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“Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” – Song of Solomon 8:7, NIV

“All you need is love, all you need is love, all you need is love, love, love is all you need.” – John Lennon, Paul McCartney

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:8, ESV

“Love is a losing game, love can be a shame, I know of a fool you see, for that fool is me…Tell me why, why, why, why do fools fall in love?” – Morris Levy, Frankie Lymon

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8, NAS

“Is love a tender thing? It is too rough, too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.” – William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

“Love is patient, love is kind, love is humble, all the time, not easily angered, enduring the test so never forget, love is the more excellent way.” – Babbie Mason, Turner Lawton (inspired by 1 Corinthians 12:31, 1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

If we seek to understand the meaning of love from music, which song do we go by: “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing,” “Love is a Battlefield,” “Love is Here to Stay,” or “Too Much Love Will Kill You”?  My wife Jennifer, like many others in the 1980s and 1990s, was mesmerized by the voice of Whitney Houston. As a child, Jennifer enjoyed Whitney’s 1986 hit single, “Greatest Love of All.” On one occasion, Jennifer’s mother used the lyrics of that song as a teachable moment to help Jennifer understand that the greatest love of all is not learning to love yourself as the song says. Rather the greatest love of all is the love of God showed to us in sending Jesus to save us (John 3:16, Romans 5:8).

Songs, movies, and stories captivate us and shape us as a people. It’s staggering to think about how many songs, movies, and stories have been written about love. In 2001 Jennifer Lopez released a song entitled “Love Don’t Cost a Thing.” Grammarians would take issue with her song title in that it uses “don’t” instead of “doesn’t.” Additionally, our nation’s actions betray the song title since in 2016 Americans spent a record 19.7 billion dollars for Valentine’s Day. I am probably picking too much on Jennifer Lopez. The point of her song is much like the 1964 hit, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” where the Beetles sang, “Can’t buy me love, everybody tells me so.” Most people know this, but it doesn’t stop us from spending money in the name of love.

Love is a central theme of the Bible. This is without question. We have so many precious verses about love in Scripture, but did you know that according to Howard Dayton, who was a cofounder of Crown Financial Ministries, that the Bible contains 2,350 references to money and possessions? People often say that love comes from the heart. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart (Matthew 22:37, Deuteronomy 6:5) and love one another deeply from the heart (1 Peter 1:22, NIV). Jesus connects the heart with our money and possessions.

Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Where am I going with all of this? The numbers are in, and you gave the second highest December offerings in the history of our church. The church’s receipts in December were $589, 567! Because of your generosity, we ended 2017 with $355,945 in the positive. You are a generous people, and your giving indicates your love for the Lord and His church. You gave your treasure, and you revealed your heart of love. As your pastor, I am proud of, thankful for, and amazed by how much you have given.

In the last half of Luke 12:48 Jesus teaches, “Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more” (HCS). There is a stewardship required of our church because of how much has been given to our church for the work of the gospel. Even more will be expected of us as a church because of what the Lord has so graciously given through you to our church’s unified budget.

As your pastor, I want you to know that I am thrilled with the prospects of all the Lord wants to do in and through us for His glory as we look toward the immediate future. Very soon I will be providing you with a 20/20 vision where I believe the Lord wants to lead us as a church over the next three years. It is critical that we as a church be focused clearly on who the Lord wants us to be and what the Lord would have us do. Please pray for the Lord to continue to make His will known, ask for a willing heart to envision and embrace a new future for First Baptist Church, thank God for all He has given you, and dedicate yourself to serve the Lord even more in response to His amazing and abundant grace.

God is Love,

Pastor Cade