Stay In Love With God
by Rev. Randy Brown
If you’re looking for a devotional booklet to read, I would suggest to you a book by the man named Wayne Cordeiro. And, the title of his book is The Divine Mentor. The first story in the book of The Divine Mentor is this: that in 1606, 1606, in a grove of towering Sequoia trees in a place that would become known as California, there poked a little seedling up through the ground. And the little seedling was there, and it would draw energy from the sunlight of the filtered trees that were towering above this little seedling.
One year after that seedling first poked its head through the ground, it became a sapling. That same year, Jamestown became a settlement in Virginia. A year later, Quebec was founded in Canada. Three years later, in that Sequoia tree forest, this seedling had grown to the height of 11 feet tall, and the King James version of The Bible was available for the first time. In 1618, that Sequoia tree grew to about 2 stories high. America became a nation later. It followed a civil war. It joined Europe in fighting 2 World Wars, and it suffered under the attack of terrorists on September 11, 2001. That Sequoia tree stood through all of those times. Over 400 years, it would grow to a height of 240 feet tall.
A couple years ago, something happened. At the height of 240 feet, over 4 centuries, over 400 years, something happened to that Sequoia tree. What happened? With a loud crash, it fell to the ground. Spanning 4 centuries of its life, it now laid there in the bed of that Sequoia forest with a huge crash as it fell to the ground. The forest service decided that they would try to determine what caused it to fall. There had been no floods. There had been no earthquakes. There had been no lightning, no windstorm, no insects. Do you know what they determined caused this Giant Sequoia tree to fall? They determined that it was foot traffic that caused this giant tree to fall to the ground. Foot traffic!
If you go to the Sequoia forest now, you will see that the largest and the most historic trees are fenced off. You can’t get close to them, because they don’t want what happened to this tree to happen to the other trees. It was foot traffic that caused the tree to fall to the ground. You’re probably sitting there thinking why in the world is the preacher giving us a history lesson on trees. Well, thanks for asking. Let me answer it. I think if we’re not careful, that in your life and in my life, in your journey and my journey, if we don’t guard the spiritual roots of our life, we will be just like that Sequoia tree, and we too will fall.
Look at what’s happening in our society. Look at what’s happening in our world. The things that used to be considered taboo and off limits are now becoming more and more common place. And, we’re letting it happen. I don’t know if you’ve heard this or not, but it’s scientifically been proven that if you put a frog – not a fraud, you know that commercial, fraud protection. I’m talking about a frog, F-R-O-G. If you put a frog in a pan of boiling water, he’s going to jump out, but if you put in him a pan of room temperature, lukewarm water and gradually heat it up, that frog will stay in that water until he boils to death. Now kids, don’t go out and try that! But sometimes, I think that’s a reflection of our society, that we just let things go and go and go and go, and finally we say, “Well, why didn’t somebody do something?” I don’t want us to be like that Giant Sequoia tree. I don’t want little by little to allow the things of the world, the foot traffic of the world, to cause us to crash.
Paul tells Timothy to “fan into flame the gifts of God that is within you.” There’s another verse that says “stir up the gifts of God.” There are times in our life when we need to examine our lives. We need to examine…
If you have been a part of Weight Watchers, you know that part of the success of Weight Watchers is they ask you every day to write down exactly what you eat to the ounce. They ask you to write down all the physical activity you have: the exercise. They ask you to write all that down, and it helps you to hold yourself accountable to what you’re supposed to be doing in weight loss. I wonder what it would be like if we did that in our spiritual lives? If every day we wrote down what we did for the Kingdom of God, and then we had an accountability partner to hold us accountable.
The Book of Colossians tells us, “As you therefore have received Jesus Christ as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith just as you were taught,” and the greatest commandment that we talked about the other week was “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.”
