Everyone Matters To God

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16.

People matter to God. All people. The key word in John 3:16 is “everyone.” So that means everybody matters to God whether God matters to them or not. Desmond Doss did not choose who to help based on who was good or who was bad to him. He helped everyone he came across because everyone matters.

As Christians we believe that everyone matters to God so everyone matters to us. Everyone. That includes the people we agree with and people we have a hard time having a civil conversation with. People on “our side” and those who are on the opposite side. It means that the elderly, the young, the disenfranchised, the widows, orphans, and the poor matter. In our culture today, it is easy to love those we agree with, those who do us no harm, who don’t need anything from us, and those who don’t offend us. It’s so much harder when we have to love those that may seem unlovable. 

The Bible tells us that even the one who wanders away is important. In fact, the wandering one is so important that the shepherd leaves the other sheep in search of the one that is lost. And when the shepherd finds the one missing sheep, he kicks up his heels and celebrates.   

If that is how God thinks and operates, that is exactly how we should think and operate. If God cares for every person, even the one who has lost his or her way and is far from the heart of God, then we should as well. Jesus had a passion for the lost. “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10) 

The people not only heard Jesus teach about the worth of each person, but they also saw it demonstrated by his actions. The next person Jesus met was the most important person in his life. There are numerous times in the Bible where Jesus ministered to one person. Sometimes he was occupied in travel or teaching when someone would either cry out for help or touch him as an act of faith. He would stop and minister to that individual before proceeding. That’s how he met blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46), Zacchaeus (Luke 19), one widow among the throng giving her offering in the temple (Mark 12:42) and heard the prayer of a desperate sinner. (Luke 18:13)

By His life and illustrations, Jesus is still teaching us that regardless of the size of the multitude, God still places a high value on each person. He cares about the smallest details of our lives, our potential, our failures, our hurts, our health, our fears and our destiny.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever felt like your life wasn’t important? What made you feel this way?
  2. What can we do this week to show people that they matter to God and to us?

A Sense Of Urgency

“You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.” – John 4:35.    

“I can’t hear you Lord,”  [loud explosions all around and total chaos] “What do you want from me?” A distant cry for help… “Help me save one more.” And when he saved that one, he prayed to save one more. As Desmond Doss discovered on Hacksaw Ridge, we are surrounded by lost and wounded people all around us. It is our job as Christians to help God save one more. 

Who is your one more? Who can you pull to safety? Tucked away in Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy, is a request for urgency: “…to preach the Word of God urgently at all times, whenever you get the chance, in season and out, when it is convenient and when it is not. Correct and rebuke your people when they need it, encourage them to do right, and all the time be feeding them patiently with God’s Word.” (2 Timothy 4:2 TLB)

It did not take long for Desmond Doss to find a person who needed his help. Nor did Jesus have any difficulties finding the lost. Luke 15:1 says, “Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.”  It should not take us long either because people far from the heart of God are everywhere around us. 

How do we view those far from the heart of God? Many of the soldiers that Desmond Doss was helping were the ones who persecuted him in basic training. He could have looked at them with disdain, as an irritation, and a burden not worthy of his help. But he didn’t. He felt a personal sense of urgency and responsibility to get them out of harm’s way as quickly as possible.  Luke 15:3-4 tells us about personal responsibility and the need for urgency: “So Jesus told them this story: 4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?”

The wounded soldiers on Hacksaw Ridge needed the attention and help of Doss. They could not have gotten off that ridge without his help. The lost around us need our attention and a sense of urgency as well. They may just need an invitation, a few kind words, a testimony, or a few Bible verses to find their way home to the Savior that loves them. And when they find Jesus there is great joy. “And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” ( Luke 15:5-7)                                   

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does having a sense of urgency for the lost mean to you? 
  2. What can we do this week to save just one more?   

Love Conquers All

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Private Doss was on a mission during the battle taking place on Hacksaw Ridge. His mission was to save as many soldiers around him as possible. Doss rescued 75 soldiers wounded by heavy enemy fire at the top of a 400-foot cliff during the battle for Okinawa in spring of 1945. He risked his life to bring the injured men back to the ledge, one by one, and lowered them by a rope ladder to safety. Some of those soldiers had mocked and beaten him for not wanting to kill. He also showed kindness to an injured enemy soldier. This is a pretty good example of unconditional love.

Love is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied words in our vocabulary. Over the centuries, love has accumulated a whole lot of conditions, baggage, and confusion. Adding unconditional to love makes it more confusing and more difficult at the same time. The only place you will probably hear the words love and unconditional are in a church. Those two words make sense when we remember and reflect on the voluntary sacrifice of God’s Son on the cross to pay the penalty of our sin. Because of the cross, everyone has the ability to have a personal relationship with God and experience His unconditional love. 

