922 Ministries - The CORE & St. Peter Lutheran

Everyone loves someone. The challenge is loving everyone, even the people who are noticeably different than you are. Jesus calls us to that standard, to imitate the God who loves different people and serve our friends, enemies, and everyone in between.

What is 922 Ministries - The CORE & St. Peter Lutheran?

The episodes are the weekly sermons from 922 Ministries (St. Peter and The CORE) of Appleton, Wisconsin.

Week 3 - The CORE
Pastor Mike Novotny

Back in 2011, I came across a book. That contains such a powerful concept that even now a decade plus later, I haven't been able to forget it.

It was a book that really explained why I treat certain people in my life this way and why I treat other people in my life that way. The book is called Love and Respect. It was technically a marriage book about a husband's deep need to be respected and a wife's deep passion to be loved. And ready to start the book, the author introduced a concept called the crazy cycle. And you heard this before. Yeah, the crazy cycle says that whenever two people are in a relationship, it might be a marriage, might be 2 co-workers, might be a pastor and the member of a church might be you and your brother, you and your sister you and your next door neighbor, whenever there are two people In relationship, and the first person loves the other person. Well, they're kind, they're patient. They're generous very often. That person will respond in the same way. They'll be kind right back patient, right back. Generate back nice, you know, happy wife, happy life kind of thing, right? You suffer. Or you're gonna have a happy life. She's going to serve you back, but sometimes people don't love each other that. Well things get kind of crazy.

Because, for example, when a husband is not attentive to his wife's needs, he takes her for granted, he's overly critical, he's not patient. He raises his voice when he sins against his wife. Do you know what the most natural thing in the whole world for her to do is?

To give it right back.

And then after one two sins have been committed, it's one to one on the sin scoreboard. No one ever takes a deep breath and say, okay, we're even I love you again.

Instead, after that second sin happens, what happens next? The third sin. And then after the third sin comes, The fourth sin and then back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. So if you're going to have that tone with me, I'll give that right back to you. If you're gonna bring up the past, well, I could think of a couple of things from your past that aren't so perfect. If you're gonna yell and call names, You know, very often. There's this human predicament where we tend to treat people the way they first treated us. For better, or For Worse. Everybody to do everything. Um, you might call it relational karma, you might call it conditional love, or as you probably said it to your parents. When you were five and you and your sister got in the fight, she started it.

Right. It's almost like if someone doesn't treat us. Well, we have Uh, this, right? It's a very natural human thing to do is to give it right back. Yeah the fact is in life most of us know that love is the goal and love is a great aspiration. We've been talking about love in the sermon series to do what's best for another person but this simple definition runs into major difficulty. Is when we say that love is doing what's best, no matter.

Because your life, there are a whole bunch of those that treat you well.

And there's a whole other bunch that don't.

On the Spectrum of all of your relationships. There's like, the people who love you the best, and then people who love you pretty well and people who love you a little bit and then there's the people of deeply wanted you and people who just kind of annoy you, but but there's a line somewhere. That is often the difference between this energizing cycle of love and this crazy cycle of giving people what they deserve.

In fact, I would propose it even if you're a church person and a Christian person even if you're watching at home and there's a Bible right by your side, what what's often happens to us is not that we are by Nature, just impatient unkind or unloving people. I think what happens to us is that we tend to pick and choose

With whom we will be patient or kind or generous. Based on how they first treated us,

Um, my wife and I experienced this a couple years ago. So Kim and I have this amazing tradition. My parents are super cool. They watch our kids. So we do a Friday night date and my kids sleep over my parents, and then we get up on Saturday morning and we try to run about 10 miles together as husband and wife. Some of you say that sounds like hell, but it's not for us. It's, it's really, it's amazing. All the stuff you can talk about. And so when we're, when we're close and word, love, six miles or eight miles or 10 miles or amazing, but what happens when you get into a fight at mile five.

