Message 4 of 11

Love Is a Verb

Todd Wagner · Jan 27, 2019

Message 4 of 11

Love Is a Verb

Todd Wagner · Jan 27, 2019

What do you think of when you hear the word love? Scripture makes it clear that love is a verb. It’s a commitment to act a certain way, even when things aren’t going the way you want them to be. If you build something on faith and hope but don’t have love, your efforts will be in vain. Love seeks, love serves, love shares, love sacrifices, love shines, love saves, and love speaks.

Scripture References: John 13 , 1 Corinthians 13

Todd Wagner

About Todd Wagner

In 1999, a group of friends and I desired to be the same awe-inspiring community that we saw in the Scriptures and to connect God's people with opportunities to know... Read more

Message Transcript
It is a verb! It's always good when John Mayer plagiarizes Paul, isn't it? Well, it's good to listen to John Mayer. It's better to abide with Paul as he abides with Christ. Welcome! We're in the middle of a series called _How He Built This_. If you've not been around for long, we have been working through, as we start our twentieth year together gathering as a group of Christ followers in this city (this Metroplex of Dallas and Fort Worth and Plano and Frisco) of what has happened here and how he…the _he_ is God…built this. The "built this" is not the buildings and not the campuses; the "built this" is people who are together experiencing what God says kingdom people should experience. We're just reminding ourselves of how he (God) built this. There was someone recently with us. They came up to me afterward and went, "Man! It's unbelievable! How did this happen?" I go, "What do you mean?" They go, "How did _this_ happen?" They pointed to the thousands of you and the buildings that we were in. I go, "Oh, that's easy. We didn't care about this. We don't care about buildings and even numbers of people. We care deeply about being people who, because God loved us, love others." We realize we couldn't love and do the verb the way God wanted us to if we didn't have a relationship with him and hadn't been reconciled to the source of love who is God. Love is a verb. It's not a feeling you feel when you feel like you've never felt before. That's how most of us kind of think what love is. I recently was talking to one of my kids who was kind of starting to feel some emotions toward somebody, and I just was listening to him. I was asking what he wanted to do with those emotions. He was pretty sure he was going to drop out of high school and get married and start to provide for. I just said, "Listen. This is what is called _puppy love_." They were offended by that phrase. "No, no, no! I'm not saying you're a puppy. You're a man. You're ready…kind of." _Puppy love_ is called that because there is this intense feeling you get like when you're in a mall and you walk into a pet shop. Then, you go in there… _Yip! Yip!_ They're looking at you, and they press their little noses… They lick your hand, and you're like, "I have to have this! It's going to be the most amazing experience of my life." You're at a park, and somebody has a little cardboard box, and there are eight little fluffy little things sticking their heads over and wagging their tails because they saw you. You're like, "I am ready to give my life and soul to this puppy! They can defecate on my carpet. They can chew my leather couch. I'll never take a vacation again." That's what happens when you get a puppy, but you don't realize that when you have puppy love. Right? You're like, "I will give my life to you for the next 13 dog years." Then, you get a puppy, and you're like, "Wow! What have I done?" Marriage is like that. Not ours, baby, but just marriage in general. You have to learn that love is a verb; it's not a feeling. That's what the Bible says. When Paul was talking about this… Watch this. This is John Mayer ripping off Paul. **"Love is patient…"** (1 Corinthians 13:4) **"**Love is patient, love is kind."Love isn't jealous. It never is bothered when somebody else is experiencing a blessing. It's fired up about it. It doesn't boast. It's not arrogant. Scripture says love doesn't act unbecomingly. Love isn't provoked. Love doesn't seek its own. Love doesn't take into account of wrongs suffered. Love never rejoices in unrighteousness which is why even in the context of a marriage, when somebody is doing something that's not best, because you love them you don't just go, "That's okay. Boys will be boys. That's kind of the way people are sometimes." No. You go, "Hey! I love you enough to talk about this." Love always rejoices with the truth. Love is a verb. It bears all things. Love is a verb. It believes all things. Love is a verb. It endures all things. It hopes all things. Love never fails. Love does. We will never be those kinds of people unless we are first loved. I mean, that kind of love is not natural. It is supernatural. It is a God-infused love that can only be explained by God that changes people, and it's why Jesus said, "Listen. If you're going to be my people, then you're going to have to love the way I loved." He says this in John, chapter 13, verses 34 through 35. **"A new command I give you: Love one another."** That wasn't new. That has been around since, frankly, the beginning of God's communicating to man about how he wanted us to operate (to love God and love others), but he said, "This is the deal. You have to love others even as I have loved you." He has modeled for them what that was. It was sacrificial and selfless. Do nothing from selfish conceit or vanity. The kind of love where you don't merely look out for your own personal interests but also for the interests of others. Like, "No one takes my life from me, but I go and lay it down." That kind of love. "No greater love does a man have than this: that he gives his life for his friends. No greater love is this, that though I am rich, for your sake I become poor that through my poverty you might become rich." That's the kind of love Jesus said, "I want to see it," and people go, "That's a radical and crazy love." Who hangs around and loves like that? Because our whole world is committed to emotional love and feeling love. Love is a verb, and when you love that way, when you love this way, Jesus says that the world is going to go, "Wow! There's something different about you people. You must have learned to love from the greatest lover who ever lived," and that's who Jesus was. When you don't love that way, the world is going to have a right to say, "You must not be somebody who even learned from Jesus." Watch! This is just being a student of Jesus. The world still to this day loves Jesus. They don't speak poorly about him. Mormons embrace Jesus. Jehovah's Witnesses embrace Jesus. Hindus embrace Jesus. Muslims embrace Jesus. Even atheists embrace Jesus, the rabbi, the teacher. They don't deny that he existed. They know there is no way to do that in the context of history. What they say is, "If you're one of Jesus' disciples, you would love as he loved," and Jesus says just that. He says in John 13:34 and 35, "I want you to love the way I have loved." He says, **"By this…"** By your love. "That's going to be the thing that's going to mark you as my disciple, if you have love for one another." That's the thing. I'm going to say this. I believe what is happening here in this little gathering of friends who have been loved by God is we have been, by the grace of God as we depend on him… That's why we've done this series the way we've done this. We've talked about how we've done this, by abiding with Jesus. We are one with him as we yield to the intimacy we have with the Father because of the love expressed through the Son, that he gave his life for us and we can be reconciled to God and, therefore, we have his Spirit which means we don't think with the spirit of men, which says, "I'll love you as