Steven and Natalie’s Story

Steven and Natalie were struggling with infertility and asking God why they hadn’t been able to expand their family as they so deeply wanted to do. But through seeking God for answers, and Steven seeing their blessing of extra rooms in their house, they found where their capacity to serve and love others, and the answer to their longing met.

Within just a few months, Steven and Natalie had two foster children filling their extra rooms. And then another call came. There were two more children in an emergency situation needing a home. Their rooms were filled, but God was clear, and the Holy Spirit gave abundant peace. “Yes. Just say yes.”

Through Steven and Natalie’s pain and struggle, God orchestrated a true picture of His love — His love for Steven and Natalie in answering their prayer for children, and His love for children in providing them a safe, caring home. And doing it in a way that was abundantly more than what they asked or imagined — a blessing of four when they thought they only had capacity for two.

God Stirs Our Hearts

We all sacrifice when our hearts are stirred for something. When you live on God’s agenda, He will lead you to sacrifice for others.

One 12Stone family went so far as to move from their comfortable, suburban life to a low-income apartment complex so they could reach people for Jesus. Why? Because God stirred their hearts to have a deep love for the people there, especially the ones who don’t know Him yet.

How Doug Jones Loves Others

When Doug and his wife, Laurie, learned they couldn’t have children of their own, they searched for another life’s purpose — a way to pour into young people’s lives. He encountered many young people on sets, in film school, at meet and greets, etc., so he didn’t have to look far for kids who needed love. “Puppies,” he called them.

Doug and his wife found that opening their home to young people (their “puppies!”) could be a profound way to impact others. In doing so, God fulfilled their longing to pour into young people, and then He divinely used Doug and Laurie to love and care for the young people in return.

How Did Jesus Love People?

Jesus loved people like no other human being to ever walk the planet. As the Son of God, he loved everyone — no matter who they were (friend or foe) or what was in their past (their mistakes and sinfulness). He loved everyone equally and perfectly. He still does that today. And the Bible encourages us to love like Jesus.

When Jesus shared the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37), he made it clear that when the Bible says to “love your neighbor as yourself,” it means that our “neighbor” is literally everyone we meet — not just the family next door.

Day 2: Where you get the ability to love

Read: 1 John 4:7-21

What if I get hurt?

What if they take advantage of me?

I’ve tried helping before, and it didn’t do any good.

For all of the reasons we avoid letting people into our lives or getting involved in theirs, John gives us one good reason we should. It’s what God did for each of us.

When we were uninterested in God, He pursued us. God sent His only Son into the world so our sin could be removed and our relationship could be restored (1 John 4:10-12).

When we realize the depth of God’s love, it changes us. We want to spend time with Him, to know Him. We find joy in bringing Him joy. And after a while, we become so familiar with His character that we know what He would say or have us do. Like a couple that’s been together for decades, we begin to move in sync with one another (1 John 4:13-15).

That’s why the real test of our love for God is how we treat the people right in front of us. God is love. When we are living in step with God, love is what comes out of us. When we love one another, the invisible God reveals Himself to others through us, and His love is made complete.

God knows better than anyone that love can be costly. We might get hurt, and people might take advantage of us. But the way to quiet those fears is not by retreating. We get past the fear of putting ourselves out there by remembering God’s love and choosing to treat others the way He treated us.

Reflect:

  • Who were you when you asked Jesus into your life? How has your life changed since then?
  • How would you describe the way God has loved you?
  • When it comes to loving others that way, are you retreating in fear or reaching out in faith?

Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 3: This kind of love cannot be overlooked

When you think of “standing out,” what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s the Insta-famous person with thousands of followers. Maybe it’s the colleague who hits every goal or the girl every guy seems to like. How about the star athlete who plays each game while your kid sits on the bench? There’s also the gigantic house that towers over its neighbors, or the teenager whose bright pink hair and wild fashion that make people look twice.

