Becoming Living Love Letter to the World
About the Guest
Whether writing one or receiving one, whose heart doesn't thrill over a good love letter? On the broadcast today, popular author and speaker, Dennis Rainey, draws from the Scriptures to show us why we are called to be God's letter of love to the world.
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
Whether writing one or receiving one, whose heart doesn’t thrill over a good love letter?
Becoming Living Love Letter to the World
Bob: When we experience God's love in our own life, it's for a reason – so that we can demonstrate that love to others. Here is Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: Your life is a love letter written every day for a lifetime. God has not called us to write upon perfect tablets of stone. To be a living love letter, you must write upon broken tablets of flesh. He has called you and me to love imperfect people.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, February 15th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll hear today about the work God wants to do in each of our hearts to transform us into living love letters. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. One of the things that we have encouraged couples to do, in fact, we've really made it an assignment for them as they attend our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference, and this is from the very beginning, right?
Bob: We've encouraged couples to take a little time during the conference and write a love letter to one another and, frankly, it's something that most people don't do unless somebody is encouraging them to do it.
Dennis: Right, at our Weekend to Remember on Saturday morning after the audience has had a chance to kind of relax and exhale from the week, and they've begun to connect with us around our message of the weekend, we give them almost an hour to exchange conference manuals and write a love letter to their spouse.
And then after they've written it, they then read that love letter to their spouse, and, Bob, there have been those who have attended the conference who have come to us and said, "You know, you made a mistake in the manual at that point where the love letter is. You should have included a Kleenex in the manual at that point of the love letter," because there are a lot of couples who come back arm-in-arm having expressed affection and love for one another in ways they haven't in years.
And I know I'm speaking to couples right now who need to schedule a time to get away this spring at the Weekend to Remember. If you haven't done that in a while, now is the time.
Bob: I'm going to be speaking at one of these conferences this weekend in Washington, D.C., and next weekend in Baltimore.
Dennis: You're doing both of those?
Bob: I'm doing both – there are actually five in the D.C. area this spring, so I've got the first two, and these conferences are held in cities all across the country throughout the spring, and if you need more information about when the conference is coming to a city near where you live, you can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY and get registered for one of these conferences and get your pen out, because you'll be writing a love letter, but bring your own Kleenex, because we don't provide that.
Dennis: We don't supply that. You know, it was about a year ago, Bob, I had the privilege of addressing the staff here at FamilyLife on Valentine's Day, and I decided to speak about being a living love letter, and the concept had come to me from a verse that was given to me in a letter by Joni Eareckson Tada, and Joni had written me thanking me for some broadcasts we had done together with her husband, Ken, and in her letter she quoted 2 Corinthians, chapter 3, verse 3, and I don't think I'd ever seen this before, but let me just read it to our listeners.
And this is Paul writing, he says, "And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." And it occurred to me that we, as followers of Christ, are to be living love letters; that we should be living out the love of Christ to others and writing that love on other people's hearts as well.
And so in this message I made three points about being a living love letter, and the first one way, "You must know the Author of love."
Bob: And the place where we are to live out being a living love letter first, is at home in our relationship with our husband or our wife and our relationships with our children.
Bob: That's where it's often the hardest to be a living love letter and yet that's where God has called us to let our light shine first as we pick up here with part 2 of this message and after talking about knowing the author of love, you point us to how we know Him, and it's by reading the bestselling love story of all time.
Dennis: [from audiotape.] Well, in our time together, I want to give you three points that you need to have if you're going to be a great love letter to other people. First, to be a living love letter, you must know the Author of love, you must know the Author of love.
John 3:16 – we memorize it from the time of our youth – "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."
This author of love, this Creator of love, this One who has penned the words of the greatest love letter of all time, the Bible, says in 1 John 4:7-21, a lengthy section about love. Follow with me – "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." And because of that, we experience forgiveness. We experience His love, and we have the promise of eternal life.
Remember Jesus's invitation in Revelation, chapter 3, verse 20? "Behold, I stand at the door, and I knock. If anyone hears my voice, hears my knock, and bids me to come in, I promise I will come into him and will sup with him and dine with him and fellowship with him and experience a relationship."
The gods of the world don't offer a personal relationship. The gods of the world offer ritual, rules, regulation, do's and don't's, but the Lord God Almighty offers to each one of us because He has a heart, He's a God of love, He wants a relationship with us.