But is unconditional love possible for us? We see unconditional love in Desmond Doss, but unconditional love is uncommon. While it is not common, it is not impossible. The good news is that God wants to do uncommon things through His people. When unconditional love is introduced into the equation everything changes. Nothing stays the same. But we need to understand that unconditional love doesn’t come with any pre-existing conditions, expectations or strings attached.

Unconditional love heals the broken, empowers the timid, motivates the hesitant, and gives people a glimpse of God’s love to those who may not have experienced it yet. 

You can be an agent of change. It will look different than what you might think. But there is great power in letting go of conditions, and loving as God intended us to love. Choosing to share unconditional love with others in the same way God has done for us. 

Rick Warren had this to say:“Love leaves a legacy. How you treated other people, not your wealth or accomplishments, is the most enduring impact you can leave on earth.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are we doing here in your opinion? In the list of things that describe God’s loves for you, what encourages you the most? What makes you feel separated from God’s love?
  2. Who do you need to show unconditional love to this week?

Live With Passion

Hacksaw Ridge is a raw movie. It contains realistic battle scenes that accurately depict the horror of war. The movie also accurately depicts the difficulties for people who passionately stick to their faith. Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of Pfc. Desmond Doss, an American soldier who served in WWII. Doss entered the army as a medic because he wanted to save lives rather than take them; he also was a conscientious objector and refused to carry a gun. In the movie, Doss is quickly branded a coward, and ostracized and abused by his fellow soldiers for his religious stance. In the Battle of Okinawa, however, Doss shows his true colors.

After his division had retreated from the ridge, he worked tirelessly through the night to save men who had been injured and left behind during the previous day’s fighting. By the end of the battle, Desmond Doss had risked his own life over and over again to save 75 men – without firing a single shot. His story is wonderfully inspiring, but not because he was a particularly impressive person. He didn’t have a lot of money or charisma or connections. He was, in fact, pretty ordinary in every way, except one. That one thing that set Doss apart was his passion for his convictions. And he stayed passionate even when everybody around him valiantly tried to dismiss that passion.

So, what do we get fired up over? What are we passionate about? And how do we grow our passion? Increasing our passion is a worthwhile goal. God has given each of us a unique passion — a special ability and a specific place to serve His kingdom. It is never too late to discover that passion. Because when  we do what God wants us to do, truly amazing things can happen.

We simply need to start moving. God will do His part to increase your passion, but He also expects you to do your part. William Wilberforce knew his passion. He resisted it, but this passion held him captive as he became completely captivated by Jesus. He met God and wanted nothing more than to begin working in the ministry which he was convinced was the best way to serve God. But the passion that kept him up at night was the unacceptable injustice of the slave trade in England and he worked tirelessly to abolish it.

So what is your passion?

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you determine what you are most passionate about? 
  2. What can we do this week to put that passion into action?    

A Hero

“Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” The Lord said to him, “I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.” – Judges 5:14-16.

Desmond Doss would have seemed the most unlikeliest of heroes. The movie Hacksaw Ridge features the true story of Pfc. Doss, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor despite refusing to bear arms during WWII on religious grounds. Doss, a Christian who wouldn’t touch a weapon or work on the Sabbath, enlisted in the Army as a combat medic because he believed in the cause, but had vowed not to kill. The Army wanted nothing to do with him. His fellow soldiers constantly harassed him.  His commanding officer tried to get him transferred.  But in a bloody battle called “Hacksaw Ridge” Doss saved 75 men—including his captain, over a 12-hour period. The same soldiers who had shamed him now praised him. Veteran Carl Bentley, who was also at Hacksaw Ridge, said, “It’s as if God had his hand on [Doss’] shoulder. It’s the only explanation I can give.”

In Judges 6, we read about another person who wasn’t a hero by any stretch of the imagination. That is until God used him to do the impossible. If you grew up in church you probably heard the story of brave and strong Gideon.  But when reading Judges 4:14-16 you get a different picture. Gideon would not appear to be a good candidate for the job God wanted done. The Bible doesn’t say this of course, but you have to wonder how Gideon reacted when the prophet the Lord sent said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!” (Judges 6:12)   Gideon didn’t recognize that his calling was rooted in the strength, wisdom, and ability of God. Gideon thought he was going to be responsible for the success of this mission, and when he looked at himself and at the size of the calling, he panicked and replied “My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

Most of us have been there and done that. We forget the providence, promises and power of God. Instead we jump to situational conclusions forgetting that we’ve been empowered by the Spirit of God. Gideon isn’t a hero, nor was he called to be.  We aren’t called to be heroes either. We have no heroic qualities within ourselves. But we still can act with faith, courage, and hope, because like Gideon and Desmond Doss, it’s the Lord who sends us and the Lord who will be with us every step of the way.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do we need to be a hero to share our faith with others? How is God with us when we share our faith with others?
  2. What would we do different this week if we were absolutely confident that God is with us?

