A Passion For Jesus in 2022

 “Jesus answered him, “The most important of all the commandments is this: ‘The Lord Yahweh, our God, is one!’ You are to love the Lord Yahweh, your God, with a passionate heart, from the depths of your soul, with your every thought, and with all your strength. This is the great and supreme commandment.” – Mark 12:29-30 (TPT)

Passion is very chic in our contemporary culture. People are naturally interested in what you are truly passionate about. Passion is what motivates us to do the things we love. What is it that really gets your heart racing? What is it that makes you excited to get up each day?

It could be a certain ideology, social cause, or politics. Perhaps it’s a passion about the theater, movies, or music. Or It could be making starting a business, physical fitness, or watching college football. Today, Christians can be defined by any number of things. What should define a Christian is their personal and enthusiastic pursuit of and passion for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Enthusiasm or passion isn’t passive. Being passionate about something means you’re going to do something about it. Passion results in action. Passion and enthusiasm enable us to make choices that strengthen our close friendship with our heavenly Father. As you develop a closer relationship with God, your passion will grow, and as it does, making changes in your life will naturally follow.

But do we truly believe that the key to abundant life is the passionate pursuit of Jesus? Because if we truly believed that the key to abundant life was passionately pursuing Jesus, our lives would most likely be dramatically different. Our lives would be simpler, more joyful, more peaceful, and more like the life of Jesus.

Jesus’ life on this earth was the ultimate picture of the passionate life. He embraced children, delighted in doing the will of the Father, healed the sick, loved the lost, helped the marginalized, and gave His all so “…that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 ESV)  

Proverbs 8:30 says, “I was the architect at his side. I was his constant delight, rejoicing always in his presence.”  When we love Jesus Christ with passion and enthusiasm, our hearts change, we change—we can then love others as Jesus commanded. God will do His part to increase your passion, but He also expects you to do your part. When you have a quiet time set aside to pray and to study God’s word, you are taking the first step toward seeing your passion and enthusiasm increase.

Jesus reminds us that when you give your heart to God, you want to maintain that passion and love Him with all your heart. So, how are your enthusiasm and passion? God is filled with so much passion for us that He deserves nothing less than whole-hearted passion from us.

Discussion Question:

  1. Are you filled with passion running your race? What captures your passion?  

What Does It Mean To Live Fully Alive In Christ?

“You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” – Colossians 2:13-14. 

Many years ago, there was a television commercial promoting beer. The commercial featured several young people precariously perched on a catamaran sailing through the water.  As spray hit the lens of the camera, a dramatic voice announced, “You only go around once! Reach for all the gusto you can get.”  The ad played on two truths that motivate every human being: we have only one life to live and we want to live that life with gusto. Both of those truths are talked about in scripture. 

God wants us to live life with gusto. He so longs to see us flourishing, thriving, truly living. We are His beloved children, and so when we trudge through life weighed down by negative thoughts, or race through our days with stress as our main fuel, or simply exist because we don’t know what more is available to us, we are not living the life God intended for us.  Moses had this to say just before he died: “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” (Deuteronomy 30:19) 

What does it mean to be alive in Christ? It does not mean that you must have your life together. Being alive in Christ does not mean that you are happy all the time. It does not mean that your life is as beautiful and put-together as a Hallmark movie.

In fact, being alive in Christ means the opposite. A fully alive life requires a fully-experienced life. Without joy and sorrow, peace and turmoil, happiness and despair, you cannot fully appreciate anyone’s experience. For a life to be fully lived it must be experienced in every extreme. The extent to which we are capable of experiencing great disappointment and pain is also the extent to which we have the capacity to experience the greatest joy. God is at work in the mundane, and the everyday messiness of our lives. Being alive in Christ does not mean we will be in a constant state of smiles and joy. Being alive in Christ means our foundation is so strong that even when the storms come, we can live through them.  

Take a moment right now to remember that Christ invites you to live a life in Him. Know that, in Christ, your feet are firmly planted on an unshakable foundation: Christ’s unconditional love for you. Jesus promised us, “…Look, I am making everything new…” (Revelation 21:5)  

The question is do we choose to be fully alive? 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does being “fully alive in Christ” mean to you? 

The Bible Is A Game Changer

“A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” –  Theodore Roosevelt.