You're a long way away from home. Remember I remember the details of this? Kim said I could tell this, by the way. You said we're going back and forth that was probably trying to win and be in defensive and she was probably doing the same thing and we're running along this Trail here in Appleton Wisconsin. Who do we see in the distance? But an old college friend.

And as he gets within your shot, we push the pause button on the argument. And you you would not believe how nice we were to this man.

Hey how are you? I haven't seen you in Forever. How are the kids? How's life? How's work? And everything was great. We were super kind. We were loving people to him but then as soon as he took off and he just out of earring you know we did Unpause. Where was I? Here's why I'm right. Here's why you're wrong. Uh, which proves that lots of us can be nice and not so nice. It often depends on how we feel like we're being treated. When it comes to love, we tend to be reactionary.

We sent to give people what they have first given to us,

We're taking notes in your program or at home, I might put it this way. Um, even though love is doing what's best no matter who no matter what For most of us we tend to limit Are who?

Like, there's some line.

Where there's these people. My neighbors, my loved ones, my friends, my close family for sure, I'll try to do what's best for them, but there's some line based on someone has treated me a certain way where well, that explanation of the way they've treated me can become an excuse. Not to love them well.

And that's So natural. It's so explainable. But would you agree with me that that is not? Good for any of us.

If love is conditional, if we only are nice to those who have first been, I mean, you don't happen. When that happens, there's Israeli soldiers who are very nice to each other.

And Hamas members were very kind to each other, too. There's Democrats are incredibly generous with other Democrats and Republicans who are very nice to their own.

But if we're only nice to the people who've been nice to us, if love is limited to the certain people that we feel deserve it. What happens, division happens, aggression happens. This happens in families. I mean, You might have siblings some of whom you've talked to and some of whom you don't.

Uh, seventh and marriages. Where we vowed to do one thing. But then based on how we've been treated and how we're feeling, are you serving me? Loving me. Respecting me we react in the same way it's so natural. To operate by relational karma, but Jesus knows that crazy cycle. It just messes with churches and marriages and families and nations in the world. And so he is the god of love, once something so much more for us.

That's why today. Jesus wants to teach us a clear really powerful, really challenging. And a really beautiful lesson about love.

Um, this thing about limiting who we're going to love, it's nothing new.

Um, 2000 years ago, as Jesus spoke to his followers and his friends, he talked about this very thing.

And he gave us some really practical advice and thoughts to get past conditional, love limited by the who and instead love everyone in the way that God first. Loved us.

So, if you have a Bible with you or you want to follow along on the screen, we're in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus famous Sermon on the Mount.

Where he said this: “You have heard that it was said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”

You all have heard that. Jesus said

Which is interesting because the Bible.

Only kind of said that love your neighbor is actually a quote from the Old Testament 1500 years before Jesus's birth, there was a guy named Moses. God gave him the rules for his Old Testament people, and this is where this comes from Leviticus chapter, 19, verse 18, the Bible says, quote, love your neighbor.

But what is super curious is that if you would read that whole verse after church today in context God was actually talking about your your fellow Jewish neighbor.

I think the whole verse says, do not bear a grudge against one of your own people.

But instead love your neighbor as yourself.

And so there were some people that when they read that verse in context, they thought. Oh okay. So I'm supposed to be nice to my people.

But if you're not one of my people, You're not my neighbor and I can. Hit you.

So Jesus says, you've heard that it said you should love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but Jesus is saying that that isn't exactly what God said he said half of that to you. And you've jumped to the conclusion that there are some people that you don't have to love that. In fact, you can hate No Jesus corrects us in verse 44. He says but I tell you

Love your enemies.

And pray for those who persecute you.

So Jesus has zero Place. For hate.

And he uses pretty drastic terms now. He's telling us to both love and pray. Not just for the annoying guy at work but for our enemies and so persecute us.

Now, real quick tangent, we've talked a lot at our church in recent years, about abusive Relationships and dangerous people.

