“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” – Ephesians 3:16-19.

This Ephesians 3 passage is powerful. Even if you have read it many times, it warrants revisiting. It tells us how to be filled with “all the fullness of God.” The fullness of God is the totality of everything God is—His attributes, His character, His perfection, His holiness, His power, His love, etc. The fullness of God is His complete nature; it is who He is.

Think for a second about being filled with the fullness of God.  Who wouldn’t want a full tank of God’s fullness? But the idea of being filled with God’s fulness is difficult to get your arms around. It sounds impossible: who can live and function with all the fullness of God? This is the God who created the universe and everything in it. This is the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, parted the Red Sea, and rose from the dead after three days. This is the God who is all-knowing and all-wise. It is hard to comprehend how He counted the hairs on my head and the hairs on the other 8.1 billion people living on the globe today. So how can anyone be filled with the fullness of God?

Paul comes to mind when discussing who was filled with the fullness of God. He authored one-third of the books of the New Testament.  He was a spiritual giant. And maybe Moses. He was put into the cleft of the rock, and God passed by.  Didn’t Moses’ face glow after he came out of the presence of God? And maybe Elijah and Peter and a few others. But what about us believers with our failings? What about us believers who get discouraged? Can we truly experience the fullness of God?

The Bible tells us the answer to that question is yes. When we follow Jesus, we will have some amazing experiences. We can hear from God in that still small voice. We will also have some not-so-amazing experiences, but we can still have the joy one can only have when we are in a relationship with God.

God wants us to grow, stretch our capacity, and be filled with God’s fullness so that we can become more and more like Christ. There is a process to becoming more and more like Christ—to grow in maturity. It doesn’t happen overnight, but we must be mindful daily of our growth, allowing grace for mistakes and a desire to continue the race.

There is nothing more God can give us than God himself residing in our hearts—leading us, convicting us, and encouraging us to be more like Jesus.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is it possible for the fullness of God’s love to fill us? Why or Why not?
  2. What would that look like in your life? In Panama City? In your neighborhood?


The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the Lord.“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” – Jeremiah 31:31-33.

Many Christians get confused about the differences between the Old and New Covenants. The primary difference is that the Old Covenant is the law, and the New Covenant is the grace and righteousness that we attain by faith in the atonement of Jesus’s cross.

The first covenant (Old Testament) was and is not flawed; man’s willingness and ability to keep it was and is flawed. Israel had continued to break the first covenant with God by turning from Him, over and over again, even with prophets continually warning them that what they were doing was wrong. Hebrews 11 talks about some of the great figures in the Old Testament but says in verses 39-40, “All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.”

God made a new promise that was different and better. The old covenant was made to a nation, a collective of people. The new covenant, on the other hand, goes beyond the promise to a specific nation and becomes personal between God and us. It’s the covenant inaugurated by the work of Jesus. This covenant was fulfilled by Jesus and confirmed His last night on earth during Passover: “He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you” (Luke 22:19-20).

The new covenant is God’s promise to mankind that He will forgive sin and restore communion with those whose hearts believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death on the cross is the basis of the promise. He defeated death by His resurrection and restored life for those who believe in Him.

We are the people of the new covenant. We can have a personal relationship with our God. This relationship is not based on keeping a set of laws but rather on forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

“But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises” ( Hebrews 8:6 ESV).   

Discussion questions:

  1. What makes the New Covenant effective and better than the old one? Why is this important?
  2. What promises or characteristics of the new covenant are particularly comforting, reassuring, convicting, or meaningful to you right now?


“Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.  If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both.” – Ecclesiastes 11:4-6.

Everybody has one, maybe more, risk-takers in their life. These are people who are willing to kick fear aside and take on challenges, regardless of the outcome. So when an opportunity presents itself, they are brave for God and step forward without hesitation, trusting God when things get dicey.   

The Bible tells of real people who obeyed the Lord in uncertain situations. One of them is Ananias, a disciple sent by God to minister to the newly converted Saul. Ananias risked his life by visiting this leading enemy of Christianity. Saul, too, lived with risk after his conversion, facing peril almost every day of his life as he obediently preached the same gospel that he’d previously opposed. Both men obeyed God despite the risk and uncertainty and were used greatly by the Lord.

Taking risks is a Godly trait. When you take risks for God’s sake, you put yourself in a place dependent on God. Your risk speaks volumes to God. It’s in those moments that your faith grows. In Matthew 25, a man going on a long trip gave three different people three different amounts of talents. One of them decided to avoid any risk. To the one who risked nothing because he was afraid, the master said, “That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least” (Matthew 25: 26-27 MSG). Later on, the man who gave the money said, “Get rid of this play-it-safe who won’t go out on a limb….” (vs. 28-30 MSG).

