“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1John 5:14-15, NIV) On Sunday night, we are going to have the second Night of Prayer at church, praying through our mission statement: “We are a community of Christ-followers longing to glorify God by loving God, loving people, sharing the gospel and serving the world.” We will focus our prayer time around loving people. I have by no means done a thorough study on the topic, but I have been inspired and convicted by my current study of 1 John with Steve Springsted. As we study together, pray together and talk together, we sense God leading our church and us into a season of showing extraordinary love. I’m going to spend some time thinking about this and then will compare notes with Steve as we prepare to lead our church family through a time of prayer on Sunday night. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1John 3:16) We will begin our time remembering and declaring Christ’s love. It is his extraordinary example of love, laying down his life for us, that is our motivation to love one another. John keeps driving this point home multiple times in his letter. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1John 4:10-11, NIV) “We love because he first loved us.” (1John 4:18-19, NIV) We will declare and remember God’s extraordinary demonstration of love toward us and do so with all of our hearts – in song, in fellowship and through communion by sharing around the table of the Lord together. I’d like to do this in a very different way than usual and in M102 where it’s a bit more intimate. After a time of fellowship & communion, we will think a bit about God’s desire for us to love people. I want Steve to set the stage, sharing how God has been leading him and apparently us into a season of showing extraordinary love. It is interesting that the passage we began with continues with an exhortation to love not with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. “ If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1John 3:17-18, NIV) The first prayer then is that we would see, and that is a prayer that we prayed on Sunday during worship as we had a drama that culminated with a dance to the song, “Give Me Your Eyes,” by Brandon Heath. Once we see people through God’s eyes, we must then wrestle with what we do about what we see. That’s where the ‘deed’ of loving is done. Trinity is for the most part an affluent church family. With the unstable economy and a likely depression, we are on the verge of having many needy people within and without – colleagues, neighbors, friends and family. These times are a chance for God’s church to really behave and look like he intended us to be – not a social club for affluent, well educated, fiscally responsible people. But instead, the church is a refuge for the poor, the hurting, the broken, and the needy. It’s a place where the proclamation of the gospel is demonstrating power unto salvation and then the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is producing transformation. I think that people who have never come face to face with great neediness are about to and the result of us rising to the challenge to love people in an extraordinary way will be a beautiful thing for our church family and to the watching world. I must note at this point that the concept of loving people has implications on how we love each other within the family of God and how we love those who are outside the family of God. The Bible clearly teaches both, and we must do both, but Jesus and the apostles clearly place a greater focus on how we love one another within the church. The context of 1 John is entirely on how ‘brothers’ love each other. I think that while God calls us to love our neighbor outside the church, the clearest call being the parable of the Good Samaritan, his love is best demonstrated when we who belong to him are good at loving one another within the church. It is perhaps our strongest testimony, intended to be the most attractive thing about his people, his church. People will be drawn to Christ be being drawn toward his people who are demonstrating his love toward each other. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV) When you read through 1 John, a letter to the church in Jerusalem (and to us), it is clear that the author, John, was unpacking Jesus’ teaching on his new command. This command, stated above, is then followed by Jesus imploring his disciples to abide in him. John concludes that it is our obedience to his commands and doing what pleases him that proves that we are abiding in him. “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” (1John 3:21-24, NIV) It is in this context, that we ask God to help us to love people and we do so with a confidence that he will answer our prayers! First we should focus on how we love our brothers (believers within the church), and then how we love our neighbor (those outside the church). May it all be for his glory!