Called To Love

“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8.

What does God say about love? What is love according to the Bible?  We have been given an abundance of Bible verses about loving others, so we can assume it’s important. For example, John 13:34-35 (TPT) says, “So I give you now a new commandment: Love each other just as much as I have loved you. For when you demonstrate the same love I have for you by loving one another, everyone will know that you’re my true followers…”

We are commanded to love one another as Jesus does. There is not one person Jesus does not love and did not come to save, so by default, we should love everyone we lock eyes with, walk past on the street, hear about in the news, live next door to, or sit next to in class.  Christian love is more than just a nice, heart-warming feeling. No matter what resources or talents we have, we are all called to love.

God’s love in us changes us. Love makes our actions and spiritual gifts useful. Great faith, acts of service, and miracle-working power produce very little without love. Love involves unselfish service to others and shows that you care. Not all of us can preach or teach. Not all of us can sing or play an instrument. Not all of us will go to foreign lands as a missionary. But we can all love and love is the greatest witness of the Christian life. 

Because no matter how edifying the preaching is or the worship, no matter how much we serve in the church, without love it doesn’t mean a whole lot. It was Jesus’ love that drew others to Him. It was love that built the early church and it will be love that will continue to build the church today. When we realize how unconditionally God loves us, we will begin showing that same love to others. When we realize how much He has forgiven us, we will freely forgive those who hurt us. When we realize that everything we have comes from Him, we will generously share with the needy. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, we will passionately share the good news of that love.

Such love is beyond our ability to grasp with our minds, but it is not beyond our ability to experience with our hearts. The more we study it, the more we understand it, the more we realize, we will move steadily beyond our understanding. But it does not mean that we cannot have confidence in the fact that God unconditionally loves us. Know it, cling to it, and remember it; don’t underestimate the love of God for you.

When we look back on our lives, we will no doubt remember events and experiences. But more than that, we’ll remember the people who loved us, respected, encouraged, affirmed us, and helped make our lives better.

As Christians, our love for others is a reflection of who God is. We are called to love God and love others. When we do this, our loving behaviors and attitudes point back to God and who He is.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What’s one way God’s love has changed you?
  2. How is God’s love moving you to show love to others?
  3. What is one way your love for others can point them back to Jesus?

 Our Mission 

So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him.” – Acts 1:6-11. 

Jesus has completed His public ministry. He has proclaimed the good news. He has healed the sick. He has died the death that we all deserve. And He has been raised to life in the resurrection. It’s no wonder then, that the disciples are wondering, “has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” (Acts 1:6) They are wondering if Israel’s everlasting reign and rule have finally arrived. 

Jesus’ answer shocks them. He assures them that His reign and rule are coming, but it is not here yet. In the meantime, He tells them to “be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)

God is behind all of our missions plans and efforts. God chooses to work through His people to accomplish His purposes. He invites them to join Him, bidding them to adjust their lives to Him. The prophet Amos indicated that “Indeed, the Sovereign Lord never does anything until he reveals his plans to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7). When God heard the cry of the children of Israel and decided to deliver them, He appeared to Moses. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God worked in the same way as He did with Moses, inviting His people to be on mission with Him.  God initiates a relationship with us and invites us to join Him.

We should not forget that mission is and always has been God’s before it becomes ours. The entire storyline of the Bible reveals a God of missional activity. God is on mission and we join His mission as His invited guests, His co-laborers. Missions: God starts it, leads it, sustains it, and calls us into His mission.

If we are faithful to join God’s mission, no matter how small or ordinary our contribution may seem to us, God will use it: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)

Discussion Questions:

  1. On a scale of 1–10, how well are you living with an uncluttered pursuit of God’s mission? What influenced your rating? What will you do to move your number closer to 10?

Focus On Jesus 

We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete. He endured the shame of being nailed to a cross, because he knew that later on he would be glad he did. Now he is seated at the right side of God’s throne!”  –  Hebrews 12:2 (CEV).

What does it mean to “fix your eyes on Jesus?” How do we practically live out “focusing on Jesus?” And why are we encouraged to turn our eyes upon Jesus? How does focusing on Jesus help us endure difficult circumstances?

