“We are here to love. Not much else matters.” – Francis Chan

In his book Bold Love, Dan Allender tells a story about what his daughter thought were the most important lessons to learn about life. She said, “To work hard, to always do your best, and to never lie.” While those were good answers, Allender couldn’t quit asking himself why the word “love” was conspicuously absent from her list. That’s because love matters most in our lives. The most loving thing we can do for others is to love God and love others.

Loving God and others sound pretty good. But can we do it?  Some people are just annoying. Others are irritating. Sometimes it’s hard enough to love our own family. So, how do we make love a dominating characteristic of our lives? First, we need to have a clear definition of what it is: Love is the deliberate act of valuing someone more than you value yourself. Love is the deliberate act of caring for, and listening to others. Love is wanting others to succeed, to be happy and fulfilled.

A critical first step is to make loving others a priority in your life. Even though we have the freedom to set our own priorities, Jesus made a point of defining certain ones of them for us: “’Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-39). Love is not a gray area. There is no wiggle room. Jesus gave love priority over all other Christian characteristics. Every thought, response, and act of goodwill must be reflected in love, or it means nothing at all.

The more we begin to love, the more we begin to change from within. All of a sudden, we don’t find it as hard to love others anymore, and we get a better picture of what it means to love God—and how deeply He loves us. When we truly, actively begin loving others, we also learn how to love God better.

A struggle for many people is that they think they can’t love others until their heart motive is “right.” So they spend a lot of time checking their heart, asking God to make them more loving. There are so many creative ways to love others, and you don’t have to wait. Venture out in faith and loving feelings will follow the loving actions.

We need to remember that believers are God’s advertisement to the world around us. When we love as He has loved us, it will make all the difference. People will notice.   They will know we are Christians by our love.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to you to reflect God’s love to others? What are some practical ways for you to give others a taste of what the love of God is like?
  2. Is loving others loving as God loves? Is this even practical? 


“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40.

The Pharisees were the keepers of scripture and Biblical law. One of them asked Jesus this question, “which is the most important commandment?” Basically, they wanted Jesus to mentally sift through over 600 laws and distill them down to one. That would be similar to you deciding which Florida law is most important out of the countless laws on the books.

Jesus broke the law down into two commandments from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 when put together they read; “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind … you must love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus was simply saying that if we truly loved God and our neighbor then we would naturally keep all the other commandments.

To become a person who consistently loves others, you first need to be a loving person. To truly love, we must first know God. Love starts with God and ends with God because God is love. We see this in 1 John 4: 7-8 when he writes: “ Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

There is not one person Jesus does not love and did not come to save – this includes everyone you lock eyes with, walk past on the street, hear about in the news, live next door to, stand behind in line at the grocery store, or sit next to in the theater. When we actively love those around us, putting their needs before our own, we are displaying the same amazing love that Jesus has poured out to us.

It is easy to believe love is just a nice, heart-warming feeling. But as Christians, we are called for it to be more than that – we are called to take action. We can share God’s love by noticing the unnoticed, loving the unlovely, by extending grace to those who are not so easy to be around.

When we look at how to love others, scripture offers plenty of insight. Romans 12:9-10,13-16 (MSG), gives us great examples of love in action: “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle… Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.”

All God does is out of love. He loves perfectly. Our goal is to love as God loves. Love isn’t something that is derived from within us. For the kind of love that God calls us to – the love that loves our neighbor as much as we love ourselves –  must come from Him.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to you when the Bible says to love others?   
  2. What can we do this week to be better at loving others?    


“Let love be your highest goal!… – 1 Corinthians 14:1.

”My greatest aim in life is…” The way you finish that statement can tell you a lot about yourself.  If your greatest aim in life is to attain wealth, you will likely choose a career that will maximize your earning potential. On the other hand, if you are motivated by having little or no stress, you may simply choose relationships, work, etc., that causes no stress. One thing is sure, however. Whatever the number one aim of your life will influence and impact every area of your life. For those of us who are followers of Jesus, God gives us a simple and direct answer to that question: “Let love be your highest goal!…”

When responding to a question about what Jesus believed to be the greatest commandment, Jesus couldn’t have been any clearer that this is also our greatest purpose in life. Reflecting on Matthew 22:36-40 makes it clear that there is no greater purpose in life than to love the Lord and love others. The command to love God and love people to a higher level than anything else in life. Nothing can be more important. Nothing should ever take its place. Nothing can be a greater purpose in life than to love the Lord and love others.