To most of us, standing out means having to be bigger or bolder. But Jesus describes a different way to get others attention — through the way we love one another.

We don’t have to push the boundaries with what we wear or climb the corporate ladder to stand out. As Jesus followers, we are called to love like Jesus loves us (John 13:35). That kind of love can’t be hidden. Like a light breaking into a dark room, Jesus’ love shining through us breaks through the mundane of our day to day (Matthew 5:14-16).

Anyone can profess love verbally. But the selfless, unconditional love Jesus demonstrates is more than just words (James 2:17). Jesus proved His love for us through action. He left heaven and came to Earth to live among us. He traveled from town to town healing and helping those who were hurting. And, in His greatest act of love, Jesus gave His life so we could experience forever with Him.

These days, love that proves itself through action is scarce. Many people don’t even know such a love exists, nor do they recognize their need for it. That is why Jesus put so much emphasis on freely and consistently loving those around us.

Real love is more than surface level. It is not fickle, and it does not demand anything in return. When we’ve been loved well, we know it. It causes us to do a double take, to feel deeply, and to tell others about it. A tangible love that reflects Jesus’ heart shines too brightly for people to ignore.

Reflect:

  • Do your actions match what you say about love? Why or why not?
  • What’s one way you can love someone intentionally and actively today?

Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 1: What is love?

Read: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Spending time with family.
Sleeping in late.
Reading a good book.
A pint of cookie dough ice cream.

We could all make lists of people and things we love. It’s a word most people frequently use, but do we really mean it when we say it? Certainly, a person doesn’t mean the same thing when she says, “I love my husband,” as when she says,“I love college football.”

So, what is love? What does it do? Why does it matter?

1 John 4:8 says, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” God doesn’t just show us love. God is love. Without Him, there is no love. With Him, it is impossible to not have it.

God’s love in us changes us. Love is the difference between caring for someone and using someone. Love makes our actions and spiritual gifts useful. Great faith, acts of service, and miracle-working power produce very little without love. Love involves unselfish service to others.

In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…[and] love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

As Christians, our love for others is a reflection of who God is. We are called to love God and love others. When we do this, our loving behaviors and attitudes point back to God and who He is.

Reflect:

  • What’s one way God’s love has changed you?
  • How is His love moving you to show love to others?
  • What is one way your love for others can point them back to Jesus?

Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 4: Love will always lead you to be more generous

No one likes being told what to do, especially when it comes to giving away money. 

In 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, Paul tells the Corinthian church to give, not because they feel obligated to, but as a reflection of their love for others. As an example, he points to the church in Macedonia.

Believers there were facing extreme poverty and trials. Yet in the midst of their suffering, the people had overflowing joy because they were generous in giving and sharing with others rather than holding tightly the little bit they had to offer. That’s the kind of love Christians are to show to one another — real, tangible, practical, and sacrificial generosity.

Being generous doesn’t happen without intentional effort on our part (2 Corinthians 8:7). Every married couple knows the words “I love you” don’t carry much weight unless they are supported by actions. The same is true with our love for others. Saying “I love you” is not nearly as impactful as showing someone you love them.

The beauty of learning to excel in the grace of giving is that generosity is a natural response to love. Generosity isn’t something that has to be forced. When we love someone, we want to provide for their needs with our time and attention.

God gave us the perfect example of sacrificial generosity in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). As followers of Christ, let’s put action behind our declaration and be generous in our time, finances and love.

Reflect:

  • When was the last time you did something crazy generous for someone else?
  • What’s one way that you can show love by being generous today?

Article courtesy of NewSpring 

Day 5: Do you love me enough to tell me the truth?

We all know what it’s like to have a difficult conversation with someone you love. You know, the one that you put off having because it’s awkward.

We wonder “What do I say?” and “What if they never speak to me again?”

Having hard conversations may not be fun, but they are necessary. One of the most difficult ways we show visible love to someone is by being willing to tell them the truth, even when it hurts.

