Day 30

“By helping each other with your troubles, you truly obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

We love to think of ourselves as independent, capable people with all the answers. But I do have to admit, there are times when I find myself overwhelmed, confused, and struggling with troubles in life. When the apostle Paul wrote the Galatian church, he didn’t tell them that they would have a trouble free life as believers, but he did give them a way to effectively use their troubles. What he instructed them to do was use the experience of their troubles to help others when they go through a similar experience. He puts it in the context of obeying “the law of Christ.” Biblical scholars look to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22:37-40 as the “law of Christ” where He instructs us to love God in every way possible and love my neighbor as I love myself. Paul seems to be saying if all I manage to do is muddle through my troubles and trials on my own, and never use the wisdom I gained from my experience to help someone else in my faith family, I have neglected to “love my neighbor as myself.” 

Questions to Consider

1. How open are you to using the wisdom you gained from your most difficult situations in life to helping other followers of Christ? Even if that situation was embarrassing to you?

2. Who in the church family do you find it difficult to be transparent with about your troubles?

3. Are you willing to sincerely pray for God’s help in overcoming that difficulty? What action will you take as a result of your prayer?

Day 29

“You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13

Do you ever feel like life is running you rather than you running your life? It’s easy to get overwhelmed by things. In what areas of your life do you sense real freedom? Maybe that’s a hard question for you to answer. The apostle Paul said, “You…were called to be free.” You’re probably free to come and go where you please, you’re free to choose the people you want to associate with, for the most part, and you’re free to choose between right and wrong if you’re a follower of Christ. Within the realm of your freedom, you have a certain amount of energy to spend. How I choose to spend that energy can lead me toward continued freedom
or back into a life of bondage to the things that end up dragging me down. We sometimes refer to them as our “hurts, habits, and hang-ups.”

The blessing of freedom brings with it the responsibility to make wise choices. If my freedom is all about me being self absorbed in the things that feed my “sinful nature,” I head down a slippery slope of enslavement and defeat. However, as a follower of Jesus, I now have the choice to use my freedom to serve others “in love”. That’s the choice that will keep me free the way Christ meant for me to be, with no guilt or regrets!

Questions to Consider

1. Do you consider yourself a person who is “called”? Why or why not?

2. Are your current daily choices making you more free or less free? In what ways?

3. Where is an area of your life where you are now serving strictly out of love?

Day 28

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

How would you like to be a part of something that was known for its kindness, compassion, and forgiveness? Sounds like the kind of place people would flock to doesn’t it? And yet, we sometimes find it challenging to get our friends and family to join us at church because those Biblical characteristics aren’t what they expect to find among our church family. Is that the reason we find so many churches with empty seats every Sunday? If we as God’s children find it difficult to muster up kindness, compassion, and forgiveness for other people, especially our church family, why in the world would anyone outside the church think we have anything worthwhile to offer? These character qualities that Paul writes the Ephesian church about are Godly qualities. And as we yield ourselves to God’s control, He uses us as a conduit to share His qualities with others, and the end result is a deeper and richer sense of community among us. You could fill all the empty Sunday church seats when kindness, compassion, and forgiveness are on full display in the lives of God’s people!

Questions to Consider

1. Who in God’s family has shown you kindness and compassion in the past? Did that strengthen your fellowship with them?

2. What does forgiveness look like when we forgive others the way God forgives us in Christ?

3. How would you rate yourself when it comes to showing kindness, compassion, and

(1 – 10, 1 being poor; 10 being strong) ____ kindness ____ compassion ____ forgiveness

What are you willing to do to raise any low scores?