long as it feels right and as long as the puppy wags his tail and licks me and makes me happy, but you start chewing my furniture and defecating on my life, I'm out." That's not the way Jesus loves. Sovereign love says, "I'm sticking around through all of the chewed shoes of life." As we've done that as prayerful people who bear the fruit of a relationship with Christ, God has built this thing. That's why the first week we just talked about abiding. He built this through our abiding with him. He built this through our faith in him, our faith that God wanted to do something to make his love known in the world today, so we said, "Lord, if you're willing, why not with us?" Then, we just said, "Lord, we're not going to try and be big or impressive or accumulate followers for ourselves. We don't really care about big; we care about biblical." That gets to my statement. How did we do this? We didn't care about this; we cared about Jesus and loving in his name according to his Spirit and his power which mightily works within us. Gandhi loved Jesus, but he was not a Christ follower. Why? Because he said, "I like your Christ. I just don't like your Christians." When he was talking about why he rejected Christianity, he said, "You Christians are so unlike Christ." Yet, Gandhi would tell you that he expressed high regard for Jesus, that most of his humanitarian ethic came from Jesus, but he felt Christians (the ones he knew) mistreated him, so he rejected Christianity and embraced what he called _Hinduism_. He said, "Not only are you guys not followers of Jesus, but I don't think Jesus is who he says he was." Watch what I mean by that. Love has to be our mark. In John, chapter 17, Jesus was talking to his disciples, and he was encouraging them that they could be the light of the world, and he moved quickly from talking to and encouraging them to praying to the Father that they would be what he wants them to be. That the church (the people God created) would actually be so radically different and so supernaturally able to love because they were yoked with God and the life which they now lived they lived by faith and not by feeling, that the world would go, "Something about you people is different. Even though you're uneducated and untrained, you must have been with Jesus, and Jesus says yokes you with God, and God must be love because you're loving people, and Jesus is who he says he was." Follow Jesus' argument in John 17. He says, "Father, like you have sent me into the world, so I'm going to send these other guys, and for their sake, I'm going to become everything you wanted me to be. I'm going to sanctify myself. I'm going to be a provision on the cross so they can be in truth." Then, he says this in verse 20. "Father, I'm going to ask, not just on behalf of these 11 who are here right there over my shoulder… I'm not going to ask just on their behalf, but I'm going to ask that all who believe in me through their word as they testify about me and as the Spirit of God enables them to supernaturally remember whatever details God wanted them to remember that God would produce a perfect book through imperfect men (infallible writing through fallible men)…" God said, "I'm going to do that so people would believe in who I am through these eyewitness accounts in history and through the testimony of what I did, Lord, that you would produce in them this oneness…" Watch. "…this oneness that they would all be one even as, Father, you and I are one that they might be one in us so that…" This is key. "…so that the world may believe that I am the Messiah and that you sent me." In other words, Jesus says, "Even people who don't embrace Jesus as Messiah will reject you as a follower of Jesus if you don't love," but he says, "The world will reject the idea that Jesus is the Messiah if his people who are called by his name don't love one another." The church won't be what God intended it to be, which is the body of Christ (the visible image, if you will, right now of the invisible Jesus). The church won't be something people love. The church will be something people run from, and Jesus will not be embraced as the hope of the world. This is a big deal. This is a really big deal. I think about what is happening out there. You guys know who Anne Rice is. Anne Rice wrote a lot of those vampire novels that were out there. Late in her life, Anne Rice made a profession that Jesus was her Messiah, but what happened was she was introduced into a community of people she didn't see their love for one another, and this is what Anne Rice wrote years after making a profession for Christ. "For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always; but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group." For 10 years, I've tried. I failed. I am an outsider. My conscience will allow me nothing else [but to say, 'I don't want to be associated with them']." Like Gandhi who apparently didn't see real Christ followers, I don't think Anne Rice was walking around real Christians, because real Christians know love is a verb and are never marked by these things. In fact, this book is replete with exhortations to not be the very things she said, "I can't do this anymore." Jesus doesn't want us to do hate and maliciousness and hostility and quarrels and disputations. He wants the love of God to be more and more renowned through us. It's how he built this place. He built this place, because I have seen so many of you radically love in a way that is sacrificial, in a way that is others-centered, and in a way that does nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. I've seen you with humility of mind consider others as more important than yourselves. I have story after story after story. I don't have time to talk about all of the ways you have all famously loved one another, but we're going to talk about it a little bit. We are God's people, and because we're God's people, love should mark us. In fact, if we don't have love as our mark, we are not Jesus' church. It doesn't matter what else we're doing or how many folks are hanging around if we are not loving. This is what the Bible says. The Bible says, "It's great that you're people of faith, because faith is important." In fact, Hebrews 11:6 says this. **"…without faith it is impossible to please God..."** You'll never do anything pleasing to God if you don't do it by faith, because it says, "For those who come to God must believe that he is exactly who he says he was (the Redeemer of humanity and the hope of the world and the provision for our sins and the God who is life), and that he rewards those who seek him." Not those who try and build a resume and serve him for years and eventually make the grade, but those who seek grace and mercy in him. "Blessed are the poor in spirit… Blessed are those who mourn and are brokenhearted over sin… Blessed are those who are meek underneath the provision of God." Those are the ones who seek him and know that God is the one who provides grace to those who seek him. Jesus says, "You can do whatever you want, but if you don't do it by faith, it's impossible to please me." Hope, the Scripture says, is really important. **"Hope deferred,"** Proverbs 13 says, **"makes the heart sick."** Hebrews talks about the fact that, if we don't hold fast to our hope, we will not be the people God wants us to be. You're not going to do well here long without hope. Now, faith? You can't please God without it. Without hope, you won't live well or long if you don't have it, but there's something greater. This is what it says in 1 Corinthians 13:13. **"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."