Unintended Benefit

“Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” – Ephesians 1:11.

One of the most interesting things to discover in scripture is how God uses unlikely characters to bring about His will. One example is Rahab. Rahab the prostitute hid three Hebrew spies sent by Joshua to gauge the defenses of the city. (Joshua 2:1-7)  In doing so, she saved their lives. She then helped them escape. (Joshua 2:15-24)  In return, they promised that when the city was attacked, Rahab and her family would be spared. Jericho was captured, and Rahab and her family were spared. Rahab is among the four women listed in Matthew’s gospel as ancestors of Jesus. (Matthew 1:5)

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs brought numerous innovative, best in class products to the market place. These products helped pave the way for more people to hear the Gospel. Greg Laurie, the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, wrote a blog article on how God used Steve Jobs.

Laurie said that before Jobs, there was no such thing as an iPod, an iPhone or an iPad. “Now these devices have become a part of our everyday lives,” Greg wrote. “Most ministries now have a Podcast, which is an archived message that you can download and listen to at your convenience. Harvest ministries recently released an iPhone/iPad app that allows access to a ton of media content filled with the Gospel. I personally listen to podcasts everyday on my iPhone and I am typing this on a Apple Powerbook laptop and I read through the Bible in a year on the Harvest iPad app.”

Basically, Steve jobs put a Bible in everyone’s palm. He also gave everyone access to inspirational music. Although the was not his intent, there are few people who have had such an impact on the proclamation of the Gospel as Steve Jobs. God uses individual abilities for His purpose and that includes each one of us.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you seen examples of God using people for His purposes?
  2. How can God use your creative abilities?

Counting Down The Days

For the last 33 years of my life, I would look in the mirror every morning and ask myself this question: If this was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today.  And whenever the answer has been no for too many days in in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I will be dead soon is the best tool I have ever encountered to make choices in life.” – Steve Jobs   

Steve Job’s faith is unknown, but he stumbled upon the Biblical truth of numbering your days. He was reflecting on a sobering, somewhat unsettling question that has been asked for centuries: how many days do I have left? We don’t like to think about the fact that our days here on this earth are numbered, yet we know they are. In Psalm 39: 4 David wrote:  “LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered–how fleeting my life is.” And in Psalm 90:12 Moses prayed:  “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”

In the 1700’s, Jonathan Edwards put together a list of some 70 resolutions that he resolved to live by. Number 17: Resolve that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.  Given that our days are numbered, how are we living them? Are you living today in light of the day you die?

In Psalm 39 and Psalm 90 David and Moses were not asking for a gift of prophecy, but rather for a change in perspective. They understood that living in the knowledge of how fleeting life is becomes a life-changing attitude, and they recognized that this attitude doesn’t happen automatically. It just is not natural, so they prayed for the ability to number their days. Should we do the same?

We tend to think of years. When someone asks you how long you have been working at a company the response is in years rather than days. While that seems a lot easier than days, we live a day at a time. Matthew 6:11 says, “Give us today the food we need.” That makes sense because we function one day at a time. So while God sets the number of our days, it’s up to us to make them count. Don’t think about the days that you can’t get back, days you may have wasted or sped through. Remember what Philippians 3:13. “…focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”    

What would happen if we had the mindset that this day was our last day. We wouldn’t just go through life, we would grow through life. We would treat each day with value and purpose. We would have a different perspective by seeing each new day as an opportunity to do things better than the day before as we serve God and through love serve one another.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you want to know how many days you have to live? Why or why not? 
  2. What can we do this week to number our days and grow in wisdom? 

A Recipe For Success

“For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. 5 Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! 6 As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.?” – 1 Thessalonians 2: 4-6.

We are encouraged, from birth, to be winners. It becomes ingrained in us. Kids want that trophy at the end of the season and we want that recognition, promotion or bonus that exemplifies our success. Steve Jobs was the poster child for success. He was a billionaire who ran one of the most successful companies in the history of business. He is an inspiration and a legend to many people. God’s standard for success is nothing like the world’s standard. 

What God requires of you is not success, but faithfulness. We may not be a billionaire but God still expects each one of us to be faithful in whatever God has called us to do. Here is the thing: God can do more with one act of faithfulness than we could accomplish in many lifetimes on our own. Faithfulness starts with the questions, “Where can I make the biggest impact?” and, “Where does God want me?”

