What The World Needs Right Now Is Love

“But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love…We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” – 1 John 4:8,16.  

We have lived in the 20th and 21st centuries, and pretty much everyone agrees, we are living in difficult, troubled times. There is plenty of trouble and struggle to go around. It seems we’re always facing natural disasters, wars or threat of wars, famine in some parts of the world, and political upheaval. And now, of course, we have COVID-19. But we also have the love of God.  

The Apostle John’s twice-repeated statement, “God is love” is one of the strongest statements in the Bible. John seemed overwhelmed by the reality of God’s love. Over and over again, he wrote about this love because he knew that God’s love is pure, the perfect motivation. His love has power. It casts out fear and overcomes worry, doubt, and anxiety. This love is forgiving and kind. It is practical and applies in every situation we face. God’s love changes lives and is exactly what we need right now.  The world needs Christ followers loving each other in a manner worthy of the One they’re following. The world needs people to love like Jesus.

Why? Because I know it’s the best way to live. When we love like Jesus, we’re lifted outside ourselves. We put aside self-interest — with our spouse, our kids, friends, everyone. His brand of love enables us to look over the walls of resentment. When we love like Jesus, we rise above petty demands and a sense of entitlement. We stop looking inward and look for ways to put others’ interests ahead of our own. That’s the essence of the love Jesus gives and requires.

The good news is we can get better and better at loving like Jesus. We can find His love because fortunately, this love isn’t illusive. It isn’t just theoretical. It isn’t pie-in-the-sky. It isn’t out-of-reach. It isn’t reserved for more spiritual Christians.  It’s real and Jesus gives us practical steps to love in extraordinary ways in His word.

So during these uncertain times, let love guide your work, your ministry, your relationships, your studies, and your life. Invest some time in trying to grasp how wide, and deep, and high, and strong, and amazing is the love of Christ. And when you get a glimpse of it, don’t hoard it. Share it. Tell it. Live it. Demonstrate it. Let God’s love not only come to you but through you to others. Love has the ability to change lives in difficult times. So focus your thoughts on God right now. Love Him unconditionally. Thank Him for His love. And let that love flow to people all around you.

Because what the world needs now – above all – is love.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is there a difference between saying you love someone and actually loving them? 
  2. What does it mean to love like Jesus? 
  3. Which person in your life do you most want to love like Jesus? Why? And what specifically can you do today for that person?

God is light

This is the life-giving message we heard him share and it’s still ringing in our ears. We now repeat his words to you: God is pure light. You will never find even a trace of darkness in him.” –  1 John 1:5 (TPT). 

C.S. Lewis wrote about an experience in a toolshed in his book of essays entitled God in the Dock: “I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead, I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.”

Such is the power of light. The first picture of God that John wants to put before us is this picture of God as light. “God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all (NLT).” It means that if you draw near to God, you do not find the dark, you find freedom and hope and joy. In God, the legos on the floor, the bedposts, the low hanging branches, the potholes, the spider webs are all illuminated and we are safe from them. That is, there are no lurking shadows in God. There is no hidden agenda, no small print. He is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.

Coming to God is not like buying a used car. You see an ad for a used car and it sounds like an awesome deal. It may seem like a light has been shown on your transportation needs. But when you go check it out you find darkness instead of life; there are a lot of problems that did not show up on the advertisement and in the light of this information, the car is not the good value you thought it was. God is not like that. He is light and in Him is no darkness at all. There is no small print qualifying the brightness of His glory. No false advertising or missing parts of malfunctioning engines. 

God is all light and light shows me what still needs cleaning up in my life, big or small. Without the light I am in darkness and can’t see the sin in my life, and how I need to be transformed. Light is judgment; and when we, step by step, enter into the light and are willing to step out of darkness, we are transformed into Jesus’ image.

When I love the light, I seek for it to shine into every area of my life, so that sin can be exposed. I become a child of the light. Where the light shines new growth comes. Love, joy, kindness, long-suffering, and all the fruits of the Spirit grow in the light. Ephesians 5:8 says, “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!

Let’s all make it our daily goal to fix our thoughts on these things and live as people of the light.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the power of light? Why is it so important? How does this attest to the importance of Jesus?
  2. How has Jesus shone his light into your life?
  3. What does walking in the light mean to you?  

Wait Confidently

 “ For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!”-  Isaiah 64:4.    

