Romans 12 begins with a powerful call to transformation:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
The message frames v2 in an interesting way:
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
We don’t want to be so well adjusted to the world that we just blend in. But in order to live different we must act differently. We must make different choices and do different things in order to be different.
“Because of Jesus, you no longer have permission to live life ‘normally.'” – Scott Thompson
Living differently – living a non normal life – means living deliberately and on purpose. Intentionally.
Right now our SAS crew are out on an adventure camp getting their Bear on, doing crazy scary things but if they were here they would tell you that intentional is one of my most favourite words. I use it A LOT! Its being especially used in this past term where our focus has being on VISION and PRESENTATION. It has been about making intentional decisions in how we live and build and then how we dress, write, communicate and connect. Our focus has being about living on purpose in all the spheres of our life.
Romans 12 goes on to outline how we can live intentionally, building upon the pattern that God has revealed, conforming not to the world’s way of doing life, but to follow the example of Jesus.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.
That is intentional living. I don’t know about you, but each one of those things don’t really come naturally to me. But I choose to be loving. I choose to be devoted. I choose to be diligent. I choose to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. I choose to be hospitable and humble.
“A life best lived is a life by design. Not by accident, and not by just walking through the day careening from wall to wall and managing to survive. That’s okay. But if you can start giving your life dimensions and design and colour and objectives and purpose, the results can be staggering.” – Jim Rohn
When you live your life by God’s design amazing things can happen in your world. Diligent and intentional love can make a real difference in the quality of relationships and way of life.
How many times have you heard the phrase “It’s always the little things”?
We have to be aware of the butterfly effect. The butterfly effect is the scientific theory that a single occurrence, no matter how small, can change the course of the universe forever. The term comes from the suggestion that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in South America could affect the weather in Texas, meaning that the tiniest influence on one part of a system can have a huge effect on another part.
Likewise in the weather systems of our world, the way we love, the way we serve, the way we give, the way we relate and connect to people, are affected by the little things in either good or bad ways.
As a church we’re wanting to have a positive butterfly effect. We’re wanting to be deliberate and intentional with how we love each other and create genuine authentic connections. We’re wanting to live on purpose.
So how do we make this real in our lives?
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…
Intentional Love begins with God.
God is very on purpose, He is an on purpose God.
1 John 4:19, 9-11 We love because he first loved us. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
He intentionally loves us. He loves us on purpose.
He intentionally gave His Son Jesus to die on the cross for us to make the way for us to draw near and to rescue us in this life and for the next life.
Oh how we need to know His love. Oh how we need that to frame our world.
He loved us first.
He chose you.
He works in our life very intentionally – Philippians 1:6 says that what He starts He finishes.
There’s not a chapter of our story that is authored by us. It’s all written by the One who is the definition of wisdom, power, love and grace. God is writing your story.
Intention living and more importantly intentional loving begins with God. It begins as we know His love for each one of us and as we respond to that great love with the way we live our life.
The power for living and loving well comes from intimate knowledge of God’s immense love for you. John Bevere
Be intentional in knowing His love for you and responding to His love. Jesus used to carve out time to go and pray. Be intentional about doing things that feed that love. The other day I took full advantage of the free livestreaming of the hillsong conference knowing that after watching a session of awesome worship and preaching that my heart would be stirred to love God more. Be part of a housegroup so you can go deeper and do life together. Read your bible, its an incredible gift we have, Gods words breathed into a book. Do whatever it takes to stir your heart in response to God’s great love. He is worth it.
And it continues as we then, as 1 John 4:11 says, as we love one another.
John 13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Intentional LOVE = TIME
It’s commonly said that LOVE = TIME.
Stephen Covey, author of the 7 habits of highly effective people, uses a brilliant analogy that illustrates WHY we need to be intentional and purposeful in scheduling love.
Covey’s big idea is that you must schedule time for your most important priorities first. If you don’t, you will never get to them.
Alongside this principle is this: what gets scheduled gets done. The opposite is also true: what doesn’t get scheduled doesn’t get done.
