Thursday, February 18, 2010

What is Your Love Language (1 John 4, 1 Corinthians 13)

February 14, 2010
Sermon by: Royallen Wiley

(download)**Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

What is Your Love Language?
1 John 4:7-15; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; Galatians 5:13


One day someone may approach you in an unguarded moment and ask, “So tell me about this God of yours.” You may immediately be tempted to run for the cell phone and call a professional by calling 1-800-Joanie or 1-800 Robert. No, you didn’t go to seminary but you can handle this. A good response would be three little words: “God Is Love.” And if you can follow that up by reciting one of the more famous verses in the Bible, John 3:16 or just sharing the gist of it – God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son to live with us and whoever believes in him will not perish but will have everlasting life – If you can do that you are off to a very strong start.

Love is the cornerstone of Christianity and people have an enduring interest in it. In the scripture passage we just read we hear the theme of God is love from the Apostle John. If Jane had gotten carried away and read the entire short book of 1st John you would have heard the word “love” 35 times. In fact, the Apostle John is known as “The Apostle of Love.” In the passage from 1st Corinthians we hear the famous description of selfless love written by the Apostle Paul. In the passage from Galatians we hear of how to love by serving others.

Last summer, Kathy Larson approached me about an idea she had for a SS class. She asked me if I had ever read the book “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. I replied that I had read it a couple of years ago and was impressed with the simplicity and insights in the book. Doing a little research, I proudly reported back to Kathy that I had found a canned study guide on the 5LL web site. She responded that was not exactly what she had in mind. She was more interested in is using the Five Love Languages text as a springboard for the following: “HOW DO WE LEARN TO LOVE MORE EFFECTIVELY?... individually and as a body of believers at GSPC.” That was the starting point for a most enjoyable and rewarding 16 weeks.

The makeup of the class was not what I expected. I was expecting mostly 30 something or 40 something married couples and concerned that the class might turn into Marriage Counseling 101: something I didn’t feel qualified to teach. Instead, there weren’t that many couples at all. The attendees ranged in age from 17 something to 70 something and spanned 3 generations. I think that shows that we have an interest in love and relationships over the entire course of our lives. It total we had about 25 folks who attended the class often enough to be able to apply the material. It will be interesting to see the impact on their personal relationships and our church family in the coming months.

Gary Chapman’s signature book, “The Five Love Languages” was originally written in 1992. He is associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston Salem. His original book is a perennial best seller and over 5 million copies are in print. The enterprise has now expanded to include other books: (show the other copies.)

Imagine going into the inner regions of China and speaking English where Mandarin Chinese is the prevailing language and you want to speak to one of the locals. You might be able to communicate using sign language or drawings but it would be very difficult to communicate. This may be an extreme example but think about going on a trip to Germany. You speak a little bit of German and you try to communicate with someone who speaks a little bit of English. You may be able to communicate to some degree but it wouldn’t be very effective, would it? Think how much easier it would be if you were both speaking a common language. This is the principle behind the 5 Love Languages. It is an easy approach to learn and apply.

Dr. Chapman developed the 5LL and his insights from over 30 years of counseling, mostly to married couples. He observed that people can be categorized into five different love languages. The beauty of the 5LL is the simplicity: there are only 5 love languages to learn, not 83. Dr. Chapman believes that each person has a primary love language which means you would speak one of the five languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, Acts of Service, Physical Touch

“Learning to love and appreciate in a language the other person can receive is the key to enhancing all human relationships” – Gary Chapman

“Married or single, young or old, every human has the emotional need to feel loved. When this need is met, we move out to reach our potential for God and our potential for good in the world. However, when we feel unloved, we struggle just to survive.” - Gary Chapman

LOVE LANGUAGE #1 - WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
Mark Twain once said: “I can live for two months on a good compliment”
Words are important. Words are important. Words are important. What an impact they can carry.

As we read in the Book of Proverbs:
Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest. Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit—you choose.
Proverbs 18:20–21 (The Message)
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If Words of Affirmation is your love language you long to hear words that are constantly affirming, encouraging and expressing appreciation.

LOVE LANGUAGE #2 – QUALITY TIME
Quality time is more than mere proximity. It’s about focusing all your energy on your mate. A husband watching sports while talking to his wife is NOT quality time. Unless all of your attention is focused on your mate, even an intimate dinner for two can come and go without a minute of quality time being shared. Quality time requires that you be focused on what is being said and being in the moment. It is important for someone who has the love language of quality time for you to be a good and sympathetic listener.