Day 27

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

I can be impatient, unkind, rude, and a host of other un-Christ-like things. I have gone before the Lord on multiple occasions to ask for His forgiveness, and I believe, based on His word (1 John 1:9), He has forgiven me. While my sinful actions always stand in the way of a close fellowship with my heavenly Father, they can also cause friction and damaged attitudes and relationships with my faith family. James goes beyond the concept of forgiveness and moves into the realm of healing. You can be forgiven and yet not reap all the benefits of it because you haven’t been healed. The healing he speaks of here has to do with my ability to have
deep, grace filled relationships with others in the body of Christ. There is an almost indescribable richness we can enjoy as fellow believers when Jesus truly is Lord of our life and we are open and honest about our own shortcomings. It’s so important that James associates this healing with the power and effectiveness of my prayer life. And by the way, James says to confess “your” sins, not the other person’s. He also makes it clear that this confession for healing is something we do to “each other”. Usually when we confess our frailties to others, they’re no surprise to them, but it does carry with it the possibility of healing, both for me on a spiritual level personally, and for the relationship with the person I am being honest and contrite with.

Questions to Consider

1. When was the last time you humbly admitted a personal sin to another believer?

2. When you confess a sin to God, do you also consider who else might have been affected by that sin?

3. Have you followed up to make that situation right with them? Do you want to be healed?

Day 26

“Nothing is to be done out of jealousy or vanity; instead, out of humility of mind everyone should give preference to others.” Philippians 2:3

What’s the main motivator in your life? Why do you do the things you do and say the things you say? Most of us, if we were being honest, would have to respond, it’s my own needs and wants. After all, I have to look out for number one! The apostle Paul shares with his fellow believers in Philippi that anything in our lives that is motivated by “jealousy or vanity” will yield results that are un-Christ-like. It distorts our thinking which affects the way we treat each other. Have you ever been jealous of someone? You know how it can mess with your mind. That’s why Paul said “Nothing is to be done” (no action is to be taken) with those two motivators. Jealously means I want something you have or that you have achieved, I’m envious of you. And vanity means I think I’m better than others. Neither of those build real, lasting community.

However, he does give us an idea about the best motivator to build community among us and it starts with “humility.” Being humble doesn’t mean I don’t ever think about myself, it just means I think a little more about you and your needs and it affects my actions because I begin to “give preference” to those needs. When that happens, it changes everything!

Questions to Consider

1. What do you consider to be the main motivator in your life right now?

2. Who are you jealous of right now and why?

3. What type of person or people do you think you are better than? How has that affected your actions toward them?

Day 25

“You must warn each other every day, while it is still ‘today,’ so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.” Hebrews 3:13

Giving someone a warning, with the proper motivation and in the right time, can be one of the most beneficial things we ever do as believers. My motivation must be love for the person, and the time to act is “today” (as soon as you see the potential problem). Many times we hide behind, “it’s none of my business,” but that’s usually an excuse rather than a real reason for not warning someone who’s about to fall into something sinful. Sometimes we wait and talk about the person and/or the situation after someone has messed up. That means, now I’m involved in gossip rather than truly helping that person and being part of the solution. It’s
obvious that the writer of Hebrews recognized the fact that all of us have the potential of being “deceived by sin” and having our hearts “hardened against God.”

The flip side to all this giving a “warning” is the possibility of receiving a warning. If somebody came to you with a concern about your well being based on certain circumstances, would you be willing to listen or would you become defensive? My first inclination would be to go into a state of denial, but if wisdom is leading me, I should consider the person sharing the warning, and if they are a person that loves me, I must be willing to give thought to their concern. It’s all part of the responsibility of being in God’s forever family!

Questions to Consider

1. Have you ever witnessed a fellow believer fall into sin?

2. Did you make any effort to intervene? If so, what did you do?

3. If someone who cares about you shares a concern about something you are doing, how do you generally respond to it? (circle one)
Ignore it / Question their motive / Consider what they’ve said

Day 24

“Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other.” Colossians 3:16a

I can read the words of Christ, I can study the words of Christ, I can meditate on the words of Christ but it’s only when I absorb the words of Christ to the point that they come to life in me that I gain from their wisdom. The depth of God’s word can never be exhausted. Paul uses the word “richness” to describe it because of the value it can bring into my life. But there’s no lasting value in wisdom unless it’s shared with others. To be wise without teaching and counseling other people in its ways would be a terribly selfish act. Perhaps you don’t think of yourself as wise, but if you’re a follower of Christ, you have a level of spiritual wisdom that many of the people around you need to know about. Even if you only have a rudimentary understanding of God’s word, you’re likely ahead of somebody you could teach or counsel in order to strengthen their faith. We really are in this together and it’s all for the purpose of helping each other!