This is the time of year when we start to think of the new Year. For many, 2020 is the year that can’t go away fast enough. People across the country are getting restless waiting for the pandemic to end. In January, no one would have believed that we would still be dealing with the pandemic.  

We are growing accustomed to the changes in our life that COVID-19 has necessitated. And we continue to pray and wait. God calls us to wait without understanding all the details. God asks us to trust Him even when our impatience is growing us and frustration is setting in daily. God asks us to trust His sovereign, wide-scope view of the situation which is far greater than we could ever imagine.

So this year has been a test in waiting. In some cases we were successful and in some cases, we wanted to run ahead. Over and over, the Israelites also decided to run ahead of God’s best for them. They grew weary of waiting for God to fulfill His promises. They wondered if God had their best in mind, or if He could be trusted at all. But Isaiah offered them hope: “For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” (Isaiah 64:4)  

Isaiah wanted to raise the Israelites’ view of God so they would learn to trust Him more. He wanted to remind them that no other god can do what God can do. No one can perceive, hear, or see God’s plan until He reveals it.  When we understand God is good, we can trust He has good in store for us.  

Maybe you are struggling to wait for God’s best. Everything in your heart, mind, or flesh may be crying out for a shortcut — one that will relieve the pressures of life right now. This time of waiting is sometimes hard, but we must press in and seek Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and spirit and not grow weary. We can be down in the valley and at our lowest point; but if we can just pause and focus on Jesus, He will help us to endure the wait.

God’s timing is always perfect and until you have a clear word from God be still, stay where you are, and press in. He will answer. He promises if you seek Him you will find Him. We must trust Him and know that His plan and timing is always the very best for our life. Wait with great expectation and know that our Father in Heaven will answer. “A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a vain hope for victory,  and by its great might it cannot save. . . .Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,  even as we hope in you.” (Psalm 33:16–22)

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you experienced a situation when God was late that still doesn’t make sense? What’s it like to go through that?
  2. God’s delays are not God’s denials. Agree or disagree and why? 
  3. What difficult situations or circumstances in your life do you need to trust God’s timing in?

The Waiting Game

“…Jesus instructed them, “Don’t leave Jerusalem, but wait here until you receive the gift I told you about, the gift the Father has promised. For John baptized you in water, but in a few days from now you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit!” – Acts 1:4-5.

Most of us do not enjoy sitting in a waiting room. doctor office, hospital waiting room, or heaven forbid outside an IRS office. But waiting rooms are a way of life.  In fact, we are all in a waiting room of sorts with this pandemic – waiting to see when life will return to normal, or at least free us up to do many of the things we took for granted but now can’t do.  

Sometimes God puts us in a waiting room as a part of our experience in the Christian life. And waiting on the Lord may be one of the more difficult aspects of the Christian life.  When Jesus left earth to go back to heaven, He told His followers that He would return, and that they needed to wait. And that’s what we are doing right now, too – waiting on His return.

Most of us have heard the old adage, “Don’t just stand there – do something.” Oftentimes, God says to us, “Don’t just do something – stand there.” We feel better, more valuable, have more meaning if we are doing something – If we’re busy. But waiting means that we are going to trust that God knows what He is doing. Waiting is not easy, but it is often exactly what God wants us to do so He can take us to a new, deeper place in our walk with Him.

The apostles were also waiting because Jesus was going to send the Holy Spirit to them after He left. They were to wait until the Spirit came to them, which He did on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. And when the Holy Spirit came to them, He transformed them into the vessels that God would use to take the Gospel to the world.

Most people define the word “wait” as being patient and still. But it can be more than that. It could well be that the Lord wants us to be patient and still during the pandemic, but it also could mean that He is asking us to be expectantly watchful. In other words to wait on the Lord like a waiter watches his or her customers.  The pandemic will either frustrate us or the opportunities will intrigue and motivate us. Waiting can also be productive. 

While we are waiting we can spend more time on relationships rather than interacting with groups. We can discover unique qualities and characteristics in people that we would never have known if part of a group. We can connect with people who moved away.  We can spend more time in prayer. We can reconnect with old friends. And we can be available as needs arise while we are waiting. 

