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? 

What Kind Of Legacy Are You Leaving Behind?

“As the time of King David’s death approached, he gave this charge to his son Solomon: “I am going where everyone on earth must someday go. Take courage and be a man. Observe the requirements of the Lord your God, and follow all his ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go. If you do this, then the Lord will keep the promise he made to me. He told me, ‘If your descendants live as they should and follow me faithfully with all their heart and soul, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.’ – 1 Kings 2:1-4.

As we walk through life, we make an impression on the people around us–we leave footprints where we walk. The footprints that we make in life are our legacy. A legacy is inevitable. You will pass things down to the next generation. Even if you don’t have much materially to leave behind, you will instill character traits, talents, hobbies, skills, and more in your children and grandchildren. But how valuable will your legacy be? 

In 1 Kings 2:1-4, David is about to die.  Solomon was the son of David who would inherit the throne from his father. David’s life was marked by sin and poor decisions he made as a king. As he gets ready to pass the baton of leadership on to Solomon, he encourages his son not to make some of the same mistakes he had made. Despite his failures, David was still a man after God’s own heart. In this text, David passes on words of godly wisdom to his son. History would prove his words to be wise. David closes his final talk with his son by reminding him that if he does all of these things, he will prosper, and one of his descendants will always sit on the throne.

Nobody who leaves a great legacy lives a selfish life. Jesus told us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. The world preaches a different message, but if you understand your eternal inheritance, you will be more generous with your earthly inheritance. Your life will be about serving others with your time, talents, and treasures. He wants us to invest in others for His and their sake.

Be a blessing to others this week. Has a colleague confided that she feels overwhelmed and grieved by her current circumstances? Invite him for coffee and share where you find hope when life is hard. Do you have a friend who is wrestling with her faith? Be a safe space for her to talk through her struggles, gently guiding her to seek out our heavenly Father. Maybe a family member decided that church and God “just isn’t for them.” Prayerfully consider writing them a note of encouragement, letting them know they are always welcome in the Lord’s house.

The greatest legacy ever left on this earth started about two thousand years ago and still lives on today.  Jesus came to this earth and lived a life worthy of praise. His legacy brought freedom and redemption for all the generations to come. Your legacy can change lives, it can change the course of future events, and it can even change the world.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. What would you list as the characteristics of a lasting legacy?
  2. Read 2 Timothy 4:1-8: Spend a few minutes thinking about the legacy you would like to leave.
  3. What are some changes that need to take place today to move you back toward a legacy of loving God and loving others?

Jeremiah And Your Calling

“O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young! The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth and said,“Look, I have put my words in your mouth!” – ” Jeremiah 1:6-9 

We all know those fortunate people who know exactly what they want to be when they grow up. Some want to be rock stars, some want to be veterinarians, and others want to be teachers. You have to admire those people, especially when they achieve the calling they set out for themselves. But the majority of people seem to have a clear vision for their life, but get sidetracked along the way. The world held seemingly endless possibilities, but along the way, paths changed.  

The story of Jeremiah is different. His calling was clearly and specifically communicated to him. Scripture tells us that long before he was even born, God intended to use him as His prophet. “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5). Jeremiah received instructions for his calling very early on in life—a clear purpose with detailed words from the Lord. Even so, Jeremiah protested, saying, “O Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” (v.6). Imagine how intimidating it must’ve been to be chosen as God’s mouthpiece. Not only was the job description itself daunting, but Jeremiah was also young and without much life experience. But God reassured Jeremiah again and again that He would be there to rescue him (vv.7–8, 19).

God knew Jeremiah, chose Jeremiah and appointed Jeremiah. He was known by name, hand-picked by God, and commissioned to serve. Those facts give one a great sense of purpose. The promise of God’s purpose allows us to let go of our own plans and receive God’s plan without fear. Like Jeremiah, we need to accept that our future is not our own. We are God’s. He has a distinct plan and purpose for our lives.

Before Jeremiah could experience God’s presence, he had to go where God sent him, speak what God told him, and reject fear. When God calls us to a task, He does not give us a road map to follow and then leaves us to our resources. God walks with us. His presence gives us the strength to stand in the face of every barrier.