Questions to Consider

1. What has God been teaching you from His word lately?

2. How much is God’s wisdom affecting your life right now? (Circle one) None A little Some A lot.

Are you satisfied with your answer? Yes No

Is God satisfied? Yes No

3. Who are you sharing God’s wisdom with?

Day 23

“Encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Stupid, dummy, troublemaker, pain in the neck, along with a lot of other words you didn’t think your Pastor knew, do a great deal to tear people down. Sometimes we fill our proverbial machine gun with negative words and blast away. It’s so easy for some to use put downs and slurs to talk about the people with which they have difficulties. And for some, it’s just as easy to just write people off and go their way after giving a verbal barrage. It really is a fine way to be a discourager! What a contrast for those who have given their lives to Christ. Our new task as believers is to “encourage and build each other up”. That likely won’t come naturally to all of us, even Pastors. It’s something we must practice in order to get better at it, and the best place to practice is with our church family. Just a kind “good morning” or “how you doing” may be the nicest words a person’s heard all week. A smile goes a long way in lifting spirits, both for the smiler and the one being similed at. Give it a try the next time you’re at church! Are you known as an encourager to those around you? Hopefully it becomes such a natural part of your church life that it overflows into the rest of your relationships.

Questions to Consider

1. Who has brought the most encouragement into your life? (Write down a name or some names)

2. What type of things did they do to bring you encouragement? (Make a list)

3. What are the things on that list you can do for others? Will you do them?

Day 22

“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” Philippians 3:17

A picture is worth a thousand words, at least that’s how the old saying goes. And when it comes to living our lives for Christ, it really is true. There are many people that have touched my life down through the years that have been wonderful examples of the Christian life. None of them were perfect, but they were ahead of me in this journey, and they did what they could to leave me a challenging example. Some were Biblical scholars and others were simple farm folk, but the ones who left the greatest mark on me did it through their sincerity and stability in the faith.

The true Christian life is much more like a marathon than it is like a sprint. You’re in it for the long haul and you keep on keeping on no matter what the terrain is like. Those are the folks who have made a lifelong impression on me. There are always going to be people who try to live a showy, over the top Christian life. They are usually the ones who burn out in a short time. That has never impressed me, but it can discourage a lot of people in their own faith when those kind of people fall by the wayside. A consistent example goes much further than a flash in the pan. I heard someone say it this way when it comes to living for Christ, “it’s not how high you jump but how straight you walk when your feet hit the ground”. Are you being a “straight walker” for others?

Questions to Consider

1. Who in God’s family has been a consistent example of Christ in your life? (make a list)

2. What habits are you trying to develop right now in your own life to be a Godly example to others?

3. Who do you know that you need to reach out to with a consistent, loving invitation to know Jesus?

Day 21

“So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’” Ephesians 4:25-26a

A person can try to build a relationship on several different things. Some people build on convenience, others on lust, still others will try to build a relationship based on deception. None of these are the proper way for a follower of Christ to build relationships. For the believer, honesty is not only the “best policy,” it’s the right one. The truth has a way of changing the dynamics in any relationship, especially when we apply the principle Paul wrote in verse 15, “speak the truth in love”. There are times we feel compelled to speak the truth, but our motivation may be more about “letting anger control you” rather than love for others and for Christ. Honesty is not to be used as a hammer to bludgeon people over the head. It reveals who we belong to and His character. When honesty and truth are used properly, it deepens our relationships and causes us to be able to trust one another, knowing that we have each other’s best interest at heart. And because Jesus is “the truth” (John 14:6) He truly can “set us free” (John 8:32) when we operate our relationships on the basis of honesty.