In broad terms, fixing your eyes on Jesus means choosing to take our attention off of our circumstances and place our focus on God. It’s remembering God’s faithfulness in the past, His presence today, and His promises for tomorrow.  It’s remembering His love, mercy, and grace toward us. It’s doing what Paul said in Philippians 4:8 when he said, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” It’s choosing to list all we’re thankful for, even when we’re not feeling particularly thankful. It’s choosing to see our circumstances as God sees them. It’s replacing our human perspective with a kingdom-centered perspective. 

So how do we have that same type of focus? Reading Hebrews 12:2 reminds us to take our eyes off ourselves and our circumstances – off the setbacks or the walls in our lives—and fix them squarely on Christ. Because our focus determines our direction. When we look at ourselves, we see our weaknesses, past failures, and the many excuses we make. But in looking to Jesus, we find strength, forgiveness, and the courage to run our race. No matter how much adversity comes our way or how many disappointments threaten to knock us out of the race, keeping our focus on Jesus will ultimately bring us victory.

The bottom line is entrusting ourselves to Jesus by trusting Him fully. It means turning your eyes away from other things and fixing them on Him. For instance, if you really focus on something, everything else becomes somewhat blurry. It’s the same when you’re using a camera. When you get your subject dialed in, the focus blurs out other elements so your subject stands out more clearly. That’s what it means to look to Jesus. By looking to Him, you’re putting Him first. You’re filling your mind with the Word of God. And that can help you get through whatever you’re going through.  

Colossians 3:1-4 teaches us what life looks like when we’re focused on Jesus: “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.“

Christ is the perfecter of us and our faith. We can trust Him to turn our resolution into reality as we stay focused on Him.

Discussion Questions

  1. We will only live the life we want when our eyes are fixed on Jesus. How will you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus this week? As you fix your eyes on Him, what changes do you expect to see? 
  2. What can we do this week to keep from being distracted and completely focused on God?

What Is Worship?

To be used of God. Is there anything more encouraging, more fulfilling? Perhaps not, but there is something more basic: to meet with God. To linger in His presence, to shut out the noise of the city, and, in quietness, give Him the praise He deserves. Before we engage ourselves in His work, let’s meet Him in His Word… in prayer… in worship.” – Chuck Swindoll

Worshiping Jesus together may be the single most important thing we do. It plays an indispensable role in keeping our spiritual fire burning. Corporate worship brings together God’s word, prayer, and fellowship. God isn’t some insecure cosmic being who waits for His worshippers to remind Him how awesome He is and how desperately they need Him before He decides to intervene. Worshiping together teaches us to submit and surrender all our cares to God – our priorities, plans, hopes, dreams, and even our fears. Worship is essential to a vibrant, thriving Christian life.  

For many people today, “worship” has become synonymous with music. Music is, of course, a way in which we offer up praise and worship to God – but worship doesn’t exist solely within the confines of a song, service, or an experience. True worship isn’t a single simple act of song or praise, just as it isn’t only an event that we attend on a Sunday morning. True worship is a lifestyle, to put it another way: our life is our worship.

We worship God when we attend a small group during the week. We worship God when we serve by helping with the kids’ programs. We worship God when we pray for others. We worship God when we love our neighbors. We worship God when we forgive the people who have hurt us. We worship God when we go on short-term mission trips. We worship God when we visit a friend who is struggling or encourage each other over coffee or tea. We worship God when we pray for others. We worship God when we deliver a meal and celebrate the friends he has surrounded us with.

A life of worship is a life-long pursuit. Building a life of worship will take work and commitment. God is always revealing our need to grow and mature into Him, as He finishes the good work in us. Living a life of worship is the path toward realizing the good life. As we examine the purpose of our lives and worship, don’t expect to take the practices of worship and jam them into your already busy life. These practices aren’t to be added to your life, they are to serve as the very foundation of your life; each aspect of your life and work should revolve around living a life of worship. 

The way that you live, let that be worship. Only through the giving and submitting of our entire lives can we rightly worship God and fulfill our purpose and mission on this earth.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read Romans 12: 1-2: What does verse 2 of the passage add to your understanding of true worship?
  2. In your own words, what is the difference between attending worship and living in worship?
  3. What can we do this week to live our lives as an act of worship?   