What about you?  God chooses all of our callings. Designing us to carry out a unique purpose at a specific time and place, He equips us with gifts to help bring restoration to the world: “may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.” (Hebrews 13:21). 

God will fulfill His purpose in you, He will equip you, He will enable you, He will protect you, He will accompany you and He will accomplish His purposes no matter how people respond.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is God’s primary calling for each of us? 
  2. What are some practical steps you could take to follow your calling this week?

Be The Person God Wants You To Become

” God’s voice is glorious in the thunder. We can’t even imagine the greatness of his power.“He directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down.” – Job 37:5-6. 

Have you ever sat in your house and asked yourself a simple question: “What does God want from me?” That is the wrong question. The right question is  “What does God want for me?” We often consider God as this demanding ruler that wants something from us, therefore 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.

But it is not about what we do for God—but what God wants from us. The good news is that God wants something beautiful for you! God wants you to follow Jesus and experience life to the full. God wants to know you. He wants for you to have a love relationship with Him. He wants to change you. He wants you to become a new person, more like Jesus. And he wants for you to serve effectively, to live a meaningful life. An important step is to admit and understand what you are and are not made for. 

In Job 37 we read, “He directs the snow to fall on the earth.” Snow does basically one thing, it falls. And then He says to the rain shower, “… to pour down” God created snow to snow and rain to rain. It’s simple. God simply wants us to become what He’s already created us to be. We twist ourselves up in knots trying desperately to be something or someone else. Trying to fulfill some endless list of qualities and capabilities that we think will make us feel loved or safe or happy. Somewhere along the line, we stopped asking two questions: What is God asking me to do? What is the thing God created me to be?

God created us uniquely; we are equal but different. Our lives cannot and will never be the same. Each of us is so different and with different gifts. Our personalities are different, our outlook on life is different, and our perspectives are different. We are on the journey of life but our paths will always be as different as there are many of us. We were not meant to be born, grow up, grow old, and then die. No. Each of us was placed on earth for a time and a purpose. A purposeful life is the most fulfilling life. We have to follow the path that pleases God and serve the Lord diligently. 

Scripture tells us that if we want to become the person we are meant to be – who God says is the “real you.” You must become like Christ. That’s a tall order to fill. However, the mark of a Christian is our desire to fill it. We want to be more like our creator and our savior, and the more we are with Him, the more like Him we become.

God “…”knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:29) And 2 Corinthians 3:18 adds, “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Can you think of a time when your thoughts either positively or negatively started to shape your actions?
  2. What’s one way you can set your mind on things above today?

Are You Ready For Some Football?

“ Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.  I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. 

The college football games have started. While it is a new season, some things don’t change.  For example, there are a few elite teams that will be elite in 2022. Then there are the other schools who look to the football season with anticipation and hope. The hope is that the team and players will have a breakout year and compete for a championship. Each week while watching the game of your choice the announcers and analysts will praise various athletes for their constant display of courage, dedication, perseverance, strength, determination, will, and passion. The young men playing college football are incredible athletes, but no one person can do it on their own. Teams win because they function as a team because the players execute the coach’s game plan.

We as Christians are part of a team. We are a group of people who are called by Jesus to work together with the common purpose of carrying out His will on the earth. Just like in college football, playing on God’s team takes sacrifice, dedication, relentlessness, courage, and passion. Since we as Christians are indeed a team, then we have a Coach that never makes any mistakes and ultimately wins everything.  The game schedule for Christians is tough and a lengthy one, basically 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. We never stop playing because life never stops happening.  

To play well in the game of life, we need to give our spiritual head Coach everything we have. We need to put all of our efforts into doing what He asks of us as a player on His team. Jesus will never fail and will perfectly do His part. It was up to us to do our part as players. As you accept your part of God’s team, your part in the body of Christ, you will not only find your place in the world but also purpose and meaning because you’re finally doing and being who you were created to be. You have a certain role to play, the others are dependent on you to do your part. That’s why it is important to do your part and pull for team God. Every part affects the functionality of the whole. It really does matter what you do or what you leave undone.

At times, we are going to get tired and want to give up. But the same way a team feeds off the energy of its fans, we can draw strength from one another. Paul reminds the church in Rome of the special power that comes through unity in Christ. “May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Romans 15:5-6)

Discussion Questions

  1. God designed you to be a team player: agree or disagree and why?  
  2. What are some of our responsibilities when we play on God’s team? What does being on God’s team look like in real life? 