Questions to Consider

1. How many times can an honest person lie before they become a liar?

2. How much does honesty play a part in all your relationships?

3. Do others around you consider you to be a trustworthy, honest person? How does that affect your relationships?

Day 20

“Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2b

Patience is listed among the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). That means it’s one of those character qualities in my life that’s evidence of the Holy Spirit’s control over me. In what situations or with what kind of people do you find your patience most challenged? For me, it’s the times when I find myself under pressure for one reason or another that I tend to run out of patience. When I’m in a hurry but the people around me, the traffic, the circumstances, just don’t move at my preferred speed. That’s when I can have a short fuse. And there’s no doubt, I’m most impatient with my family members when they don’t seem to meet my expectations. The discussions get louder and the requests sound a lot more like demands. But after all, I’m a reasonable person. Why shouldn’t folk see things my way? 🙂

Paul writes to the Ephesian church and finds himself needing to encourage their patience with one another. He reminds them that none of them are perfect because they each have “faults.” You know, those things that are so easy to spot in other people! Then he gives the solution to the problem of impatience as being “love.” When I love someone, I go the extra mile to try and learn why they may be doing things the way they are. Rather than impatience, I try to be more understanding. That will go a long way in keeping the harmony and peace in any church family. That must be what Peter was referring to when he wrote in 1 Peter 4:8, “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

Questions to Consider

1. What or who has been testing your patience lately?

2. If it’s a person that causing you to be impatient, how could love make a difference?

3. What are some ways you are causing others to want to be impatient with you? Are you willing to work on those “faults”?

Day 19

“I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church.
Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” 1 Corinthians 1:10

The church in the city of Corinth had a number of un-Christ-like things going on in their congregation during the Apostle Paul’s time. His letters to this church meeting in a very secular city, were written to give guidance and encouragement to this group of young believers. One of the key areas he needed to address was the divisiveness within the church. People taking sides against each other, disagreements over various issues had caused the church to be ineffective in their mission for Christ. They had a negative reputation. In verse 10 he gives a simple, yet profound, solution to this particular problem. He begins by reminding them that they are family. He calls them “brothers and sisters,” but not earthly siblings, rather, family because of their relationship to Christ. In a forever family, Paul says harmony is essential. I’m grateful for that. I’d much rather my relationships on earth be more heavenly oriented. All the fussing and fighting down here can get tiresome! In order to move from divisions to harmony we must be focused on the same thing. Paul basically said something similar to the church in Philippi when he wrote in Philippians 2:1-2, “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” Amen!

Questions to Consider

1. What are some things you have seen divide a church family?

2. How important is church harmony to you? How have you shown that?

3. I heard an old rhyme many years ago that asked, “What kind of church would this church be if every member were just like me?” What’s your answer? 

Day 18

“…all of you should be of one mind, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds.” 1 Peter 3:8

Any church that puts into practice 1 Peter 3:8 is what I would consider a healthy church. To be “of one mind” means there’s a spirit of unity that outweighs my personal preferences. To be “full of sympathy” means I care when others are hurting. To love with a “tender heart” means my actions are focused on other’s needs above my own. To love with a “humble mind” means I’m seeing things from God’s perspective. It’s structured and operates in a manner that exemplifies what the Bible calls, the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says it this way, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Any church that gets this right as individuals and as a family of believers will be a magnet to those languishing in a cruel and/or uncaring world.

Questions to Consider

1. Which of the fruit of the Spirit do you believe are recognizable to others in your life right now?

2. Which of the fruit of the Spirit do you need God’s help to grow in? Will you pray for that help right now?

3. What attributes of 1 Peter 3:8 are you displaying to others in our church family?

Day 17

“Excel in showing respect for each other.” Romans 12:10b

“I don’t get no respect” is a famous line from the deceased comedian, Rodney Dangerfield. He built an entire comedic routine on that one line and listed numerous proofs for his statement. So what’s the big deal about respect? It must be important to us because people will go to great lengths to be respected in certain areas of their lives, either for good or for bad. For instance, some students will work tirelessly to get good grades and make the honor role just to be respectable, while gang members will commit the most heinous crimes in order to be respected by their peers.

For us as believers, showing respect has more to do with our attitude than it does if an individual is acting respectfully. Many times in life I’m called on to respect a position or title even if the person occupying it is less than respectable. That can be tough in politics, that can be tough in families, and that can even be tough in churches. Once again, the responsibility comes back on me. I don’t have to answer for how respectable another person is, but I do know that scripture teaches me to act and speak respectfully toward others, especially with my faith family.