That the Bible doesn't push Christians into the arms of those who have malicious intentions. In fact, the Bible tells us to avoid certain kinds of people who are toxic and dangerous and will hurt us. So here Jesus is not saying, hey, just whatever just act like their behavior doesn't matter. Jesus had a firm place for good boundaries for people in our lives who have heard us that might be from school that might be a father or a mother. But what Jesus is saying, is clearly here. Is that there's no room for hating those people.

To love them. To do what's best for them might mean calling the authorities. It might mean stepping away so they can't take advantage of you. But don't hate, Jesus says, clearly instead. Pray.

I love even your enemies so deeply that you would invest time praying for them, not just praying for a cure for your cancer. Not just praying for that job opportunity, not just praying for another baby. Actually literally spend time praying each day for people who have not loved you. Well,

Now, why would we do that? Jesus gives us in the next three verses. Two different answers to that question. Like, why would you love that guy from work who's always critical of your work?

It might just start praying for your sister, or your father or your ex when they were just like we're not at all good to you. Why would you be so loving that you wouldn't limit your who? But instead try to love all people,

Jesus, to answer the first one.

Verse 45. He says love and pray. So that you may be children of your father in Heaven.

Our Father in Heaven causes his son to rise on the evil. And the good. And he sends rain on the righteous and The unrighteous.

Why, why would you treat certain people better than you have before using this? First answer is The weather.

I said let's go back to that previous passage if we can change the weather. How many of you check the weather, the forecast at least once a week show of hands and if you've got a weather app and watch the news, have you ever seen on the new weather app, that there's that little tab where you can check the specific forecast. For your areas. Have you seen this? It's a little video of the meteorologist. Like, hey, it's gonna be uh 72 and sunny in Appleton, Wisconsin, unless you're Joe from next door. And Joe is going to sleep, it's going to snow. It's going to break your back, you Wicked little Sinners. So repent. Hey back to you in the studio, Pam. No, it's It's sunny for all of us.

God gives the beautiful sunshine for the people who've loved you well and For the people who have it. You don't drive through your neighborhood and see the bright green, beautiful, Lawns of all the people who are nice to you. And the decaying dry dead grass of the people who aren't

God himself brings up the sunfor the good people and the bad people.

And in his mercy and his patience, he sends down the reign on the righteous And the unrighteous. And so Jesus says, if you want to be he says children of your father in Heaven.

This way. Saying if you want to be a little bit like God your father, a chip off the old Heavenly block Then what you should do, instead of limiting your love to certain people is to be like that God, who controls the weather? And treat even undeserving people better.

So it's his first answer. Here's the second one, a little bit tougher.

He says in the next verse is if you love those who love you,

What reward will you get?

Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

And if you greet only your own people, what are what are you doing? More than others, do not even pagans do that.

It's kind of harsh, but it's true.

And Jesus chooses, these two groups of people who are just loathed in the first century, tax collectors, you know, greedy, people pagans probably not in a fake, God just giving up their bodies for temporary pleasure. He's like, do you know what pagans and tax collectors do

They're nice to their own people.

And so, Jesus kind of challenges us he says, is that the kind of love that you want?

Like, there's I don't know anyone who's in the KKK.

White supremicist. I have a, I have a hunch that white supremacist can be kind of nice to each other. Can I buy you a beer?

There are people who terrible people, but they're nice to their own. And Jesus says, is that really what we're all after just to to sink to the level of just being nice to our own? Because if we are, we will find ourselves in the company that we do not want to keep

He says, what reward you get for that, if you come to church or go to work or go to family Gathering and you only wave and greet, The people that have treated you well. Well, actually you're just like the people that you don't respect. That you don't want to be like,

And so instead of stooping to the level of pagans and tax collectors with their limited love, instead Jesus calls us up. To the Supreme Beautiful Love of our heavenly father. That's why he concludes in verse 48 with these words. He says to be perfect. Therefore, as your heavenly father. It's perfect.