** It's our mark. Our world is irresistibly drawn to it when they see it, because our world (the world we live in) has been made in the image of God, so when they see this love that every human being was created to experience and to walk in and when they see it expressed, they can't help but go, "Hey! What is that? What's going on there?" We're supposed to say, "What you're seeing here is a glimpse of God's kingdom. It's what God intends," but it only happens when there is supernatural love. I want to warn people that love is such a valuable thing that the Enemy uses it a lot as a counterfeit. Cults are built on false love and fake love. They act like they care about you. They take you into their family. Charles Manson was famous for saying, "While you were too busy making money and chasing suburban wealth, you left your kids for your businesses and your country clubs," and those were the kids who Manson had follow him and who became part of the Manson family. They asked Manson, "How in the world did you get these people to be murderous, lecherous followers of you and your wickedness and commit murder for you?" He said, "It's easy. They were your kids. You turned them out, and I took them in. I showed them what they thought was love. I gave them a family. I paid attention to them. Because of that, I got them to do awful things." It's why it says in the Scripture that even the Enemy (Satan) presents himself as an angel of light. It's why, girls (those of you who have been hurt again and again by guys), you're hurt by guys who said, "Baby, come here. I'll love you. I'll take care of you. You matter to me." They seduce you with words that aren't verbs in real life. Love is powerful, and it should be our absolute mark. What I want to do is walk you through a few things the Scriptures say love does. I want to give you illustrations of what's happening right here, and I want to talk about the fact that there's no way we can do it if we don't depend upon him. Let me make it really clear. We have to have faith, because without faith we will not believe in God and without believing in God and trusting in his provision we won't have the Spirit and without the Spirit we will not bear the fruit of supernatural love. We'll be just like Manson. We'll be just like guys who are trying to pick up girls and making them join our little club. We'll give you enough niceties and we'll maybe love you enough to play music you like or create an environment you like and messages that are palatable, because we love you. No. We just want something from you, or we're going to love you the way Christ loved you. When we love you that way, the world is going to know that God's people have been among them, and it's going to be a beautiful thing. Without love, we are nothing. Again, Scripture says, "If we don't love, we're not God's people." Listen to 1 John, chapter 4. It says, **"Beloved, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love…" **We're not talking about who doesn't make people feel good; we're talking about biblical Christianity. It says,**"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."** If you're his people, you're going to love. You're going to be his disciples. If you love the way God defines love, the world is going to know that Jesus alone is who makes men lovers, who creates communities of faith that are places of peace. Again, I'm going to keep sticking things in here. The world longs for this. The world desires this. When there was great horror in our world during the very first World War (what we call a _World War_ because we're always so nearsighted like this is the first time the world was in conflict) in the early twentieth century in the 1915 through the 1925 era, the first World War happened, and coming out of the first World War we're going to say, "We can't let that happen again," so this thing called the _League of Nations_ was formed. It later evolved into what we now know today as the United Nations. The United Nations is the effort of men to bring the nations together again so we would never war anymore and we would have a place of peace. Let me just tell you something. The United Nations isn't doing what it says it wants to do. I've been in war zones during wars. I have seen the little white helmets and the white SUVs and Range Rovers and tanks that are there while all kinds of atrocities are going on, and they're supposed to be a peace-keeping force, but they will not put down evil. They will not call right _right_ or wrong _wrong_. They're basically to report that the United Nations was on hand in Rwanda when the great holocaust or genocide happened there between the Hutus and the Tutsis. They have the form, if you will, of peace-making but none of the power. The nations can't do what God alone can do, but the nations long for what God says he is going to do, which is to create peace between people. It's why, when Paul says, "Listen, people! Don't let Anne Rice walk into your community and think for a second that she's walked into the wrong community. I urge you to walk worthy of the calling with which you've been called with all humility and gentleness and patience, showing forbearance to one another in love. Be diligent. Show constant Spirit and God-provided energy toward making peace with one another and preserving what God has intended, which is oneness among you." The United Nations has never pulled off that oneness, but do you know what is really interesting? When the United Nations was built in New York City, they ended up carving into the granite outside of their building biblical verses that talk about how God one day is going to produce something, but the world is always looking for it outside of a relationship with Jesus who is the one who makes us one. He's the Prince of Peace. Without him, there will be no peace which is why it's so important that the nations who united, whether we come together Jew and Gentile, Barbarian or Scythian, slave and free man, man and woman, we come together different tribes and races, and we love one another. When the world sees it, they go, "Who are you people? Nobody gets along like this!" It's why it's such an offense to God when racism and oppressive patriarchy or self-exhausting matriarchy is injected into the church. This is crazy. We've talked about this. Right? It was a bunch of white guys (eight of us) who started this thing almost 20 years ago. Now, today, because we've just loved who was in our city, people born in over 90 different nations are pursuing oneness with me here, sharing our love and our provisions with one another for the sake of exalting Christ. We are doing what the United Nations can't do because God is the one who can do what the United Nations wants to see happen. What am I talking about? What is on the wall of the United Nations is Isaiah, chapter 2, verse 4. What is Isaiah 2:4? Let me get you there. This is what Isaiah 2:2 says. **"In the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord…"** Which means the government. The established presence of God or, if you will, the kingdom of God **"…will be established as the chief of the mountains…"** It is the governance of earth. Then, it says, **"…it will be raised above the hills…"** All of the other smaller gatherings. **"…and all nations will stream to it."** Verse 3 says, **"And many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob."** The God of Israel who revealed himself. **"He will teach us His ways…"** Watch this. **"…so that we may walk in His paths."** Because all of his ways are peace. **"For the law will go forth from** [the city of God] **…"** That's what _Zion_ is in Scripture. **"…and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem."** Watch! This is the verse. **"Then He will judge between the nations and**[render decisions]**for many peoples." **Because his reign is righteous and because he's God and because he will teach people how to love,**"They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks."** That's the verse etched into the United Nations, that because we exist there will no longer be war. The verse continues. **"Nation will no longer take up the sword against nation, nor train anymore for war."