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So, I attended the parenting workshop that Pastor Megan held in August and at that workshop she passed out of a card for parents that was just a “take home” resource to help them reflect on their opportunity and responsibility as parents. As I reflected on the concepts on the card, I thought, these are transformational concepts for any relationship whether a parenting relationship, a marital relationship, a friend relationship and especially a discipleship relationship whereby we are trying to lead people into a life-giving, life-changing relationship with Jesus. Let’s look at them one by one.

Love over time = worth

Let me unpack what I mean by love. The world has reduced it to a feeling or an experience. The Apostle Paul helps us understand what true love is. Paul helps us see that love is not a feeling or experience, but it is a commitment to a person that has that person’s best interest at heart.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 4  Love is patient, How many of you understand that patience requires time? Patience means for as long as necessary. Having patience means waiting on people and waiting with people and waiting for people.

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.

You know what this passage tells me? Love is supposed to be predictable. It has components that we are supposed to be able to count on. It is supposed to be consistent. People are supposed to know how they can expect to be treated when you truly love them. You become safe to people when you love them according to Paul’s description. People know you value them when over time you are forgiving, when over time you are gentle with them, when over time you protect their hearts, when over time you consistently have something good to say, and no matter what, even though they try to put walls up, even though they try to sabotage your friendship, even though they put you off about this Jesus stuff, when you stay committed to them in love over time, you are helping them see they are worth it and that Jesus thinks so too.

I believe we live in a kind of disposable society. People are used to being abandoned, being de-friended, to being ostracized, to being shut out. Friendships are easily discarded, young people are given up on way too fast. Love says, “I’ll stay.” “I am here for you no matter what.”

Be the teacher who won’t give up on the student who appears disinterested or even disrespectful. Perhaps there are answers for that behavior that could only be appreciated by having a window into that kid’s home life. Be the coach who won’t give up on the athlete that doesn’t just instinctively know what to do. Be the friend who won’t give up on the person who has started to head down the wrong path. Be the one who repeatedly invites your friends to church no matter how many months or years it takes. Be the one to show love when someone is dealing with a health crises, a job change, or a marital breakdown.

Love says, “I’ll be there for as long as it takes.” People need to know they were worth it to Jesus to die for them and one way they begin to understand that is through you and me consistently loving, consistently trying, consistently reaching, consistently offering an encouraging one. Even when it feels like it isn’t received. Even when it feels like we are getting nowhere. There will come a time when the light bulb goes on and they see past the love we have shown and look right into the loving face of Jesus.

Someone, somewhere is longing to know that they are valuable to someone and to God. Be the one to love them over time.

Words over time = direction

The human will is strong. Many of us resist taking advice. Instead we want to be led by our impulses and feelings. If you grew up with parents who regularly taught you what was good, what was expected, what would prepare you for success, what would lead to a godly life, over time your mind started to form a commitment to those truths. When our kids were very small we would tell them that there was good, there was better, and there was best. We taught them to always seek to choose what was best. We probably stopped using that language with them by the time they were 8, so I don’t know if they would even recall us saying that to them, but the hope was that seeking what was best would become the desire of their hearts. Seeking to do and be what is best is a good direction in which to travel.

Of course I went to Facebook to get some help regarding this idea that words over time give direction, and there were some pretty inspiring, repetitive messages that some of my friends grew up with. One person was repeatedly told to not go into unnecessary debt. Great advice to set a person up in a healthy direction, right? Another person said his grandpa told him to always tell the truth. If you do, you don’t ever have to remember what you said when asked about it later. Walking in truth gives a person a great way to travel and leads to a positive outcome. Someone said their dad told them to always think twice before speaking once. Great advice to help people know how to interact with others. Others shared repeated messages like, “Never give up until the job is done” and “Always finish what you start.” Our communities are filled with so many people who are OK with status quo or a 75% effort as long as a paycheck follows, and that kind of mentality that has become the norm for many has led to complacency and a lack of productivity. How about this message that someone heard often while they were growing up? “People who know failure appreciate success far more than those who only know success. Those who only know success will not know how to deal with failure when it does come.”

These are the kinds of messages, the kinds of words, that can help someone’s life go in a positive direction. Many missed out on that kind of instruction. Many are living defined by their failures, living without hope that their life could have meaning or make an impact, believing they won’t amount to anything and that all they could hope for would be a cheap imitation of the real joy, peace, and the happiness God says we can have in Christ. When you grow up hearing you are stupid or clumsy or ugly or not talented, those words over time will give you direction as well. They will send you in the wrong direction. They will rob you of your destiny and take you to a place of isolation and low living, to the place Satan has planned for you. Trust me, just as God has a plan for your life, so does Satan. Harmful and discouraging words over time can mess with a person’s future and play into the destructive plans of the enemy of our souls.

