentment. They kill. They envy. They slander. They selfishly cling to everything they have. They’ll stare you down and growl and bite at you. Their tongues will slash you up. They follow their desires and impulses wherever they lead. We love because God first loved us. We love to the degree that we experience God’s love through other people. But the moment we turn from God’s love, we grow wild! Since God first loved us, we ought to love other people. But notice a second key point. We are a window into God’s love. 1 John 4:12 (NIV) says, "No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." Just think about this verse for a moment. No one has ever seen God. God is invisible! And yet in the moment we love another human being, God lives and shows himself to others through us. When we love, our hands become God’s hands. Our tongues become God’s tongue. Our ears become God’s ears. Our eyes become God’s eyes. Our feet become God’s feet. Our touch becomes God’s touch. When we love, we are literally being the physical body of Christ. We begin doing the very things that Christ would be doing if he were standing in our shoes in that given moment. Quite literally, the words of Paul in Colossians 3:3-4 (NIV) come true. "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." We die and our lives are hidden. And Christ becomes our life. God has chosen to make himself visible through us. God has chosen to make himself visible, not apart from us, but rather through us. No one has ever seen God, but those who are part of his family see him every day in the faces of those who live and serve on his behalf. It is not a coincidence that those who most doubt God’s presence and love are those individuals who withdraw from the body of Christ. It is those people who neither find time nor make it a priority to be the Church. There is one last point to consider in 1 John 4:11-12. God’s love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:12 (NIV) says, "No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." It is overwhelming to think that we are the window into God’s love for others. I don’t know about you, but there are times when I don’t love people as I should or even as I could. You might say that in those moments my love is less than perfect. It is incomplete. This verse is a reminder that love is a growth process. As we grow in our love for God, his love is increasingly made complete in us. Virtually every day Lara and I get various offers in the mail. Whenever you get such offers there is always an asterisk with fine print. I have always thought that there is an asterisk after the Church's offer of love. In our best moments, God is living through us. He is our hands and feet. We are a window. But the truth is that there are times when our love is less than perfect. There are times when our love seems less like God's and more like the world's. In these moments we rely upon God’s grace and seek one another’s forgiveness. But we also seek to grow in love for God’s Son so that we can more perfectly love one another. In addition, God’s Holy Spirit is transforming our lives so that we grow consistently from responding, to practicing, to living, and finally to modeling Christ’s perfect life. In time, it is true that God’s love is made complete in us. The first step in loving God's family is to experience God's family. Over the coming weeks we are going to be talking about loving God’s family. The first step in loving God’s family is experiencing God’s family. Quite simply, we get connected into a local Christian fellowship and put ourselves in an environment where we can experience Christ’s love as it is manifested in the faces of other Christians. If you are asking, "Where is the love?" it is time for you to get connected. It is time for you to stop being a spiritual free agent roaming from church to church like a spiritual nomad, shopping and hopping. It is time for you to set your roots and see God alive and at work in other Christians. You have a responsibility to make yourself available, to not forsake the assembly, and to make it a priority to not only attend worship, but also to attend a Lifestage Bible Fellowship and a small group where you can know and be known. And you have to be mature about other people’s immaturities. No one is perfect in this church. Every one of us is a hypocrite in the sense that we struggling to practice what we preach. I know that is true for me. Resist the temptation to pull out your trump card when someone loves you imperfectly. Extend them the same grace that God extends to all of us. Be patient. Understand that in so many ways, God’s work is just beginning in each of us. Know that there are some people who are more mature but some who are less mature than yourself. Mature Christians have a responsibility to love one another completely. Now a word to those of us who have been part of the Church for a long time. Our responsibility is to be filled with God’s love so that we love one another completely. Our responsibility is to let Christ’s love tame us and bring out the best in us. We need to be sensitive to the fact that every time we are at church, we are surrounded by people who are cynical and disillusioned about love. We have people in our midst who are questioning God’s love because they have only known the shallow, self-serving love of the world. We have people who are questioning God’s love because they have been hurt deeply by a parent, a pastor, a church leader, or some other Christian person. They need to experience the healing love of an authentic Christian community. Our responsibility is to help people experience a healthy, loving, Christian community by being a healthy, loving, Christian community. We will talk more about this in coming weeks. This past week, I was talking to a patrol officer for the Sangamon County Police. He was talking about the dangers of traffic stops and how you never know what is going to happen in the next moment. You never know who you will be pulling over. He commented on how important it is to dig into the story of whoever is sitting in that car. You need to ask them where they are from, where they are going, and what they do. Most officers sense that something isn’t right with a person, but for whatever reason they don't dig into that person's life. They're on their way home, they're afraid, they want to be liked, and they are quick to send the person on their way. The same is true of every person we encounter, whether inside or outside the Church. We have a responsibility to dig into their stories, to get to know them, and to roll up our sleeves and love them into the kingdom of God. We have a responsibility to make sure that their first or second or thirtieth experience with God’s family is a positive one, and we are to be that window that reveals God’s love. We want to create a hunger in that person for more of God's love and to make sure their question mark becomes an exclamation point!