God created us to love. He sent his son to pay for our sins, out of love for us. This act shows us the greatest love – to lay down one’s life for his friends. This is an act of total devotion and sacrifice. As we love others, sacrifice is at the heart of the matter. Giving up what we want for another. Putting someone else’s needs before ours. That is how God loves us, and how we are to love others.
1. Describe when you have given up something for another.
2. Was that easy or hard? What was the outcome?
Challenge: Consider the relationships in your life. Are you sacrificing your desires to demonstrate your love for another? Is there something you need to do today?
Of all the gifts, we may possess, of all that we obtain or experience, nothing compares to love. It is something humans seek our entire life. It is a need built into us – a need to give and receive love. If you have been without love or lost the love of someone, you understand its importance. When you receive love or find someone to love you, recognize its value.
1. Describe a time when you lost love.
2. Describe the feeling of being loved.
Challenge: Take some time to consider the answers to the questions above. Did you feel a prompting to do something? Act now.
After learning about how God loves us, this verse makes more sense. God’s love covers over our sins. He covers our sins with his son. Jesus’ death paid the payment for our sins. God shows how much he loves us, that while we were still sinners, before we accepted Jesus as our savior, he sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins. God desires to be in relationship with us. He did all the work to make that relationship possible.
1. Are you good at forgiving others? Explain.
2. How do you accept the forgiveness of others?
Challenge: Is there someone you need to forgive, or someone’s forgiveness you need to accept? Ask God for direction in taking a step toward giving or receiving forgiveness.
God is love. So what does God’s love look like? God’s love is patient and kind. His love looks out for others, it does not get angry easily, and does not remember our mistakes. God’s love rejoices in the truth. God’s love always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres. When I read these verses as how I am to love, it can be overwhelming. When I look at these verses and understand that is how God loves us, the model he has given us to follow, it is inspiring.
1. How do you measure up to this description of love?
2. Which area is hardest for you?
Challenge: Pick one element of love described and ask God to help you practice that.
When we hear of a rich or famous person who committed suicide, we are surprised. It would appear they have everything – fame, fortune, and success – the whole world. It seems that happiness should follow, but something must be missing. As believers, we are created with a deep longing in our soul that can only be satisfied by a relationship with God. No matter how we try to fill that place, only God can fill that space.
1. With what have you tried to fill the longing in your soul?
2. How did that work for you?
Challenge: Have you committed to a relationship with Christ? If not, what step can you take today?
In this verse, God is telling Abram he will become a great nation. God used Isaac, the child born to Abraham and Sarah, to found a people who would convey his message of salvation to the world, eventually coming to a culmination in Jesus. Christians today think of themselves as children of Abraham. The glorious truth about God’s nation is that all you have to do to become part of the tribe is say “Yes, Lord.” It is a belief-right, not a birthright. All are welcome.
1. Do you feel a spark of recognition and belonging with other people when you learn they are Christians?
2. Do you think of your primary allegiance as being to God’s nation and his work on this earth?
Challenge: Ask God to give you a greater sense of urgency about inviting other people to be part of this tribe of Christians – and ask for boldness, courage and wisdom in your conversations with others.
In John’s vision of the Kingdom of God, all the saints from all the nations of the earth are united before the Lamb, each wearing a white robe and waving a palm branch. Think of white jeans and white T-shirts, white saris, white suits, white dresses, white kimonos, white surfer shorts ... their robes are white because the people washed them in the blood of the Lamb, and they serve God “day and night.”
1. What is it that unifies the saints standing in front of God’s throne?
2. Do we have to wait for heaven to develop the attitudes of saints eternally praising God?
Challenge: Say the Lord’s Prayer with intention, pausing between each line to observe how Jesus meant us to be praying, especially the phrase “on earth as it is in heaven.”
The primary source of contention among early Christians was between those who wanted to follow Jewish law completely and those who thought Jesus erased the need for strict compliance with the outward expression of the law: food restrictions and circumcision. In this passage from Ephesians, Paul gives us a powerful image of God blasting through the barrier separating those two factions. God’s power to destroy the walls that divide factions hasn’t diminished, whether in religious or cultural or racial or any other disputes.
1. What barriers to unity do you need God to eliminate in order to be more like Jesus?
2. How often do you put your trust in Jesus to remove walls rather than relying on your own reason or good will?
Challenge: Meditate on the idea that “He Himself is our peace,” that turning our thoughts toward Jesus automatically faces us in the right direction – toward heaven and away from our philosophical opponents.
Paul devoted a lot of his teaching to healing the rift between Jews and non-Jews who believed in Jesus. In this verse he goes even further and says all are one in Jesus’s eyes, even women or slaves. Most today have a different view of women, and (thank God!) slavery is outlawed in the U.S. But humans always find a way to identify the “out” crowd: people who are uneducated or overeducated; have legal or illegal immigration status; vote Democrat or Republican; cheer for the Vikings or Packers; identify as Baptist or Catholic or Mormon, or straight or gay; or even those who are on time to church or always late.
1. Do you have any groups that you think of as “others”?
2. How do you find unity in Christ with those who are “other”?
Challenge: Pray for Jesus followers who are different from you, and pray that Jesus will let you see them through His eyes.
In our heads, we get it that there are Christians of every race and nationality. We even support missionaries to spread the Good News about Jesus and translate the Bible into every language. Still, in our hearts, we might write off some places without even thinking very deeply about it – North Korea, Iran, Burma. But God’s word is crystal clear: Not only will God have dominion over all people everywhere, but all people will actually worship him.
1. In which places in the world do you perceive an absence of God?
2. How can you change your perception about other countries and cultures?
Challenge: Identify a particular culture/nation you know little about or perceive as antithetical to Christianity and spend a half-hour just learning more about the people who live there. Then pray for them.