That is why we need to constantly be people of a good report. We need to be ones with the repetitive message that Jesus saves. We need to be like broken records repeating that you can always start again. We need to relentlessly be letting people know they matter to God and to us. We need to be the ones with a compliment, a word of encouragement. Our habitual speech needs to be that which lifts people up and points them to the redeeming power of God. We need to be the people who say, “I believe in you. You can do it. Go for it. With God all things are possible” because the direction of positive and instructive words is right into a relationship with Jesus.

And let me say one more thing before I leave this point. The Word of God over time will wash your mind so that you quit thinking about the things that feed your fleshly, earthly, sinful desires and will think in a holy direction. The Word of God over time will motivate you to make something of your life. The Word of God over time will change your heart and remove the grudges you are holding against people. The Word of God over time will shape your attitude so that you aren’t proud or critical or angry or overbearing. The Word of God over time will expose your God-given talents. The Word of God over time will cultivate your passion for the things of God. The Word of God over time will give you the direction that you are to walk in so that you can please God and live the same way Jesus did.

I’m not talking about a quick K-love verse of the day or hearing the Word of God in church once or twice a week. I am talking about exposing yourself on a regular basis to the life-giving, life-changing Word of God. You want to feel better about yourself? Forget the tummy tuck, the alcohol, and the shopping spree and get into the Word of God. There is no faster way to feel better about your life and better about yourself than to read what God has to say about you. It isn’t always instant. It is hardly ever instant. It is the Word of God over time at work on your heart, mind, and attitude that will produce incredible results which will lead you in the direction He desires you to go.

Stories over time = perspective

Some of us have walked a few paths we wish we wouldn’t have. We need to tell our stories. Those coming behind us need to hear from us what we regret and what won’t work. We need to keep our testimony on the tip of our tongue. We need to share it regularly with people. We should not be stingy with the stories that begin with “When I was your age.” There is some wisdom in this room. Some of us who are now seasoned in life and seasoned in the faith know a few things that will benefit those who are coming behind us. Seek us out. Ask us questions.

Young people and folks who have recently joined us here at TVCOG. We weren’t always on this hill. It actually took the church 17 years from the time they purchased the property until we were able to design and break ground on this building. This didn’t just happen. This was the result of prayer and sacrifice from many, many people.

There have been prayer walks on this campus. We dug holes in the dirt and planted Scriptures about possessing the land. We had strategic meetings and prayer meetings and all kinds of building committee meetings. So many of us have invested so much in this campus, and God has honored our faith. We borrowed 4 million dollars for a 5.3 million dollar project. This should not be possible in a state that is considered economically depressed. This shouldn’t have happened without large, major financial gifts, but here we are. It did happen, and it continues to happen because people are giving beyond themselves and are giving in faith for God’s glory because we believe our sacrifice isn’t about a building, but it is about building the Kingdom of God. Oh, you need to know the story.

And the building down the road just before this building didn’t just happen. It happened because a small group of people stepped out on faith and started with nothing but their personal bank accounts and the assurance that God would lead them. They met in a school. They eventually acquired about 3 acres. They built what is now the basement of the old building and worshiped there until they could afford to build the sanctuary on the first floor. There was blood, sweat and tears and lots of love put into that building as men and women picked up tools to make it happen spending night after night after night after night to work on getting it done. Oh, you need to know the story.

Why is it important? Why do you need to know the story? You need to know the story because sometimes miracles happen in time and sometimes miracles happen when people of faith are willing to stick their necks out and walk on water in response to the call of God.

Biblical history tells us the stunning importance of the Jewish people’s passing of their God-stories from one generation to another. When God would meet them with a miracle, they would build an altar to remember it, and they would make sure future generations would hear about it. The same God that had been faithful to free them from slavery, the same God that had been faithful to part the Red Sea, the same God who had led them through the wilderness by a pillar of fire at night and a cloud by day, the same God who had fed them bread straight from heaven on their journey, could provide the miracles that future generations would need. There is power in sharing our God-stories.

We live in an instant society. You can google and get an answer to your question in seconds. It may or may not be the right answer, but you can get it. We live in the electronic age when money can be transferred with the click of a button. Your shopping can be done online to avoid having to wait in line and your goods can be sent to your front porch. With the Kroger click list you can have someone else do your shopping and just roll up to pick them up. We want an easy button for everything and many are available. Everything in our culture revolves around convenience, but that isn’t the way the Kingdom operates. The Kingdom operates on the commodities of faith and obedience and sacrifice. You need to know the stories because if you aren’t daring enough to follow Jesus wherever He leads, you will be satisfied with the common, the ordinary, the small, and that which originates in the heart of man.

Isn’t it worth it to see our community walking through these doors Monday through Saturday? Isn’t it worth it to become a hub for our community to gather in order that we can share the love of Jesus? Isn’t it worth it to see our young people growing up in a vibrant and passionate atmosphere where we all have room to worship together? The stories give us the perspective that giving to the Kingdom and waiting on God’s timing and sacrificing for it are worth it!