Most sports have evolved over the years. Feats that seemed unreachable a few decades ago are routine today. For example, golf. Players are hitting wedges into 520-yard par-4s routinely today which is proof that the game has changed since the days of persimmon drivers and balata balls. It would be hard to pinpoint one single thing or event that has led to the significant differences in today’s golf game, but the changes in the balls, the drivers, the shafts, and the physical fitness of the golfers themselves, have resulted in a game that is much different than it was just 20 years ago. For better or worse the game is forever changed. 

Jesus Christ is the ultimate game-changer. Many of the values which society holds as essential for a positive community and which allow people to flourish, find their foundational roots in the life and teaching of Jesus. We become so familiar with our cultural norms that we forget how much the impact of the teachings of Jesus has had on so many areas of our lives. Only One can change the world itself–the One who has power over sin and death. And the Bible is our source to learn more about Him. 

You can never just read the Bible. We should want and need more. Whether you read your Bible before dawn, over mid-morning coffee, or at the dinner table with family, we need to read and listen to what God is telling us. The Bible is one of the greatest tools we have at our disposal to grow closer to God. The more we want to know about Jesus the more we need to read His word. 

Something happens when we study and absorb the Bible rather than just view it as a daily chore. The Bible becomes a source of comfort and understanding. Suddenly, we are reading verses that speak to our circumstances, to our concerns and problems.  So instead of going through the motions, we read with questions, meditate on verses that stick out, write notes and look up cross-references. The more time spent studying, the easier it is to realize and experience the very real power of God’s Word to transform, comfort, and provide real wisdom for real life.

Maybe you’re a new work-in-progress believer who is just starting to study the Bible.  Maybe you have been a Christian for some time but the busyness of life keeps you from studying the Bible as much as you like. Or maybe you are somebody who does read the Bible but wishes that you knew the Bible better. The more you invest your time and energy into studying the Word, the more you’ll experience the abundant Christian life that God has planned for you. 

The power in God’s Word is life-changing when we believe it and are willing to study and follow what we read daily. Treat it like you would any other text that you are going to be studying. Get serious about it this life-changing resource for every Christian and it will be a game-changer.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you have a process/system for studying the Bible? Does it work for you? 
  2. What can we do this week to improve our study habits?

Is The Bible Still Relevant?

“In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book.” – Abraham Lincoln.

There are people who believe that the Bible is a relic of a bygone age—an outdated remnant of an ancient society. The French philosopher Voltaire once boasted that the Bible would cease being relevant and disappear from public life in less than 100 years. He was wrong.  

But is the Bible still a source of useful and relevant guidance in the modern world or is it simply a dated document that contains a laundry list of regulations reflecting views that are not valid in today’s culture? Apparently, Abraham Lincoln thought it was in the mid-nineteenth century. But, in fact, the Bible preserves a storehouse of wisdom and explores timeless questions: Why do bad things happen to good people? Where does evil come from? What is the meaning of life? These questions continue to be relevant today as they were in Biblical times. The book of Proverbs, on the other hand, is full of straightforward, practical wisdom that is easy to remember. For example on the subject of how to be a person of influence: “Use patience and kindness when you want to persuade leaders and watch them change their minds right in front of you. For your gentle wisdom will quell the strongest resistance.” (Proverbs 25:15 TPT)

In reality, the Bible presents a realistic and balanced approach to the challenges of life, and the information in the Bible is more accurate and descriptive of the human condition than any psychology textbook. The Bible is also relevant to history and archeology. But the Bible is more than merely a history book, a psychology text, or a scientific journal. The Bible is the inspired Word of God revealed to humanity. Second Timothy 3:16-17 teaches, “all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” The Bible is literally “God-breathed,” offering insight into who God is and what His desire is for our lives.  The Bible includes essential information on how we can know God personally.  

Scripture will never be irrelevant because it addresses the universal needs of all people—to know God, to experience forgiveness, and to know how the Lord would have us to live. Times may change, but God’s Word does not. In it, we find principles that change our lives still today.

 Millions of books have been written, but only the Bible provides the ultimate explanation for life on earth, as well as life beyond the grave. God’s Word has been and always will be transformative and life-giving and no other source is even close in terms of relevance. So take a few moments each day to learn about relevance from the One who wrote the book on it?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What challenges have you heard people raise against the Bible? What do you think about the Bible’s reliability?
  2. What comes to your mind when you hear someone talking about the authority of the Bible? The inspiration? 

