Sunday, September 8, 2013

Kicking Off A New Season

The best part about opening day in any sport is that every team is on equal ground. Everyone has the same opportunity to win the championship. What has happened in the past has no bearing on what might happen in the future. Fresh Starts are opportunities to break from the failure and disappointment of the past and focus instead on the possibilities of the future.

God has graciously built fresh starts into His creation. Every morning, the sun rises as a reminder that we have a new day... A fresh start. Yesterday is in the rear view mirror and today is full of potential. Fall is often a time of fresh starts. The NFL kicks off today, school starts, routines change.
My desire is to see our community kick off this new season by focusing on Jesus.
John 15:10 records Jesus' instructions to his disciples just before He went to the cross. He told his followers that those who obey his commands will remain focused on Him. A community focused on Jesus will be a community committed to following his commands.

Mark 12 tells the story of a religious ruler who asked Jesus what was the greatest command? Jesus responded that the greatest command was to "love The Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength." In other words, Love God with everything you have. He then continued His answer by saying, "the second is similar, love your neighbor as yourself." In Luke's version of this story, Jesus used the parable of the Good Samaritan to explain that our neighbor is anyone with whom we have contact. Later in His life, Jesus provided his disciples with a third command. He instructed them to love each other with the type of love He had modeled for them.

These three commands make up the heart of Jesus' expectation of His followers. If we want to remain focused on Jesus, will concentrate on obeying these commands. We will work to love God, love one another and love our neighbors.

LOVING GOD (Knowing & Obeying)

A simple way to demonstrate love toward God is to pursue a deeper knowledge of his character, actions and expectations. The best way to better know God is to spend time in His Word. However, just knowing God isn't really loving Him. When we love someone, our knowledge of them compels us to action. Our love can most clearly be seen in that action. Our love for God is best demonstrated when our knowledge of Him leads to obedience. As we obey Him we become more like Him. We become more generous, more kind, more loving.

LOVING ONE ANOTHER (Connecting & Caring)

Jesus said that our love for each other would be the identifying mark of his followers. Our love for one another is cultivated when we connect with each other and care for one another. The more connected we are to each other, the more successful we can be in carrying out Christ's mission for His church. The better we are at caring for one another, the more we demonstrate to the world our allegiance to Jesus.

LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR (Investing & Inviting)

As those who have experienced true peace and true hope because of the work of Christ, we should regularly be inviting others to experience the same salvation and freedom. We should invite them to follow Christ, to explore our faith community, to experience the relationships we enjoy. However, an invitation without investment can sometimes be odd or even creepy. Jesus invited people into the kingdom of heaven, but he also invested in the lives of those around him. He healed the sick, set the captives free, touched the untouchables and loved the children. Loving our neighbors means we invest in their lives and invite them to know Christ.

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