** We're coming up on 100 years of that baby being in existence, and it hasn't worked out so well. Why? Because there will never be peace without the Prince of Peace. Here's my question. Is there peace here? Is this where the nations unite under one Lord and one King, and do we love one another here? Do we love one another the way God has loved us? Can the world take note? Does the world say, "Christians, will you teach us how to get along? Will you teach us how to be one? Will you show us what it means to deny self and care for others? Will you show us how to not make war and not be malicious gossips? Will you show us how not to be hateful and hating one another? Will you show us how to make marriages work?" Let me tell you something. I know every time I say it, for those of you who have been in the context of a failed human relationship, you say, "Todd, it's so painful when you talk about God's intention for marriage because it's not what I was in," and I know it's not what you were in, but it's what we must strive to. Because you have been hurt by humans who have failed to love you and maybe you were the human who failed to love the way God wanted, it doesn't mean I can't uphold the standard. The Scripture says we are to be single or reconciled. When we get married under the name of God when we don't come together and make a treaty and go, "We're going to make this work as long as it works, but if you break the covenant and if you break the treaty, I'm breaking relationship." No. We are covenantal marriages that say, "I'm going to love you as Christ loved the church, and I'm staying here. I'm not going anywhere." That doesn't mean, "I'm going to stay here if you're abusive to me, because love doesn't rejoice in unrighteousness, so I maybe have to remove myself so you can't act unrighteous to me, but I'm here, and I'm not going anywhere." That's the biblical picture of love. The world rightly has said, "You guys are no different than us. You guys are just serial monogamists. You get married until it just doesn't work anymore, and then you move on to get married again." Jesus is saying, "Guys…" God doesn't hate divorcees. He hates divorce because he loves the people, and we love you, and we want you to experience what God wants. It's why, when I sat down a number of years ago to try and take the felt need of broken human relationships and to encourage people, I looked out there. I saw we do some recovery ministries. At our re:generation ministry on Monday nights, you need to know something. The healthiest people at Watermark go on Monday nights. It doesn't mean only the healthy people are there, but I can tell you, if you're there on Monday nights at Watermark, you're getting healthy because you realize life has become unmanageable for you and that you're addicted to a certain way of thinking that isn't the path of peace. You're addicted to a certain way of living to find release through drugs or alcohol or through some practice or through men or maybe through women or maybe through porn. It doesn't matter. We're just going to teach you to find freedom, and the first step in our recovery discipleship ministry on Monday nights is, **"Blessed are the poor in spirit…"** You're powerless to pursue the path of life apart from God. We introduce you to the God who loves you in your brokenness and as a Father who wants to restore you. I looked at that. I go, "If about 12 to 20 percent of Americans are struggling with some form of psychological brokenness or a real chemical addiction, all of us struggle in relational marriages," so I just sat down one day and asked, "What if we provided something that allowed people to come and say, 'I'm in a series of failed relationships. I don't know how to make relationships work. Is there anybody who can help me?'" God is here to heal you, and when he heals you he can heal the relationships you're in. Hurt people hurt people. "Come find grace in me, and you can extend grace to one another." I took the word reengage and said, "Lord, if we reengage with you we can maybe reengage with one another in a way that would make it feel like we're engaged again because we're going to love one another and be so careful with one another and do everything we can to build one another up." Can I just tell you the very first thing you're going to learn if you go to re|engage? By the way, Valentine's Day is coming up. Do you want a great gift to give to your spouse? Take them to re|engage and say, "I want to work the next 16 weeks or so in the context of biblical community with others where we're going to remind ourselves of biblical principles to make relationships work." There are folks who come here all of the time who have already filed for divorce, and God does an amazing work to resurrect their marriage, but there are couples that come there all of the time who are sevens and they move to eights and then move to nines and there are nines who want to pursue being a ten. What we're going to remind you of when you show up there is what I want to remind you of today. That is simply the first thing. I took re|engage and I gave a little name to each one of the letters. There are principles there. The first one is to realize you are powerless to love your spouse the way you promised. You can't do it. You can't do it the way you said and promised you would, the way they dreamed you would, and you can't love (we can't love) the way God designed us to love unless we depend on him. In our poverty of spirit, we find what love looks like from God, and we say, "God, that love expressed through the cross is the love that needs to flow through me to my spouse," because puppy love isn't working. I love this. A gal took her husband to a doctor because he didn't feel like he was doing too well, and the doctor walked out, looked at her, and goes, "Ma'am, I need to talk to you. Your husband does not look good." She goes, "I know. I don't think so either, but he's so kind to the children." I promise you there's going to be a day when your spouse doesn't look good to you, and God wants you to learn to love anyway because the world just steps out, and the world ejects. Jesus says, "You can't be my church, beloved, if you don't love one another." It's what marks us. The world will know that Jesus is Lord when we love in a way that only people who are touched by a supernatural God have loved them look like. It's true that for every 100 people, maybe one will read the Bible and 99 will read the Christian. It's true that Christians observe doctrine, but the world observes Christians. What does the world see when it looks at us? If it doesn't see love, we're nothing. We have the form of godliness but lack the power. I'm going to tell you God built this because so many of you are marked by the love of Jesus Christ and not the love of man. This is what love does. 1._ Love seeks_. The Bible says that ever since man decided they didn't need God and kind of went his own way and was at war with one another and at war with God, God sought us. Every single act of God since Genesis 3 on has been a missionary act. God seeks. That's what love does. God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. It is our mark. You guys who have been around here for a while have probably bumped into some folks who this body graciously says, "We want you guys to lead us in the way that we make disciples," so, through your kindness, a number of us get to serve you. Our job is to equip you for the work of service. We teach you to love. We help you discover, develop, and deploy your gifts so we can love the world. This is not about us. I always say to pastors, "Who would care if your church went away? Who would care if your church, the church you're a part of, didn't exist anymore? If it's only the people who drive there on Sundays for a couple of hours…" If