Earning Respect From Others

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them…Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching….” – 1 Timothy 4:12-16. 

Timothy is said to have been acquainted with the Scriptures since childhood. God had called Timothy to the gospel ministry. He was the protege’ of the Apostle Paul, but he was young. Would people follow his leadership? Would they respect him enough to listen? Through the Spirit’s inspiration, Paul taught Timothy how to overcome the liabilities of youth and earn respect.  And it starts by living a Godly life. 

Proverbs 11:27 says, “if you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!” What does Solomon mean by good? He means mercy, not cruelty, righteousness, not wickedness, doing what pleases God, not what displeases Him. Think of the people in your life that you genuinely respect: chances are most of them will be very godly people. If you want to earn the respect of others, you must live with godliness.

To live a godly life means we walk in humility. Proverbs 29:23 says, “Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.” Humility is not denying your accomplishments. It’s realizing God gave you the ability and the opportunity to realize those accomplishments. 1 Corinthians 4:7 tells us “For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?  

Make loving people a priority in your life. Love people eagerly and faithfully. As you become the example, you create a pattern for others to follow. This visible transformation earns respect and influence, regardless of your age and experience. You can act in a way that generates respect regardless of age or experience.

Titus 2:7 sums it all up pretty well: “And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.“

 Discussion Questions:

  1. Living a godly life generates respect. Agree or disagree and why? 
  2. Treat others with humility. The more you lower yourself, the more others will respect you. Agree or disagree and why? 

With All Due Respect

“Stop! Right now! Take a deep breath in and exhale. Remind yourself that you are loved, you are cherished, and you have value. Remind yourself that nothing that anyone does or thinks or says to you will diminish that value. Remind yourself that every person you meet today is loved by God just as much as you are and is worthy of respect and is worthy of being seen as a person of value. Now continue to make decisions today based on those truths.” – Katherine Walden.  

Throughout the Bible, we see that God’s intention is focused on man, and His heart’s desire is set upon man. Man is not an afterthought; man is not merely a creature – man is very important, and God’s intention and desire are related to Him. The Bible doesn’t tell us why, but God loves man, and created humans in His image.  As such, we are treasured by Him. 

That is true of the person in line at the grocery store, that face on social media, the person who picks up the garbage; all are made in God’s image and are His precious property because they are His creation made in His image. We must look at every man and woman as God views them. He loves each person so much that He sent his only Son Jesus Christ to die a criminal’s death on a cross to take the punishment of our sins. Because God cherished every person, they are worthy of our respect. They are all human beings and creations of God and thus worthy of our respect. John 13:34-35 tells us that “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:10) Honoring others is another way of saying respecting others. Why should we bother to respect everyone? After all, some people don’t deserve it. I know—it’s a challenge. But here’s the rub: respect should not be based on a person’s achievements or abilities, but solely because they’re made in the image of God.

Knowing that we are all made in the image of God should prompt us to see value in others. Seeing value in everyone is not the same as agreeing or being best friends with everyone. Instead, it means showing all people the love of Christ through what we do and how we treat them. We all have a purpose, and we should treat all people mindfully and with great respect because God loves them all.  

Treating others with dignity and respect entails treating others as worthy. Sometimes Christians may be perceived as judgmental or hypocritical by people with different beliefs. This is one reason it is important to honor others and not look down on anyone — so others can see a good witness for Christ, and we do not contribute to a bad reputation for the Christian faith.

 Discussion Questions:

  1. You can be kind to everyone, you don’t have to avoid and insulate your life. Agree or disagree and why?
  2. When we honor Jesus with our lives we’ll be kind to others, we’ll love others, and we’ll be humble around others.  Is this the best way to respect others? Why or why not? 

What Is Involved In Living The Christian Life?

“But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Exodus 9:16 (NIV).

Our current sermon series is entitled Building a Better Future. It is difficult to build a better future without a sense of purpose and an understanding of the “why” as well as the “what.” What do we live for in the Christian life and why are we doing it?

