“Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.” - John 14:23-24
OK, this one’s going to be brief. You say you love God, right? And do you obey Him? That’s the only test. It’s the only standard. If you don’t obey, then you don’t love. Jesus‘s words – not mine.
Don’t fall for the trap of measuring your spiritual life by your emotions. People always say “follow your heart“. Scripture tells us that we are to guide our hearts. Just because you feel something, doesn’t mean that it’s accurate.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love him with all your heart soul mind and strength. He didn’t leave it up to us to guess if we are loving him or not. He gave us a solid metric that we can count on: obeying Him. To obey is to love. To love is to obey.
Spark, simple, do something with it!
“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.” - John 13:34-35
Do you know what "apologetics" is? Wikipedia defines it as "Apologetics (from Greek ἀπολογία, "speaking in defense") is the religious discipline of defending or attempting to prove the truth of religious doctrines through systematic argumentation and discourse." People study how to convince others that following Jesus is a real and good thing. It is a useful.
Jesus, however, said that the love we have for each other is the proof that we are really following Him. We can craft fine arguments about why Jesus is who He says, but it still leaves Him as an idea you are trying to sell someone on. Love, on the other hand, proves we are actually following Him, not just talking about Him. That's according to Jesus himself.
So how do we love - what does it look like? What does Jesus expect in how we love? Well, He said: "Just as I have loved you, you should love each other." Wait - Jesus wants me to love - I can do that. Jesus wants me to love "just like He loves me"? Hold up a minute... If you have any idea at all of how deeply, completely, purely, and effectively Jesus loves you, then you get it: THIS IS A TALL ORDER!!! So, we can waste time wringing our hands over the hugeness of what Jesus asks - or we can just set out in faith to do it.
Do it. If He asks, He will enable. With humans, it is impossible. With God, all things are possible. He is with you today. You can do this. Prove to the watching world you follow Jesus. Go love them like He loves you. Totally doable because He's totally with you. Its what He wants and its what they need.
Spark. Flame. Warm the world with it.
“Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores.” Luke 16:19-20
Do you know the story? Jesus talks about how the rich man and Lazarus both die, and then he goes on to describe what it’s like for them in the afterlife and all the implications for us in this life. It’s all really good stuff - and I encourage you to read it. But there’s something else you need to know right now: this is a real story, not a parable. Why does this matter to you right now, where you’re sitting in this moment?
Jesus taught in parables to get across ideas that we’re supposed to live out. But in this instance, Jesus uses a personal name Lazarus. It’s the only time in all of Jesus’ recorded teaching where he uses the name of a person in a story to prove a point. He’s not just sharing a a “story” to illustrate something although it does that too. Jesus is telling you something that he has been an eyewitness to.
This matters to you because Jesus is watching you right now as you’re reading this. He saw you when you were formed in the womb. He saw you draw your first breath. He sees you right now this moment. He will watch you draw your last breath and step into eternity and watch as you reflect on what you did with your time here and where it led you.
Jesus isn’t talking to you about abstract ideas: he’s talking to you about the real world. Listen up. Pay attention. Because you’re going to have all eternity to consider what you’ve done with what Jesus is telling you.
Spark. Apply effort to achieve flame.
“The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.” Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him ‘You are not far from the Kingdom of God’” - Mark 12:32-34
We read the story of Jesus and see the mention of religious leaders - it triggers a reaction in us: “BOO! These were the guys out to get Jesus!” He called them “blind guides”, “hypocrites” and worse.
Yet here Jesus notices something good in this man - He GETS it! Jesus realizes he understands enough to make him close to the Kingdom, perhaps moving closer. Here’s someone we’d expect to be an enemy and yet Jesus identifies him as a potential ally and more: possibly a future friend and brother!
Keep this in mind today. God sees the heart and though our first glance may tell us one thing, maybe God knows something else is going on in their soul. Let’s come out of our defensive corners and dare to believe the Holy Spirit may be working in that person you thought was your enemy.
DIRECTIONS: Spark. Apply breath. Fan into flame. Repeat as needed.
“But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” John 11:4
“Lazarus sickness will not end in death”… Whoa, wait a minute! Sure it did! Dude got sick. Dude died. His sickness ended in death. Or at least that’s what the disciples must’ve thought when they got there! They didn’t get what Jesus was saying.
You see they didn’t know the rest of the story yet like we do. Lazarus’ sickness did NOT end in death. He died, sure, but that wasn’t the end. His story went beyond death into resurrection. That was and still is a radical thought!
When Jesus arrived at the scene, Lazarus‘s sisters heard him talk about resurrection and assumed it was an end of time thing. Again, they saw that, in their experience, this sickness was going to end in death… It already had! Nobody comes back from the grave – or so they thought.
So here’s your spark: what Jesus said was true and yet the hearers tried to cram it into their experience to comprehend it. Maybe today you’re going to read something in the Bible and miss its significance because you’re too busy trying to make it normal. Leave it in Jesus hands: leave it Supernatural! Dare to believe that what he says he actually means even though you don’t understand how it can come about. The HOW is his business. The WHO is yours: trust Jesus. Maybe Jesus means exactly what he says! Dare to open your mind to new possibilities.