Faithfulness is defined as being loyal and dependable. Therefore, to be faithful means to be worthy of trust. A faithful person does what he says and finishes what he starts. Faithfulness begins with the little things in life. It is seen first in your routine and in your everyday chores and activities. It should also be seen in your home, on your job, and at your church. Your spouse and your children need to know they can depend upon you and that you will keep your word. Your employer needs to know that you will show up and do an excellent job. Your employees need to know that you will provide them with the opportunities to be successful.

Worldly success can be difficult to achieve. But there are opportunities for faithfulness all around us. At work, it means choosing integrity when everyone else is cutting corners, or using your skills to further the Kingdom rather than just enhancing the company’s bottom line.  If you’re a parent, it means being a reflection of Christ because the kids are always watching. The bottom line is that God can and does give us these small acts of faithfulness in the lives of others.

God is looking for faithful people to learn His ways and recognize when He is leading them. If we will be faithful in these areas, then we will see the acts of God in our homes, our workplaces, our schools, and our churches. Faithfulness will produce lasting results.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are we doing here in your opinion?
  2. How does your answer to what are we doing here compare or contrast to what was said in this article?   

A Matter Of Time

“One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.” — Mark 10:13-14

Consider the following statement: Your family matters, but your time with your family also matters. When the end of his life drew near, Steve Jobs expressed little regret or dissatisfaction with himself. His repeated wish was that he had spent more time with his children.

We are only going to have our kids for a few more years and then they will be gone. And we don’t want that time to pass by and say, “Why did I give my time to everyone else, but not my kids? Why did I think it was so important to be at work one more hour? Why didn’t I watch their school programs? Why didn’t I read them Bible stories? How did I miss out on so much?” James writes in 4:14, “…Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” The only time we have is right now. 

If you want to see how to make good use of your time, study the life of Jesus. Jesus never seemed to be in a hurry. You never saw Jesus running, or rushing around, trying to make up time. It was the opposite, He made time for all people. He made time to consider the flowers and the birds in the air. He had time to put his hands on the children and bless them. He had time to heal people and feed thousands. He had time to stop and talk to the woman at the well, the centurion whose daughter was dying, and a man born blind. Time was His friend.

Our time is our life, and how we spend it shapes our character, our happiness, our success and our future. Spending time with each child may be difficult when you have a few children and you are busy and tired after a day’s work. Nor are we suggesting that you spend every minute staring into your children’s eyes telling them they are perfect. It’s not possible nor do they need that. But they do want your time.

Talk to parents and they will remember the quality time they spend with their parents. The year that their dad coached their soccer team. Or that special family vacation.  Or the conversations around the dinner tables, or the time mom made that Bible story seem a little less scary. Not only will they remember the events, they will remember the willingness and the commitment in finding time for the kids. 

Every dad who has ever braided his daughter’s hair, knows that it is not as easy as it looks.  And often when done, the child refuses to go outside. But here is the point: It’s not about the quality of the braid, but about the quality of the time spent with your little girl. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What constitutes quality time with another person in your mind? 
  2. What can we do this week to spend more quality time with those you love?   

Think Different

“To model yourself after Steve Jobs is like, ‘I’d like to paint like Picasso, what should I do? Should I use more red?”’ – Larry Ellison

Before his death and even after his death, you read and heard a lot about Steve Jobs. So many products and so much innovation is connected to this one man. The man that people compare to the titans of American industry – Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Sam Walton – was not interested in profits, instead he was focused on being “insanely great.” He was first and foremost, a great explainer of technology–a charismatic leader and visionary. He was a symbol of ruthless perfectionism. He was the embodiment of the famous “Think Different” Apple iconic advertising campaign. He is a legend and a success by anyone’s definition. Walt Mossberg said, “I think Steve Jobs is a historic figure. He’s not only a historic figure in business, but really in America.”

But here is the question: How do you define greatness? Is it talent and abilities, or accomplishments, or power? What Steve Jobs did in building Apple into the first trillion-dollar company, coupled with numerous accolades and a 10.2 billion net worth fulfills that criteria for greatness in our culture. But when Jesus stepped on this earth, He completely redefined what greatness is, serving others to the glory of God.

The world has a hard time understanding how you can be considered great and be a servant at the same time. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Yet, He had the attitude of a servant. “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,” (Philippians 2:6-7)

How often do you see a CEO be a true servant of those that they are called to lead? Yet that is what the Son of God did. Think about it this way—have you ever had a boss in the past that cared so much about your success, cared so much for you as a person, that you didn’t want to work for anybody else? That boss is being a servant! To care and to show love is what greatness it all about. And it begins with serving God, because our love for God will be expressed in our love for others. And that, is the Biblical definition of greatness.

Our goal should be to develop God’s kind of greatness. It was Oswald Chambers who said, “I have chosen you! Keep that note of greatness in your creed. It is not that you have got God but that He has got you.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is your definition of greatness?
  2. What can we do this week to be greater in God’s eyes?