The word perfect in the original Greek, as the word talios and it means to bring something to its tell us or to its to its goal.

So um, as the god of love, His goal. The end, the end goal of God's heart is to not just love a couple of people who've been good to him but to love all people.

In the same way, Jesus is saying I want you to be perfect. I want your love to reach, its ultimate goal which is to take off the limits and to love people friends and enemies righteous and unrighteous evil and good. Do not hate instead. Love and pray be perfect. Therefore

As you're Heavenly father, the father of the son and the reign. It's perfect.


Well, that's a tough teaching, isn't it? Hey, it is so difficult to hear Jesus's words because in lots of our hearts

There's this line between an explanation and an excuse.

Yeah, why do I get in such a mood? Why am I so tense and unloving to that person? There are all these real things that they did and you're not wrong like the explanation for why it's really hard to love him or her. God gets that.

But what Jesus is not okay with is, if that explanation of why it's difficult to love those, people becomes the excuse to not Love those people. I don't have to be kind or forgiving because he because she, Jesus says no, no.

How God treats us and therefore, it's not how we should treat each other.

So, big question for today is uh well, what do we do with this teaching?

Maybe the first and most obvious answer is to repent.

And whenever you're reading the teaching of Jesus and you feel that conviction, it's like you're standing in front of a mirror and you say, man, I have not done that.

And I can tell you the people who've hurt me like that, but the last time I prayed for them,

Plus, I might try to do what's best for him, for her.

I mean that conviction comes that's actually God, working on your heart, he loves you and he wants to improve your love. He refuses to just let you stay stuck in that same place of bitterness and a lack of forgiveness and conditional, limited love. And so if you're feeling that conviction like I am,

This moment when we say God, forgive us.

We came up with some other definition of love that. Just made us sick and it was sinful. Have mercy on us.

And what we're praying to God. We say, God help us.

I don't know what to do when I step into the room or when he texts, or I see her at work, I run into them at church, there's a history here. How do I get, how do I get past that? How do I not just give in to that really instinctive cycle when, you know, when she rolls her eyes or when he uses that tone? How do I not just do what I've been doing for so many years before? That's a great question. How do you love that person.

How do you not limit your who?

My answer to that question is this.

Um, this is the famous French novel that some of you have heard of called Les Miserable. Yeah, maybe seen the musical or the movie. It's actually coming in the musicals coming to our community next week, I think it shows up. And so a few weeks ago, I decided I should read the book. I love the musical. I love the movie, I should read it. Oh, by the way, if you're like one of one of those dudes with a big truck who hunts and fishes and you say come on musicals,

You gotta hold it. You gotta hand in your man card. If you watch music, when they made a movie out of lame, is you know, who the two leading actors were Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman.

Also known as Gladiator and Wolverine.

So, I'm just saying dude's gonna love musicals too.

So, I get this book. I did not know when I ordered it off Amazon, that it is by word count about as long as the Old Testament. This one took me a long time to get through, but I'll show you a picture. The primary character is this guy a man named Jean Valjean. And I mentioned him a couple weeks ago or a couple of months ago in a sermon. He is the most loving person. In shocking ways in the book.

He becomes the mayor of a French town, the owner of a factory and instead of using his power and his privilege and his well for himself Jean Valjean is incredibly kind to people.

He plays these blue collar workers, great wages, more than anyone else. He blesses his he actually lives with almost nothing. He just gives away his wealth, he sees a poor person, he helps them, he goes to church and spreads the message of Jesus and when he meets a prostitute named Fantene that was dying. He doesn't keep his hands away from the messiness. Instead, he loves no matter who.

He cares for her during her final moments and when he finds out that Fantine has a daughter who's about to be an orphan named Cozet. He promises to find her and care for her and raise her as his own, which is exactly what he does.