“And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” – Matthew 6:13. 

It was Oscar Wilde who said, “I can resist everything except temptation.” It would be hard to disagree with him.  We are tempted every day, whether we notice it or not. The enemy doesn’t like committed Christians and will go to great lengths to persuade us to go after our own desires and wants instead of doing God’s will. Temptation is an ongoing struggle. 

James 1:14 says, “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.” What James is saying is that temptation is a lure. We are being lured all day long by temptation. Temptation is not a sin. You don’t have to feel guilty about temptation. Temptation simply means you are human. Remember, Jesus was tempted.  Yet, Hebrews 4:15 also tells us Jesus “faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” It’s not temptation that is wrong, it’s what you choose to do with it that matters. Temptations are battlegrounds to demonstrate what our heart desires.  The key to fighting temptation is not only to avoid the temptation but to desire Christ above everything else.

The good news is we don’t have to be controlled by or give in to temptation if we choose not to. God has given each of us, a powerful mind, and when our thoughts are controlled our actions will fall in line. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” This is a powerful promise, which means that whatever we are being tempted with, God already has an escape plan. We just have to rely on His power to resist temptation. This text is also telling us that even in the midst of the enemy’s temptation, God is still in control. There is nothing that happens to us without God’s knowledge and without His consent.

Temptation will always be there in one form or another. But as we fight temptation and pursue God, we begin to love what He loves, and hate what He hates. Our confidence in our willpower fades, and our hope focuses on Jesus.

Know that if you give in to temptation, the Lord still loves you. God knows you aren’t perfect, and God still wants you near Him. Know God’s grace is new for you every morning. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness;  his mercies begin afresh each morning.”  

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you protect yourself from the lure of temptation? 
  2. What can you do this week to escape the lure of temptation? 

The Best Is Yet To Come

“Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act.” – Exodus 2:23-25.

Are the best days of your life behind or in front of you? Our outlook on life—and our answer to that question—can change with time. When we’re younger, we look ahead, wanting to grow up. And once we’ve grown older, we yearn for the past, wanting to be young again. But when we walk with God, whatever our age, the best is yet to come. 

Moses is a case in point. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh feared that one day the Israelites would turn against the Egyptians. So he ordered a terrible punishment – all the first-born male babies of the Israelites were to be killed.  Moses was one of those baby boys. But he managed to escape and, ironically, he ended up growing up in Pharaoh’s palace.  But, after 40 years of living in privilege, Moses found himself on the run for murder. He arrived in Midian which was in the desert; basically in the middle of nowhere. 

Sometimes we can feel like we’ve ended up in the middle of nowhere – like Moses, miles from the comfort of Pharaoh’s palace, herding sheep far from civilization.  It’s as though God has taken us out of the game and put us on a shelf – somewhere obscure and hidden, and so we think that our best days are behind us. God often does His greatest works in the wilderness, in those places where we feel as though our best days will never be repeated. Our future looks anything but bright. 

But God is doing things in the Median desert that we can’t even begin to imagine. When we least expect it, He comes along and says, “I have a plan for you.” Moses was probably expecting to spend the rest of his old age (he was 80 years old by then), in the wilderness. God had other plans, however. The best was yet to come for Moses. God isn’t finished with us yet either. The bottom line is, everyone knows our days are numbered, so we should be capitalizing on the moments we do have by living life in a way that matters.

Psalm 68:19 says, “Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.” God gives us time in 24-hour increments. We simply have to trust Him, focus on His direction for today and be present in the moment. We do that by living a purpose-driven life, not a time-driven life. Because what is truly important is not how much time we have but what we do with the time we have.

Theologian Jonathan Edwards wrote “Resolved: Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can. Resolved: to live with all my might while I do live. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, did I make wise use of my time?”

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does Moses’ experience change your perspective on what you’re going through at the moment?
  2. What are the benefits of expecting your best days to be ahead of you, not behind you? What are the things that need to be shed from your thought life in order to do that?