John Wesley talked to us about the 3 rules. The first rule that we talked about 2 weeks ago was “to do no harm,” and you remember last week we talked about “do good.” This week, the third rule is what Wesley says, “Stay in love with God,” and that’s what we’re talking about this morning. He talked about practicing the ordinances of God. Now, ordinance is not a word that we use in our everyday language. We’re going to talk about that in a moment, but ordinance are those practices that keep us in a relationship between us and God. And, it keeps our relationship vital and growing and alive. Sometimes, we get the idea that if we come to church, and we pray a prayer, and we get Jesus in our heart that that’s all there is to do, but that’s not all there is to do. That’s just the beginning of the journey in faith.
I’ve got a lot of sympathy, and you probably do too, for that little boy that went to bed one night, and after he went to bed about an hour later, there was a crash on the floor in this room. He had fallen out of the bed. His parents walked in there and said, “Son, what in the world happened?” The little boy said, “I guess I fell asleep too close to the getting in place.” Sometimes I think in our spiritual journey, we fall asleep too close to the getting in place, and if we don’t practice the ordinances of God, we don’t spend time with God as we should. If we do that, then our lives will be eroded by the foot traffic of society and of our culture. We don’t need to fall asleep too close to the getting in place. He calls us to grow. God is always there to guide us and to be with us. Sometimes, we feel like God is absent and foreign, but God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and God will be as close to us as we will allow him to.
You’ve heard the story before, but it’s the story of a man and a woman driving in a truck, and they see a young couple go by them. They’re sitting next to each other. It’s one of those trucks that looks like it takes 2 people to drive. Yogi, you see those a lot. They’re sitting side by side; you couldn’t get a piece of paper in between them. And the older couple were looking at that, and the woman said, “You know, we used to ride like that.” The man didn’t say a word. He just looked over at his wife, and she was sitting by the door. He looked at her and said, “I haven’t moved.” God hasn’t moved. God hasn’t moved away from us. If we’re not as close to God as we used to be, then guess who moved? Us.
I told you that Wesley talked about the ordinances. He lifted up those things, those ordinances that would help us to stay in love with God. First is worship, second is the Lord’s Supper, thirdly is our personal and family prayer time, fourth is to search the scripture, fifth is Bible study, and sixth, and this is one that we’ve let go of, fasting. Those 6 things Father Wesley said would help us to stay in love and communion with God: Spiritual disciplines that teach us to live in harmony with God. You see, it’s not how high we jump, it’s how far we run when we hit the ground. That’s what’s important.
And, you may be saying, “What does it look like if we stay in love with God? What does it look like if we practice the ordinances of God?” We talked about what it looked like to do no harm. We talked about what it looked like to do good. What does it look like to stay in love with God? When the tests come, when the trials come, when the adversity comes: we will be ready. That’s what it looks like: Staying in constant communion, staying in love with God, we’re always ready for the battle.
If you go to the Book of First Kings, chapter 18, we see what it’s like. There was a man named Elijah there, and he was getting ready to do battle with the prophets. They asked him, “Elijah, are you ready?” One time before when Elijah wasn’t ready, he went and hid in the juniper tree, but this time Elijah is ready, and here’s what Elijah says, “I have been standing in the presence of God. Bring him on.” When we are in love with God, when we stay in love with God, when we practice the ordinances of God, when we’re walking with him and talking with him, we’re ready for the battle. He was confident, because he had been standing in the presence of God. If you’re spending time with God on a daily basis, whatever comes your way, you’re going to realize that it’s small stuff, because you’ve been with Him. He can take care of whatever it is that life might throw at us. The more we practice spiritual discipline, the more we stay in love with God, the more we learn and grow into His likeness.
Jeremiah 33:3 says it like this, “Call unto me and I will show you great and hidden mysteries that you know not of.” As you spend time with Him, you will come to hear and to understand that still, small voice, and you’ll be in tune with it. And, when the waves come and the storms go crashing, you’ll hear that voice saying, “Peace, be still.” Or in other words, you’ll hear him say, “I got this one.” And,you don’t have to fret over the stuff that life throws at you, because you’ll be in His presence. Notice what Elijah said, “I have been standing in the presence of God. Bring it on.”