“The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him. Then he said to them, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.” Luke 16:14-15
Well now - this is straightforward: the world around you today (stop and look around for a second ... I’ll wait... ) the world around you is all about the slick appearance. At the core its “money money money!” We chase it b/c we think that stuff it’ll buy makes us complete or better or more significant.
Only your relationship with God will do that. Accept no substitutes! Don’t hedge your bets and try to play both sides! Others might not notice but God sees your heart - and you’ll look … well… Let’s just say it: Trying to look godly while inwardly being greedy is “detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).
Lets look beautiful in His eyes today. Lets look like Jesus through and through. Get your eyes on the right prize.
A spark for you - now fan that into flame.
“So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’” Luke 14: 23-24
This is a brief part - the climax of a bigger story that Jesus told to illustrate God's attitude toward us when He offers/calls us to an opportunity to follow Him, to be part of His family and His plans and agenda. A King invites people to a banquet and those invited can't get around to showing up because they all have really practical things they need to tend to. Sorry, can't make it. Their replies make sense to them - entirely understandable and reasonable. Jesus bluntly says they are making excuses and it infuriates the King.
You ever eat a McDonalds' McRib sandwich? Set aside the debate if it's even real food, much less if it's nutritious or delicious. If you pull up to MickeyD's and order one, you will notice the signs all say "LIMITED TIME OFFER" or "FOR A LIMITED TIME". If you are into that sort of fast food, you better grab it fast because it will be gone (never mind McDonalds always brings it back eventually)
Here's the point: God's offer to you (Eternal Life, meaning, purpose, opportunity in this moment, etc.) is not fast food - don't treat it like something you can always get around to later. It is insulting to the King. It is infuriating to Him. We even understand something as meaningless as McMysteryMeat-in-Strange-Red-Sauce has a limited time availability and act accordingly if we really want it. You and I better recognize and respect the fact that God is so patient and kind - but His offers are for a limited time - Jesus finishes the story with the revelation that the King had enough of being blown off and passed the offer on to those who would respect it and respond.
So you: no excuses, move to accept and embrace what He's offering without delay while the offer is available!
“A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 'If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.'” - Luke 14:25-26
Hyperbole, derived from a Greek word meaning “over-casting,” is a figure of speech that involves an exaggeration of ideas for the sake of emphasis. You read Jesus' words above and you instinctively know that the One who tells us His commandment for us is to "love one another" certainly is not literally asking us to hate Dad, Mom, your spouse or kids. But He is driving home that our love for Him should be so dramatically more potent, more a priority and of deeper significance to us that in comparison everything else pales in comparison!
So there's your fuel for the day - Jesus is asking you to love Him so much today, to be so committed to Him this day that nothing else comes close. He gets first consideration all day today: What does Jesus want me to do today? What does Jesus want me to say? Where does He want me to go? What does He want me to look at, to listen to, to give my thoughts, attention and energy to? Nothing else is allowed to compete. Everything else must be kept in its place which is ALWAYS secondary to what Jesus wants. He said "Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple." Yeah: He wants that much from you. Rise to the challenge today.
“What were you discussing out on the road?” But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. ” Mark 9:33-34
What happens next? I bet you can guess - Jesus totally addresses the thing they were afraid to admit. They were arguing. It mattered to them. It mattered to their culture. They were obsessing over it. It was totally the opposite for Jesus, and that's why they didn't own up to it - they were ashamed because they knew it was really not worth all their attention at all and Jesus wasn't going to be sympathetic about this thing. We are nothing like them, right?
So sometimes, people you know might get all worked up about things they know aren't really significant, aren't really Jesus-level-important. You might have a chance to pass it on to someone like that so listen up: Jesus knows our every thought so keep that in mind. He might well ask you (oops, excuse me - THEM) so "What's that you're arguing in your head about?" in order to help you face the foolishness of what you (oops, there it is again, ahem, THEY) are obsessing over. Jesus wants to know:
A.) What's the big deal? Why so stressed out?
B.) Is it something GOD is making a big deal about?
If you (or that person you know) are embarrassed to face what's eating you in the light of Jesus, then maybe its time to drop it - I mean He knows what's going on anyway, right? If you are so uncomfortable - like these guys were - to even admit it, then you already know its not something worthy of a follower of Jesus. Dude, you know he totally sees you anyway so either own it and ask for God's guidance, or drop it and get on with learning to follow Jesus better.
“the only sign I will give them is the sign of Jonah. What happened to him was a sign to the people of Nineveh that God had sent him. What happens to the Son of Man will be a sign to these people that he was sent by God.” Luke 11:29-30
What happened to Jesus? For the onlookers of his day, if one judged too quickly it appeared Jesus lost all his fame and followers in a big scandal where he ended up being executed. It wasn’t what it looked like and it wasn’t over - still isn’t. People ready to write you off? You follow the King of the comeback. He looked dead and gone - He was just getting started! You’re His. Let that sink in.
There’s your spark. Now fan that into a flame of faith following Jesus!
what is "spark"?
Its a small thing - like the flash on a spark plug that hopefully ignites something bigger to propel you forward.
Niki is a wife and mother of 2 children. She lives in Charlotte, NC where she enjoys everyday moments that ignite her relationship with our Lord and Savior.