Cultivating A Christian Life That Works

“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” ― Psalm 16:8. 

Your alarm goes off and you hit the ground running. You grab a cup of coffee, slam down some breakfast, and scramble out the door for another day of breathless, non-stop activity. School, family, work, friends, Facebook—all of them demand your time and attention. By the time the day is done, you’re lucky if you’ve spared a thought or two for more heavenly things, let alone gotten through the evening without retreating completely into your phone.

Does this sound familiar? Our culture is obsessed with busyness, and no one is immune. Most people fall into the trap of believing my productivity determines my worth…or worse, that I really can’t spare the time or the mental energy cultivating a Christ-centered life. Living a Christ-centered life is the goal of every Christian, but it is a lot easier to talk about than to live. Because no matter how well-intentioned we are, a lot of other things compete with Christ for center stage in our lives. 

A Christ-centered life begins with realizing that the source of everything we are is the Lord. He created us, He authors our story, and every blessing that we receive comes from Him. James 1:17 tells us that “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens…” Additionally, Christ is the source of our daily righteousness. We simply cannot live up to biblical standards on our own; but in Christ, we have everything we need for godly living. “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3).

We want Christ to be known, honored, worshipped, and obeyed, so we submit every other attainable goal to Him. Our decisions are no longer controlled by selfish desires, but instead, we shift our focus to Christ and what He desires. Our battle with self is one that will continue as long as we live in these earthly bodies. That’s why Paul tells us to “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted” and to “Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” (Ephesians 4:22; 4:24).

A Christ-centered life is fueled by a love for the Savior. And we learn to know Jesus more intimately through reading, praying, and spending time in His presence. As Christ increases in our mind and heart, we’ll discover that our self-focus decreases and He becomes the delight of our lives; lives which will be better for it.  

What matters is that you love Him, serve Him, and enjoy the joy of your salvation today.  Christ will care for your tomorrows. Isn’t it amazing that when the person of Christ is in full focus, centrally located in our hearts and minds, everything starts to make sense?  

Discussion Questions:

  1. What stands in the way of deepening your relationship with Jesus?  
  2. What can you do this week to begin to overcome those obstacles? 

2022 Here We Come

“The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self — all your wishes and precautions — to Christ.” – C.S. Lewis 

Well, it’s that time of year again. A new year is right around the corner. This is the time of year so many of us start making resolutions to change a certain area or multiple areas in our lives. Maybe we have some extra pounds to shed. We might be committed to changing a specific, harmful behavior. New Year’s resolutions range from simple desires to seemingly full-proof plans for extensive life change. What we all have in common is the hope that something will change, and life will be different and hopefully better in the new year ahead.

But usually, those resolutions are short-lived. This may be our first attempt at making real change in our lives. Or maybe we have been trying for years. This may be the second, third, fourth, or 15th year someone has tried to “kick the habit.” After so many attempts, why would they even want to try again? It is at those times when we need to remember that Christ was born, He Died and He did rise again. That means that the new year is filled with hope for a better future — in Him.  

When we desire change, we have the perfect example to follow: Jesus Christ. When we are ready to implement change, we have the perfect guidebook: His Word. Finally, we have the perfect companion to strengthen our resolve: His Spirit. We truly can experience freedom in our lives today, tomorrow, and forever. With Christ, we don’t have to wait for another New Year to roll around, or for the beach ball to drop in Pier Park. We can pursue our own new beginning right now.

This can be the year when you don’t leave Jesus behind, but instead, you go looking for Him. This can be the year when you make your relationship with God a priority. This can be the year when your relationship with God comes off the “I’ll get around to it” list, and instead defines that list.

Take some time to think about the past year, to think about your relationship with God, and to think about what you want for that relationship in the coming year. And then, think of one or two ways that you will commit to making it stronger.  

May this year be one of great spiritual growth for you. May it be one where you learn to be like Jesus, and never fail to see Him for who He is, and what He is doing. May it be one where God does new things in your life, not just on one day, but on all of them. And may it be one where you resolve to love God and love others.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. New Year’s resolutions typically don’t last too long. What happens? How do our good intentions derail so easily? Should Christians even engage in setting goals?
  2. Why does it mean to put God first in a goal? What spiritual goals should you make in 2022?    

