Why I Believe in Reading Love Stories

  • Why I Believe in Reading Love Stories
  • John 3:16-17
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • May 14, 2017
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5-14-17 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

I have prayed so many prayers for my daughters. When they were still in their mother’s womb, I would pray for them.

 

I would pray for their health.  What a relief it was when each one of them was born and I knew that they had ten little fingers and ten little toes. I prayed for their happiness.   What a joy it is for me to see their sweet tiny toothed smiles when I pick them up out of bed in the mornings.

 

Among the many things I prayed for Abigail and Madeline was that they would love to read. You might think that sounds a bit odd to be thinking about before your baby is born, but I did.

 

I never really liked to read very much when I was a child, but now as an adult, I am convinced of the importance of a love for reading. I would pray at night, “Dear Jesus, please let my child love to read like her mother did when she was a little girl.”

 

Do you know what?  Both of my girls love books. I’ll never forget taking them to the Orlando City Library downtown and letting them get their own library cards. It was great to see how excited they were to have their very own library cards with their names signed on them.

 

When they were toddlers nothing used to bless me more than when one of my girls would go over to her basket of books and brings one over for me to read to her. When one of them would bring a book over to me, I knew it was an answer to prayer.

 

When my sister gave birth to my niece, one of the things I enjoyed doing with my girls was putting together a basket of books to give to their baby cousin as a Christmas present.

 

It gave us the opportunity to revisit the stories my girls loved when they were toddlers, stories like – Chika, Chika, Boom Boom; Brown Bear, Brown Bear; The Wheels on the Bus; and Miss Spider’s Tea Party.

 

But of all the books that I used to read to my girls, we made sure that my niece’s book basket included our favorite love stories like I’d Choose You and Guess How Much I Love You?

 

At the top of that list was a story called The Runaway Bunny. Maybe you know the story.

 

Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away.  So he said to his mother I am running away.

 

So his mother said If you ran away I will run after you.  For you are my little bunny.

 

If you run after me, I will become a fish in a trout stream and I will swim away from you.

 

If you become a fish in a trout stream, I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you.

 

If you become a fisherman, I will become a rock on the mountain, high above you.

 

If you become a rock on the mountain high above me, I will be a mountain climber, and I will climb to where you are.

 

If you become a mountain climber, I will be a crocus in a hidden garden.

 

If you become a crocus in a hidden garden, I will be a gardener.  And I will find you.

 

If you are a gardener and find me, I will be a bird and fly away from you.

 

If you become a bird and fly away from me, I will be a tree that you come home to.

 

If you become a tree, I will become a little sailboat, and I will sail away from you.

 

If you become a sailboat and sail away from me, I will become the wind and blow you where I want you to go.

 

If you become the wind and blow me, I will join a circus and fly away on a flying trapeze.

 

If you go flying on a flying trapeze, I will be a tightrope walker, and I will across the air to you.

 

If you become a tightrope walker and walk across the air, I will become a little boy and run into a house.

 

If you become a little boy and run into a house, I will become your mother and catch you in my arms and hug you.

 

Shucks, I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.

 

And so he did.

 

Have a carrot Said the mother bunny.

 

Why did I read The Runaway Bunny to my girls?  I read it to them because it told them about how much a mother bunny loves her little bunny.

 

I read it to them because I hoped that someday they would begin to understand how much Joni and I love them and that there isn’t anything we would not do for them.

 

I read it to them because the first time I heard the story it reminded me of how God took on human flesh and become one of us.

 

There is another love story I read to my girls as well. This was another must have when we were putting together my niece’s book basket. Her copy is a yellow hardback book, with cardboard pages and a tiny plastic clasp.

 

Many of you probably own a copy as well.  Your copy probably doesn’t look much like the one I’m holding.

 

Chances are that you have a leather cover with thin paper pages printed in black and in some places red. Maybe your copy is on your smart phone. Some have large print while others are small, but they all tell the same great love story.

 

In this love story we read not about the love of a mother bunny for her little bunny, but about the greatest love any of us can ever know.

 

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only son.  And this is why: So that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.  God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was.  He came to help, to put the world right again.”  – John 3:16-17

 

At His very core, at the very center of His being, God is love. For some people this is hard to believe. It is difficult to understand because they have some warped images in their minds of who God is.

 

It is easy to think of God as looking at all of us in our disobedience and our rebellious ways and to picture him saying, “I’ll show him” or “I’ll get her.”