The Christian journey begins with the recognition that you are unconditionally, irrevocably, and ridiculously loved by God just as you are. Whoever you are, wherever you’ve been, and whatever you’ve done in the course of your life, you are already loved and accepted. No conditions. No qualifications. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. You are a child of God. We are to love like that.

Love is the deliberate act of valuing someone more than you value yourself. Love is the deliberate act of caring for, and listening to others. Love is wanting others to succeed, to be happy and fulfilled.  Love is truly seeing, and caring, about another human being’s existence and welfare. It is wanting to be there for someone, to support them and help them grow; to make a difference in someone’s life; to share in and care about someone else’s happiness and struggles other than your own. Even when it’s hard. Even, and especially, when you don’t really want to.

Because when everything in life is transient, love becomes the only thing that endures. Indeed, it is the only thing that can endure life. Because regardless of how successful you are, how well-traveled, well-educated, well-heeled, well-fed; regardless of all your accomplishments and accolades and accomplishments, a life without love, without the love of others, without loving others will always feel empty and you will never be the person God called you to be.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to you when the Bible says to love others?   
  2. What can we do this week to be better at loving others?

The Gospel Changes Everything…Including Me

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” – Romans 10:9-11. 

You may be thinking that the gospel is pretty abstract. Yes, it applies to me but it doesn’t seem tangible, practical, or applicable. The gospel is all those things. The gospel comes to life in the stories about people who were heroes of the Kingdom. We want to be brave like David, who slew the giant with a stone. We want to be as faithful as Abraham, who did not hold back his only son. We want to be righteous like Noah, as wise as Solomon, and unwavering like Paul. But if we spend too much time reading stories of the heroes of the Bible, we may miss the greater story those heroes are pointing us toward.  

Throughout the Bible, God is telling one story: God’s plan to rescue His people from sin through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the gospel. And the gospel changes everything. 

 Somewhere along the line, we underestimate the role of the gospel. The gospel is words – we need to use words, and the word of God, to explain the gospel. But they are powerful words. God-breathed words. But the gospel is more than merely religious words and ideas that we get out and admire in church on Sunday, then we put them back on the shelf till next week. The gospel is a message of power, a message used powerfully by the Spirit of God, to convict people of their need for Jesus. The gospel message has the power to change lives.

We believe that it is just about us and Jesus and our external home. But the gospel is so much more. The gospel transforms societies, renews families, and heals relationships. It is a message of action. The gospel is not to merely inform but transform. The gospel should change our lives. Otherwise, we are left with mere words, mere facts, and mere formality.

1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 says, “We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people. For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true. And you know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you.”

We know that God not only loves you but has selected you for a special purpose. The gospel in action to the world is simply being real in love towards all men, women, and children: smiling, looking them in the eye, giving way to them, being truly kind, telling them God loves them, and praying for them. This is the gospel in action. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you think of the gospel on a daily basis? If not why not?
  2. What can we do this week to make the gospel a part of our daily lives? 

Having The Heart Of A Servant

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”- Matthew 20:28.

It is not all that unusual to be driving along and encountering a person on the corner of the street holding a little cardboard sign. If you live in a city then you probably have seen people with cardboard signs on a regular basis. The fundamental question is what should we do when we pass by them on the street? 

The fact of the matter is that our hearts should break in compassion for those who are struggling. The Bible is also very clear about helping the poor. We are to have compassion for those who are suffering and show them grace. Proverbs 14:21 says, “It is a sin to belittle one’s neighbor; blessed are those who help the poor.”

Our calling is clear, we need to be gracious. But people with cardboard signs present us with a dilemma. How do we know that the person asking is actually in need? And how do we know if they will use our money the right way? Will they buy liquor or cigarettes?  If I give this person money will it help them for one day or will it help him or her at all? 

We sit in the car weighing the possibilities. Questions fog up our heads. We become conflicted by sometimes equal yet opposite views of the choices in what to do. We could give the person some money. But too often we often find ourselves torn and unable to make a choice. So we choose not to make a choice at all. In other words, our fear of doing the wrong thing stops us from doing anything, which precludes us from serving anyone at all.

We can serve others well when we actively decide to take on the role of a servant. When we study the life of Jesus, we find countless examples where He took on the role of the servant. From choosing to wash the feet of His disciples to the very decision of coming to earth and living as an ordinary human, Christ continually humbled himself for the sake of others and switched places with people in the lowliest of positions. If we want to be like Jesus, we need to remember that, in God’s eyes, everyone else is just as important as us.

