I used to work for the loan department at Fuller Theological Seminary. My job was to receive and record the payments on the student loans. Most people were good in repaying their loans, but a few were problem people. One woman, almost every month, sent in no payment or a partial payment with a note. Her note, almost every month, explained the problem: God’s will is for me to work with the poor in Hawaii, and I don’t have enough money to pay the full amount. Working with the poor is a good thing, a noble thing, but in my understanding of the Bible and the principles of God, it is not God’s will to skip out on your debt. She could have asked permission from Fuller Seminary, she could have worked out a different payment plan, but when you have a debt that is an obligation….
“I’m in debt. I am a true American.” -Balki Bartokomous
“The only man who sticks closer to you in adversity than a friend is a creditor.” –Unknown
“If you have debt I’m willing to bet that general clutter is a problem for you too.” -Suze Orman
“In God we trust; all others must pay cash.” -American Proverb
“Promises make debt, and debt makes promises.” -Dutch Proverb
“Christmas is the season when you buy this year’s gifts with next year’s money.” -Unknown
“If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.” -Earl Wilson
“This would be a much better world if more married couples were as deeply in love as they are in debt.” -Earl Wilson
“When a man is in love or in debt, someone else has the advantage.” -Bill Balance
We could spend time with each of these words of wisdom, but that last one fits this scripture: “When a man is in love or in debt, someone else has the advantage.”
Love is the only debt we are commanded to owe others. That means others have the advantage over us. If I choose to love you, and I believe love is a choice, then that means I will act a certain way towards you…Not getting in debt is a good idea, with the exception of love. Living the Christian life is not so hard: God boils all the commandments down to a single command: READ Rom. 13:9.
I’ve been posting a few old photos of the church on FB along with a few stories thinking that some of the stories of the wonderful people of yesteryear will inspire people of today ~ amazed at how many people read the stories. This past week I ran out of time to get to Mike Puyrch, a little bald headed man from Chilliwack. He and his mail order bride used to be here faithfully every week back in the 70s. Mike was a watchmaker, repaired watches. He had been bald since he was a teenager when some of his friends pulled a prank on him and switched his shampoo for horn remover. Mike had very little schooling and so his reading was poor at best. I will never forget that my father wanted to help Mike, so he purchased a children’s Bible for Mike that entirely cartoons ~ a very simplified Bible, so Mike could read the stories with pictures. Every week, Mike proudly carried that picture Bible around. Mike may not have been able to read a lot of words, but Mike was a man of depth, a man of character, a man with a huge smile! I believe Mike understood the depth of the Christian faith because he understood love! Mike had a gentle spirit, he had joy, he smiled and he knew how to love people.
Three powerful words: I Love You.” People need to know they are loved, loved not for what they do, but who they are… when I was first serving churches as a pastor 25 years ago, I used to say to Sally all the time, “will you love me even if I am walking up to the pulpit and I trip and hit my head?” I just needed to hear that even if I failed miserably she would still love me. People need to be loved. I heard from a grandmother this week whose grandchildren were removed from their home because of a bad situation, and she is going to do everything she can to get those kids back, get them in a safe home with family, because ~~~~~~~~~ she loves them.
The Three most powerful words: I love you. READ Rom. 13:8. We are called to love one another. Let’s go a step further and add in a verse from next week… READ Rom. 13:11. Salvation is near. May this be one of our greatest motivating truths to spur us forward ~ Salvation is near. May we find an extreme joy when we see people accept Jesus Christ into their heart. Salvation is near. May we never give up on people. May we feel a sense of sorrow when people reject Christ. Here is how I put today’s message of loving others together with next week’s message of the nearness of salvation: we are to “Love People into the Kingdom of God.”