And while we are waiting we can ask the Holy Spirit to show us how we can serve in this season of limitations. We may need to wait and be patient, but it doesn’t hurt to be productive even when we are waiting.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. What’s something you’re currently waiting for God to do for you? What might He be doing in you?
  2. Why do you think God’s timing is different from ours? What could be so different about our perspective?  What do you typically do while you are waiting? 

The Majesty of God

“Lord, your name is so great and powerful! People everywhere see your splendor. Your glorious majesty streams from the heavens, filling the earth with the fame of your name!” – Psalm 8:1 (TPT)

Have you ever stopped what you were doing and wondered about the bigness or the majesty of God? Have you ever found yourself absolutely intrigued by the wonder of God’s creation?  Did you ever look up at the stars and were mesmerized by the vastness of space? When we take ourselves out of our normal everyday existence and see the world from a different point of view it is hard to not stand in awe of the majesty of Who God is to each one of us.

Majesty is a word which the Bible uses to express the thought of the greatness of God, our Maker, and our Lord. “The Lord is king! He is robed in majesty. Indeed, the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength…Your throne, O Lord, has stood from time immemorial. You yourself are from the everlasting past.” (Psalm 93:1-2). “I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles.” (Psalm 145:5). And Peter said in 2 Peter 1:16, “For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes.” 

When the prophet Isaiah had a vision of God seated on His throne, he was undone by God’s majesty and His holiness: “It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” (Isaiah 6:1-3) In verse 6 Isaiah says, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

Isaiah recognized that he could not stand before the God of all Ages, before His majesty and holiness, and not have his sins exposed. As you read through this passage in Isaiah, you imagine the Lord, high and lifted up, you have the same reaction. “I, too am doomed.” 

Then you remember Immanuel, God with us, the One whom God sent to restore us and to enable each of us to be in His presence. When we catch but a glimpse of God’s glory, His holiness, and His majesty, we are forever changed. God’s majesty is something we will never understand. But what we can understand is the majesty of a relationship with the One who clothes Himself with majesty.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. When you hear the word “glory” what do you think of?  Why?
  2. What is one practical thing you can do this week to better appreciate the majesty of God? 

You Have A Reserved Parking Spot

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:9.

Significant events tend to be hard-wired into our consciousness. We remember details about where we were, what we were doing, and who we were with at the moment it happened. Older people can tell you what they were doing when President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 while younger people can tell you where they were when they first heard about the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. But it is not related to negative events only. Time momentarily freezes, and we remember what was going on when we asked or were asked to marry or when we heard about the arrival of our first child or grandchild. Those tend to be indelible moments. 

Such an event or moment is when we first came to Christ. Many Christians can tell you all about their conversion. That day is unshakable from our minds. It could be at church, or at camp, or at home, but wherever it happened, we all encounter the reality of all Christ had done hitting us with unmistakable force. You don’t understand why but for the first time in your life you felt that you were here for a purpose and for some strange reason you felt a love that you had never experienced before flood your heart. You wanted to be in church every time it opened not just on Sunday. If the doors opened you were there, if they needed volunteers you were there, if there was a need that needed to be filled you were there. You just couldn’t get enough. But things have changed. Over the years that zeal for anything Jesus has not waned but moved down the priority list due to all the unforeseen events of 2020. The scars of Hurricane Michael are still seen all over the Emerald Coast. The Coronavirus has a cause and effect on every aspect of our life including our spiritual life. 

While the day we are saved was memorable it is not an end-all. Rather than thinking of salvation as an event in time, imagine it more like a parking space. When you first got saved, confessing Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you “parked ” in that space. Later on, when things when south when circumstances test your faith, you don’t need to recall the memory of parking in that spot. You need to just look down and see that you are currently still parked. And the proof that God has reserved that spot for you is better proof than a past memory.

The question is where are you resting the “weight” of your life? Faith is resting your weight on Christ’s finished work, and that is something you never stop doing. The way you know you are doing it now is not by remembering when you first started doing it, but by reflecting on the present posture of your heart. So the question is not, “can I remember the exact circumstances of my conversion” or “was my conversion experience really epic?” The important question is, “are you focused on developing the skill you already have and learning new ones, to increase in the knowledge of the things of God, and to grow spiritually?”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you remember the date and circumstances of when you were saved?  
  2. We know from 1 Corinthians 3:7 that “only God makes things grow.” What effect does that statement have on you on a weekly basis? 