Questions to Consider

1. How important is it to you to be respected by others? Very, Somewhat, A little, Not at all. 

2. What are some things you are currently doing to show respect to members of your church family?

3. What challenges you most when it comes to respecting another believer? How are you handling it?

Day 16

“Let us agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other.” Romans 14:19a

How far are you prepared to go to get along with other people? The world is full of what you could call “fair weather friends”. Those are the people who will be your friend if you always agree with them or as long as it’s convenient for them. Our world seems to operate comfortably at that level. I think it’s interesting that this particular rendition of Romans 14:19 tells us to “agree” but the agreement was not about seeing every little thing eye to eye, but rather to “agree to use all our energy” to get along.

Why is it so important for the body of Christ (the church) to get along? I think it’s because it takes us to a level of friendship/relationship the world just can’t explain. It’s learning the art of being able to disagree without being disagreeable. That’s another trait the world has a hard time comprehending. The admonition of “getting along” doesn’t mean we have to sell out our deepest beliefs or heartfelt convictions. It simply means when I surrendered my life to Jesus, I gave up my right to treat others in any other way than loving. In John 15:12, Jesus said, “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” I can’t do that without surrendering everything to Him, but when I do, the world takes notice!

Questions to Consider

1. What are some ways Jesus showed His love for people? (Make a list)

2. What is an area of your life you struggle surrendering to God right now?

3. If you surrender that area, how could it possibly affect your relationship with others?

Day 15

“Since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.” Romans 12:5b

Paul uses the analogy of a human body to describe those of us who are followers of Jesus. Somehow in the grand scheme of God’s design we each exist as a part of the body of Christ (the church). As I get a little older, I have learned how important the different parts of my physical body are, especially when they begin to break down or fail. As soon as something goes wrong, I realize how challenging it is to compensate for the part of the body that’s missing or failing. We wear glasses, use hearing aids, walk with canes, alter our diets and none of those are what we want to do, but we do it out of necessity.

That’s similar to what it’s like when I don’t do my part in the body of Christ. Someone else has to make up or compensate for my lack of participation, and that just makes ministry a little more difficult and maybe even less effective. It’s only when we serve together, each doing their part, are we most effective for Christ! Since God has a unique plan and purpose for each of us, He knows exactly how He wants me to serve in the body He has placed me. That means Maine Street has a place of service where you can be fulfilled and advance the Kingdom of Heaven at the same time. It’s great to know you’re not here by accident! 🙂

Questions to Consider

1. Who do you admire because of their service in the church? What traits do they display in that service?

2. What talent or giftedness do you have that could be used for Christ within His church?

3. What part do you believe God has for you in service at Maine Street?

Day 14

“Whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus.” Colossians 3:17

I have a friend I served with on a church staff several years ago, who before coming to be a part of the ministry staff, had an important position with a major soft drink company. He shared with me about the rules the company imposed on all their employees. They were never to talk about, have in their possession, or be seen drinking a soft drink from their major competitor, in their home or anywhere else. They could not even eat in a restaurant that served soft drinks from their competitor. If they were caught, they would be immediately fired. They were seen as representatives of the company and total allegiance was demanded. It really surprised me that a soft drink company could have such sway over the everyday life of a person. After all, it’s just fizzy brown water!

It made me think about who I represent as a follower of Jesus. Does my allegiance to Him run as deep as that of a soft drink company? Does it affect where I go, what I say, and how I interact with others? People bow down to the soda company I mentioned earlier because it controls the money that sustains the employees’ life. We are to represent Christ well because He paid the ultimate price for our eternal life. He died for us so that we could live for Him!

Questions to Consider

1. What things (actions, attitudes) have changed in your life since becoming a follower of Christ?

2. Has anyone ever asked if you were a Christian just because of the way you talked with them or how you treated them?

3. There’s a question I heard years ago that went like this: If being a Christian suddenly became a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Day 13

“Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions.” 1 John 3:18

The word love is so abused in our society today. In the same breath I can tell of my love for chocolate, a favorite sports team, and my family. I would certainly hope that the love I have for those things is not on the same level! Not only is the depth of my love different depending on what I’m referring to, but so is the way I show it when it’s a real love from down deep in my heart. A calm, rational human being can become a loud, boisterous, crazy person if their team just scored the winning touch down in the Super Bowl.

