If you have ever played the game of life then you know that there are very few choices you get to make. You just spin the spinner, move your car that number of spaces and wherever you land – that’s your fate. The one major decision you get make is if you go to college or if you go directly into the “real world”, but other than that you are at the mercy of the spinner. While we know this is just a game, doesn’t it feel like our lives are exactly like this? We have a couple of big decisions that we make at times like going to college or into the military or right into the job market, but even then our life seems pretty unpredictable and random as if we are just spinning a spinner and moving that number of spaces. At times we are left wondering if this is all there is. Is there anything more to life? What are we here for? What is ultimately important in life? What will bring us lasting fulfillment? Are there things I can do to make my life meaningful?. If you are asking these questions then this is the place to be for the next six weeks because we aren’t going to play the game of life, we are going to explore what life is and what we can do to get the most out of it. And it all starts with love.
It’s no secret that our lives are consumed by love. Love in some form or another drives much of our entertainment industry and advertising. Think of all the movies, TV shows and music that revolved around love. As children we are dependent upon the love of parents. As we grow older our lives revolve around the idea of love, it starts with flirting, then romance, dating, marriage, sex, family (hopefully in that order). Life is love, but life is not given for us to love others as much as it is given for us to be loved. We were created to be loved and more importantly, we were created to be loved by God.
If we believe that God created the universe and that God created us in his image and placed us in the universe then one of the questions we have to ask ourselves is, why? Why did God create in the first place? Why did God create us? God didn’t create out of boredom and he wasn’t playing a cosmic board game where he spun a spinner, landed on the number 7 and moved his gigantic car to a spot that said, Create the World.
And the world didn’t just randomly come into being. There is incredible precision and order and detail that only God could have set into motion. So if God created the world he had to create it for a reason and the reason was love. God created the world to express and share his love. God created us in his image so we could know God’s love, so life is to be loved and specifically to be loved by God.
And God does love us – the Bible tells us so. The Bible isn’t a book of rules and regulations and it isn’t a book that just gives us historic details and timeless truths and poetry, it is a love story. The bible is the story of God’s illogical, all consuming and radical love for you and me. A love that willing leaves everything behind to come and find us. This love of God is beautifully expressed in Psalm 18:4-6 and 16-19. God moves heaven and earth to find us and rescue us and the reason God does this is because he delights in us, he loves us and he wants us to know that we are loved.
In 1978, when I was 15 years old, a blizzard hit CT. The night that it began to snow I put my dog, Mack, out on his chain in the backyard and when I went to bring him in again – he was gone. He was gone, his chain was gone and I had no idea where he went. It was dark and cold and snowing and Mack was a black dog wandering around in poor visibility at night. I was beside myself I ran through the backyard calling for him and looking for him, but couldn’t find him. I got on my bike and began riding through the snow looking for him. I remember riding through the snow and not being able to see and worrying about him being hit by a car or wandering off at night in the cold and snow and never finding him again. I was a wreck and I was frantic yelling for him and riding up and down the streets of our neighborhood.
I will never forget how it felt when I saw him in the road running through the snow dragging his chain behind him. In that moment my heart was full because as much as a 15 year old boy can, I loved that dog more than anything – Mack was my dog. Not my families, he was mine. I asked to get him. I picked him out, the runt of the litter. I named him and as you all know, I cleaned up after him. He was mine and I loved him and that night I wanted nothing more than for him to know how much I loved him. And that is just a reflection of God’s love for us.
God moves heaven and earth to rescue us. God runs out at night in the middle of a blizzard to find us. God calls us by name, searches for us when we are lost and doesn’t feel complete until he finds us and then makes sure that we know that He loves us and that he loves us unconditionally. The Bible is God’s way of making sure we know just how much God loves us and loves us unconditionally.
We say that a lot in the church; God loves us unconditionally and yet that entire concept of unconditional love is hard for us to comprehend. We are so used to be judged, accepted and loved because of our looks, behaviors and actions which makes true love – God’s love - hard to understand, so let me share how God tried to help his people understand just how unconditional his love was for them. In the Old Testament there is a story about God’s love for his people and it is found in the book of Hosea.