We probably all have some ideas about how Christians should live in order to please God. We may think we need to try our best to do the right thing, do good works, or live up to some kind of moral or ethical standard.  The Bible tells us that Jesus encourages all believers to grow in relationship, commitment, and obedience to Him. This is the essence of how to live a Christian life. Our relationship, commitment, and obedience are done out of love. John 14:21 says, “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

Any discussion of how to live a Christian life should focus first and foremost on the teachings of Jesus Christ. The entire Bible is full of insight into who God is, our sinful predicament, God’s plan to redeem us, and how we should live in light of these realities. As 2 Timothy 3:16 says,  “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”

Though Jesus taught about many topics, everything comes back to that ultimate goal of loving God and loving our neighbor. The best place to start when seeking to live the Christian life is to prioritize loving God above all else. If at the end of the day we can look back and feel like we loved God well, then we’ve accomplished the most important purpose for which we were created.

One practical thought in seeking to love God is to ask the question, “What does God find most loving?” That question can be a great driving force behind seeking to love God as best as we can every day.

If you want to follow the teachings of Jesus to live a Christian life, don’t overcomplicate things. Focus on loving God and loving others and let them guide the way you live each day.

God didn’t mean for us to live Christian lives in isolation. He calls us to community with other Christians. Together, we can help each other live grace-filled lives that bring glory to God. We need to help each other as we figure out what it means to live a Christian life in this crazy world.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the key to living a victorious Christian life?
  2. Read Philippians 1:18-26: Paul says, “living means living for Christ.” How does for me to live is Christ impact my daily activities.   

How Should The Christian View Cancel Culture?

Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.”– Acts 10:34-35.

Wikipedia describes cancel culture as a form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Cancel culture is a “gotcha” system to describe people who do or say something we don’t like or agree with so we choose to disassociate from them or worse cancel them from our lives.   

But what does cancel culture mean for the Christian? As Christians, we’re called to live like Christ, no matter what the culture around us looks like. Can you cancel people and love them at the same time? The apostle Paul also wrestled with this question. In his culture, there were religious leaders who believed they were better informed, better educated, and thus superior. Paul was once one of them. But then things changed. After experiencing Christ, he was different. He became so passionate about Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection that he wanted the entire world to know about it. Did Paul cancel his old friends? No. He engaged with them. He sought to speak their language and related with them — sharing in ways they would understand. He strived to make a difference, not just a point.

Romans 12:18 says, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”Read that one more time and notice it doesn’t say to live at peace only with the people who agree with you, or the people who are part of your voting bloc, or people who don’t ridicule or insult you. It says, “live in peace with everyone.”  And pray for them rather than canceling them. When you pray for them, don’t just pray that God will change their mind. Ask God how He sees them. Ask God to help you love them as He loves them. Ask God to cancel your anger so you don’t need to cancel a relationship.

To be clear, there may be reasons to cancel people from our lives. But we should ask ourselves: Should we engage instead of cancel? The good news of Jesus is powerful. It transforms the hearts of men and women everywhere. And if we believe it, there must be another way to engage with people. Perhaps the best way to be a witness for Jesus is to love the people we are tempted to cancel.

Remember the challenge that Jesus issued to each of us when He spoke these words, “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” (Luke 6:27-28)

Discussion Questions:

  1. In 2 Timothy 4:14–15, the apostle Paul writes: “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm, but the Lord will judge him for what he has done. Be careful of him, for he fought against everything we said” How do we leave judgment to God and be wise in these kinds of situations? 
  2. Given the instructions in Romans 12:14–19, what is the way forward for the church in a culture that wants to “cancel” those who disagree?

More Than Your Wildest Dreams

“May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen.” – 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13.

In the movie Billy Elliott, a young boy loves to dance. But he has a major obstacle: his father disapproves. Billy has a long, arduous road to travel, but his dream keeps him going despite his challenges. This wonderful movie will encourage anyone who has a dream to keep reaching for it and inspire those who have stopped dreaming to once again imagine what could be.

Our lives, like that of Billy Elliott, are full of obstacles—people and circumstances that try to tell us our dreams are impossible, unrealistic, or, as in Billy’s case, that there is something or someone trying to keep us from fulfilling them. 