That’s one way of showing our love of things, but John is talking about something that really should go deeper and that’s our love for people. Just like the sports enthusiast’s actions change at the big game, so should our actions change when it comes to dealing with the people God’s created. John encourages us to not just talk the talk of love but we are to walk the walk when it comes to dealing with our friends, neighbors, and family members. This even applies to strangers. The love of Christ is to affect my actions when I deal with any person, any where, any time. It’s easy to love lovable people. Anybody can do that. It’s when I’m called to show love to those who are difficult or even humanly impossible to love. That’s the kind of love Christ wants to pour through us, and it has the potential to change the other person and it sure changes me!

Questions to Consider

1. What acts of kindness have other people done for you that made you feel really loved? (list a few)

2. Has anyone ever said they loved you but you doubted it because their actions didn’t show it?

3. Who is in your life right now that is difficult to love? What action could you take to show the love of Christ to them regardless of their response? (Romans 5:8)

Day 12

“Be friendly with everyone. Don’t be proud and feel that you are smarter than others. Make friends with ordinary people.” Romans 12:16

“We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends.” 2 Corinthians 5:20b

Jesus is a friend of sinners. He reached out to those that the religious community rejected as unworthy to know God. He even stated that He came to help those who were sick with sin not those who felt they didn’t need a doctor for their spiritual condition (Mark 2:17). He made a point of connecting with people who were far from God in order to reach them for God. It was the purpose of His earthly ministry (Luke 19:10). He was very intentional about building common ground (friendship) bridges to people. One of the truths about being a believer for a long period of time is, I connect with fewer and fewer people who don’t know Christ on a personal level. Most of my friends are followers of Christ. I spend more and more time involved in church related activities. And while being involved in church and having Christian friends is a good thing, it reminds me that I too must be intentional in building common ground (friendship) bridges to people who don’t know Christ in a personal way. I must make myself aware of the lost people around me for the purpose on continuing Christ’s mission. After all, the Bible says I am His ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20a).

Questions to Consider

1. Would you consider yourself a good or poor ambassador when it comes to representing Jesus to those around you? Why?

2. What steps could you take to become a more effective ambassador for Christ? When will you start?

3. Who are you intentionally building a friendship with so that you can share the message of Jesus?

Day 11

“Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” Romans 15:7

Acceptance is a key component of all successful relationships. Without it, you’d never have any meaningful relationships. But acceptance should never be confused with total agreement. I have some people I accept as my friends but on certain issues we’ve chosen to disagree without being disagreeable. Jesus accepted people who wouldn’t have been considered acceptable to most religious people in His day. He reached out to people like the woman caught in adultery and Zacchaeus the tax collector. He accepted them as people in need of God and on that basis He offered them the path to peace and hope. As a matter of fact, I know another sinner Jesus reached out to and accepted into His family. It’s me and I’m so grateful! Now I need to be a conduit of that love and acceptance to get along with my brothers and sisters in Christ and draw outsiders to a relationship with God. Romans 5:8 reminds me, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Questions to Consider

1. Who is that person or people that challenges you most when it comes to acceptance?

2. In what practical ways can you show God’s love and acceptance to that individual or group?

3. How do you balance the acceptance Jesus offered the woman caught in adultery with His statement “go and sin no more” (John 8:11b)? Is that a picture of “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15)?

Day 10

“Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining.” 1 Peter 4:8-9

What do you think of when you hear the word “hospitable”? Does it take you to a place of warm welcomes and an encouraging environment? In the midst of his talk about love, he inserts the idea of being hospitable to one another. It takes me back to a time and place in my youth when I would visit in the home of one of my friends. He and his family were very active in the small country church I attended. I always loved being in their home because guests were always welcome there. There was always an invitation to stick around and enjoy whatever was going to be served at the next meal whether it was a full blown dinner or a simple snack. The conversations were usually fun and uplifting. This was very different from the home I grew up in and I welcomed the opportunity to spend time in their Christ-centered home. Admittedly, these folks were instrumental in loving me to Jesus. Their house was built out of the same type materials as my family’s house. The difference was the home that occupied the house. This family saw their possessions as tools to be used to further the Kingdom of God and that included the house they made into a home.