Well, there is a second key component if you want to be a living love letter. If you want to be a living love letter, you must read and reread the greatest word of love in history. John, chapter 1, it says "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." This is no ordinary Word that God has written to us, but the eternal Word, the living Lord Jesus Christ who showed us what love looks like. How would we have known what love looks like if we hadn't seen Jesus?
Romans, chapter 8, speaks of the love of Christ – who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or the sword? Just as it is written for your sake, we are being put to death all day long. We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered, but in all these things – look at this – "but in all these things, we overwhelmingly conquer through Christ who loved us."
Now, look at this description – "For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels or principalities nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Ephesians, chapter 3 has probably been where I have parked and meditated most as I've thought about the love of God. Paul writes, "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name; that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit and the inner man so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith."
Now, look what He prays for the believers at Ephesus – "And that you, being rooted and grounded in love," these were people who already knew how to love others, they were rooted and grounded in love, but Paul did not stop there. And, by the way, neither should we. "May be able," he said, "to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God."
Look at that again with me. What does he say there? "That you, being rooted and grounded in love will be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth" – it's a cube. And I thought about bringing a cube in here to illustrate this, but what's the problem with that? Whichever one I brought it would be too small.
It's like the Rubik's cube in that it's multidimensional, His love toward you, but it's like a cube that could encompass the universe because God is beyond comprehension. The breadth, length, height and depth – but it didn't just stop with an inanimate object of the love of God, what does he pray for? Look at it again. "And to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge."
One very simple point on this from these passages I want to share with you – because God is love, you must never stop growing in your understanding of His love. It's so easy to just rest and think, "Got it." Really? That's where I was convicted over the past 30 days. Where we just rest in His love but are not seeking to know more of His love through the study of doctrine in the Scriptures and the reading of His love letter to us.
I'll never forget the first time I traveled to the Rockies. It was glorious. Each new bend of the road ascended upwards, and it was, like, "Gosh, look at these mountains." And my friend, Bob Horner, was telling me, "These are just the foothills," and I'm not kidding you, those foothills went for a long way. And if you've ever been to the Eisenhower Tunnel and the top of Loveland Pass, you know what I'm talking about – that massive four-lane highway, super highway, that goes up into the mountains, carved out of granite and rock – you just keep going up, up and up, and you think each new turn is going to bring you within sight of the Continental Divide.
Until finally you arrive at, what is it, 12,000 feet? The Eisenhower Tunnel, and you know, for sure, you're at the top, because you're having a hard time breathing. You know what? The love of God is just like that – going around turns, ascending, finding with each new turn in life a new dimension to His love that our lives might be the living love letters to others.
Your life is a love letter written every day for a lifetime. That's why you and I must be on the upward ascent of pursuing the love of God.
Well, one last point – to be a living love letter, you must write upon broken tablets of flesh. God has not called us to write upon perfect tablets of stone. He has called you and me to love imperfect people. Would be to God that we could love perfect people. Wouldn't that be easy? But guess who God has called you to love? Broken tablets of flesh.
John 15, verse 12 – "This is my commandment – that you love one another just as I have loved you." 1 John 3 – "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us that we would be called children of God and such we are for this reason – the world does not know us because it did not know Him. For this is the message, which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We know love by this – that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
Ephesians, chapter 5, verse 1 and 2 adds this – "Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children and walk in love just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us – an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."
Three more points about being this living love letter – first point, you have the responsibility to imitate Him and His love. Because God is love, you and I have the responsibility to imitate Him and His love.
This past week I got a phone call – actually made a phone call, to a Christian leader who had fallen into sin. Do you know what he told me? For the most part, his friends have forsaken him. Dozens of people that he thought were close friends, the phone has been silent. And do you know what he wanted to know from me when I called him? "Are you safe?"
I sensed a brother wanting to repent but needing someone who was exhibiting the safe love of God that says, "Come on in, in your broken state. I want to love you. I want to help bind up your wounds."
We are not called to be living love letters who preach, who point fingers, who are constantly correcting but who also offer reconciliation.
A second way that we are to be a living love letter is because God is love, you and I have the responsibility to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 says, "Forgiving one another just as God, in Christ, has forgiven you."
Have you ever been in a relationship with anyone who continues to wound you and hurt you and lance you with a sword? I have. The most unnatural thing I can do is forgive and to keep loving. The most natural thing my letter wants to write in the words of my mother is "Give him a piece of my mind and some hateful words."