It’s important to identity what are the important relationships and priorities of your life and to schedule them. To MAKE time.
Life is a battle of priorities. We can figure out what is truly important to people by observing how they use their time. It is not what people say or intend to do that reveals their priorities; it is only what they actually do that demonstrates where their hearts are. Tell me your dreams and then show me your calendar.
If you have a dream to be a world famous knitter, but never knit, or read knitting blogs or watching knitting youtube clips the likelihood is that your dream will stay in the realm of wishful thinking.
Dreams need actions and deliberate diligent intentional DOING things. We need to put it in our calendar and make time, MAKE time for it. We need to schedule our dreams and put the big rocks in the jar first.
We all have the same amount of time. There is only 24 hours in a day. I know we’d all love perhaps a 35 hour day, or an 8 day week.
But we only have 24 hours in our day. The person beside you only has 24 hours in a day. The person on the other side of the room, only has 24 hours in a day.
Is time working FOR you? Or do you feel like its working against you? Or is time your slave driver?
Your calendar is instrumental in determining who you will be in the future. Your choices have far greater implications that you could ever imagine. The butterfly effect.
Our schedule should be less about what we have to get done and be more about who we want to become.
Here’s the hard truth: Your time is entirely under your control. We all make time for what is important to us.
But man, don’t we live in a world filled with time bandits. Time bandits steal the time that could be intentionally invested into the people and things we love. We become desensitized to emotions and connections because we’re moving at breakneck speed. As Rick said, we’re the most connected yet disconnected generation.
Tv can be a time bandit.
World cup soccer can be a time bandit.
Fb and social media can be a time bandit.
Overtime can be a time bandit.
Perfectionism can be a time bandit.
Those time bandits can be the little rocks that if we’re not mindful, can fill our jars and edge out the room that we would in reflection, be the things we really value.
I encourage you to be proactive in managing your time and putting the big rocks in. Don’t let time just fly by but be intentional in making choices that lead to wins for you.
At the start of the year I made an intentional decision that I was going to get fit and healthy. I’ve mentioned this before, confessing to you all that one of the main motivations was that as part of SAS we would be doing Cross Training sessions. Which has nothing to do with The Cross, but has plenty to do with running and push ups and squats and sweat. But I’m kind of a busy person. With kids. So I made a decision. That there was a magical hour that was silent and request free. 5am. 5am is my sacred space for working out and becoming who I want to become. It might become your secret ninja knitting time. Your writing hour. Your personal time with God.
A great example of this is John Grisham the author. He was a busy lawyer but his great dream was to become a writer. So he made the intentional decision to arrive at work an hour earlier and write for that hour before getting into his cases and law work. You know the end of his story. As of 2012, his books had sold over 275 million copies worldwide.
Lydia Ko, amazing golf champion, says this: MY LIFESTYLE isn’t very glamorous. On weekdays I’m up at 5:30 a.m. After school I head immediately to the golf course. The work I do there is intense. It’s how I’ve become a good player. I get home at about 8 p.m. There’s just time enough to eat, prepare my schoolwork for the next day, then go to bed. Lydia Ko is now ranked the number 2 women golfer in the world.
What dream are you dreaming? Have you got an hour to spare? Now an hour might be too much of a leap – start with 15 minutes. Be intentional for 15 minutes.
The same can be said the context of relationships. Love is spelled TIME. To create friendships and relationships we need to spend time together. We need to create memories and moments, drink coffee and have conversations. It takes time to get beyond the layer of small talk and into heart to heart. It takes history making to form friendships.
What investment of time will it take for you to be a great dad? A great mum? A great son or daughter? A great friend? A great River member?
“To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today.” – Barbara Johnson
We have to be intentional people that make a choice to prioritize those good things and people opportunities.
So love is spelled TIME. Spend time with your significant peoples.
And it doesn’t have to be a chore. Remember, you LOVE these people. Our Mums group on Thursday did some intentional loving, we wrote cards to our husbands to let them know intentionally how we love and appreciate them. Simple. Sweet.