Making Wise Use Of Your Time

“So be very careful how you live, not being like those with no understanding, but live honorably with true wisdom, for we are living in evil times. Take full advantage of every day as you spend your life for his purposes.” ― Ephesians 5:15-16 (TPT) 

Effective management requires effective measurement. A person who has no idea how much money he has earned, and spends can make no claim to managing his finances. If expenditures exceed reserves plus earnings, the ledger is in the red regardless of the amount of earnings. Time is much the same. We cannot spend more than we have and we can make no claim to managing it if we don’t keep track of how we spend it. Unlike money, we can’t make more of it.  

It is pretty hard to have a real sense of time. If you set a timer for 30 minutes and then went about your business (without looking at a watch or clock) how close would you be to guessing when the 30 minutes are up? The average person does not come very close. 

The amount of time that may be measured out in your life is not nearly as important as how you use the time you have. Every person has a fixed allotment of time, but no one knows when his allotment is up. That is why you had better make the most of every moment.The Apostle Paul urged people to take advantage of every day because life at its longest is really short. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

The King James Version of Ephesians 5:16 uses the words “redeeming the time.”   In Biblical times, when a slave was redeemed: he was bought at a price, paid in full, and set free. It’s a striking picture of what Jesus did for each one of us. He bought us for a price, His blood, set us free. He redeemed each of us.  And this is the language Paul uses in relation to time: Redeem it and use it for a completely new purpose.  So much out of our time is out of our control, however. We’re stuck in traffic, or waiting in line at the DMV, or waiting in a conference room for a business meeting to start. Time is often our boss and not always a good boss.  

We redeem it by praying while waiting for the light on 98. Spend the time at the DMV memorizing that passage of scripture you have on your to-do list. Spending a few minutes talking to God when you are sitting alone in the conference room. When circumstances arise, ask God how you might, there and then, redeem the time.  

Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” God longs to teach us how to use our days wisely. He longs to give us a heart of wisdom that we might center our lives around Him.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can we make the most of our time? What kind of activities redeem the time?
  2. What can we do this week to make better use of our time? 

Today Is Going To Be A Great Day

“It’s day one of the rest of my life

It’s day one of the best of my life

I’m marching on to the beat of a brand new drum

Yeah, here I come

The future has begun

Day one”  – Matthew West  “Day One.” song lyrics.  

Matthew West is reminding us that today is a new day. Today is day one of the best of our life. 

Psalm 118:24 tells us that “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” 

Today is God’s gift to you. What you do with this gift is so important because today is the only day that truly belongs to you. All this means is that we miss opportunities if we are not focused on the here and now. God could be calling us to do great things today, but we are too focused on the past or looking ahead to the future, we can miss what is happening right in front of us. 

Imagine waking up every single day convinced that the twenty-four hours ahead of you are a precious gift to be used wisely. Now imagine that you know exactly how to spend them to be a force for God’s good. Living in the moment requires us to be intentional.  The moment that you are currently living in will not last forever. Your life, your time here on this earth, is limited. Psalm 39:4-5 says, “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.”

In other words, the right time is now. And yet, so many of us are living our lives with this mindset of when this happens then I will do that. “In a few months once I know people better then I will start serving in the church.” Or “when I have acquired more knowledge of scripture then I will invite my neighbors to church.”  The question is what if your “when” never happens. Each day is an opportunity and we need to ask God to turn our “then” into now. The right time is now.

How, then, do we walk out unwavering joy-filled faith every day, determined to let go of the things that keep us from experiencing abundant life and fulfilling the plans God has for us? The answers are found in following the footsteps of the One who lived fully because He was determined that we might do the same. 

To make the most out of today, we need to be focused on what matters: our relationship with God, our relationships with our family and our friends, and fulfilling the unique purpose for which God created us and placed us here on this earth.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does God show up in your life on a daily basis?
  2. What can you do this week to live in the moment and make the best out of each day?  

How Well Do You Know Jesus?

“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ.” – Colossians 1:15-19

Paul told the church in Philippi that nothing was more important to him than knowing Christ (Philippians 3). It is impossible to know God too well. He is the most important person who exists. On every scale of excellence, He is infinitely greater than the best person you ever knew or ever heard of.  