Hosea was a prophet among God’s people and the job of any prophet was to speak God’s truth or instruction to the people, but every once in a while God would use the prophet’s life as a kind of object lesson. Instead of having the prophet go out and speak, his life was to be the example of God’s message and this is what God wanted to do with Hosea. God wanted Hosea’s life to be an object lesson of God’s unconditional love so God told Hosea to go out and marry a prostitute. Yes, a man of God known for his faithfulness and integrity was to go out and marry a prostitute. So Hosea goes to the seedy part of town where no God-fearing person was supposed to go and he married a prostitute named Gomer. Hosea and Gomer then had three children.
Hosea going out and marrying a prostitute was an example of God’s unconditional love for his people. Hosea was a symbol of God and Gomer was a symbol of God’s people who had turned away from God and were searching for their own pleasures and security in the world around them. While the people of God had turned to their own ways and were living far from God, God still loved him and was willing to reach out and make them his own. God’s love was unconditional, but the story doesn’t end there.
At some point after they had children, Gomer left Hosea and returned to her life as a prostitute. Gomer left the love of Hosea and the security, honor, respect and life that Hosea offered her and returned to a life where she lived only for herself. In time her life led her to being sold into slavery and so now she was owned by another man. When Hosea found her, he not only had to buy back his own wife but he had to ask her to return and live with him in a faithful relationship one more time.
Once again, God was using Hosea as an object lesson. Hosea was God and God was telling his people that even though they had wandered off, God as willing to go out and search for them because he loved them, and when God found them, no matter what condition they were living in, God humbled himself and invited them to return to live in a relationship of love with him.
Now here’s the thing, Gomer is not just the people of God in the Old Testament, Gomer is you and me. We are the ones who live far from God and at times willfully run from God, but God’s love is so strong that it runs out to find us. God’s love invites us to return to God and to know that we are loved by God. It doesn’t matter what we have done, or what we are doing or how far away from God we have run – God runs out to find us because God loves us and wants us to know that we were created by God to be loved by God.
That we are loved by God is certainly the message of Jesus. In fact, the most memorized and familiar saying of Jesus talks about this love and it is John 3:16. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. While those first three words focus on God’s love for us, it is the next two that I want to focus on for a moment – the world. When we say that God loves the world we are saying that God loves everyone, not just those who are nice and kind and faithful and love God in return. God loves everyone – even those who will never love him. God loves those who mock him and ridicule him. God loves those who will never return to him. That is a very powerful and radical love. At times it seems to make no sense to us, but God’s ways are not our ways and God’s love is certainly not our love. God’s love is for everyone and it reaches out to everyone and it is there to help us experience the fullness of life that God has for us.
While God loves us unconditionally, God’s love doesn’t bring us life until we accept it and that is always our choice. Love is always a choice which is why God gave us free will. God wants a relationship of love with us but he won’t force us into that relationship so God gives us the freedom to choose and the first choice we have to make is whether or not we will accept God’s love. Today we are free to choose. We are free to choose to be loved by God and allow God’s love to bring us life, or we can choose to keep running from God and living on our own and separating ourselves from God and from the love and life that God has to offer.
We will not find life from the things of this world but in the knowledge that God, the one who created the world and created us in his image and placed us in this world, has chosen to love us and wants us to accept and live in that love. Choose to be loved today.
In the game of life it’s all about chance and random numbers that come up when we spin the dial, but in life we have choices and to experience what life is all about we need to choose love, to BE loved and to be loved by God.
Life Is to be loved.
1. What concerns or doubts do you have about God’s love for you? What specific situations in your life make it difficult for you to think that God loves you?
2. Read Psalm 18 and identify all the ways God’s love is reflected. How can this picture of God’s love help you?
3. Read Romans 8:28-39. What are the circumstances of your life that you think will separate you from God’s love? How does this passage help you overcome those circumstances?
4. Read John 3:16 (memorize it this week). Who are the people in “the world” that you don’t think God loves? Pray for them to know and accept God’s love. What would it look like for you to share with them the good news that God loves them?
5. In what ways has God’s love for us been seen in Jesus?
6. Think again about the story of Hosea and Gomer (See Hosea 1 - 2). In what ways do we live like Gomer? How has God’s love rescued and saved you from yourself?
7. The fullness of life won’t be experienced and lived until we first know that we are loved by God. Ask God this week to help you accept His love in ways that will heal, forgive and set you free to experience the fullness of life.
Dear God, help me accept the fullness of your love and life that you make possible through Jesus. Thank you for your love and that it is your love that brings me life. AMEN