they're like, "I'm going to drive somewhere else." If the only people who cared that the church was gone are the people who drive to that church… You don't drive to the church; you are a part of the church. You know what I mean. If it's a church that just gathers, and if it goes away and never scatters to bear the fruit of the Spirit in the city and be graceful, if when the church closes down nobody cares but the people who went to that church, the church was never God's church to begin with. Jesus says that you are to love in such a way that when you're gone the world goes, "What happened to those Christians? We didn't much like their doctrine, but they were full of love and grace and kindness. That clinic they put over there in the most under-resourced part of our town where they cared for our children and cared for us and loved us is gone. That group of businessmen who got together to set up independent accounts where they matched our money that we saved and discipled us in how to save and matched our dollars four to one so we could buy a car and get our own place and get off the streets… Those people are gone." All things that are happening here at Watermark. "Those people who helped us deal with our hurts and our hang-ups are gone. Where are they?" It's love that will mark us. I will tell you, if you've been around here long, you've bumped into some of these folks who are on staff, and you've probably seen them wearing a Patagonia jacket maybe with a little brand on it. Right? Maybe a North Face jacket or an Under Armor jacket. If you've been here for 20 years, you get one at Christmas and one when we go away on our staff retreat, so you're stacked with what has infamously been called _Water Wear_. Water Wear has this brand on it. We're Texans, and Texans have ranches, and you ride for the brand. If you worked at a certain ranch and you dealt with the cattle that were there, it was said that you rode for that brand, so we put a little brand out. It has a watermark. We took the fact that one of the things a watermark is is when flood waters rise up and then recede they leave a line, a lasting impression. We believe if we, as God's people, do what God wants us to do that long after we're gone evidence that God's people were there will remain because there will be a hole…the lack of love, the lack of clinics, the lack of care for the broken, the poor, the oppressed, the widow, and the orphan. There will be a big hole in the foster care system because we left. There will be a big hole in the way that children who don't have dads are cared for because all of the mentors are gone. All things that are happening here. Anyway, this Water Wear we have, people go, "Hey! How can I get some of that stuff?" We usually say, "You take a 100 percent pay cut and you come work 60-hour weeks, and we give you a $70 vest." That's basically how you get one, so if you're interested, come find me. This brand, when we wear it, really means something to us. Why? Because we're the people of God called by his name, and we want folks, when they bump into us, to go, "There's something different about you." I'm going to tell you a very humbling story, and I want you to understand what I'm saying when I talk about this. I ultimately don't really care about the Watermark brand. I care about who we represent. We are the people of God. We're the church in Jerusalem. It's a watermark here. I believe Jesus wants his church to prevail and be everything God wants it to be everywhere it is, so if this church is going to be everything he wants his church to be (marked by love everywhere) it has to be here. If this little gathering is emblazoned with the name Watermark, we had better make sure Watermark means love, Watermark means faith, Watermark means selfless service, and Watermark means God- and Jesus-exalting obedience. I'm touched by stories like this. My friend John Elmore… This is just one of them. If you're up here on the Dallas Campus by Preston and Forest there is a Whole Foods up there. He was at the coffee shop up there. There was a barista. That barista was saying to another person who worked there that she was going to move to California, and she was going to move to California because she was going to care for her aging mom. John just listened. He said, "You're going to California to care for your mom? That's a really God-honoring thing to do. Do you know the Bible says that those who honor their mother and father, which doesn't just mean care for them, but if you love your mom and dad and care for them and honor them, do you know that's the first commandment in Scripture that has a promise attached to it that there will be blessing with that? Way to go!" The girl kind of looked at him and said, "Really? Let me just tell you something. I'm a little concerned because when I go there I don't have a job. I don't know how I'm going to provide for myself as I try to care for my mom." John just said, "Do you mind if I pray for you?" She went, "No." So John reached across and grabbed her hand and prayed that God would help her run into other people out there who would love her and care for her and maybe help her find a job and that she'd run into God's people who could strengthen her and care for her as she becomes a caregiver and she'd be reminded how much God cares for her, not because she's aging but because she, like all of us, are sick and have sinned. "You love us, God, and may my friend come to know you and love you." He said, "Amen." She looked up like, "Oh, my gosh!" Right then, a couple of friends who were with him walked up. One of them was my friend, Mel. She had on some Water Wear, and she saw that, and she goes, "John, are you ready?" She looked and saw the _W_ on Mel's jacket, and she goes, "Oh! It's you people! I understand now. What is it with you people?" John goes, "What do you mean?" She goes, "Every single person who comes up here," and there's a lot of us because it's one of the places we eat lunch, "that has that _W_ is different." John goes, "It's not us. It's Jesus." She said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. There are lots of Jesus people, but I'm just telling you there's something about those people who wear the _W_ that is different." That was her testimony. I have to tell you something. I don't like hearing that. I'm encouraged that she has observed that those of us who are wearing some stupid shirt with a _W_ on it are not like most people she meets in the world, because everybody who is a follower of Jesus ought to be like that, but what she was saying was, "I have people I serve coffee to all day long who wear cross necklaces and cross earrings, and they're not different. They treat me like everybody else, but you people are different." I want to tell you my prayer is that every person who understands the love of God expressed through the cross (the love of God that seeks) is different. I think about my friend Susan who is one of those people. She seeks. She was at a Walmart pretty far from here. She met an employee who was stocking the shelves, and because she's a follower of Jesus, she sought this person to engage her in a conversation which led to her to invite this person to share a meal. She goes, "I can't meet you anywhere for a meal. I don't have any transportation." She said, "I'll come and pick you up." She went and picked her up, and as they went and had a meal together, because she was just seeking this person because she was in that aisle… As a Good Samaritan that was her aisle she was walking down. There was somebody to love. The gal, finally as they were sitting there having dinner, said, "Why are you doing this? If you knew who I was you would have never invited me to dinner," to which Susan replied, "If you knew who I was you would have never said, 'Yes,' to my invitation." Susan went on to share her story, which is one where God delivered her from