Jesus was accused of a lot of things. Jesus was accused of eating with sinners, with the outcasts, with the unclean. Jesus was accused of blasphemy, but there’s one thing that Jesus was never accused of: He was never accused of neglecting time with His Father. Over and over again, you see where He went away to a quiet place. He was never accused of neglecting time with the Father. And,if it was important for Him to do it, how much more important is it for us to do it? He stayed connected. He stayed in love. And, wasn’t that the question that Jesus would ask Peter, that Risa read a moment ago, “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?” That’s what he wants to know. He wants us to know. Why was he doing this? He was examining Him for his ordination.
Now, I’ve been on the Board of Ordained Ministry for this annual conference. I was on it for 12 years. We asked a lot of questions and we interviewed a lot of candidates for Ministry. We wanted to know about their eschatology, and we wanted to know about their pre-millennial theology and all that stuff. That’s not what Jesus wanted to know. Jesus said, “Do you love me?” When Bishop Newman was here, there were all the historical questions that preachers ask as they come into ordination in the conference. Well, Bishop Newman added a question. You may think it’s strange that he would add this on the night of ordination, but as the candidates for Ministry were lined up across in front of Bishop Newman, he asked us this question, “Are you a Christian?” And people snickered at it, laughed at it, mocked him, but I think it’s a valid question. It was the same thing Jesus was asking, “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?”
The reason it’s important is that if you read on over in the Book of Revelation, chapter 2 versus 3 and 5, Jesus says this, “One thing I have against you, you have left your first love.” As we love Him, His love will flow through us to the world. Abraham was told, “Walk before me and be blameless.” The Psalms tells us that those who will see God have clean hands and a pure heart. If we claim to have spent time in God’s presence, our life will show it. We must make every effort to live holy lives. Notice the question, it’s what Risa read, “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?” He didn’t say, “Peter, do you love sheep?” He didn’t say, “Peter, do you love feeding sheep?” He said, “Do you love me?” That’s important. He asked him 3 times. Earlier, he had denied him 3 times, but this way, He was restoring him back into the forward and toward a new beginning.
The marvelous thing about God is He’ll ask us that question, and He’ll know that we have failed Him numerous times, but the marvelous thing about it, listen how He has described that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Have you ever wondered why the writer of the Scriptures picked those 3 guys? Why in the world would he be declared the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? If you look at their history, you can tell, man they blew it. They blew it more than once. God is a God of second chances, and if God will give them a second chance, he’ll give me and you a second chance. God is the God of second chances for me, for you, for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Now, go back with me to that Sequoia tree. What about the foot traffic in your life? Is it causing you to fall? Are there things that distract you, and get in the way, and hinder you from growing as tall as God wants you to grow? How’s the foot traffic? What I ask you to do is just to take a moment, and to confess, and ask God to forgive you. The good news this morning is that you can rise above that foot traffic. You can be forgiven, and you can begin again to live a life of fidelity and faithfulness to God.
Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God. These are the 3 simple rules that we’ve been given. Only those with a great assurance and great courage can attempt these rules. It all boils down to the question that Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” The answer to that question will determine the importance that you place on the Kingdom of God. Protect the roots of your life and walk in love with him. Don’t let foot traffic destroy your life.
Let us pray.
Father, in these moments together, if we’re honest with ourselves and with you, we realize that we’ve got all kinds of distractions in our life. Sometimes, they’ve made us turn away from you, sometimes they’ve caused us to fall, but God you give us another chance. We’re thankful for that. We ask that this morning you would help us, and that you would straighten us up, and set us on the right path, and that you’d guard and protect us from the foot traffic of life, so that we can grow into strong and productive vessels for your glory. Hear our prayers and receive our commitment. In Christ’s name.