No one ever disagrees that knowing God is central to the life of a Christian. We can know about God, but that is quite different from knowing God. What does it mean to know God? The idea of knowing God can seem abstract. It can seem like a pie-in-the-sky concept that most people can never attain. But you can know God. 

You need to know who He claimed to be, eternal God in human flesh. You must know some of the things He did and taught. You need to understand that He died on the cross for your sins and that He was raised bodily from the dead. But beyond these facts, you need to know Christ personally. That relationship begins at the moment you recognize that your sins have separated you from God and that you need a Savior. 

We can only know Him as He has chosen to reveal Himself. That revelation comes through His written Word. “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.” (Hebrews. 1:1-3).

Thus we come to know God through Jesus Christ, and we come to know Him through His Word which tells us of Him. The Old Testament points ahead to Christ; the New Testament tells us of His life, His death for our sins, and His resurrection and present reign in heaven. It also tells us of His coming again and His future kingdom. It expounds on His teaching and reveals His will for His people. We can never know Him fully because He is infinite and we are finite. But we can know Him definitely as Savior and Lord and we can and must spend our lives focused on the goal “to know Him.” 

As we come to know Jesus, we will become more and more like Him because we will know what to imitate. But it is still a difficult challenge. What can we do, what do we need to know that will help us agree with and live according to this purpose of becoming like Christ?  So how well do you know Jesus?

 Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to you to “know” God?   
  2. What can we do in the short-term to better know God?  

Jesus Never Rushed

“Here’s my point: the solution to an overbusy life is not more time. It’s to slow down and simplify our lives around what really matters.” ― John Mark Comer. 

We have more technology at our fingertips than those before us experienced throughout their entire lifetimes. This efficiency hasn’t helped us slow down however; it’s only made us move faster. We can message someone across the world in an instant, but we’re increasingly disconnected in our relationships. Hurry and hustle are swiftly eating up our time—and maybe even our peace of mind. Is this the way Jesus lived?

When you read the gospels, do you get a sense Jesus is rushing from one thing to another as we do from meeting to meeting? The answer is no. He didn’t rush. You never get the sense that he was “checking his watch” and or that people were going to make Him late with their requests. He often took time to minister to someone while He was on His way to minister to someone else (For example, Jairus and the woman who suffered from constant bleeding found in Mark 5:21-43).

Jesus had a lot on His plate. But think about it. He lived a full and obedient life without ever running out of time. He never used an hour uselessly.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Jesus lived the most purposeful life ever lived and at the same time was never rushed.  

Jesus knew His limits. He didn’t try to be in three places at once or cram 30 hours’ worth of activity into 12 hours of daylight. Consider that Jesus didn’t start His ministry until he was 30.  He accepted His limitations and lived life at a godly pace. The question is why do we have such a hard time doing the same thing. 

Corrie ten Boom once said that if the devil can’t make you sin, he’ll make you busy. Her logic is sound: both sin and busyness have the exact same effect—they cut off our connection to God, and to other people.  It is easy to be so busy that we don’t live spiritually rich and vibrant lives. You are probably thinking right now busyness has a healthy side. You are right. There is a healthy kind of busyness where your life is full of things that matter, not wasted on empty leisure or trivial pursuits. By that definition, Jesus himself was busy.

The problem isn’t when you have a lot to do; it’s when you have too much to do, and the only way to keep all the balls in the air is to constantly hurry and then hurry a little more. Look for ways to slow down. As you move through your day, pay attention to the feelings of hurry, stress, distraction, or irritation that you feel. Notice how they inhibit your ability to be live the life God calls us to live. Consider pausing 2-3 times during this day to simply breathe, take in God’s loving presence, and the beauty all around you. 

 When we come to Jesus, in the middle of our busyness, He gives us rest.  And we can go about our day, packed as it may be, settled and at peace knowing He is with us and within us, guiding and leading us to do what is most important.

 Discussion Questions:

  1. There is plenty of time to do each day what God would have us do without rushing. Agree or disagree and why? 
  2.  What can you do this week to prevent being in too much of a rush?