By simply taking the position, what can I do today to serve, we’re opening ourselves up to a world of needs, not just the ones that are convenient or fit nicely into the time we’ve allotted to help. But the act of caring might not always require big, dramatic action. Caring for another person might mean going against what’s on the planned agenda or stopping to give a homeless man or woman a few dollars. The more time we spend examining what it means to serve others well, it comes down to having a servant’s heart. Serving others means seeing them as valuable and worthy to serve and be served, simply because God views them that way even if they are standing on a corner with a cardboard sign. 


Discussion Questions:

  1. What is your definition of servanthood?
  2. What hurdles do you have serving others?
  3. What must you do, beginning today, to acquire an authentic heart of a servant?

Love God Completely

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’” – Mark 12:30 

Is it possible to love the Lord from our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, and our whole strength? Yes, we love God to some extent, but do we have the ability to love Him with our whole being? He’s not the only One we love, and sometimes He’s not the One we love the most. Many other things tug at our heart. So how do we obey the Lord’s command to love Him with all our hearts?

The Lord is well aware that we aren’t capable of such love by ourselves. We need to realize that when God makes a demand, He intends to meet that demand for us. So in 1 John 4:19 we can see our love for God originates from God Himself: “ So you see, our love for him comes as a result of his loving us first.” (TLB) God is the actual source of our love for Him. He loved us first, and He infused us with His love. Because the love of God in us is the love with which we can love Him in return.

Love isn’t merely a feeling. God is love. God loves us and became a man named Jesus Christ. He demonstrated His love for us to the uttermost by dying on the cross. No wonder when we heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, our hearts responded to His love, and we opened to receive Him as our Savior. From that day on, we began to love the Lord with the love He infused into us.

Loving God completely starts with thinking about Him. The more we think about Him, the more we will fall in love with Him. He is the Creator, our Savior. Think about how incredible it is that the God of the universe cares about each of us.  

Spend time in His presence. No relationship can grow without time spent together. The same is true with our relationship with God. When we determine to set aside a specific time for prayer, our love for Him will start increasing.  

Choose to do everything out of love for Him. From our church ministry to our mundane chores, our motives make all the difference. When we choose to do a task out of love for God, our love for Him grows. It’s just a mental task of consciously giving the activity to God as an offering.  

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, and 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.

Discussion Questions: 

  • If love is to be the defining mark of believers, how would you assess where you are as a believer? Are we a “display window” for the supernatural love of Christ?

With The Best Of Intentions

“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord. “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.“  Isaiah 54:1-3  

If each of us had to come up with a list of our top ten regrets, it would take some thinking to determine which regrets make the top ten and which fall outside the top ten. We’d have to swim back upstream to the moment just before it all went wrong, consider the magnitude of the regret and then decide if it makes the top ten or not. We would discover that our minds are often orderly memoirs of past moments, past conversations, and past relationships. What if I had done things differently? What if I had said something else? What if I had taken a different direction? Would I have less regrets? But I believe somewhere in this process of ranking our regrets, we would pause for a moment and think to ourselves: “In every case I had the best intentions. I really did. I didn’t set out to create regret, in fact I absolutely intended to do the thing that would have prevented the regret in the first place.”

Good intentions may well express our desired outcome, but usually do not necessarily express the actual outcome. Joyce Meyer said that “Good intentions never change anything. They only become a deeper and deeper rut.” The truth is, intentions are not enough. Yes, they may start something, but intentions will not complete what you started. For example, how many times have we been corrected/confronted by our spouse or friend only to respond, “Well, I did/didn’t intend to….”? What we intended did not change the outcome, much less excuse our actions.

The way to help eliminate regret is to move those intentions into action steps. Take the dormant someday into now. Have we intended to invite someone over for dinner? Invite them. Have we intended to apologize and seek forgiveness? Drive over and ask for forgiveness. Have we intended to learn the Bible and increase in prayer? Set aside time today to start. Have we intended to call a friend or family member? Pick up the phone. Have we intended to invite your neighbor to church? Walk over and ask if they would like to go with you to church on Sunday to learn about living a life of no regrets.

Galatians 6:9 is a verse that I believe applies here: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  You cannot reap good intentions, but you can reap doing good. It will strengthen your resolve to keep pushing and it will help eliminate regrets later on. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are good intentions simply a case of poor follow through?
  2. Have you experienced the cost/damage of good intentions?
  3. Do you believe good intentions can stall or hamper your spiritual life?
  4. Pray for margin in your life that will open up to turn intentions into action.