Questions to Consider

1. What possessions has God provided you with that could be used to minister to others?

2. What do you think Peter meant when he wrote, “love covers a multitude of sins,” especially as it pertains to your relationships?

3. Who is someone God wants to show His love to through you?

Day 9

“…you are working together and struggling side-by-side to get others to believe the Good News.” Philippians 1:27b

Who’s on your team? You know, the team that helps you grow spiritually and assists you in accomplishing the will of God? Being a disciple of Christ is a team sport. Of course, we understand that we come to Jesus and make our commitment to God as individuals but after that, I grow and accomplish more when I live and serve in concert with other believers.

Even Paul admitted that fact in 1 Corinthians 3:6 where he said, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow.” And then in verse 9 he said, “work together as partners who belong to God.” The idea of reaching our friends, relatives, and neighbors with the Gospel is a daunting task in many ways, and yet, God has not left us alone in the work. We have each other for prayer support and encouragement and we also have the Holy Spirit who goes before us to prepare the way. That’s why I want to encourage you to get connected with a small group Bible study or even consider leading one where you can be a part of a team!

Questions to Consider

1. Have you ever had the opportunity to share your faith experience with someone? Did you do it? Why or why not?

2. Can you name some specific people who are on your team that help you in your faith?

3. Who are the people you are trying to encourage in their faith?

Day 8

“Be wise in the way you act with people who are not believers, making the most of every opportunity. When you talk, you should always be kind and pleasant
so you will be able to answer everyone in the way you should.” Colossians 4:5

“I’ll get around to it.” That’s the way a lot of us live certain areas of our lives. But when it comes to matters of faith, we aren’t the ones in charge of the timeline. Some things I put off doing can be done later, but when the Holy Spirit impresses our heart to share the message of Christ with a friend or loved one, the timing is crucial. We have to remember that God is at work on both sides of the equation, the one that is to share the message and the one who is to hear it. Being “wise in the way you act” is a reminder that people who don’t know Christ are watching to see if He’s real to us. “Making the most of every opportunity” means I’m on the lookout for those times when Christ wants me to say a good word about His provision for our souls. Say a prayer, be aware, and take the dare to share! 🙂

Questions to Consider

1. Who are some people you know who are not (followers) believers in Christ? (make a list)

2. Will you begin to pray regularly for your list of unbelievers? When will you pray?

3. What might an opportunity to share your faith with someone look like?

Day 7

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35

Sunday, I made an interesting observation. I was able to see the body of Christ in action during our worship services. I suppose I’m a little more sensitive to the matter since we are doing this particular message series, but I watched to see how the church family greeted one another, how people seemed to show genuine concern for each other and even how the people of Maine Street reached out to make our guests feel welcome and at home. The love we have and show to one another is a barometer of how healthy a church we are in not only God’s sight but that of the world. A warm smile, a friendly “good morning,” a willingness to sit
with someone who’s by themselves are just a few things we can do to show love for one another.

I think it’s amazing that God has structured life so that the only way I can show the world that I love Him is by my loving connection to His family, the church. Jesus said to the Father in John 17:21, “I want all (my disciples) to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me. I also want them to be one with us. Then the people of this world will believe that you sent me.” That seems to imply that I can’t truly be right with God if I’m not
right with my church family, at least on my side of things. There’s that comfort zone thing again!

Questions to Consider

1. How loving and genuinely caring were you this past Sunday with the church family and
guests? Underline one: (Not loving – Loving but only with those I know – Loving to all I came in contact with – Other, explain… ______)

2. Are you willing to go outside your comfort zone for the Lord when it comes to being an agent of loving-kindness in the church?