Tribes over time = belonging

Those of you who have small children, keep coming to church. Come regularly. Come every time you can come. Your kids need to have a sense of belonging in the family of God, and if you are hit and miss the bonds they could develop, the relationships they could form, the identity as a member in God’s family that could result will be stunted. Come. Come every Sunday unless you are on vacation. Come on Wednesday nights and go deeper in fellowship. I grew up in the church, and I loved it. It was my happy place. I knew I belonged. I knew I was loved. I knew I was part of something special, something bigger than myself. You are my family! Cultivate a sense of belonging in your children’s hearts by getting them here.

We aren’t just part of a local tribe, but we have sister churches all throughout the valley. The young people have State Youth Conventions and other gatherings where they can meet each other. We have unity services that you all can be part of. We are part of the national Church of God Reformation Movement. There are regional and national conventions to attend, online blogs you can read about all God is doing throughout the Church of God around the world. It is fun to be of this wonderful movement.

I know people who hop from church to church. They go some place for three months or six months or even a year, and then they move on and try another church for the same amount of time. They will never have the sense of belonging over time. It’s important. Get rooted. Get planted. Get invested in the local church and over time the sense of belonging you have will be a blessing to your life in ways I can’t even quantify.

Fun over time = connection

When was the last time you reached out to someone to invite them to your home to play board games or to have a meal? When was the last time you reached out to someone and invited them to a bonfire, or to go bowling, or to have a cup of tea on your porch?

Parents, take vacations with your kids, even if they have to be “staycations” due to the cost of travel, make life fun. Your kids need good memories of having fun with their families. All of you can be a creator of fun for those who are growing up in this ministry. It was such a blessing to see Todd Dillon’s post on Facebook this week. He spent one-on-one time with his daughter, Riley, and of all of the Wild and Wonderful destinations WV has to offer, they landed here at Teays Valley Acres, here at the church.

(SCROLL THROUGH THE FOUR PICS) Riley kept telling him how much she loves her church. Isn’t that awesome? Doesn’t she look like she is having fun? Church has an element of fun, an element of joy for Riley and that is because of our excellent Children’s Pastor and volunteer staff who love on our kids and make knowing Jesus fun. It is fun to know Jesus, and even in Riley’s short life, she has developed a connection to her church because of the fun she has when she is here. Be a fun person. Create joy for the people in your life. It will deepen their connection with you and will eventually deepen their connection to Christ!

Work over time = purpose

I was crushed in my spirit several years back when I had a teacher tell me about an exchange she had with one of her little elementary students. She said the student told her she wanted to be a “drawer” when she grew up. When the teacher said, “You mean, you want to learn to draw and be an artist?” the little girl said, “No, I want to draw a paycheck from the government like my parents.”

Church, I fear we have a generation of young people who will struggle to find their purpose unless we teach them the value of work and why it is important. Those who are able-bodied need to work not just for the paycheck, but because God created us to have dominion. We are made to oversee things, to lead things, to build things, to create things, to exercise decision-making and to have influence. Work is the mechanism by which we exercise the dominion God created us to have. We were created to work. We were created to have responsibility and to manage it well, to be stewards of all God entrusts to us. If we are going to work just for the paycheck, we are missing the point. We discover who we are, who God created us to be, in a large part, through the work we do, whether paid or as a volunteer.

The entitlement mentality in our culture has undermined our ability to rule and reign in this life because it has eliminated the need to work for what we oversee and maintain. That soda fountain and fry machine that you get to oversee is a place where you can demonstrate leadership, initiative, and excellence. The information technology systems that you manage are your opportunity to enable companies to run at their optimum capacity. You have the opportunity to make other people succeed because you take your responsibility seriously. That bus that you drive which carries students to school is your opportunity to impact lives every day as you safely transport kids to the place where they will learn and grow as individuals. It’s not just about getting them from Point A to Point B, but it is about helping them get their day started well, with a smile or encouraging word.

You see, how we do what we do helps us accomplish our purpose for being here. We fulfill God’s purposes for our lives in and through working and taking responsibility seriously. If you don’t believe me, check out Genesis 1:28 where God commands Adam and Eve to exercise dominion over the earth. We have gifts and skills that are to be used. That is why God has entrusted us with them. We can’t truly fulfill our purpose by laying around, putting off work, or by doing the bare minimum in order to get the pay check. We discover and fulfill our purpose over time by giving our very best in the place we have been given to occupy. As we do, we grow in our understanding of what it means to be a person, created in the image of God, who is meant to rule and reign in some aspect of life. Colossians 3:23 tells us that whatever we do, we are to work at it with our whole hearts because we are serving and glorifying the Lord through our work. Dads and Moms, teach your kids to work as soon as they are able to help in some way. Over time, it enables them to envision the purpose for which God has created them.

Perhaps the real challenge of this message is found in the title. Over time. The very title implies dedication and commitment. Are you willing to keep loving, to keep telling the stories, to keep speaking life-giving words of instruction, to stay committed to being part of this church family, to finding ways to infuse fun into people’s lives and to work with all your heart for the glory of God? Life-change is possible, living well is possible, having a positive impact on others is possible, but it takes time. Join me in making a commitment to run this race, over time, in a way that helps other people join the race and live their best possible life.

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