Spend The Morning With Jesus in 2022

 Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning,  for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk,  for I give myself to you….Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.“ –
Psalm 143:8, Psalm 90:14. 

Do you start your mornings with Jesus?  There are people who believe it more prudent to read their Bible or devotional at night when they are awake and least hurried. But if that is the case with you, you may want to rethink your strategy. There are no “rules” when spending time with Jesus.  Anytime you spend with Him is good, but there are distinct advantages for you to start your day with Him.

Spending your mornings with Jesus, even if it was just a quick devotional, gives you something to ponder, pray for, and work on throughout your day. Would you rather make your own plans, work through mishaps, and put out fires on your own?  Or should you spend a bit of time talking to Him about your day, and asking Him for the correct path to take and the strength you need? It’s a great reminder that we can trust and count on Him each minute of the day. It also can serve as a springboard for the brief consultation and prayers with Him during the day.  

When you spend time with God in the morning or another time, it needs to be a heartfelt and engaging time. Spending time with the Lord Jesus each morning isn’t to fulfill some kind of religious duty or perform a ritual. If we just “clock in” and “clock out” without our heart being in it or our spirit engaged, we may develop a habit, but it won’t be an enjoyable one nor will it help us know the Lord more or grow in Him. God doesn’t want empty rhetoric or someone just going through the motions. He wants it to be relationship-building. 

Spend quiet time with God on a regular basis, if not daily, and your life will change. God takes pleasure when we spend time in the Word and fellowship with Him in prayer. When we do, our trust in God grows. We can’t trust God unless we know Him. The only way to truly know Him is by spending time in the Word and really basking in who God is. The more time you spend with someone, the more like them you will become. The same is true of God. As we spend time reading the word and in prayer, we will become more Christ-like. 

Forming this time into your daily schedule will not be easy. Nothing of value is ever easy. The main objective for any of us is disciplining ourselves to have a quiet time every day. Over time, it becomes a habit that is easily repeated. Even better, it will soon become the best and most productive part of your day.

Discussion Question:

  1. Do you have a regular quiet time? Why or why not?
  2. What different ways have you tried to intentionally connect with God?  
  3. What would it take for you to make this a priority in your life in 2022?

Think Like Jesus

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 2:5. 

Years ago, a Fortune 500 company was looking for a mission statement to help employees understand the importance of the customer. They came up with “Think Like a Customer.” It was an attempt to get into the mindset of the customer. Many salespeople tend to lead with their product – that is, to push hard on what they perceive to be the distinguishing characteristics of their product.  Think like a customer helps salespeople focus on what the product can do for the prospect and how they can use the product to achieve a goal or solve a problem.  

This applies to our one word or one phrase for 2022. What if we think like Jesus? When you first read that you probably immediately think about WWJD—what would Jesus do: what would Jesus do is a popular motto for many Christians who strive to live by Jesus’ example in daily life. But what if we wanted to be more basic than that by asking how we can think like Jesus. 

The fundamental thing that separates Christians from everyone else in the world is first and foremost how we think and, only second, what we do. The mind is where we perceive, reason, think, and understand. When we think like Jesus, when we have the mind of Christ, we have His views, His feelings, His temperament, and we are influenced by His Spirit. Although we have been given the mind of Christ, we still have the capability of not thinking like Jesus. We can set our minds on things of this earth rather than heavenly things (Colossians 3:1–3). Our mind regulates what words and actions we express. We think first, then decide, then do. Our minds must be changed and renewed (Romans 12:2) so that we can do God’s will. 

Thinking like Jesus means we don’t think the way we used to think. We don’t have to see people the way we used to see them. And we don’t have to approach life the way we have always approached life. Think about what would happen to our relationships if we think like Jesus.

To be a Jesus thinker: (a) Start with prayer – this is foundational in our attempts to become Jesus thinkers. (b) Examine your life – constantly asking, “Am I thinking like Jesus would?” (c) Read the Bible – looking for new insights that you haven’t noticed before. (d) Set goals on how to grow closer to God.

What can you change today about the way you think? Again, the way we think affects how we behave. Think about how you can serve others. When we’re committed to serving others, then God will work on changing us.

What would Jesus think? Let’s aspire to think like Him.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. How could thinking like Jesus apply to your life? 
  2. How can you think like Jesus in 2022? 