When we dream, how big do we dream? How large can our aspirations be? There is a certain fear within a dream and a bigger fear of trusting God with our dreams. We worry that our expectations are too high, that our dream could never happen, or that this dream of ours is too big for us. One of the most common fears as Christians is that our dreams might not lie within the parameters of God’s plan for our lives.

God’s hope and plan for us are pretty simple to figure out. For those who resonate with formulas, here it is: add your whole life, your loves, your passions, and your interests together with what God said He wants us to be about, and that’s your answer: basically that is to love God and love people. Does your dream fall within that?

Loving God is surrendering everything in your life for His glory, and the beauty of loving people is that it could take shape in so many different ways. That is where your dream lies. Within fulfilling the great commandment; loving God and dreaming big for His glory and the love of His people.

God longs for His children to dream. He longs for us to set aside time with Him to wish and wonder about what life could be. I fear that many Christians have lost the art of dreaming with God out of a misunderstanding of His heart. While God most definitely has a will for our lives, He also longs for us to dream with Him so that His desires become our own. While He most definitely has perfect plans for us, He longs for us to want His plans so that we might co-labor with Him. Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are your dreams? 
  2. What dreams do you feel will never come true? Why? 
  3. What dreams are you sure will come true? Why?

Trust In The Lord With All Heart

 “Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” – John 11:40.

To trust is to believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of something. So, when it comes to trusting God, that means believing in His reliability, His Word, His ability, and His strength.  Trusting God is more than a feeling; it’s a choice to have faith in what He says even when your feelings or circumstances would have you believe something different. Your feelings and circumstances matter and are very much worth paying attention to, but they can change at any moment. God, on the other hand, does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow and therefore is worthy of your trust.

Trusting God is not about ignoring your feelings or reality. It is not pretending that everything is OK when it isn’t. Trusting God is living a life of belief in and obedience to God even when it’s difficult. If you trust someone, you feel comfortable being honest with them about anything. God is much more reliable than even your most trustworthy friend. 

Because God loves you, you can show your trust in Him by talking about all your feelings and circumstances with Him through prayer. When you trust, you go to God and His word when life is good and when life is hard. You trust that God will ultimately take care of the rest. In trust, you do not look for security in other things; you look to God to hold you securely in difficult circumstances. You won’t do this perfectly, but God is kind and patient with you while you learn to trust Him. In addition, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us.

The Holy Spirit lives in anyone who trusts in Jesus. The Holy Spirit is your constant helper, pointing you to Jesus. When Jesus was telling His followers that He was going to die, He knew that they would be worried. They would feel scared about being left alone. So He shared this with them to give them comfort. “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” (John 14:26)

The Spirit comforts and reminds you of the truth. The Spirit will also lead you in obedience. He will bring direction to you. The leading of the Spirit can ease struggles by guiding you to acts of obedience. He does not always give you the big picture, but He will show you the next step.

Walking closely with the Spirit will not only give you direction but will remind you that you are not alone. God is not distant. He is with you in difficulty. He is making a way for you.

My prayer is that we learn to trust God with the future. He has a plan for each of our lives and He will bring good from our choice to trust Him.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Read Proverbs 3:5-6. This passage instructs us to fully trust in God, not on our own understanding. How do we know if God is trustworthy? What are some specific ways we can trust in Him?

Loving God and Loving Others

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.’” – Matthew 22:36–39.

If you have been a Christian for any time, then you have heard that the entire law in the Bible can be summed up in these two commands: love God and love others. If you want to grow deeper with God, get on mission with Jesus. Do more than just go to Bible studies, read books, or listen to podcasts. Apply what you’re learning about God by loving Him and loving other people. 

The application is important: As we begin loving others, we are also learning just how much God loves us. If we are able to forgive and give grace to people who are hard to love, then just how deep is God’s love for us? It is easier to love others when we realize the endless, astonishing love of Christ. Ephesians 3:18–19 (MSG) says, “ My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”   

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.