Quality conversation and quality activities are very important for quality time in a healthy relationship. It involves sharing experiences, thoughts, feelings and desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context. An important aspect of quality conversation is self-revelation. In order for you to communicate with your mate, you must also be in tune with your inner emotions. Quality activities are a very important part of quality time. Many mates feel most loved when they spend physical time together, doing activities that they love to do. Spending time together will bring a couple closer, and, in the years to come, will fill up a memory bank that you can reminisce about in the future.

There is an important distinction between Words of Affirmation and Quality Time. “Words of Affirmation focus on what we are saying, whereas quality conversation focuses on what we are hearing” – Gary Chapman

LOVE LANGUAGE #3 – GIFTS

Some people respond well to visual symbols of love. If you speak this love language, you are more likely to treasure any gift as an expression of love and devotion. People who speak this love language often feel that a lack of gifts represents a lack of love. Luckily, this love language is one of the easiest to learn. However, it is important to be a good listener in order to understand what gifts might be appropriate for your ssfc.

The gift of self is an important symbol of love. Sometimes all your mate desires is for someone to be there for them, going through the same trials and experiencing the same things. Your body can become a very powerful physical symbol of love.
These gifts need not to come every day, or even every week. They don’t even need to cost a lot of money. Free, frequent, expensive, or rare, if your mate relates to the language of receiving gifts, any visible sign of your love will leave them feeling happy and secure in your relationship.

LOVE LANGUAGE #4 – ACTS OF SERVICE

Sometimes simple chores around the house can be an undeniable expression of love. Even simple things like laundry and taking out the trash require some form of planning, time, effort, and energy. Just as Jesus demonstrated when he washed the feet of his disciples, doing humble chores can be a very powerful expression of love and devotion to your mate.

Very often, both pairs in a couple will speak to the Acts of Service Language. However, it is very important to understand what acts of service your mate most appreciates. Even though couples are helping each other around the house, couples will still fight because they are unknowingly communicating with each other in two different dialects. For example, a wife may spend her day washing the cars and walking the dog, but if her husband feels that laundry and dishes are a superior necessity, he may feel unloved, despite the fact that his wife did many other chores throughout the day. It is important to learn your mate’s dialect and work to understand what acts of service will show your love.

It is important to do these acts of service out of love and not obligation. A mate who does chores and helps out around the house out of guilt or fear will inevitably not be speaking a language of love, but a language of resentment. It’s important to perform these acts out of the kindness of your heart.

Demonstrating the acts of service can mean stepping out of the stereotypes. Acts of service require both mates to humble themselves into doing some chores and services that aren’t usually expected from their gender. However, these little sacrifices will mean the world to your mate, and will ensure a happy relationship.

LOVE LANGUAGE #5 – PHYSICAL TOUCH
Many mates feel the most loved when they receive physical contact from their partner. For a mate who speaks this love language loudly, physical touch can make or break the relationship.

It is important to learn how your mate speaks the physical touch language. A bear hug may not be appropriate for some. Some touches are irritating and uncomfortable for your mate. Take the time to learn the touches your mate likes. It’s important to learn how your mate responds to touch. That is how you will make the most of this love language.

In a crisis situation, a hug can communicate an immense amount of love for that person. A person whose primary love language is physical touch would much rather have you hold them and be silent than offer any advice.

It is important to remember that this love language is different for everyone. What type of touch makes you feel secure is not necessarily what will make your partner happy. It is important to learn each other’s dialects. That way you can make the most of your hugging, kissing, and other physical contacts.

These are the five languages. Now that you’ve heard a little bit about it, which one do you think is yours? And what are the love languages of your loved ones?

AN ILLUSTRATION: LOVE LANGUAGES AND OUR PASTOR
Has anyone ever asked you if you believe in organized religion? It seems as if I’ve heard that a couple of times recently. I have a snappy comeback for that. So, what do you believe in? Disorganized religion? That’s what human beings do. We organize things and we make them more efficient.

Those who are distrustful of organized religion may very well have had a disappointing experience. Perhaps they have been involved with a group of Christians who were nominal believers (Christians in name only) or perhaps they were involved with self-righteous fanatics. It’s also easy since we’re human to point out character flaws in Christians and to tear down others. It’s the character flaws that many times generate the worst publicity for the Christian faith. Sometimes Christians are just not all that loving towards one another.

Good Shepherd Church could be Latvian Orthodox for all you care but for better or for worse we are Presbyterian, specifically, PCUSA. In the Presbyterian church, the governing body of the local church is called the session which is moderated by the pastor. Each church is member of the next higher up ruling body called the Presbytery.