The Power Of One Word

Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will. ” –  Jonathan Edwards 

Most New Year’s resolutions are short-lived. Statistically, 50 percent of resolution-makers fail by the end of January and that number jumps to 90 percent by March. So what if, instead of resolutions we decide on one word for the year: seek God for one word this year and then put one verse with it and trust God’s power to make it happen. 

The premise is simple: lose the long list of resolutions―all your sweeping promises to change―and do something about one thing this year instead of nothing about everything. Choose just one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you, and focus on it for an entire year. Allow that word to direct your life and focus your decisions. This single act will force clarity and concentrate your efforts. As you focus on your word over an extended period of time, you position yourself for God to form your character at a deep, sustainable level. Growth and change will result. 

Spend some time thinking about who you want to be. What kind of person do you want to become? Do you want to have the faith of Abraham? The patience of Job?  The courage of Daniel? The Grace of Esther? The Surrender of Mary? The Joy of Paul? The bible is full of people of whose character, for the most part, can be summed up in a single word. What one word do we want to exhibit in our own life?

What is God saying to you this past year?  What area does God want to take hold of in your life and use for His glory? How does God want to position you for the upcoming year? So what will your word be? It may be a word that The Lord has laid in your heart and mind. Maybe that word is bolder as an example; you want to live and speak more boldly for Jesus Christ. 

How badly do you want to be bolder in 2022? Do we want it enough to ask, seek, and knock until God answers? But for that to happen, we cannot be content simply wishing we were bolder all the while staying where we feel safe and relatively comfortable. Boldness is not constant or taken for granted. We need to focus on being bolder. We must keep praying for it whenever we need it. Even the apostle Paul experienced this. “I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.” (Ephesians 6:20). If we want to be bolder we need to incorporate boldness into our daily life. So when opportunities come our way to be bold we are ready to seize that opportunity.  

The one-word exercise brings simplicity and focus. It cuts through the distractions and keeps us focused on what really matters. It has stretched us in all areas: spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and financially. God will transform you through this exercise. 

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What’s one thing you would like to change about yourself or accomplish this year?
  2. What’s your one word? How will this word help bring focus to your life?
  3. What verse have you chosen to go with your one word? How does this verse apply to your one word?

Small Things, Big Differences

“Then another message came to me from the Lord: Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sent me. Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” ― Zechariah 4:8-10.

John Wooden, the famous basketball coach, said, “It’s the little things that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” Change doesn’t happen on its own. It has to be intentional. You can’t lose weight just by thinking about it. You can’t stop bad habits by writing them down on a piece of paper and drawing a line through them. It takes more.

The same thing is true of spiritual growth. Life change is always a process of focusing on one small thing and then making incremental steps in the right direction that lead us to where we want and need to be. Big things in life have an impact on us, to be sure, yet when you stop to think about it, the little things often carry an even greater impact.

Jesus understood that. Jesus always placed great emphasis on little things. Just look at His parables. Every one of His stories dealt with some big spiritual issue, but have you noticed that in the telling of the story, He always focused on the little things of life—like the hairs on a person’s head or birds, or flowers of the field or seeds or weeds or lost coins. He noticed the little things; like the slightest touching of His garment by a woman who had been ill for years, like the tax collector perched on the branch of a tree, like a widow dropping her little coins into the offering plate.  

That is good news for each one of us because our life is not typically an ongoing series of large events spiritually. Very few people are going to have an impact on tens of thousands of people. Most of us tend to sweat the small stuff. But sometimes in our walk with the Lord, we neglect what we might perceive as “the little things” due to our hectic schedules. We forget that daily time with God in His Word, prayer, and serving others all help us learn to be faithful. Luke 16:10 tells us, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” In other words, how we handle small stuff makes a huge difference in how we’ll handle the big stuff.

The little things may end up being more important than we realize. Conversations with a friend, listening to someone who is hurting, thank-you cards, phone calls, buying groceries, cutting somebody’s grass, or just treating a stranger with respect can have a greater impact than we realize.  Little things do matter. Unfortunately, we cannot predict which little thing will make a big difference in someone’s life. But that should not stop us from doing them because little things matter and only God knows how much.

If little things can make a big difference to Jesus, then little things can make a big difference for us.  

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Think about your past attempts to change. Have you made resolutions or sweeping promises to change? How well did it work?
  2. How can little things make a difference in our walk with God?