The Use Or Misuse Of Money

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” – 1 Timothy 6.6-10.

Most people refrain from talking about money. Most people don’t want to think about how they spend their money. We just acquire it and it seems to spend itself. We don’t tend to think much about money itself but rather what money can get for us. Or where money can take us. Money is not bad, it is a tool; a tool that can be used or misused. The Bible says more about the impact of money, greed, and our resources on people than He did about heaven and hell. 

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13.5) Matthew 6:19-20 adds, “ Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”

There is a pretty well known story in Luke 12 about a rich fool. The rich fool had it made. His life was one great success story. The things he had dreamed about for a lifetime were about to happen. After working hard all his life, he had reached the point where he could take life easy. One more bumper crop, one more expansion of his business, and he was ready to retire and enjoy the rewards of a lifelong effort to make the grade.

And who could blame him? When you’ve worked hard all your life and you have managed to build up your investment portfolio, when you have faithfully added to your 401K and have done well in your career or business, you feel you have earned the right to say, “It is time to take it easy.” You feel you have laid up plenty of good things for many years. What could be wrong with that? In the parable of the rich fool, the Lord answers that question. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying some of the fruits of our labors. But the rich fool had missed the point of his life: he had not been rich toward God.

As we near the end of another year, we need to ask not only whether our investments did well in 2020. The critical question to ask is “Have we been rich toward God?” Have we have been generous toward those who need to see God’s love through our support and care.

We want our money to reveal our love for God, His kingdom, His priorities and His people. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How are your actions backing up your talking when it comes to practicing good stewardship of the money entrusted to us?
  2. What changes do you need to make to be better stewards of your money? 

Faithful In Small Things. Faithful In Big Things.

 “One day Jesse said to David, “Take this basket of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread, and carry them quickly to your brothers. 18 And give these ten cuts of cheese to their captain. See how your brothers are getting along, and bring back a report on how they are doing.”-  I Samuel 17:17-18.

Most people know the story of David and Goliath. But the back story is not near as exciting. Family patriarch Jesse was interested in how the war was going with the Philistines, so he asked David to go and see how his brothers were doing. Remember this happens right after David was told he would be king in 1 Samuel 16. And now the future king was asked to take grain and cheese to his brothers. The one who was going to be king was turned into a glorified messenger boy.  

David was probably not very pleased but he did what his father told him to do. He dutifully delivers the grain and cheese at the very place where he would face Goliath and where his actions would put him in the spotlight and make him a national hero. We remember the epic battle with Goliath, but we also need to remember that if David had refused to carry food to his brothers, had David felt this task to be beneath him, had David asserted some authority and refused to serve his father and brothers in this manner, he never would’ve had the opportunity to face Goliath. It was his faithfulness in the small things that led him to his moment of greatness.

David killed the giant. It was a big, miraculous, God-intervening-and-guiding-the-next-events moment. But we need to remember, David served as a shepherd, spending hours watching and tending to sheep. In those long, boring, mundane days, he practiced using a rod to defend those sheep against predators. He became deadly accurate with the slingshot. In essence, God prepared David in the mundane, seemingly small task of shepherding for this great moment in his life. David’s faithfulness in the little things, in doing what God called him to in his younger years is what gave David the necessary skills for this later task. 

When you have big dreams, small things can sometimes be frustrating. It is easy to get impatient and want to move onto bigger and better things. Zechariah 4:10 tells us, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…”  It’s progress that pleases Him. There are many important lessons to be learned before heading to bigger and better things. Faithfully adhering to those seemingly lesser duties and small things lay the groundwork for the later, bigger moments. Showing up, working hard, learning from mistakes, and a willingness to do whatever it takes provides the needed skills to later have the spotlight moments. This principle can be applied in many ways, for instance in marriage, or parents working with children or bosses with employees, or generally in relationships. Or starting small in tithing or being generous. To get to where we want to be, we need to be responsible for the small things and then move onto larger things once we prove ourselves trustworthy. 

Like David in the field or carrying bread and cheese to his brothers, faithfulness in the little tasks is what leads us to serve well on the larger stages of life.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is there big power in doing small things well?
  2. Do you believe that doing the small things well will make a big difference? 
  3. In what area this week do we need to start small, but start?  