Your Mission Should You Choose To Accept It…

We cannot all go to the foreign field. We must express our interest in those who have not had our opportunities by our gifts… the fact still remains that there is nothing that will take the place of our hand-to-hand dealing with those who need us. We cannot perform all our charities by proxy. We must come in personal contact with those whom we would help.” – Clovis G. Chappell.

Years ago, the television show Mission Impossible always began with a scene in which the team leader, Mr. Phelps, would receive a tape describing his next mission. The tape invariably began, “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” In other words, the Mission Impossible team chose whether they wanted to take on the job. For centuries, the military has asked its soldiers to volunteer to take unusual risks. This wasn’t an accident. People are more committed when they take on a job they have chosen rather than one assigned to them. Being on mission with God is no different. 

 I don’t know what comes to your mind when you hear the word missions, but we tend to think missions are confined to “missions” people. You know, the rare and very religious people who choose to move to third-world countries or who run mission teams at church. But the fact is that it is God who is on a mission and anyone who chooses to be a “follower of Jesus” is signing up to be a missionary with Him. Your mission field can be right down the street. 

You can start by getting to know your neighbors and then serving them. Being served feels good. Jesus himself modeled the perfect servant. In fact, in Mark 10:45 Jesus tells us that He came to serve. Think of what it could be like if you took on this attitude toward your neighbors and began serving them. Serve them by inviting them over for coffee or a meal. You could also serve a neighbor by cutting his or her lawn.

Being on mission means praying for others including your neighbors. If you were to pick one step to build a relationship with your neighbors, pick prayer. Prayer helps to move us away from self-dependence to God-dependence. Prayer helps us remember that while God desires to use us, it’s ultimately God who works in our neighbors’ lives. Ephesians 6:14-16 tells us, “When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.”

We are all called to share in this mission. You are a witness to what Jesus has done in your life. You and I are to be witnesses of the truth of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit will empower you as you step out in faith and share your testimony and faith in Christ with others. It is not your mission to convince, convict or put a guilt trip on someone. It is solely to share the Gospel message and allow God by his Holy Spirit to do the work of salvation.

 Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to be on mission for God? 
  2. We, like Jesus, need to be intentional about trying to connect with those who likely won’t set foot in our churches. Agree or disagree and why?
  3. What can we do this week to be more intentional?

What Is Your Calling?

“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Have you discovered your calling?  The word “calling” is often misunderstood or used only when talking about people in the ministry. Christians view God as the source of our “calling” so the idea of it seems a little too daunting.

But is it? In Mark 10:46-50, we read the story of an ordinary man who was blind. Bartimaeus was sitting on the roadside begging when he heard Jesus was going by. He began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” While many told him to be quiet, Jesus said to call him. So Bartimaeus jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

Bartimaeus wasn’t anyone special. In fact, he would have been considered second-class by a culture that mistakenly prejudged his blindness as sinful. That could have been a barrier, yet when Jesus called, Bartimaeus rushed to Jesus’ side. Bartimaeus didn’t let anything deter him from Jesus’ calling.

What barriers or obstacles have kept you jumping to your feet when Jesus calls? It could be doubt. It could be that we wonder if we are hearing God or just assuming we are. Maybe we don’t see how God can use us. Maybe our job takes up too much of our time. Or maybe, we put our calling on the back burner because of circumstances.   

Is figuring out our “calling” that complicated?  Fundamentally, our calling is not a job we do, a title we earn, or even a check we write. Our calling is to respond to Jesus and go to Him, just like Bartimaeus did. Your calling is the vehicle by which you fulfill all that God calls you to be. It is not the reason for your existence, nor the basis of your happiness. God and God alone is the basis of our existence and our ultimate happiness. Once we recognize that and accept it in our hearts, we are liberated to pursue our calling with a focus that is clearer than ever.

We’re called to have a more intimate relationship with our Lord and Savior.  When we do, Jesus draws us near and calls us His brothers and sisters (Matthew 12:50). He erases the divide between our humanity and His divinity by calling us friends (John 15:15). While our faith leads us to accomplish good works, our first and highest calling is simply to be near Jesus. When we are, everything else will begin to fall in place.