I throw at the very, very long book. Meets people who are nice to him and those who aren't Those who show them love and those who don't. And yet his, his reaction always Is to love.

My favorite scene of the book. Are the man who's been hunting him for his entire life and it's Specter named Javer catches up with him. Except the inspector gets caught and he's that Jean Valjean. Mercy Veljean could get his revenge could kill him instead. He is his very enemy.

Such a profound way. The man can process. This kind of love who would love someone who treated them so badly in return.

You might read the story and ask. Well, how did he become that kind of guy?

Who loves that, their neighbors, and their adopted daughter and prostitutes, and their enemies without putting limits. On the who, how did that happen?

And the answer.

The Candlesticks.

The buff begins with John Valjean being released from prison hard labor, torturous labor for 19 years. And after you finally get out the world treats him like trash. He's in a convict and so no boss will hire him. No one will love him. No one will even let him step foot inside of their home their restaurant. They're in he sleeps in the street and the crazy cycle begins, people are so terrible to him. He's terrible in return. He sold of hatred and bitterness towards the whole world until one day. He meets the bishop.

Uh generous Bishop of a church, she's on sleeping outside the church and invites him inside. And instead of treating him like a Poor less than human being. He calls him, monsieur, sir.

It's just some respect.

And the bishop is so generous, he's given away almost all of his possessions but whatever he has left, he shares with a strange guest.

In fact, in the novel you find out that the bishop's, great aunt,

Had given to him, six silver knives. And six silver Forks in a big silver ladle and two precious silver candlesticks.

Instead of saving the pieces for some greater guests and said the bishop brings them out and he serves Jean Valjean the best meal that he can the best bottle of wine. He treats him like a king. Instead of the next convict.

But John Valjean’s heart is still hardened towards the world, and so as he's eating, he's noticing the precious silver on the table.

And the middle of the night. While the bishop sleeps, Jean Valjean steals all the forks, all the knives, the Silver Ladle, it's more money in his hands and he has had in Decades of his life, he escapes into the night. And it gets caught.

And the cops drag Valjean back to the church. Caught silver-handed.

Is this a man that stayed with you last night? They asked the bishop and with one word. A simple. Yes.

Life is over.

If we back in the torturous prison, where he came from,

But instead do you know the pivotal moments of the story? The bishop says,

You forgot these….and hands him the two candlesticks.

His greatest possession, the bishop gave to a man who sinned against him.

And I never knew this from watching the musical. Since I was 10, 12 years old, from seeing the movie multiple times that throughout this book, what makes Jean Valjean, the man that he is, is something that never leaves aside.

He gives away almost everything, he possesses Stefonteen to Coset to his enemies to his neighbors to his employees. But there's one thing that John Valjean will not let go of it, which is every place he lives every bedroom he sleeps in what never left aside.

The candlesticks this man lived a life of love without limits. As he dies near the end of the book, what flicker is in the background

This gift that was given to him when he deserved it not

Do you know that traditional churches that have big altars in the front would often stands on top of them.

Have you been to our other campus in North Appleton, St. Peter with a beautiful wood altar. Do you know what stands? Do you know what is there? Right in this moment, flickering?

Two candles.

In traditional Christian symbolism two candles represent the two Natures of Jesus, our savior.

But he was God and man in one person. That he was divine and human. And yet he came down from heaven. To save us.

I think about John Valjean's story, and I think about our story that we were born into sin and yet God was so kind to us.

He made the sun come up. When we were lost, he made the rain fall on your yard and on your head. When you were just living for yourself. Like God, loved us and loved us. He opened his arms to us, his doors to us. He blessed us with food, with bread, with life. And yet sometimes.

Even in those moments after God's kindness, we take from him.

You forget about him, we run off to do our own thing. Have you been there?

Are some of you there right now.

And then God in some way, he brings us back and we expect the Judgment to come.