A Western Student called me this week to interview me for a project on how people are helping people in the Nooksack Valley School District. I told her about the Clothesline, Paper products, Seeds of Hope, Picnic in the Park, us doing our best to be available to people, and many other things, but I said, the bottom line is that it is all about loving people. Mother Theresa is right: “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”…
I don’t want to love people just to make them feel good, although that is a good thing. I want us to love people into the Kingdom. Lexi, The Western student asked me how our church has changed over the years in helping people in the community, what did I do to help develop our ministries… “Oh, no,” I said, “perhaps we are a bit more organized than we used to be, but the bottom line, I am simply encouraging the people to be who they already are” and I told her how the wonderful spirit of love has gone on for decades through this Church ~ I told her about Frieda Odegaard and Pauline Nims, two people that came to mind, that used to make a difference by providing food, driving, helping, being available, years ago. Our greatest calling is to Love people into the Kingdom. Desiring people to have a relationship with Jesus Christ is the most loving, the most life transforming decision they can make. Love people into the Kingdom. I Think a good way of thinking about our calling: We are called to be God’s ushers// ~ helping to guide people towards God.
Called to be USHERS. The scripture today is about what it takes to be a good usher: Loving people into the Kingdom, helping people get to the right place to be able to see God. When you enter a dark crowded theater, it’s the anticipation of the stage production that has brought you to that place. The usher meets you at the door and helps you to your seat. A good usher takes away the anxiety of stumbling around in the dark, so you can enjoy the show. We are called to usher people towards God, by loving them into the Kingdom. Take away some of the anxiety. Our job is to hold the flashlight ushering them to their seat.
Rom. 13:8-10 is about what it takes to be a good usher. Loving people into the Kingdom… Joe Bronkema was born to greet people…. We need to be the best ushers we can, steering them towards God so they stumble as little as possible, loving them into the Kingdom. 3 powerful words: I love you. The purpose: so they can see God.
Here’s a story of an usher that is not so good. WARNING! This DID NOT take place here, it must have been the church down the road:
An elderly woman walked into the Church. The friendly usher greeted her at the door and politely asked, "Where would you like to sit?"
The front row please," she answered.
"You really don't want to do that," the usher said, "The Pastor is really boring."
"Do you know who I am?" the woman inquired.
"No." he said.
"I'm the Pastor’s mother," she replied indignantly.
"Do you know who I am?" The Usher asked.
"No." she said.
The Usher replied, “Good.”
Our calling is to love people into the Kingdom. to usher them into the presence of God! It is a high calling and a high privilege. Love is the debt that cannot be repaid. That means our job of ushering people, helping them find their way, greeting them, loving them, never ends. We are about people. It turns out that the ten commandments ~ Rom. 13:9 ~ is not only about how I can be acceptable to God, but it is also about how to help the people in my life be acceptable to God. The commands are all summed up in the one command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Christianity is about how we view others, the debt that can never be repaid, ready to usher people into the Kingdom of God.
Owe a debt of love even to the unlovable because that is how God loves me. Jesus loves me this I know, because I am such a lovable person? No. Because the Bible says so. It’s the love of God that gives us our worth, it’s his deliberate decision to extend his love to us. And we are called to the high ministry of loving others. Each day as we get up, we are to think, “Today I will meet many people who need the love of God.” As we walk down the street, we will say to ourselves, “I am put here to usher other people into the presence of God by loving them.” Each day in the office or the classroom or going for coffee at CrossWater, we should look for ways in which we can show love to others.
How could you ever look at your wife, your husband, your family, the people around and say, “I’ve loved that person enough. I’m going to stop now." As one person put it, “Since we live in a fallen world, we will often find ourselves surrounded by irritable, petulant, cranky, annoying, aggravating, frustrating, crabby, unreasonable, cantankerous people. And that’s on a good day!” Sometimes people will say foolish things or be disrespectful towards you. Some people are just very hard to love. We all know people who seem to have the “spiritual gift of irritation.” They know how to get under our skin, how to make us edgy, frustrated and upset. Sometimes we work with those people, sometimes we go to school with those people, sometimes we go to church with those people… and sometimes we are married to someone like that. Paul means to say, “You can never give up on people who drive you nuts. You can never stop loving the mean-spirited people in your life. You can never walk away and say, ‘I’m going to hate you now. Love didn’t work.’” True love–the kind that sent Jesus from heaven to earth and all the way to a hated Roman cross–that kind of love never gives up.
We must never wish other ill will, or plot their destruction. If by their own behavior they destroy themselves then that is their doing, but we must never aid in their destruction. Love is the debt that can never be repaid. We are called to love people into the Kingdom. Three powerful words: I love you. May we usher people into the Kingdom by showering them with the love of God. Amen.