“ In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared.” – Luke 5:12-13.

Jesus was a master at turning casual conversations into life-changing moments.

In the accounts of the meetings Jesus had with various people we can see that whatever the person’s background, beliefs, personality, and issues, they were immediately and individually known and understood by Jesus. Often it is the reply of Jesus that allows us some insight into the nature of the person’s heart. He perceived the underlying condition of every person often more clearly even than the individual themselves. We see that when Jesus interacts with people he is utterly faithful, truthful, and consistent with them. He probes their inner-most condition and deals with it head-on. Jesus knew how to meet people where they were and move the conversation toward spiritual things. How did He do it? How did He take the most mundane moments and make them defining moments?

Look at the discussion between Jesus and the leper (Luke 5:12-15). This man was suffering from the disease of leprosy. Luke’s account in chapter 5 even tells us that the man had an “advanced case of leprosy.” So we are not talking about a mild case here. This man, as we read above, would have been a social outcast with no hope in sight. And though he was meant to keep himself separate from others, he sees in Jesus his one and only chance of being clean. So with his hands shaking, but hope stirring in his heart, he approaches Jesus.

The Leper did not actually ask Jesus to make him clean, only stating his belief that Jesus could do so if He so desired: “…if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” (Luke 5:12).

This is where every conversation begins. Someone has to start talking. This may be the most difficult hurdle to jump over when it comes to conversations. It is easier to sit in silence, read a book, scroll through your phone, put in your earbuds, roll up your window, look the other way, or do just about anything but talk.

Jesus is not afraid to approach this leper, nor does He act as if this condition is in any way hopeless and incurable. We read that Jesus reached out His hand and touched the leper saying, “I am willing,”… “Be healed!” and instantly the leper was made clean. Jesus tells the leper to tell no one but go to the priest and offer that which the law required for healing.  Our days are full of conversation. Some of these conversations are with strangers and close friends, in coffee shops or at work, over a meal, or on the phone. Some conversations are fleeting, passing by in a moment, whereas others hold weight. Words matter. Conversations matter, and they hold the potential to change a whole day, or, in some cases, a life. Jesus had many life-changing conversations with His disciples, with the men and women He encountered, and with the leaders of His time. Each of these conversations was intentional, crucial, and life-changing. While those conversations happened thousands of years ago, they have the power to change our lives today. His words hold weight and hold the potential to change our lives – to even change eternities.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What can we learn from the brief conversation between Jesus and the leper?
  2. Is listening to others—really listening—easy for you? What steps can you take today to improve your listening skills?
  3. Why is listening such an important part of godly communication? 


“I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” – Psalm 116:1-2.

There is a vast amount of talking and broadcasting in our world, how much real listening is taking place? The ability to listen to those around you is critical – and listening goes far beyond hearing. Listening is a skill that has to be learned and honed and often serves as the foundation for positive human relationships.

Culturally, the way Americans engage in conversation is akin to an exchange of verbal volleys in a tennis match. If it slows, someone rushes in to fill the silence. If a thought or a comparable experience pops into someone’s head, they feel compelled to share it. It takes practice to break these reflexive habits. Instead of a tennis match, try thinking of your next conversation as an interview. You are a detective trying to get to the bottom of the mystery that sits in front of you.

Do we fidget or get restless and impatient when others are talking? These are obvious signs that we really don’t enjoy what the other person is saying. It suggests we are too rushed or distracted to really engage or if we interrupt or start finishing their sentences, we aren’t listening. As James said in James 1:19 to be “…quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”

Jesus is the ultimate model when it comes to listening. He engaged people throughout Scripture by paying attention and digging a little deeper to find out what was going on beyond their words. He also listened to what was not said. For He was adept at drawing others out, communicating sympathy. He never merely listened to words, but He listened for attitudes and he listened for the whole range of emotions. Jesus listened in a way that communicated compassion and care, taking the time to understand others.

Luke 8: 18 says, “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them” Listening is not a passive skill. It is not merely being quiet and letting the other person speak. The wise listener is patient, energetic, and focused. They listen to the other person finish without interrupting. They work hard to understand the other person.