With that conviction happens and we realize we've been caught doing life our way. Forgetting about church, forgetting about prayer, forgetting about the Bible, just living for money, or family or entertainment or whatever. And there's God and he has the right with a single word to condemn us.

But he said, you know what he does.

He gives us Jesus.

There's two candles of Jesus. Whose God and man in one person who came to this Earth 2000 years ago to be our save or when we expected the lightning to come from heaven and scorch. Sinners like us instead there was just and refreshing rain.

And we'd expected condemnation after our sins and lack of love instead. God just gave us his very best.

And friends. If you keep Jesus, the two candles of his love throughout your life, you will have what John Valjean had the greatest reason to love people who have not earned it or deserved it.

You know, problems that we limit, or who you're taking those? Let me have you write down this answer. The answer is that. God didn't . God didn't limit His.

Instead of the Bible we find amazing truths, like God, so loved The world that he gave is one and only son, look there Jesus. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of The world. Second Corinthians chapter 5. God was reconciling the world. To himself in Jesus Christ. He is the one who's forgiven, our sins and not only ours,

John Monsiro, but the sins of the whole world.

And if you don't leave that behind in the Church of your childhood or just on a Sunday, if you take the candlesticks of Jesus throughout your days. And you're constantly aware that God loves me right now. No matter who I am, no matter what I've done.

That God forgives me for this and for that. For this one. And for those ones,

That every single day you stand in the love of Jesus, that there is a father in Heaven, is running the show and he's always doing what's best for you, no matter who No matter what if you carry that deep within your heart, there is something. The Bible says that will compel you and nudge you and push you to love people, even who really don't deserve it.

He does not treat us as our sins deserve. The Old Testament says.

And the more we meditate on that the more we know exactly what to do with those who maybe don't deserve our love either.

So, Has some homework for you.

I want you to go home. Maybe today, maybe sometime this week, I want you to find two candles.

If you don't have to make them, buy them. And I want you to sit down sometime when no one else is around, and I want you to light those two candles.

And I want you just to think about Jesus.

Think about Jesus, the very Son of God.

Being worshiped by Angels. In heaven, living in perfect, love, and safety with the father. And the Holy Spirit. Think about the Divinity, the godness of Jesus like the other candle and think about his Humanity.

There, even though he had it perfect actually came down from heaven for you to show you love to do. What's best? They took on flesh and blood so that he could die in a cross and forgive all the times that you messed up and your love fell short. Like those two candles and just meditate. What a gift that we have in God's one and only son.

And then, after your heart is filled up with the love of Jesus.

I want you to pray for that person.

For the one who didn't love you for the one. Whose persecuted you that person at work in your family?

You don't have to trust them just yet. You have to take out your boundaries just yet those things are earned.

But I want you to leave the bitterness and the lack of forgiveness, it will only hurt you at the side and instead just pray that God would work a miracle in their heart too.

Like those candles and think about this gift that God gave when you deserved it. Not

And then pray for the person who doesn't deserve your love.

In many years ago, I read that. Incredible book about the crazy cycle.

But the author didn't leave it there.

The author of sheet also taught something called the energizing cycle.

That when, when I treat someone, In a way that they don't deserve.

When they're expecting me to raise my voice and to come back and to nitpick and to criticize and to hate and to not love when I love that person.

Sometimes so confusing. Do you know what they do?

They love you back.

Once you experience just a little bit of that, love it. Inspires you even more to love even more.

God's goal in our lives and in our world is to take this crazy cycle that is also human and stick the big cross of Jesus in the midst of it so it can't spin anymore. So don't treat people in the way that they deserve to be treated and said we treat them with Grace. Just like God first treated us with Grace.

And I pray that the people in your life. Respond to your love and your prayers.

And even if they don't, I do know this. But if you love your enemies and pray for those who persuke you, you may be children of your father in heaven.

Focused on Jesus, my friends. May we therefore be perfect. As our heavenly father is perfect.