As a church, we can spend time together after our services. As a church we have being intentional about creating a space, location wise and time wise, for genuine connections to be invested into. Don’t dash off right after the service, but grab a coffee and use the opportunity to practice those key elements in our Romans 12 passage:
Sincere love. Honour one another. Joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Each one of us have a story. Our story might unlock hope and breakthrough for someone. It might inspire and encourage. It might impart wisdom. One conversation can set off the butterfly affect and change the direction someone goes in. One conversation can bring hope and comfort. We never know who walks in those doors and let’s be real. It can be lonely out there. The world can be a hard place. We NEED sincere genuine love. A small thing, like staying for coffee after church, like striking up a conversation with someone new, can bring hope and change for someone. It could change their destiny. Be intentional. Use this time as a gift.
Now some of us are wired to connect with new people more readily… I love new people. So I have 5 simple ways that you can get past the freak out zone and feel more comfortable connecting with people.
- Ask questions. Even simple questions like “how was your week?”” “did you grow up around here”” can begin conversations and meaningful connection. And when you’re asked a question, give an answer they can work with. Did you grow up round here. No.
- Find common ground. Use those simple questions we just talked about to dig a bit deeper and find the commonalities between you. Those things you have in common create a sense of “me too”, you’re like me, we could be friends.
- Celebrate the differences. Of course there are people we meet that are wonderfully different that we are. You might be into downtown abby, but the person you’re talking with might be a die hard Die Hard fan. That’s okay. Celebrate the differences. Use it again to ask more questions and peel back the layers. “how did you get into that?”
- Take it to the next level with these 5 magical words. That’s interesting, tell me more.
- Be yourself. Oh how we need you to be you. You are created by God, fearfully and wonderfully made. You have a story and a journey and wisdom and greatness. Share it. Be it.
So the way to become more intentional in loving on purpose is to know God loves you, followed by making deliberate choices with how we invest our TIME. Love is spelled TIME.
3. Intentional Love is Active
Have you seen those viral youtube clips of grand gestures people make when proposing/throwing a birthday party/announcing some news… I confess I’m quite partial to those flash mob clips where the unsuspecting girl friend all of a sudden is surrounded by a mob of dancing singing strangers and her boyfriend is then down on one knee and saying will you marry me. And of course its filmed. What are you going to say???
But life doesn’t run on the momentum of grand gestures. Life and love runs on the momentum of small everyday mundane moments of kindness, service, grace, honesty and giving.
Making a coffee for your husband.
Loading the dishwasher for your wife.
Playing lego with your kids.
Kicking the ball around.
Going for a walk.
Walking hand in hand.
Send a thankyou card.
Mow an elderly persons lawn.
Take out the rubbish.
Reading a story.
Making a meal for a sick friend.
Making a meal for a well friend.
Love is shown in the everyday moments of life. I heard a beautiful example of this a few weeks ago. Many of our River little kids, and kids who were little, have gone through a particular local kindy. My own kids, Caleb and Evangeline went there, and we loved it. It’s the best kindy in the world! So we tell our friends and they have sent their kids there. Recently one of the lovely wee River girls started there and the staff found out that she is a River kid, that the family, are a River family. Ahhhh they said, we love River mums, they know how to look after each other. We don’t do anything dramatic, our love is shown with muffins, and babysitting, and meals, and folding washing, and dropping of bread and necessities when kids are sick. A friend of mine went to hospital in the ambulance with my son a few weeks ago, because of love in action.
By their love, they will know that I am real said Jesus.
I want that to be the reputation that the River has. That when people walk in the door, they feel welcome and accepted. That when people join the family here, that they feel like family. That in our real lives there are people we can lean on and that are there to help. That we can ask for help. That we can give help.
This deliberate intentional love matters. Because God is writing His story of redemption and He chooses that we play a part. The story is not about us but it is HIS STORY and is meant to point people to Him and to demonstrate His reality and grace. Life is more than just breathing, we have a grand purpose and destiny. Your life counts. Your story matters. The way we live our life is important.
Our challenge is to be intentional in our love for God and our love for people. That all the world may know how great is our God.