Part of living out our faith in a positive way is to create, build, and sustain meaningful connections with others. In so doing we reflect the image of God and, hopefully, pass some of His love on to the world around us. A huge part of establishing connections is done through listening. Listening well is more than being quiet and more than being curious. It’s the process of discovering another person’s interests, likes, and positions on spiritual matters. It’s common to hear Christians say, “Speak the truth with love,” but what about listening? When I stop what I’m doing and listen, it tells the other person that they are important to me.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What makes you feel heard when speaking with others? Do you do these things when listening to others?
  2. Are you prone to giving more truth when you speak, or more kindness? Why do you think this is? How might you incorporate more balance of truth and love into your conversations?
  3. How would your conversations look differently if Jesus were physically sitting next to you? Would you take more time with your words? Show more compassion? Have more patience?


“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” – Colossians 2:6-7.

If you dabble in social media at all you have seen the meme. A couple is walking down the street holding hands, but there’s a problem. The guy is looking back at another girl, and the expression on the girl suggests that she is very unhappy because he’s been caught looking at someone else rather than her.

It’s a pretty good metaphor for the human condition. No matter what we have, we are tempted to look away from what we have and long for something else that may not even be as good. We can have the same challenges in keeping our focus on Jesus.

Job one for a Christian is to build a relationship with Jesus. Paul is saying in Colossians 2:6-7 that you don’t start with Jesus and then move on to something else. There’s no graduating from Jesus to something else.

Jesus should define the entire believer’s life. We begin with Jesus. And then we keep walking and focusing on Jesus. Keep trusting him. Keep obeying him. Whenever you start to wander, go back to Jesus. The entire Christian life can be defined “…as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him.…  It is not as complicated as we may think. Professional basketball player John Salmons said, “Keep God first. If you do that, if you just focus on God and keep Him first, then everything else will just take care of itself. Do everything for Him.”

If you follow him “then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”   

So look to Jesus. Make Him the theme of your life. Never look over your shoulder for alternatives. Dane Ortlund (Senior Pastor of Naperville Presbyterian Church) said: “If you look to him, everything else is footnotes. All else will fall into place. If you do not look to Jesus, no amount of techniques or strategies will finally help you; all will be for nothing. Peel back every layer of distraction and look to Christ. Simplify your heart and all its cares. Look to Christ and His overflowing heart.”

When you see the real Jesus, it changes everything. It reorients your life. You see the beauty of Jesus, and then you realize what He did for you.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is it important to stay focused on Jesus?
  2. What can we do this week to keep our focus on Jesus?


“ I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” – Luke 5:32.

In the 60s, most dads carried a handkerchief in their pocket.  It was typically a simple square of white cotton that was folded a few times before unceremoniously stuffing it into the back pocket of his pants or tucking it into his coat. The hankie was used to wipe up our spills, clean sticky fingers, and polish shoes, but the main purpose was to clean up runny noses. The idea was to fold the dirty part to the inside and slide it back into his pocket so when the next child needed it there was a clean spot for him or her to use.  But the handkerchief did not come to mind when it was time to do laundry, so occasionally they got pretty gross and served as an illustration for Isaiah 64:6: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”

The handkerchief is no longer in vogue, but our righteousness is still pretty gross. Are we fundamentally capable of living righteously? The answer is no. No human being is “good enough” to earn righteousness in God’s sight. The Bible confirms what we already know: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23). Because we all sin, it is impossible to be “right” with God based on our own merits. Our lives are so full of sins, shortcomings, and failures. We sin far too often to be righteous before God on our own.

We need a Savior.  We need Jesus. Jesus bled and died so that we could become righteous. Romans 3:21-22 says, “But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.” Romans 5: 17 says, “For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 adds, “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

Isn’t that amazing? It seems beyond comprehension to imagine that a holy, righteous God would take our sins upon Himself so that He could cover us with His righteousness. But if He didn’t do so, we would have no hope. God could have chosen to let us remain nasty handkerchiefs, but He didn’t. Instead, He offers us the righteousness of Christ.