The presbytery of Charlotte is made up of over 100 congregations and 40,000 members in the metro Charlotte area. It is the 3rd largest presbytery in the US. In the same way that a pastor and session care for, connect, encourage, and equip church members for ministry and mission, the presbytery is our immediate "higher governing body" with responsibilities to care for, connect, encourage, and equip the member pastors and congregations for ministry, mission, and witness beyond the scope of an individual congregation's resources. Just as our church has ministry teams, the presbytery has teams to coordinate mission, worship, witness, pastoral care, church and leadership development, and other ministries within the bounds of the presbytery. Each church is represented to presbytery by an equal number of pastors and elders.

Attending Presbytery meetings can be a bit intimidating. Robert asks that elders at GSPC attend at least two meetings a year so that we’ll be comfortable with the format and style of POC meetings. It helps to know Robert’s Rules of order (no pun intended). My past experience and the past experience of other leaders in this church is that presbytery has very often been a group that struggles to love because of theological divides and an atmosphere of distrust.

You may or may not know that this past year that Robert Austell was the Moderator of Charlotte Presbytery. Over the course of this past year, other elders have noticed the same thing that I have noticed: A more civil and loving atmosphere at POC.

I wish you could have attended the last POC meeting that I attended in December that was the last meeting that Robert moderated. It was very much a typical POC meeting: worship, committee reports, announcements, etc. At the end of the meeting plaques and recognition were given to committee chairs and others who served the presbytery in 2009. Robert was recognized for his work as Moderator. However, right before the meeting adjourned, the Rev. Timm High of presbytery staff asked to be recognized. Timm offered a rather lengthy and warm motion of thanks for the servant nature of Robert’s leadership in 2009. What followed was a heartfelt standing ovation from the presbytery.

Other elders and I felt it important for you, the congregation of GSPC, to be aware of this facet of Robert’s ministry. I reached out to Timm and asked him if he would be willing to share his insights on the past year at presbytery.
Royallen, greetings;

I once again apologize for not responding to this email in a timely fashion which caused you to phone me to follow up. I am grateful that you persisted and that I’ve now gotten the opportunity to hear your voice as well as your request. There is no need to ask for an apology for reaching out with an email communication. I’m most thankful and grateful that you did! I look forward to encountering you in person at some point in the future as well.

My admiration of the presence and presents of Robert Austell dates to a Presbytery of Charlotte meeting in July of 2008. I had not yet been in the Presbytery for a full year and he was one of the persons making the report regarding their experience at the General Assembly that had been held in San Jose.

I remember him admitting that the work of the Spirit had made a significant impact on him, both within his head and his heart, during the Assembly, and while he couldn’t agree with everything that had been said or had been done, he had returned from his experience committed to not participating in the all-too-frequent and all-too-tempting activity of calling those who didn’t agree with him by names that were intended to be derogatory and distancing.

It was clear to me that both his head and his heart had been influenced by what he experienced in the midst of the Assembly and it was equally clear to me that he understood his participation as a commissioner to the Assembly to influence his life as a Presbyter now that he had returned to his work and worship within the Presbytery of Charlotte. He has embodied this position which he professed in profound and faithful ways ever since, with his work as the Moderator of Charlotte Presbytery during 2009 and his work on the group that sought to shape a policy that would establish a process for churches within the Presbytery of Charlotte who wished to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) could participate in a dialogue rather than just a diatribe. I have a sense that his willingness to participate in such a meaningful way, including allowing the Spirit to work in their midst in ways that might not please anyone in particular but would be pleasing in God’s sight, might have cost him the friendship of some while increasing the admiration of him as a colleague by many more.

This is the reason why I offered my motion of thanks for the servant nature of Robert Austell’s ministry within the midst of the Presbytery of Charlotte as he concluded his term as moderator and why I am grateful and thankful to be a colleague of his. It was because of my encounter with him at the July meeting of the POC in 2008 that led me to suggest his name as a candidate for moderator for 2009, a suggestion that bore fruit during the ensuring year because of his faithful witness to the Gospel as he seeks to not only understand it but to embody it.

Thank you for the opportunity of being asked to share regarding my colleague in ministry, Robert Austell, and thank you to you and the congregation of the Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church for your desire to give thanks to God for his ministry within your midst and the Presbytery of Charlotte. If I can be of any further help, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Grace and Peace,

Timm High
Interim Executive Presbyter, Pastoral Care and Vocation
Presbytery of Charlotte
Two things stand out in my memory from Robert’s installation service as pastor at GSPC: 1) His Dad praying for him and for the success of his ministry at GSPC and 2) Gerrit Dawson, then senior pastor at First Presbyterian in Lenoir who commented ,”You didn’t hire Jim Carrey!” Can you imagine if we had? That might have been entertaining for a few weeks but the novelty would have worn off quickly. What a blessing that God sent Robert to our church. Instead of Jim Carey, we have a pastor who is gracious, loving, kind, and has a servant’s heart that has not only impacted our congregation but the PCUSA at the regional and national levels.

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