Hard conversations, like the one Paul had with the church in Corinth, can lead people away from sin and into the abundant life Jesus has for them. Being truthful with each other pushes us forward and helps us become more like Jesus.

So how do you have a hard conversation with someone? Start by praying. Ask God what He thinks about the situation and what He wants you to say. Ask God for clarity and courage as you prepare for the conversation. Once you’re sure your motives are pure and you have the other person’s best interest in mind, it may be helpful to write out what you want to say as a reference for your conversation.

Next, ask the other person to sit down and talk with you in private. Let the person know you love them and have their best interest in mind. Say what you need to say, and be kind but clear. Give the other person time to respond or ask questions. When you both feel the conversation is finished, pray and remind the person how much you love them.

It may take time to process what was said, and that’s OK. Stay connected, so you can encourage and support each other as you take next steps.

Flattery feels good, but a real friend won’t stand idly by while we wreck our lives. We all need people who will do more than support our decisions. We need people who will love us enough to tell us when we’re wrong and help us change our ways.

Reflect:

  • Is there anyone that you need to have a hard conversation with? Pray and ask Jesus what He wants you to say. 
  • Has someone recently had a hard conversation with you? What is Jesus teaching you through that hard conversation?

Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 6: What do I do when someone hurts me?

Read: Luke 6:27-36

Even Christians can experience rage. Your body shakes. The heat rises to your cheeks. Your mind can’t comprehend how someone could mistreat someone so badly. You’re seething as you think, “How could they?”

A reality of being a human on planet Earth is that someone, someday, in some way will hurt you. When that happens, what should our response be?

Jesus gives us an answer in Luke 6:27-36. Love people, even when they are not lovable, even when you don’t want to. Give grace, be merciful.

No one knows more about loving people who don’t deserve it than Jesus. No one else can sympathize with you more than Jesus. He was hurt, made fun of, and talked about. Yet, He was willing to die for those who hurt him.

Our goal as Christians is to mirror what Jesus’ response was. Jesus knows all the unlovable people in your life, and He can equip you to love them the way He does.

The best way to begin changing our hearts toward someone is to pray for them (Luke 6:28). Be honest with God about your frustrations. Talk to Him about how hard it is to love that person, and see how God starts to transform your heart and mind.

It’s easy to respond to pain with pain. But only love will lead to healing. The more we love those who hurt us, the more our hearts are opened to letting Jesus heal our pain. Jesus is able to understand your pain, turn your heart toward forgiveness, and help you love. That’s what the grace of Jesus does.

Loving your enemies won’t be easy. It takes an effort to offer mercy as Jesus did, but He promises the reward is worth the work (Luke 6:35). If we will try to forgive and love, we will start to see our hearts soften. Give your hurt to Jesus day after day, and watch how He grows your heart.

Reflect:

  • Is there anyone in your life you need to forgive?
  • Do you need help loving a specific person? Ask God for help and how He would have you respond to that person. 

Article courtesy of NewSpring

Day 7: Are You Doing Enough?

You’re serving at church, volunteering with local charities, and helping at school. Every second of the day is accounted for, yet so much is left undone. Your days are long, and your body is exhausted. At the end of the day, you wonder, “When will it be enough?”

It’s overwhelming to look at a hurt and broken world. Too often, we see all the needs at once. We want to love others, but in our striving, we leave ourselves burned out and too busy to hear from God.

In Matthew 22, Jesus reminds the religious elite (and all those listening) to make the main thing the main thing. If we’ll focus on loving God and loving our neighbors, it will result in us fulfilling God’s commands.

We don’t have to end world hunger in an afternoon or heal every broken heart in one day. Instead, Jesus says the most important thing we can do is to love Him and love others. That’s our charge.

So rather than getting overwhelmed by all that we can’t do, we start with what we can do. Loving our neighbors can be as simple as cooking an extra lasagna to bring to the new mom next door or the widow across the street.