My mom was a great lady, but every once in a while she would lose it, and she wouldn't really say it to other people, but she would talk about, "I'd like to tell him off." Well, you know what? I understand those feelings, but because the spirit of God is in me, I don't have the option of telling off other people. I can't tell them what I'm thinking all the time. Instead, I must forgive as I have been forgiven.
Third point – because God is love, you have the responsibility to lay down your life for another; to sacrifice for another, and I have to admit this is not much of a sacrifice, but it has taken some time – I am in the process of writing all my adult children a letter that I hope will be a keeper. A letter of encouragement, a letter of belief, a letter of affirmation, a letter that I hope they'll read many, many times. Why? Because God has called you and me not to write our words on stones and on monuments but to write our words on human hearts, broken tablets of flesh.
The question is, what kind of love letter will your life be?
Now, I'm going to close this message by reading one last passage, and I'm just going to take five minutes, and I'm going to give you an assignment. I want you to start writing a love letter to someone that God has brought to mind in this message by way of application.
I began by saying "Your life is a living love letter." How many of you, right now, know who that person is that you need to write? Not many. I want to boil this back, and I want you to start thinking, "If my life is to be a living love letter, what's one letter I need to write right now?" But my exhortation to you is to write your life on tablets of flesh not tablets of stone. Why? Because of this last verse – "But now abide, faith, hope, love, these three but the greatest of these is love."
Bob: Well, again, we've been listening to part 2 of a message from Dennis Rainey on the real meaning of love and how we live that out in our lives and in our relationships and, you know, when you do a message like this and it gets taped, that means there's going to be some accountability. So have you continued writing these letters that you talked about in this message?
Dennis: You know, I've been tested on this, but, Bob, I want to be known as somebody who loves other people, and I don't think I've gotten there yet, but I think the application for each of us coming out of a message like this is who are you supposed to write a living love letter to? And it may not be an actual letter in writing, but it may be an act of kindness, it may be doing good to somebody who has been doing evil to you. It may be forgiving someone who you've been carrying a grudge toward for a number of years, and you can always tell if you've forgiven someone because forgiveness means you give up the right to punish that other person.
And so your first step of love may be to relinquish punishment and give up the right and actually forgive them and then say, "You know what? I love you." And do what God's asked you to do.
But the question is, what's God's assignment for you right now? What tablet of flesh do you need to write a living love letter on?
Bob: Mm-hm, and if part of that assignment does involve this issue of forgiveness, I want to encourage you to get a copy of Nancy Leigh DeMoss's very helpful book on that subject. It's called "Choosing Forgiveness." It will help you think biblically about one of the essentials of the Christian life – learning to be a forgiver. In fact, the Scriptures say, Dennis, that forgiveness is not an option for a believer. We are to forgive others as God, in Christ, has forgiven us.
And Nancy's book is very helpful. We've got it in our FamilyLife Resource Center. If you go to our website, FamilyLife.com, there is more information about the book, and you can order a copy online, if you'd like. When you get to the home page at FamilyLife.com, look for the box on the right side of the screen that says "Today's Broadcast," and that will take you to an area where you can get more information about the resources we talk about here on FamilyLife Today.
Or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY. That's 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team will make arrangements with you to have a copy of Nancy's book sent out to you.
I want to say a word of thanks today, if I can, to those of you who, from time to time, help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today financially. I think most of our listeners know that we are listener-supported. It's folks like you who make it possible for this program to be on the air on this station and other stations all across the country each day, and you do that whenever you make a donation either online or by phone.
This month, if you can help us with a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we'd like to send you a copy of the new couples' devotional by Dennis and Barbara Rainey called "Moments With You." This is a 365-day devotional guide for couples that will help you get in God's Word together; give you some things to talk about, to pray together about. It will draw you closer to one another and closer to God as well. And, again, it's our way of saying thanks for your financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
If you are donating to our ministry online at FamilyLife.com, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, just type in the word "moments," and we'll know to send you a copy of this book, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, you can make your donation over the phone and simply ask for a copy of the book, "Moments With You." We're happy to send it out to you. Again, it's our way of saying thank you for supporting the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Well, I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and we hope you can come back on Monday when we're going to begin a weeklong conversation on the subject of lust and purity in marriage, particularly as it relates to women. Shannon Etheridge is going to be with us, and we're going to talk about what she describes is "every woman's battle," and I hope you can join us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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