“You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)

 Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do you think following God’s calling often involves going through difficult circumstances? When we neglect to follow God’s calling out of fear or uncertainty, what does that say about our trust in Him?

It’s Not About You

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. 

In his popular book The Purpose Driven Life, author, and pastor Rick Warren makes one point very clear, “It’s not about you.” In cultures where people chase personal comfort and happiness, it is difficult to get your head around the thought of struggle or pain invading our lives. God’s goal is not to make sure you’re happy. Life is not about you being comfortable and happy and successful and pain-free. It’s about becoming the man or woman God has called you to be.

Take the trials and tribulations of the apostle Paul. The very things we dread and run from in our lives are precisely where Paul found his contentment. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, he’s essentially saying: I am content when I am weak. I am content when I’m insulted. I am content when I endure hardships. I am content with persecutions. I am content with troubles. Paul gives us the reason: “…when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Can you imagine anyone today finding contentment in Paul’s circumstances? Paul’s contentment is a clear example of the way we should live our lives content in everything and with the realization that it is not about us, it is all about God. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:5, “Our message is not about ourselves. It is about Jesus Christ as the Lord. We are your servants for his sake” (GW).

When you and I boast of our strengths, we get the credit, and we keep going under our own head of steam. But when we boast about what He is doing in the midst of our brokenness, inability, and inadequacy, Christ comes to the front. His strength comes to our rescue. He is honored.

It’s not about you! God put you on this earth, and He has a message He wants to share the gospel to the world through you. But your life message is not about you. It’s about Jesus Christ.

If we were honest with ourselves, most of us would admit that we think we are captains of our fate and masters of our destiny. Life is both predictable and unpredictable. We lack the power to make everything go the way we want. The providence of God is the only foundation upon which we find the confidence to act in this unpredictable world. Knowing that the Lord is in control—and that we are not—actually frees us to act, for we know that no failure of ours can derail His plan. That He is in control also gives eternal significance to what we do, for what we do is incorporated into the all-comprehensive plan of the One who gives meaning to everything.

  Discussion Questions:

  1. Let those words sink in: “It is not about you.” How can believing those words transform your presence in worship, at home, at work, or in the grocery store? How can believing those words help you to faithfully build the kingdom of God?

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 If Today Is It?

“Resolved never to do anything which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life or before the last trumpet blew.” – Jonathan Edwards, 5th Resolution

Every decade or so, people predict that the world is going to end. For example, some people said that the world was going to end on December 21, 2012, at least according to the Mayan calendar.  Going back further, it was forecasted that computers would fail to handle the three zeros in the number 2000, and thus there would be a catastrophic meltdown of civilization. Again, the day came and went, and here we are in the year 2022.

The Lord Jesus Christ told us that the world will end one day. He said, “And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) However, Jesus made it clear that the precise date of this apocalyptic end is a secret that only the Father knows: Mark 13:32 says, “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”

But what if today is our last day? We do not know when we will come to the last days of our lives, but one day, you will wake up in the morning, and it will be your last day on earth. How must you live so that you will not regret it when that day comes? The Bible makes it very clear that this earth is not our forever home.  We are merely passing through until our day comes to meet our Lord and Savior.

We should strive to live each day as though it is our last. According to James, we don’t even know what our life will be like tomorrow.  “Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” (James 4:13-14) There is nothing wrong with making plans and filling our calendars but we must not be so obsessed with our plan that we miss God’s plan.

Paul knew that his life was near the end and that he had fought the good fight of faith: “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.” (2 Timothy 4:6)  He looked ahead to the crown of righteousness, which the Lord had waiting for him, but this crown wasn’t only for him but for all who had a deep, abiding longing for Jesus’ return. “And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8). He could reflect on his life with the satisfaction of knowing that he had given it everything he had and faithfully kept the faith until the very end. 2 Timothy 4:7 says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” What about us? Can we say that we are fighting the good fight of faith today and every day and living like today could be the last day of our lives?

It may not be the last day you live here on earth, but it may become a great day for you and those you care about.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What would you do if today were the last day of your life? 
  2. What would you not do if this was the last day of your life?