a lot of guilt and shame. This woman started crying. She said, "My husband is having an affair, and I have a husband now who has a baby with another woman, and I don't know what to do with him. Not only that, I'm a drug user, and I've lost custody of my three children. That's probably the reason my husband is doing what he's doing." Susan just sought her with the gospel. She made a decision to follow Christ that night. Susan gave her a Bible the next day at work and connected her with other believers in the area and invited her to come and assimilate into our body. She goes, "I don't have transportation," so they got her connected to another church. That was 2016. In 2017, Susan is in that same area at a Kroger, and she walks up and, lo and behold, there's the person she had loved on and built into. She was now a part of a believing body, and she was in some parenting classes, and she was getting her life back together and beginning to follow Jesus. Then, she met her this past December, just a few short days ago late in the afternoon, and now she has her three children back. God is restoring her because love seeks, because God's people showed up at a Walmart and said, "You're not just here to stock shelves so I can buy things as the prices are falling. You're here because God wants me to tell you that you're fallen, and he has made provision for fallen people." I love that. Love seeks. Love doesn't just seek. 2._ Love serves_. Jesus said, "I'm God. I didn't come to be served but to serve and to serve all the way to the point of death and to give my life as a ransom for many." That's what I see you guys do. I think about our friends over there in Fort Worth who loved the De Leon family. Who is that family? They're just a family who had a sweet little 9-year-old girl named Kaitlyn who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer not long ago. They lived in Amarillo, so they had to come to Cook Children's in Forth Worth. They would go there. They were there for eight months living at the Ronald McDonald House. The woman said she would fast and pray for somebody to love her. She'd say, "God, are you there? Do you care about me?" Lo and behold, somebody heard about it who loved Jesus and said, "We're going to serve this family." They went and introduced themselves. They invited them on the weekends when the husband would come to gather with them. During the weekdays when the husband wasn't there, they would go to the Ronald McDonald House and have game nights. They'd make visits to the park with them and take other kids to the zoo. They brought meals to them there. They visited them at the hospital. They invited them into their home. They would write her encouraging letters. They bought coloring pages for their toddlers. They sent care packages to them. They introduced their little girl to others in her age group at the church so she could make friends. They prayed with them. They cried with them. They sent Scripture to put around in their room. Then, when sweet little Kaitlyn didn't win her battle with cancer they drove to Amarillo and wept with them at their daughter's grave. The De Leons said, "This is our church away from our home that reminds us there is a God who is going to take us home one day and that his real love serves." Love just doesn't serve. 3._ Love shares_. That's what it does. This is Acts, chapter 2, verses 44 and 45. It says that they held all things in common. It says in verse 45 that they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with one another as anyone might have need. It's what they did in the early church, and it's what's happening right here. It's why God built this place and his renown is increasing, because love shares. It's what you have done. We have a single mom here who I wish I could tell you her story of how she even came to know the Lord, but she's in a Community Group with other single moms. Her car broke down, and she didn't know how she'd get it fixed, so one of the dads of one of the girls in the single moms' group tried to help her with a car a little bit, but it just didn't work, so she started spending $80 a day using Uber to and from work. Just massive debt was mounting on her credit cards until, finally, the Community Group said, "We're a part of a larger body," so they did what we're supposed to do, which is expand the conversation. They came to the community of faith here and said, "Guys, we're doing all we can to provide for our sister, but she's struggling. In fact, she's struggling so much…" This little girl had come out of broken relationship and broken relationship, which was why she was a single mom. She, even though she professed Christ, said, "I don't see right now God being there for me. I think I'm going to go back to guys and alcohol because I know that works at least for a season." Some friends got around her and said, "You don't want to go back there. You know that's debauchery and death. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. Guess what? We're his hands and feet. We're here to be what God wants you to be." The church came around. God's people loved her and started sharing in their abundance. One group said, "Why don't you come move in with us?" A couple said, "Move in with us. We're closer to your work, and you don't have a car, so we'll drive you to and from work." Other people started to try to raise money to buy her a car. In the midst of doing that, we realized we couldn't title her because she had debts and tickets and fines. She couldn't title a car until that was dealt with, and she was afraid to deal with it. Another couple in this Community Group bought a house. There was a back house they were going to use to rent out to kind of supplement their mortgage, but they realized, "We can serve her even better than that family did who was close to work. We're closer still and have the ability to love her. Come live in our back house with your children." She moved in there. The people then had raised enough money they were going to buy her a car, but before they could, somebody gave her a car to drive for a little bit. Then, they realized, "We could the money we raised to buy a car. We could pay her fines. We could pay her debts. Then, she could get that car titled." Just this week, sweet little Dominique got that car. There's a picture of her. Do you think she's happy? Oh, man! That's a, "Thank you, God." That doesn't always turn out that way, but we want to tell you something. If we have a way to love you and we're not going to enable an irresponsible lifestyle, but if you want to walk with Jesus and you walk with us, we're going to do what Acts 2:45 says. We've always done it here. That's how God has built this place. 