 If we are facing a seemingly insurmountable problem–a situation that we believe we are powerless to influence–we should be still and wait on the Lord. But there will also be times when action is required, when we may be asked to take bold steps and take some risks.

Whatever your risks are, I promise you this: God will prove himself faithful. Give him the chance to show you. He is good enough to show patience with your doubt and do something huge in your life with the tiniest speck of real faith, as Jesus said in Matthew 17:20: “…I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”

Faith is simply doing what God tells you to do whether you feel like it or not, and in fact, especially when you don’t feel like it, regardless of the circumstances, because God will see you through. Where is God calling you to trust Him? Remember, each time you face risk; you can experience His faithfulness firsthand.

 Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do you think God asks us to take risks? What do we learn about ourselves, and how do we grow by taking risks?
  2. How do we balance bold risk with wise safety? We don’t want to be foolishly daring, nor overly cautious, in our love to others, do we?
  3. What are the obstacles to stepping out of our comfort zones and taking risks?


 “Great occasions for serving God come seldom, but little ones surround us daily.” – Saint Francis de Sales

Churches do an excellent job of providing ministry opportunities inside the church. But what about ministry opportunities outside the church? When people don’t experience walking into the church, do they see the church walking to them?

As we see in Acts and are taught throughout the New Testament, believers should use their gifts to serve in the local church. Although serving in the local church is important, we cannot concentrate internally to the point that we don’t reach out to our communities well.

Actions speak louder than words. The community will remember those who gave their kids school supplies, packed meals for the homeless or passed out bottled water after a hurricane. The building on St. Andrews Boulevard will transform from a structure into a place where people who care and provide hope to the community will know where to turn when there is a need.   

It is rewarding for the church as well. It feels good to serve inside and outside the church. There is a special joy in serving. And the best part is that serving pleases God. “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land” (Deuteronomy 15:11 ESV).

Jesus completely redefined what leadership and service are. He made the point that these roles are not about position or pride in the world but rather about our position in Him. Christ came to serve to exemplify service.  He has shown us what we can do, our opportunities, and our response to others in the community. Matthew 20:27-28 says, “and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. 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.”

If you have never served, now is a good time to start.  Ask yourself what it is that you do well. Or what you like to do. There are opportunities to serve inside and outside the church. “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen? (1 Peter 4:10-11).

Discussion Questions:

  1. Your devotion to God is illustrated, demonstrated, and authenticated by serving others.  Agree or disagree?
  2. What is your definition of servanthood?
  3. What hurdles do you have serving others?


“Love cannot remain by itself — it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action and that action is service.” – Mother Teresa

Church isn’t about sitting and listening; it’s about actively serving and reaching others.  God does some of His best work outside the four walls of the church building. Many are caught up in the thinking that if God has called them to do something, something was done within the confines of the church. While the church needs to be effective inside, it must also be effective outside the four walls.  This is the will of the Father, the privilege of those who are Christ-followers, and the purpose of the church.

Regardless of the size of your community, your testimony and love for your community impact your ministry to them. If you are a Christ-follower, very few things are more important than loving your community. John 13:35 says, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Do the people in your world know you’re for them? In our world today, people are often known more for what they are against than what they are for. Unfortunately, this extends even into the church. We want to reach the lost with the incredible good news of Christ, but often all they ever hear us emphasize are the behaviors and attitudes we are against, rather than hearing and seeing the love of God in us.

The For Bay County program is partnering with our communities. A partner is a church that doesn’t make decisions for its community but instead works with the community to make the community better.  When you start living like Jesus, you start loving people the way that Jesus would—unconditionally, not based on what they’ve done for you but just because God loves them, they will respond. The church can’t introduce people to Jesus before we’ve ever introduced them to the love of Jesus.

When the church engages with the community, the community is better. Genuine love encourages people, and your acts of kindness serve them. When you serve the community, Christ is honored. Those in your community see how the love of Christ is shared with them through you. They wonder and ask how you are different.

You may take regular walks in your neighborhood. But this week, don’t look at it as any walk. Take a quiet, observant walk. If you typically walk with someone in your family, don’t talk. Don’t listen to music. Just walk in silence and observe your neighborhood. Maybe go for a walk at a different time of day or take a different route than you normally would. And look around. What do you see? Whom do you see? What needs do you see? Then pray, “Lord, how are you calling me to respond to this need”?

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can we better engage in our neighborhoods?
  2. How can we build better relationships with our neighbors?


“I’m upset because I’m a good person; what they’re saying about me is not true.” it doesn’t matter how good you are, how loving, kind, upstanding; somebody’s not going to like you, is going to try to discredit you. it happened with Jesus. when he was on the earth, he went around healing the sick, lifting the fallen, encouraging those that were down. he did nothing but good, but he was falsely accused, misunderstood. how did he defend himself, protect his reputation?” –  1 Peter 2:22-23.