 

Too many people are working with the concept of a God who is just waiting to point an accusing finger, of a God who is waiting to jump out and yell, “Aha, I got you.”

 

Others have this picture of a God who seeks to exercise control over us, a God whose desire is to whip us into shape by demanding obedience and doling out lists of rules that we better keep.

 

But scripture helps us to know better than that. 1 John 4:8 tells us clearly, “God is love.” Folks, it doesn’t get any more simple or clear than that.

 

You see, in the world’s greatest love story ever told, we find God acting not for his own sake, but for our sake.

 

Like the mother bunny who sought out her little bunny, God the Father cannot be happy until his wandering children have come home. He isn’t out to force us into compliance. His desire is to love us into relationship.

 

When Joni and I were dating, I did everything I could to win her over. I bought her flowers. I took her out to eat. I opened her car door. There were plenty of single guys at seminary that would have been happy to vie for her affections. If I wasn’t on top of my game, there were plenty of others around who would have been willing to step up to the plate.

 

Just like a young man vies for the affections of a young woman, God vies for our affection. He is willing to do whatever it takes to woo us into a relationship with Him.

 

He is willing to do whatever it takes. As a matter of fact, He was so willing that the love story tells us he made the ultimate sacrifice just for us. He gave his son.

 

Some of you might be thinking “Well that’s all well and good Lyndol, but you don’t know about me. You don’t know what I’ve done. You don’t know what kinds of thoughts I have. You just don’t know about me.”

 

Who does the love story tell us God loves? Does it say God loves the good people? The beautiful people? The together people? The ones who love Him back?

 

Yes, God loves all of those people, but he loves all of the rest of us too. The story clearly says that God so loved the world? Did you catch that? Did you hear what it says? The world. God so loved the world and the last time I checked, that includes you and me.

 

  • God sent Jesus for people who are lonely and have no one else to love them and for those who have a wealth of friends.

 

  • God sent Jesus for people who love Him already and for those who never bother to give Him a second thought.

 

  • God sent Jesus for people who rest in His love and for those who reject it at every turn.

 

Augustine said it this way, “God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love.”

 

A contemporary author put it this way, “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.”

 

The apostle Paul put it this way, “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:6-8

 

God knows every one of our flaws. He knows all of our failures and shortcomings. He knows our sin and He loves us anyway.

 

Fortunately for us, sin isn’t the whole story. Author Lewis Smedes put it this way, “It may be a very bad thing that I needed God to die for me, but it is a wonderful thing that God thinks I’m worth dying for.”

 

We might be rough around the edges. We are certainly sinful people. There is no mistaking that fact, but we never need to confuse our sinfulness with worthlessness.

 

God doesn’t love us because he has to love us. God loves us because He wants to love us.

 

Not only does God love you, but there is something else that he wants to do for you. The love story tell us that God sent Jesus to put the world right again.

 

I wonder what that might look like for you? Could it mean…

  • Restoring a broken relationship?
  • Healing for past hurts?
  • Breaking through a cycle of addiction?
  • Inner peace?

What would it look like for Jesus to come and put the world right again for you?

 

Maybe it would mean instead of continuing to run from God’s love that you would turn to God and embrace his love for you, accept his forgiveness for past mistakes and rely upon his grace for daily life?

 

Maybe it would mean asking Jesus Christ to come and be your Savior?

 

Why did I read the Love Story of John 3:16-17 to my girls? I read it to them because it told them about how much their Heavenly Father loves them.

 

I read it to them because I hoped that with each passing day they would understand more about how much God loves them and that there isn’t anything He wouldn’t do for them.

 

Why do I read this passage to us today? I read it because no matter how long you have been a Christian there are still days that we need to be reminded that we are the joy of our heavenly Father.

 

I read it because, from time to time, all of us need to be reassured of how much God loves us.

 

There is one more book that I used to like to go through with my girls. We didn’t read it together. I used to sing it to them and when they were old enough they began to sing it with me. Something tells me that you just might know the words…

 

Jesus loves me!  This I know,

For the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to him belong;

They are weak but he is strong

 

Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, Jesus loves me!

The Bible tells me so.

 

Jesus loves me still today,

Walking with me on my way,

Wanting as a friend to give

Light and love to all who live.

 

Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, Jesus loves me!

The Bible tells me so.