Is Today Your Someday

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” —  James 2:14-17. Continue reading “Is Today Your Someday”

Just Do It

“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do..” – James 1:23-25. 

In the message this week one of the steps I suggested as a means of finding your way out is to have a plan and to implement that plan today. I would like to expand on that point in this devotional.

When we become followers of Jesus, we quickly learn that our God is a very big God, and has all things under His control. That includes both the big things we need to find a way out of, as well as the little things. You have probably heard the phrase “let go and let God.” Some people think that this is the way we as Christians ought to understand the Christian life – we give up ourselves and let God control it all. While this makes sense on many levels it can be a bit simplistic. 

Romans 12:2 is helpful in this area: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” True worship is to give up our lives for God, that is to live for Him alone. That doesn’t mean we go in hibernation, but rather letting God’s plans and purposes shape the things we do. Our minds aren’t switched off, but rather transformed and renewed by God, and so we become aware of the new way God wants us to live. This takes self control and it takes us doing something. Because far too often, we allow good thoughts and good words and good intentions to stop short of good actions.

Finding our way out is not wandering through life aimlessly and seeing where God would have us drift. Instead finding our way out is seeing the path God wants us to take, with its ups and own, trials, and failures, and deciding to take the steps to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. God’s Word has so much to say about taking action. If you need a jumpstart, consider these verses.  for your “Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.” Ezra 10:4. 1 Peter 1:13 says, “ says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

In the end, finding your way out is about changing your focus – rather than expensing your energies to achieve the things you desire, use all your energies to achieve the things God wants for our lives. And that means taking action to move us from where we are to where we need to be.   

Now that’s not to say it’s not a struggle. It is easy to stop and wonder “how did I get here.” But if we set our sights on God and start taking the steps we need to take, we can find our way out.    

Discussion Questions:

  1. What’s one of the biggest obstacles to finding a way out?
  2. What has God burdened you to change in your life? What’s keeping you from taking action? What do you need to do to remove these barriers?
  3. What impact on others do you think you could make if you decided to take action?
  4. What is your next step?

Analysis Paralysis

“I’m tired of being inside my head. I want to live out here, with you.”  Colleen McCarty.

Early in the engagement, most of us sit down to think about what we want to accomplish in our marriage. It would be refreshing to talk, pray, trust God, and dream big together. It would be the stuff of Hollywood movies; a marriage that starts strong and yet deepens over the years. However, somewhere between the dream of what you want your marriage to be, you begin to wonder if you have all the right stuff to bring the dream to reality. Have you ever found yourself endlessly obsessing over an issue, unable to move beyond it? When dealing with a problem or potential opportunity, do you ever have dozens of seemingly unanswerable questions swirling around your brain? If so, you may be suffering from one of the most common afflictions known to modern man: paralysis by analysis. If you had a good friend they would have told you that you are overthinking the situation and that you need to trust God. 

It is easy for people to overthink the situation, at least when it comes to relationships. Too often we spend a significant amount of time and energy mulling over our situation. But sometimes, all the thinking and talking falls flat. When we spend so much time analyzing these aspects of our relationship, the paralysis can cause us to do nothing. If you want a deepening of your marriage doing nothing seldom works.

Sometimes we spend so much time focusing on our problems and analyzing our issues that we fail to integrate real, actionable change into our lives. Thinking deeply about your marriage is fine, but it takes action to bring about real and actual change. If we want to improve the situation, then we need to do something. 

Love is articulated though action. Thinking about a relationship is most useful when the other person inspires us to demonstrate new behavior. Ideally, godly servant-minded thinking should spur intelligent action. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to start a whole life together as a unified couple when both people have spent so much time trying to “find themselves”.  It is a deepening marriage where we learn more about the spouse after we are married and do something to make improvements as a result of the knowledge. 

Don’t fall prey to analysis paralysis. Take the steps necessary to change your marriage for the better. That’s a great place to start. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you think it is wrong to think through a subject? Why or why not?
  2. Does thinking about a relationship lead to action?
  3. In the area of relationships, do we tend to take too much or too little action? Why do you feel that way?
  4. What steps can we take to ensure we don’t suffer from paralysis by analysis?
  5. Pray and ask God to give you the wisdom on when to take action and when not to.