Discussion Questions:

  1.  How would you define righteousness?  
  2. What are some advantages of righteousness? 


“…Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” –   John 20:27.

You have to feel a little bit bad for Thomas. He was a disciple. He walked with Jesus. There is certainly more to him than the one day of skepticism that gave him the nickname “doubting Thomas.”

After Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to the disciples behind closed doors, Thomas wasn’t with them. So when the disciples told Thomas that Jesus was alive, he didn’t believe them. “I won’t believe it,” he said, “unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side” (John 20:25). When Jesus later appeared to Thomas, the Lord took him up on his offer. He said, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” (verse 27).

Thomas saw Jesus die and knew He was buried. He had seen those things with his own eyes. Now, a few days later, others were saying Jesus was alive again. They claimed He had appeared to them. It didn’t compute. It challenged the principles of logic and science. Most of us would have come to the same conclusion Thomas did if we were in his shoes. We would be skeptical. We would question what the other disciples claimed. We would verbalize our doubts.

Fortunately for Thomas and for us, Jesus didn’t show up to shun him, scold him, or shame him. Jesus showed up to win him. Jesus didn’t question Thomas’ character or lecture him with doctrine. Instead, Jesus moved closer to him. He invited Thomas to see His scars and touch the holes in His hands. Jesus was basically saying “I’m here. I’m real. See for yourself.”

Thomas heard a story that Jesus had risen from the dead. And at that moment, he thought it couldn’t be logically possible. But after he met Jesus personally he believed. In verse 28, Thomas exclaims of Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”  We were all skeptics at one time or another who need to experience Jesus as true and trustworthy. Jesus isn’t afraid of human scrutiny. He doesn’t need to be because His story holds up when scrutinized. It always will because it’s true.

As followers of Jesus, we will have friends who are seekers, skeptics, and sinners. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus tells His followers to “let your light shine before others, that they may see.…” When skeptical, doubting, far-from-God friends look at one who was once skeptical but now are people who’ve examined the evidence of the gospel and believed it to be authentic, let them see the light of Jesus.

We need to remember we are all a little like Thomas while we are working to become more like Jesus.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Should we be afraid of our doubts? Why or why not?
  2. How can we be honest about our doubts? How do we take our doubts to Jesus?

Stand Out From The Crowd

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” – 1 Peter 4:10

Most of us like to fit in. There is something in our wiring or in our programming as we grow up that makes us afraid to do anything that would make us stand out as being peculiar or different from the crowd. Mostly it is fear. In some of us this fear is stronger than in others. It is definitely easier to go along with the crowd than to stand out. So what does it take to cause one of us to be willing to stand out as Daniel did? And not only to step out but to walk a different path consistently.

We have begun a 21 Day Daniel Fast as a church and as individuals as we seek God’s will for us as a community and as individuals for the remainder of 2015. I have talked a lot recently about our vision to help the whole world find and follow Jesus. To that we need people willing to serve in the church, people that want to step up and stand out.

I would like to point out the difference using the story of the ten lepers found in Luke 17. In Luke 17, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem when ten lepers call out to him to have pity on them. Jesus tells them to “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. All ten of them called out Master and each one did what Jesus said. Yet only one realized he was healed and went back to throw himself at Jesus’ feet in gratitude. He stands out. Let’s delve a little deeper in this passage of scripture.

First, let’s talk about initiative. Only one took the higher road and went beyond the instructions. In serving each other in our lives and in church, we need to do more than just the basics. Our service is not a “spiritual to-do list” that we can check off. Instead, to stand out we need to go beyond “the right things” and do the best things. We need to look to Jesus and show initiative. We need to see what has to be done, and do it.

Second, we need humility. The healed man went to Jesus, fell at His feet and thanked Him. He was bold, yet completely humble. Sometimes we may think we’re too good to do certain acts of service. At other times we don’t think we’re good enough. The opportunity to serve is all around us if we’re willing to do anything that’s needed. Let’s not seek opportunity; let’s seek to serve. When it comes to our serving Jesus, nothing should be too high or too low for us to do.