There is so much going on in the world that temporarily raises our blood pressure. In the middle of a conversation, someone insults you and questions your integrity. Or maybe another believer questions your level of belief or your commitment to the church. Our natural inclination is to vigorously defend ourselves.

We all have people who come against us, make negative comments, try to discredit us, and belittle us. Human nature is to try to straighten them out and prove to them how they’re wrong. We think we have to defend ourselves; that’s our reputation. But the problem with this approach is that as soon as you get one person straightened out, three more will pop up. Somebody will always be against you, trying to make you look bad. If you’re constantly trying to defend yourself, you’ll get distracted fighting battles you were never supposed to.  It’s easy to get baited into conflict, thinking, “Did you see what they said about me on social media? I’m going to show them who they’re messing with.” So, what do we do when we feel the need to defend ourselves? How do we distinguish between defending ourselves and defending Jesus? How do we know when to speak and when to stay silent? Here’s the key: you don’t have to defend yourself; God said He will defend you.

Peter was determined to defend Jesus. When the Roman soldiers and high priests came to arrest Jesus, Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. But instead of letting Peter defend Him, Jesus said, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me” (John 18:11, NIV)?  Fast forward, and we see Peter’s complete transformation. God opened his eyes to see that retaliation against those who wrong us does not serve His purposes. Peter instead gave this command to the church: “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).

In today’s tense world of instant replies, it has never been easier to react rather than respond with humility and love and let God be our defender.  Every time you are attacked, criticized, put down, or misunderstood, you have two choices: You can defend yourself or let God defend you. Which will it be? Who do you think can do a better job defending you? God can. When we let God take His rightful place as our defender and respond to others in His love, the focus turns to Him. People are drawn to God because they see a part of Him in us.

Psalm 55:22 (GNT) says, “Leave your troubles with the Lord, and he will defend you.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. How have you seen God’s protection in your own life?
  2. In what ways do you need God’s practical protection in your life right now?


But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” -Luke 11:8-9.

Most people want more out of life. They want more out of their jobs, relationships, financial security, happiness, fulfillment, love, money, and time, to name a few. The follower of Jesus deeply longs for more of God in their lives. On the surface, this seems reasonable. Who would not want more of such a good and gracious God?

When the Israelites reached the Red Sea, they were stuck with the Egyptian army closing fast.  God miraculously parted the Red Sea. Could you ever forget such a moment? After crossing the sea and finding themselves hungry, God provided manna daily. When they were thirsty, water flowed from a rock. And, yet, still, their hearts struggled with unbelief. At various points, they thought it prudent to return to slavery in Egypt. They thought the security of slavery was better than being out in the wilderness with God.  How could they react that way with all the power and miracles staring them right in the face?

When we ask that question of the Israelites, we must ask ourselves about our wanderings in the desert or our deeper need and hunger for more of God. Like the Israelites, we need God’s power and direction.

God called us to live out our faith. He called us to walk by faith, to take a risk on His power and His promises. He called us to step out of our comfort zone and live the life we should live. The promises given by Jesus about receiving power from God in Luke 24:49 says: ” And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Then there is Acts 1:8:  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Many people want more of God but are unwilling to be where they need to be to get it. Simply wanting more of God is not enough. The desire for more can be powerful and general. When we say more, we must focus on what we want “more” of in our relationship with God. God is not interested in a joint partnership. He doesn’t want to be your “better half.” He doesn’t want shared custody of you, only on the weekends. God wants you to want all of Him, and He wants all of you. He deserves to be the main focus in your life.

Discussion Question:

  1. Do you want more of God? How does that desire manifest itself in your life?
  2. Do you think God wants more of you?


“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”  Psalms 30:5.

His favor lasts a lifetime. You have to love that statement.  Favor is granted out of goodwill rather than for justice or payment. In other words, it is a gift from God. You didn’t earn it. You can’t buy it. You can’t be so good that finally, God will say, “You have been so good; you have earned my favor.”

We know God is a God of justice and a God of favor. And His favor is for a lifetime. You cannot accurately define God without talking about His favor.  Favor is a fundamental attribute of God that springs from His grace, mercy, and love. It’s what Jesus did on the cross that earned each of us the favor of God. Moses asked for it, and Abraham asked for it. You can ask for it. “Lord, show me favor.”

The favor of God on your life is evidence to the world that our unseen God is alive and at work in the lives of His people. His favor was meant to set us up, set us apart, and make us stand out to the world, to show God’s goodness, grace, and mercy.

David experienced as many ups and downs, triumphs and sorrows as anyone. He had seen it all as a shepherd, giant slayer, folk hero, warrior, fugitive, exile, father, and king. But in everything, David kept his eyes on the Lord. When times were tough, he cried out to God in frustration, and when God was faithful, David lifted his voice in praise.