4._ Love sacrifices_. I have so many stories here. I don't have time to even get them to you. You can see I'm reading them. I just sent out an email to friends this week and said, "Talk about the most recent stories of love at work." Love does sacrifice. Love doesn't do the things it wants to do just because it can; love does what is best for others. One of the ways we sacrifice is that some of us have the liberty to do things that others don't, so we love one another who are the weaker brethren, and we don't become stumbling blocks to one another. Love sacrifices continually both in the way we choose to pursue our freedoms and in the way we disrupt our lives. I think about a family here that was doing Merge, which is our premarital class. They sacrificed. They had the freedom to live as empty nesters in this part of their lives, but they're working in Merge. They find out the couple who is in Merge is living together, and they say the reason they're living together is because they can't afford to be apart. The guy said, "Okay. If that's really your reason, why don't you come live with us until the month you get married?" That was the first night they met. That's how he builds his fame and his love. 5._ Love saves_. That's what love does. Love saves. Love dives in and goes to work. This is a story about my buddy, Ryan Wall, and the way he went after his sweet mom. A number of years ago, Ryan trusted Christ here, and when he did he began to pray for his family and minister to his family, and his family wanted nothing to do with Ryan's newfound faith, but his mother just last May as diagnosed with cancer, so he decided to get a Bible and start journaling in that Bible every day when he was reading prayers for his mom. After about six months, she gets admitted to the hospital, which was fairly recently late last fall. When she was admitted to the hospital, he went to visit her, and he took that Bible, and he gave it to her. He said, "Mom, I've been writing and praying in this Bible for you." She said, "That's nice. Take it from me and get it out of here. I don't want it to get messed up in my hospital room. I don't want your Bible. Just leave me alone." Not long after that, she didn't want to be alone because she was afraid she was going to die at night, so Ryan would go up there not just two or three times during the day, but with the blessing of his wife, began to spend the night in his mom's hospital room day after day visiting her in the morning, in the afternoon, and spending the night with her to be there and loving her. After 40 days of that, she said, "Do you still have that Bible?" Ryan said, "I've been really bold with my faith a lot of times, but it was my kindness and my love that served her and was there relentlessly." When she kept saying, "Why are you here?" he would say, "Because I love you, Mom, and God loves you, and I want you to see his love for you." They opened that Bible. They spent two hours in it. The mom embraced Christ. Immediately, she said, "Your dad needs this. The family needs this. The doctors and the nurses need this. Everybody needs this peace." Love saves. I love the statement that kindness has converted more people than zeal and eloquence and knowledge combined. It's the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. God built this thing on love, and if love doesn't mark us we're not his church. These stories of the renown of Jesus' love lived out through you are what make this place. 6._ Love shines_. In Matthew 5, this is what Jesus said. "Let others see your good works so that they may glorify your Father who is in heaven," and people are starting to say, "I don't much like their doctrine, but what they're doing I wish there was more of that here." There is going to be a lasting impression when the people of God who gather under his name are humbling themselves and turning from their wicked ways and loving one another the way Jesus wants them to love. When we leave, there is going to be a hole here in this city. It's going to be the hole of the love of Christ at work through us. That's how he built this, and the people are irresistibly drawn to it. Church, I want you to listen to me because love doesn't just do all of these things. 7._ Love speaks_. It does more than just shine. It does more than just save. It does more than just sacrifice and serve and seek. Love speaks. It encourages me when people see kindness in my life. I was at a movie premier on Tuesday. I was invited by the producers and the directors to go see the movie _Unplanned_, which is a movie about Abby Johnson. Abby Johnson was the director of Planned Parenthood, one of the largest abortion clinics in the country for years. She was personally directing a Planned Parenthood for almost eight years that took 22,000 lives from mother's wombs. Abby was in a situation one day where she was actually invited into the procedure room, something she had not done for eight years. What had happened was Hurricane Ike was boring down on the facility, and they were going to close it, and she knew some women were going to be past the date where they could get abortions in Texas, so she wanted to double up some appointments. She crammed 40 different abortions into one day. She had to bring in an abortion doctor she didn't typically work with, and that particular abortion doctor only worked with a sonogram machine. When he got there, everybody was taking care of and nurses were doing things, and nobody could operate the ultrasound machine for a sonogram, so they said, "Abby, you have to go in procedure room two and help out the doctor." She goes in there and takes that thing and starts to weigh that little ultrasound over the mom's stomach. The doctor said, "Move to the right." She did. Then, the doctor kind of inserted the vacuum tube in order to remove the child, and when it got close inside the cervix into the sac where the child was, the baby moved away when it saw it coming. She goes, "The baby is moving!" He said, "The baby always moves." Yet, she had told moms for years, "Your child feels no pain. It's like going to the dentist, like we're just removing plaque. It's a glob of cells." She's looking. The nurse goes, "That's a 13." That's how they measure the size of the head to know how old the child is. She sat there and watched in horror as the doctor got that tube right up next to the child. He goes, "Go." His crass words were, "Beam me up." They hit the vacuum and sucked out that child limb by limb. She watched in horror as this child ran from and was destroyed before her eyes. She dropped the sonogram machine and ran out of the room into the bathroom and violently got ill. She sat there until she could come out and resigned immediately. She had no idea what was happening. She wasn't dealing with the truth and the reality. I think a lot of us aren't either, because we are way too silent on that issue and probably a lot of others. Let me tell you this. Listen to me. After the movie was over, the producers asked my thoughts. I just said, "Guys, that movie starts with that scene, and you can't start that movie with that scene without trying to communicate right before that what's about to happen." I said, "If you're asking me…" We made a movie here at Watermark, so everybody has an idea about what to do with your movie. I go, "I've been a producer before, but let me just tell you what I think you should do. I think before you start that movie and after you get through with the beginning, it should go black on the screen, and you should put on the screen, 'This is a true story.'" Truth can be difficult. If your true story has difficulty and pain, we want you to know that you are loved, and we want to help you. I said, "You can put up on that screen, 'Please contact us at [healing@watermark.org](http://www.healing@watermark.org).' By the grace of God and because the love of God is at work here rescuing people like me and others who have been destructive and foolish with our lives and rescuing people who have made every kind of decision, we have been told that more people through this local church have been cared for in a post-abortive recovery ministry than any local church in the country." I said, "You can use it. If you don't want to put up your own…" They have something at the end of the movie. "If you don't want to put that up, just put [healing@watermark.org](http://www.healing@watermark.org) and we'll do everything we can to help men and women who have made a decision to take the life of a child from a womb to help them find the healing and the grace we have found, but you have to put that at the front of the movie and not just the back because people are going to walk. I am so grateful you guys are trying to speak out and tell people the truth." Gang, I have to tell you something. When the church doesn't speak, it gets dark. We're salt and light, and when that which is supposed to prevent decay is corrupt and that which is supposed to bring light isn't light, then decay and darkness multiply in the land. The church needs to speak. We need to speak the truth in love. That's what Proverbs 31:8 says. **"Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate."** That's what Proverbs 24:11-12 say. **"Deliver those who are being taken away to death, And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back."** I'm not just talking about babies at that point. I'm talking about moms who have been lied to that this is just like a dental procedure. We need to tell them, "You're going to become un-pregnant in a minute, but you're not going to become an un-mom, and you're going to know that, and we love you." If you've made that decision, we love you. When I told the guy they should put that, he looked at me and said, "Are you a pastor?" That was encouraging to me, because I had been on trips with my Community Group before when we've been out there running around and hanging out. One time we went fishing (five of us), and we were sitting there, and it wasn't long before this fishing guide came up. We said, "We're friends from a church." One of the other guys said, "In fact, one of us is the pastor." The guy goes, "What? One of you guys is a pastor? Huh. I have no idea who it is, but I'm sure it's not him." He pointed right at me. I go, "What did I do?" So it encouraged me when that guy said to me on Tuesday, "Are you a pastor?" because he saw tenderness and concern in me. Listen to me. I want you to hear me right now. If you've never heard the words _love_ and _forgiveness_ and _healing_ and _abortion_ in the same sentence, please hear them now, because God loves you. He's not mad at you. He wants healing to come into your life. He's not judging you because of your pain. He wants to rescue you from the darkness and the lies that led you and the fear that led you and all of the other reasons. Maybe we as a church didn't project to you that we weren't going to make you feel terrible because you made a decision. I've had women say, "It was easier for me to get an abortion than to walk into a church and tell them that I had a child out of wedlock." God forgive us that we've projected that. We love you. If your true story is riddled with difficulty and pain, we love you. You can come find healing with hundreds of others of us here. Thousands of us. Church, listen. You need to know what's happening, and we need to speak. This week on the forty-sixth anniversary of _Roe v. Wade_ in New York, Governor Cuomo celebrated the fact that New York was going to be a place where you could carry a child as long as you want so they can be born or they can be aborted. There is now almost no reason in New York where the likelihood that you are going to be aborted in the womb is well over 33 percent. Of every child conceived in New York State, only about 60 percent of them survive the womb. They were celebrating that, that now it's not just 24 weeks. It can go all the way up. This is my friends, Oscar and Brianna's, son, who was just born 24 to 36 hours ago. Forty-eight hours ago, you can kill him in New York, and they celebrated it. They lit the World Trade Center pink to celebrate it. "The pro-life people have no privilege in our state," is what he said. "We are a pro-choice state, and you can do what you want." I'm telling you, folks, when the church doesn't speak up crazy things happen. When the church endorses and turns a blind eye toward slavery, it's a dark time for the nation's history. When the church says, "We're not Jews; take the Jews," and when the church says, "We're not gay; kill the gays," it's a dark time in the church's history. We are in the middle of a holocaust and a genocide and infanticide in our day and age that we cannot be silent. I want you to watch this. Listen. Mom or Dad who have been a part of this, we love you, but too many of you don't know what's going on. I'm not even going to show you an illustration of a late-term abortion, but this is what happens in abortion. This is an illustration. It's not real, but watch this. [Video] **Anthony Levatino:** My name is Dr. Anthony Levatino. I'm a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist, and I have performed over 1,200 abortions. Today, I'm going to describe a first-trimester surgical abortion called _suction D&C_ (dilatation and curettage). This is the most frequently performed abortion and is used typically from 5 to 13 weeks of pregnancy. After administering anesthesia, the abortionist uses a speculum like this. This is placed inside the vagina and opened using this screw on the side, allowing the abortionist to see the cervix, the entrance to the uterus. The cervix acts as a gate that stays closed for the duration of pregnancy, protecting the baby until it is ready for birth. The abortionist uses a series of metal rods called _dilators_ like these which increase in thickness and inserts them into the cervix to dilate it, gaining access to the inside of the uterus where the baby resides. The baby has a heartbeat, fingers, toes, arms, and legs, but its bones are still weak and fragile. The abortionist takes a suction catheter like this one. This is a 14-French suction catheter. It's clear plastic about nine inches long and has a hole through the center and is inserted through the cervix into the uterus. The suction machine is then turned on with a force 10 to 20 times more powerful than your household vacuum cleaner. The baby is rapidly torn apart by the force of the suction and squeezed through this tubing down into the suction machine, followed by the placenta. Although the uterus is mostly emptied at this point, one of the risks of a suction D&C is incomplete abortion. Essentially, pieces of the baby or placenta are left behind. This can lead to infection or bleeding. In an attempt to prevent this, the abortionist uses a curette to scrape the lining of the uterus. A curette is basically a long-handled curved blade. Once the uterus is empty, the speculum is removed and the abortion is complete. The risks of suction D&C include perforation or laceration of the uterus or cervix, potentially damaging intestine, bladder, and nearby blood vessels, hemorrhage, infection, and in rare instances, even death. [End of video] Gang, I just want to say that's what is happening in our land. Over the last 46 years almost 60 million fellow citizens of our country have been silently destroyed because we believed in the right for people to choose. Love speaks. This is not just an issue we can decide what we think about this. The Scriptures are really clear about God valuing human life and what he thinks of that. It's also very clear of what God thinks about his love for sinners, of which I'm one. If you're here and you've been a part of an abortion decision, we want to help you. [healing@watermark.org](http://www.healing@watermark.org) If you're a woman who has been through that, we'll meet with you and add you to the number of those who find freedom and peace in Christ. Fathers, we'll follow up with you. All of us… Shame on us if love doesn't speak. Not just the way we admonish one another in our unruliness, but when we say to the world, "Folks, this is wrong." On our watch, I don't ever want the future generation to go, "I thought you were God's church during that time of slavery, during the Holocaust to the Jews. Why did you turn a blind eye to that?" You can say you do not care, but never again can you say you do not know. Love speaks. Love seeks. Love saves. Love shines. Father, let us love in your name. If there is anybody here who needs to see the love of God, I pray they would see the cross. I pray they'd remember the songs we sang and remember what I said, that you made him, Jesus who though he was rich, eternally with you, and very God of very God, you made him poor through the incarnation. Help us, Father, to love one another. If there is somebody in this room who needs to know the love of God may they not leave until they run into one of your people. In Jesus' name, amen.