Third, we must choose Jesus. The nine other lepers were no longer outcasts of society. They could have been thinking about re-establishing families, careers and their future. But the one turns back and throws himself at the feet of Jesus. In response, Jesus tells him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” All were healed, but one was saved.

The irony is that when we decide to step up and stand out in our initiative, humility and choosing Jesus constantly, opportunity does come. And better still, others see us at the feet of Jesus and will want what we have.

During the 21-Day Daniel fast I hope you will pray and ask God where He would have you serve at Northstar. Then I hope you will take a stand and choose to serve where God places you.

Discussion Questions:
1. Why did Jesus serve people? Based on Mark 10:45, what was Jesus’ greatest act of servanthood?
2. In what way is Romans 12:11 a challenge for how we are to serve the Lord?
3. Do you think it is important to serve others who are in need? Why or why not? Whose responsibility is it to serve people that are in need?
4. How much time do you typically invest in serving the church on a weekly/monthly basis? Does this include people outside the church?
5. Pray and ask God for the heart of a servant.


“One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” – Luke 10:25-28. 

In Luke 10, we read about a conversation between Jesus and an expert in the law. This was common for Jesus as His teachings attracted scribes, Pharisees, and Jewish scholars. In this interaction, the expert asked Jesus “what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus’ response gets him to answer the question by referencing what the expert already knows. Jesus says the response is correct, and if the expert does this, “You will live.”

But the expert goes a little further. He wants to know how far he must go. He asks Jesus, “…And who is my neighbor?” (vs. 29) In other words, are there limits or other criteria to use to determine who is a neighbor? Jesus tells the familiar story of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan is one of the last people the expert would consider a neighbor, yet he still did the right thing to help someone.

Jesus gets the expert to admit the Samaritan did the right thing and says, “…now go and do the same.” He is expanding the expert’s definition of neighbor to include everybody because loving people is always right.

Doing the right thing for people should be our mindset as well. This passage of scripture charges us to live life by doing the right thing. Love your neighbor, who is everyone and anyone. Work to keep your eyes open to be able to see them clearly. 

The challenging part about loving another person is looking at things from their perspective. This is so hard, especially when our side of things makes so much more sense than what we can see of their side. But when we prioritize loving them even if we don’t fully understand or agree, that’s when Jesus comes to life in us.

Francis Chan notes: “How would my life change if I actually thought of each person I came into contact with as Christ—the person driving painfully slow in front of me, the checker at the grocery store who seems more interested in chatting than ringing up my items, the member of my own church family with whom I can’t seem to have a conversation and not get annoyed? If we believe that, as Jesus said, the two greatest commands are to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself,’ then this passage has aplication to every part of our life.

Do this and you will live.


Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. Do you see everyone as a neighbor, as Jesus defined it?
  2. If you can see them as neighbors, are you loving them well?
  3. Where are instances that you have/have not loved?


“We were created for the purpose of giving God’s invisible character a glimpse of visibility.” – Beth Moore

We believe that not only does God exists, but He is all around us. But as John tells us “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12 ESV) The immediate problem with this is how do you love what is not seen. How do you manage to love something or someone who is invisible, who is not evident to the senses?

To answer that question, it is necessary to ask a question first: how do we know anything? Much of what we know is taken on faith. How do I know the woman wearing the brown UPS uniform is not wearing a costume and is a burglar scouting my house? In the same vein, it takes faith to worship the God who I have never seen. Therein lies the challenge. How many times, when I was in distress, did I ask for a tangible visitation and didn’t get it? Well, this is the reason. God is invisible. He is not playing a game of cosmic hide-and-seek with me. He is present, just invisible.

The fact that we can see God is well attested to by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:20, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen.…” (KJV)  How do we see God? We see Him by looking around at His creation. Psalms 19:1-6 says, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its heat.”

Jesus came into the world to show us what God the Father is like. He is the visible representation of the Father, who is invisible. Jesus embodies the characteristics of God. Through the miracle of the incarnation, He took upon Himself the nature and form of man. In doing this, He gave expression to the qualities of God and communicated these qualities to man. Jesus said, “…Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…” (John 14:9). Hebrews 1:3 adds, “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God…”

All of us should make God “visible” to the world in which we live, “ For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13). The bible is the story of God on a mission to bring heaven and earth together. It’s also the story of how God invites Christians to join Him in His mission. As we work to make the invisible God visible, we are not doing anything except revealing who He already is.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What makes the Bible so unique in your mind?
  2. What can we do this week to spend more time in the Bible?   


Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” – Ephesians 5:2 (MSG).

It does not matter if you are a new Christian or a seasoned believer, it is very likely you will ask this question: “How do I really know and feel God’s love for me? Answering that question requires us to reflect on how Christ loves us. His love was not cautious. In fact, it was extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. We are to love like that.

Loving like Jesus is the best way to live or as 1 Corinthians 12:31 says, “… the most excellent way.” When we love like Jesus, we’re lifted outside ourselves. We shed self-interest — with our spouse, our kids, friends, everyone. If we love like Jesus we can be over the walls of resentment and rise above petty demands and a sense of entitlement.   

But can anyone really love like Jesus? Really? That is an extraordinarily high bar. Love your enemies? Walk the extra mile? Turn the other cheek? Can we bring perfect love into our imperfect lives? Yes, the bar is high, but if seeking a reasonable level of love, you’ll miss out on extraordinary love.  If you want to love like Jesus you have to be more approachable and less detached. You need to be more patient and less in a hurry. You will need to exhibit more grace and be less judgmental. You have to be more bold and less hesitant or fearful.

If you’re thinking that is a pretty tall order you are right. It is impossible for us.  Our human nature gets in the way.  We judge others’ faults and can act selfishly and spitefully.  We store our hurts away until those hurts lead to resentment. Even with our best efforts to love like Jesus, we fail. Jesus knew this, and He generously provides us the key to our problem and some encouragement: “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” (Mark 10:27

The power to accomplish the impossible comes only from God. We need the power of God to love as He does.  The power comes from the Holy Spirit living within us.

We can become better at loving like Jesus. This love isn’t illusive. It isn’t pie-in-the-sky. It isn’t out-of-reach nor relegated to untouchable saints. It’s real. Is it difficult, yes?  Will you and I fail in living them out? Absolutely. But don’t be discouraged. For it’s in our failed attempts that we learn to love as Jesus loved.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How did Jesus demonstrate His love for others? What things did He do? Can we show this type of love?
  2. What can we do this week to live more like Christ?


“After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” —  Matthew 3:16-17.

Admittedly, the Trinity is probably one of the most mysterious concepts in our faith. But God is at one time, three persons; the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. Each person is fully God, with all the attributes of God, but each person is distinct from the others. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. However, they are all God. We need to remember that this isn’t just God showing up in a different form at different times. Each person of the Trinity has always existed and has always been fully God. We will never understand the Trinity by human investigation, logic, philosophy, or science. The only way you can begin to grasp the Trinity is through what God says in His word.

Matthew 3:16-17 tells us that Jesus (the Son) getting baptized, the Father speaking, and the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove. If each Person of the Trinity is distinct and yet fully God, then should we conclude that there is more than one God? Obviously, we cannot, for Scripture is clear that there is only one God: Isaiah 45:21 is just one example: “Consult together, argue your case. Get together and decide what to say. Who made these things known so long ago? What idol ever told you they would happen? Was it not I, the LORD? For there is no other God but me, a righteous God and Savior. There is none but me.” 1 Kings 8:60 adds, “Then people all over the earth will know that the Lord alone is God and there is no other.” God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are one.

What difference does it make whether God is one person or three? Is this really going to impact our lives at all? Actually, the three Persons of God matter a great deal: The three Persons show God is totally committed to us: All three Persons of God are fully involved in and committed to making us His children.

Paul explains it like this: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . he chose us in him (Jesus) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will . . .  when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” — Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV)

Scripture shows how each member of the Trinity fulfills His specific role and how those three roles interrelate. In simple terms, The Father creates a plan, Jesus Christ implements the plan, and the Holy Spirit administers the plan.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How are the persons of the Trinity distinct?
  2. How much do we need to know about the Trinity?