Managing Money Wisely

“Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.” (Proverbs 27:23 NIV) 

In his day, John D. Rockefeller was one of the richest men in the world. His net worth was equivalent to $340 billion today. Basically, he had a limitless supply of money. Once, an interviewer asked him, “How much money is enough?” Rockefeller replied, “Just a little bit more!” As outrageous and greedy as that sounds, we have all probably voiced that same sentiment.  “If only I had just a little bit more….” But managing money has less to do with how much we have, and a lot more to do with how we manage what we have.  

Managing money is a spiritual issue. Jesus spoke more about money than He did about any other topic? Money mattered to Jesus, because it is a leading indicator of our relationship with Jesus. So how do we manage our money as God intended. It is simpler than most people think. As in all things Jesus serves as an example.  

Jesus lived a life of single kindness and simplicity because of a heart that was anchored completely in God the Father. He declared in John 4:34: “…My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.”  Psalm 27:4 says, “The one thing I ask of the Lord—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,  delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.” We  need the same singular focus on seeking God first in everything, including managing our money.  

In 2020, our lives have become more fractured and fragmented. Our decisions change constantly because the information we use to make those decisions change constantly. We need simplicity. We must realize that money cannot give us security, freedom, status and power. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have any. Managing your money spiritually is more about mastering your money rather than not having any. In other words, the answer is not to reject wealth but to control its use. If we can control our money, then it will not control us.  

A case in point is found in Exodus 12:35–36: When the Israelites left Egypt, they took with them gold and silver. At Mount Sinai, this was used to erect the golden calf that brought down the curse of God. However, later, the same gold and silver was used to build the Tabernacle that brought down the manifested presence of God. The problem was not the gold and silver, it was how they used it. 

Everything we have comes from God. He owns it, and He entrusts it to us to use for His purposes. True financial success comes not from accumulating a large surplus in our bank account, but from following God’s plan for our finances. As we do this, He will provide for all of our needs.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How well do you think you manage your money? 
  2. How well do you think God thinks you manage your money? 
  3. What do you need to do differently to have the same answer to both questions?

The Wonder Of The Incarnation

“The Son of God became man to enable men to become the sons of God.” — C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity“

It is 56 days until Christmas. But regardless of what the calendar says, there is something about the beauty and mystery of Christmas that is inspiring. The word incarnation captures so much of what Christmas means to Christians around the world. It is easy sometimes to rush over the story of Christmas and move quickly on to Easter. Every believer can appreciate the importance of Easter to the gospel message, but we should never move too quickly past the incarnation. How can we not pause for a moment and try to grasp the concept of the Creator becoming part of His creation? God entering the world, not as a conquering hero, but as an infant child totally dependent on a young mother for everything.

The idea of the incarnation is both so amazingly unexpected and yet so beautifully loving. Here is God, willing to fully experience His own creation in the most intimate of ways. He had equality with God: He was infinitely superior to us, but He came down, walked among us, and treated us as more significant than Himself. Then He taught us to do the same with one another: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) 

The baby born at Bethlehem was God made man. The Word had become flesh: a real human baby. He had not ceased to be God. He who made man was now learning what it felt like to be man.  The mystery of the Incarnation is unfathomable. We cannot explain it; we can only appreciate it. God coming to Earth to be with us. 

Charles Spurgeon put it this way: “Can you conceive the increasing wonder of the heavenly hosts when the great deed was actually done, when they saw His priceless tiara taken off, when they watched Him unbind His girdle of stars, and cast away His sandals of gold? Can you conceive what must have been the astonishment of the angels when He said to them, ‘I do not disdain the womb of the virgin; I am going down to earth to become a man’? Can you picture them as they declared that they would follow Him? They followed Him as near as He would permit them; and when they came to earth, they began to sing, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men… in the dilapidated stable where the oxen stood, and in the manger where they fed, there the Savior lies, swathed in the swaddling bands of the children of poverty. Nor doth He rest long there; on a sudden, His mother must carry Him to Egypt; He must go there, and become a stranger in a strange land. When He came back and grew up at Nazareth, the angels must have marveled to see Him that made the worlds handle the hammer and the nails, assisting His reputed father in the trade of a carpenter.” 

The incarnation tells so much about God’s desire to be close to us, and His sacrifice of love. But it still fills one with wonder.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What comes to mind when you think of the incarnation?  
  2. How should Christ’s coming in the flesh and dwelling among men change the way we live?