When we are loving God with our heart, soul, and mind, we are more in tune with His Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit is a helper and a guide. We can trust the Holy Spirit to show us opportunities to love people one at a time.

That’s how we make a difference — not by running down a list or striving to hold everything together. We change the world by loving God and showing visible love where He tells us to.

Reflect:

  • Why do you think Jesus put the emphasis on loving God and others instead of following all the laws? 
  • Is there a big need you feel overwhelmed by? 
  • What is one thing small thing you could do to meet that need today?

Article courtesy of NewSpring

Ridiculously Life Changing – Jeff Foxworthy & Wayne Cook’s Story

Famous comedian, actor, and author Jeff Foxworthy credits Wayne Cook, who he met at the Atlanta Mission, for changing his life forever.

“I was experiencing homelessness but I was living hopelessness, which is something that is way more severe and required a lot more attention than I realized,” says Cook. After trying to intimidate his small group leaders to get them to stop showing up, he finally accepted their love and attention… and snacks!

Jeff Foxworthy’s Struggle with Success

Surrounded by many rich and famous people — who “were at the top” and miserable — showed acclaimed comedian Jeff Foxworthy how to define true success in his life. Today he values loving and encouraging others in the name of Jesus above all else.

Foxworthy doesn’t serve others through his ministry at the Atlanta Mission because he believes he owes that to God for his success. He serves others because he knows how it feels to be loved simply for who you are.

In All Things, Love

Pastor Kevin uses three buckets to illustrate the difference between the essentials of our faith, in which we must have unity; the non-essentials of our faith, in which we should have liberty; and that all things — yes all things — are covered by the love of God.

To have great relationships with other Christians, it’s important to understand how the buckets work and how to let people be different from us in the area of non-essentials.

Lie: God’s Love Must Be Earned

There are many lies we believe about God. One of the most fundamental lies is that we can somehow earn God’s love by being “good enough.” Generations of people come out of church with that lie. Or stay in church with that lie. Or stay distant from God with that lie. It’s destructive and heartbreaking. Because we can never be “good enough.”

Jesus died for us while we were sinners. He was the perfect one, and He paid our sin debt. God knew we could never do it on our own. That was God’s extraordinary plan all along.

The Character of God’s Voice Is Love

Maybe the reason we’ve never heard from God is because we expect His voice to be angry, harsh, and full of wrath. But our Heavenly Father can scold and correct our wrong behavior, and still do it in love. God’s voice is loving!

Even though we are prone to wander (like sheep) and sin, Jesus, “The Good Shepherd,” chooses to interact with us with grace and forgiveness.

Make Yourself Available to Love

To love people by helping them to carry their burdens, we have to make ourselves available. This can mean taking time from our busy schedules to share our hope and faith, to share financial resources, or to simply share a smile and a hug. We’ll never know the struggles someone is facing unless we slow down and take the time to be available.

Carry Your Own Load to Love Others

It’s an expression of love when we carry our own load. This means when we have a responsibility to do something, people can count on us to get it done.

When we carry our own load and live up to our responsibilities, it creates maturity, stability, and a healthy environment in which the people around us can thrive.

What Is Unique About the Christian Worldview of God?

In every other religion, people either have to know something, experience something, or do something to be made right with God.

In Christianity, the grace of God comes to us because of His innate love for us. That grace comes in the form of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died for our sins.

It is God’s love and grace that separates Christianity from other world religions.

How Do We Practice Emotional Restraint When Dating?

Miles says it’s important to limit how fast the emotional intimacy grows in a dating relationship. Many couples play “pretend marriage” in their dating relationship, but dating should be special. Miles suggested seeing each other a couple times a week, texting a couple times a week, and leaving things at that. Miles advises not to think too far ahead when dating, which creates a “fake” intimacy where commitment doesn’t match up.

We often used the word “love” too quickly; marriage is the ultimate expression of love and because love is more than merely an emotional commitment, using the word love in a relationship should mean that a commitment of marriage is eminent.