If you want to have favor with God, be fully committed to His Son, Jesus Christ. Gain a heart like His, and display His characteristics in your life. Finding favor with God enables you to find favor with man. If we treat people the way we desire them to treat us, we will walk in favor with men. If we respect people and keep an eye out for the welfare of others, people will do the same for us. Proverbs 3:3-4 tells us, “Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation.

Psalms 103:8-10 helps us see the attributes of our God. “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” That is favor.

Discussion Questions:

  1. We definitely want God’s favor. But having God’s favor doesn’t mean that this earthly life will be problem-free or pain-free. Jesus’ life and death demonstrate this perfectly. How is it that someone could be blessed and have God’s favor but experience such painful things at the same time? 
  2. There is no room for God’s favor if we value something or someone over God. How can we ensure that doesn’t happen?


   “Following Christ isn’t something that can be done halfheartedly or on the side. It is not a label we can display when it is useful. It must be central to everything we do and are.”― Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

We like to follow people on social media. The most-followed individual user is soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, who has approximately 621 million followers.  The Rock (Dwayne Johnson has 397 million followers, while Beyonce has 320 million followers. Many Christian writers, artists, musicians, and teachers also have a large follower base. One of them is Priscilla Shirer. Priscilla offers daily encouragement, pointing her 1.7 million followers back to the Bible to help inspire and guide them on their walks with God. We follow people on social media who either inspire, teach, or entertain us. And we can share what they share with others, that tidbit of information, with the click of a button.

Social media following is a whole lot different from following Christ. Following Jesus requires so much more of us than a like, retweet, or share. There is a cost to following Jesus. It’s easy to follow our favorite celebrities on Instagram, but following Christ requires something more of us.

Matthew 4:17-20 says, “One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.”

Simon Peter, Andrew, John, and James all abandoned their nets, boats, and livelihoods to follow Jesus. Later, Jesus called Matthew out of his tax collector’s booth. It is remarkable that these men responded to Jesus’ call and readily left their old lives behind. The most astonishing part of this is that none of them said, “Where?”  When people ask you to follow them, in most cases, you would ask, “Where?” You would want to know the route. None of those questions were asked when they are leaving and whether they like where they are going, yet the disciples followed Jesus.

When Jesus says, “Follow me!” He expects us to trust Him enough to do just that. Granted, it’s frightening to step into the unknown, but we can trust where the Shepherd is taking the sheep. Following Jesus doesn’t mean fitting His plan into our lives; following Jesus means fitting our lives into His plan.

When we truly follow Jesus, we commit ourselves to Him above all else. It’s not a half-hearted, cursory connection we may or may not keep in our news feed.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to you to follow Jesus?
  2. What impact does following Jesus have on our daily lives?


“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.’” Mark 8:34-35 (ESV).

The church isn’t perfect, and perfect religion isn’t attainable. But Jesus is perfect and the only way to know God. If we want a capsule definition of Christian life and experience, we can do no better than these two words: following Jesus. These simple words introduce us to a never-ending adventure of moving through life in the ways our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, points us to go.

As Christians, we often use the term “following Jesus.” We desire to follow Jesus, but what does that mean? Throughout the Gospel, there are many stories of Jesus and people following Him wherever He went. When He traveled from city to city during His three years of ministry, not only did His disciples follow Him, but also crowds of people.

The stories of Jesus calling His first disciples to “Follow me” (Matthew 4:18–22) are gripping. Scripture says they left what they were doing “immediately” and followed Him. Knowing the whole story, we can understand why they chose to leave their nets to follow Jesus. But did they know then what they were getting into by leaving everything behind? Did they have any idea how much their lives would change? We know they responded to Jesus’ call; the rest is history. Their response to Jesus’ call to follow made all the difference in the disciples’ lives.

The rate at which we are willing to follow Jesus is directly proportional to the proximity of our relationship with Him at that moment. The disciples followed Jesus because they believed He was who He said He was. Yes, they had a lot to learn and sometimes learned slowly, but through it all, they trusted that following Jesus was better than anything this world had to offer. Because they trusted they were transformed. They changed because they left everything that had the potential to come between them and an intimate, life-altering relationship with Jesus.

Sometimes, when we say we follow Christ, it comes with loopholes, ifs, ands, or buts. We try to finagle our way into keeping our comfort and what we want out of life, but we also want to give it all to Christ.

Following Jesus is making a very personal, individual decision. It is a choice everybody is offered and must choose through faith. Following Jesus is not about religion. Following Jesus is to learn to live your authentic, present life with all its responsibilities, relationships, and roles as Jesus would live it if it were His.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does following Jesus mean to you? 
  2. Why is it helpful to know more about Him to follow Him effectively?  What can we do this week to increase our knowledge of Him?