3. Who makes you feel loved and welcome at Maine Street? How do they do that? Can you do that with others?

Day 6

“We are anxious that you keep right on loving others as long as life lasts, so that you will get your full reward.” Hebrews 6:11

One of the things my son enjoyed while he was growing up was sports. He was very involved in several sports but his favorites were basketball and baseball. Unlike his father, he wasactually pretty good at them. One of the things we learned with his involvement in sports was the large amount of time spent at practice. We kept the roads hot traveling back and forth getting him to practices. Practice was important because without it, he wouldn’t have been ready for the real games.

The writer of Hebrews understood this idea when he insisted that we keep on loving others in this life because it’s training us for Heaven. Some sports practice events are tougher than others and some situations where I have to love certain people is more challenging than others, but it’s what God uses to make me more prepared for my loving Heavenly home.

Time to go now. My “Bless Every Home” app just reminded me to pray the love of Christ over some of my neighbors!

Questions to Consider

1. Who in God’s family is easy for you to love? Why do you think that’s the case?

2. Do other believers find you to be someone easy to love? Why or why not?

3. What is a practical way you are going to show Christ-like love to someone this week?

Day 5

“Love your brothers and sisters in God’s family.” 1 Peter 2:17b

The New Testament uses a great deal of “family” terminology. It speaks about believers being brothers and sisters or treating each other as parents or sons and daughters in the faith. That may encourage you or that may scare you depending on the family situation you were raised in or are living in currently. But understand that when the scripture talks of us being family, it is in the purest sense of the word. It’s family the way God intended. It’s something we don’t just participate in, but we actually belong to. Everyone has a deep need to belong. When you know where and to what you belong, it actually helps you understand your purpose in life.

This spiritual family can also help you learn new and better ways of relating to others, especially if you grew up in a dysfunctional physical family. It’s something worth being committed to and that’s why Paul wrote in Romans12:10a, “be devoted to each other like a loving family.” It’s what makes our weekly Sunday “family reunions” worthwhile!

Questions to Consider

1. What are some of the things you enjoy most about getting together with your church family?

2. Who are the people in church that have helped you grow in your spiritual life?

3. What actions are you willing to take to be an encouragement to others in your spiritual family?

Day 4

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love other believers.” 1 John 3:14

There are certain things in life that I seem to have a natural propensity to love. Unfortunately, many of them aren’t necessarily good for me, things like too much ice cream and cake. When I became a follower of Christ I gained a supernatural propensity to love some new things.

One of the key ones is other followers of Christ. Where in the past, my attitude towards Christians may have been negative, assuming they had a “holier than thou” attitude. I now know from the inside that being a follower of Christ is more like, “one beggar telling another beggar where they found bread.” We hopefully do what we do and say what we say based less and less on conditional love and more and more on God’s kind of love which is unconditional.

That’s all a part of the maturing process in Christ and the goal we should all be striving to achieve. It comes through prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers. That’s the new ice cream and cake I need to develop a taste for! 🙂

Questions to Consider

1. On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being no love, 10 being lots of love) how much do you love
spending time with your church family? Circle your answer (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

2. What actions could you take to deepen your love and concern for others in the church? (Be specific)

3. When do you believe God would have you start those actions?

Day 3

“People who don’t love other believers, whom they have seen, can’t love God, whom they have not seen.” 1 John 4:20b

Loving an invisible God can seem much easier than loving an irritating member of your church family. (Yes, sometimes we all can be irritating!)

Most of us would like to divorce the idea that our love for God is somehow connected to our love for our fellow believers, at least sometimes. The only problem with that is, God said it doesn’t work that way. 1 John 4:7b-8 says, “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

The way we love God is measured by the way we see and respond to each other. Do I see my fellow believers the way God sees them? (Broken and in need of grace). The people God places around us are opportunities to practice loving like God does.

Will you be successful in the challenge when God sends thenext opportunity your way?

Questions to Consider

1. Has God brought anyone to mind that you need to show His love to?

2. How will you go out of your way to express God’s love to a challenging believer this week?

3. How do you think God would have you react if that person or persons don’t respond toyour lovingkindness in a Christ-like way? How does He respond?

Day 1

Coming Soon.

Day 2

Coming Soon.