Let’s make it our prayer today to ask God to help us actively love others – to actively walk across the street to help our neighbors, to actively cook a warm meal for a friend in need, or actively visit a nearby nursing home to love on the elderly. Let us ask Him to lead us to places where He wants us to shine His light and ask Him for the courage and strength to share His love with all who surround us in our daily lives.   

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?  

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?

Is There An Energy Shortage?

“Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” – Mark 12:29-30

The Message translation says, “love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.” How well do you manage your energy? In a time when a hectic schedule is normal, we need to not only manage our time but manage our energy. 

The longer you live, the more you can appreciate the natural strength and vigor God makes available to sustain your life. People with high levels of energy tend to brighten a room and make life seem easier. Their natural enthusiasm and vibrancy radiate and inspires others around them. On the other hand, folks who are weak with little strength can sap vitality from others—especially if they are down or have negative attitudes. 

God gives each of us certain talents and abilities, and therefore, we glorify God when we use those talents and abilities in church, in our career, or in relationships with others. Loving God with all of our energy, with all of our abilities, and with all of our spiritual gifts, is a way of expressing our love to Him. It means holding nothing back when it comes to our energy level in showing our love for God. It means that when we’re using all that energy to do our very best at everything we do, we’re pleasing God.

As he worked harder than anyone, Paul shared “the secret” of his remarkable energy and contentment “in every situation” (Philippians 4:12). In Colossians 1:29, he says “That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”  Philippians 4:13 explains how: “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” 

A quick turn to 1 Timothy 1:12 confirms that Paul indeed has Christ Jesus specifically in mind as the supplier of his strength: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work.” Similarly, 2 Timothy 2:1 makes the same connection between spiritual strength and Jesus as the source: “be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus.”

Paul must have understood this truth because look at how he prayed for his brothers and sisters: “… so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;” Colossians 1:10-11.

Are you striving to please God in your own power, or, like Paul, are you struggling with God’s energy? The life God has planned for you is designed to require constant dependence on Him. You cannot do it alone; and if you try, you will find yourself weary and defeated.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What can you do to better spend your time and energy on spiritual matters this week? 

A Community Built On Love

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are…” – 1 John 3:1

Baseball is a community activity. You need all nine people helping one another. Everyone has a role and a set of skills they must apply if the team is to be successful. One of the most exciting plays in baseball is the suicide squeeze. The manager gives the sign. The players need to get the sign. The runner on third cannot tip his hand that he is running and the batter can’t tip his hand that he is bunting. The batter gives himself up for the good of the whole. In baseball, you often find your own good in the good of the whole. You find your own individual fulfillment in the success of the community. That sounds very familiar doesn’t it?

No matter how many times I read the Bible, I still can’t fully grasp the love of Jesus. He loved those that did not expect it or deserve it. His love changed everything. The love Jesus showed on the cross restored us to who we were created to be so we could live the Home Run Life we were created to live. His love is something given to us and something He has given through us. God came as man in the person of Jesus Christ to deliver His special message of love and salvation.

This love given to us enables us to do life with and through others. Jesus said in John 13:34 that we are to love others as He has loved us. It is easy to view this verse as another rule that we are supposed to try and follow. The truth is that loving others is an overflow of receiving God’s love and a byproduct of a life committed to Him. When we receive the love God demonstrated for us, then love will come out of our life. We owe people an encounter with the love that has been given to us. We want people to know Northstar for our love.

We are looking at Second Base, how to Win With Others, this week in the daily devotional. As we discuss community and doing life with others I want you to ask the following questions: what is the quality of your love for other believers? For nonbelievers? When you leave first base and have connected with Christ you will love what He loves. The spoke of a bicycle wheel connects with the hub. Jesus is the hub and the spokes get closer together as they connect with the hub. You can’t be close to Jesus and not love others.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have I treated my love toward other believers as a commandment, or a suggestion?
  2. How do I practically serve the Christians I am in relationship with?
  3. Do I judge my spiritual strength by comparing myself against others, or by comparing myself to Jesus?
  4. What do you take away from 1 Peter 1:22-23a: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again…”
  5. What happens when Christians carry out Christ’s commandment to love one another? What happens when they do not?