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Finding Jesus

While having dinner with a pastor in Orlando, I asked how he came to know Jesus. He said his father left Puerto Rico for Orlando over twenty years ago looking for work. After a couple of days, he saw a tent in an auto dealer’s parking lot. He entered and discovered a church service occurring. He experienced Jesus, decided to follow Him, and went back to Puerto Rico to tell his family. Afterwards they moved to Orlando and started attending church. Today his mom visits people in prison, his dad counsels people in faith-based financial planning, and all the children are involved in ministry throughout Florida.

A genuine experience with Jesus changes everything. Unwholesome things do not appeal as they once did. And like the Samaritan woman at a well, salvation causes a person to tell family and friends about Jesus.

Photo Credit: iko (cc)

Photo Credit: iko (cc)

John 4:27

Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”

Jesus and Women

No rabbi would have entered into a conversation with a woman. One of their sayings was, “A man shall not talk with a woman in the street, not even with his own wife, and especially not with another woman, on account of what men may say.” Yet out of respect the disciples do not even question Him.

Jesus interacted with women on several occasions. He frequently mentioned men and women in His parables. He even elevated their position on more than one occasion (Luke 18:1-8). Jesus was continually modeling to the disciples the equality of genders in the Kingdom of God.

John 4:28-30

So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.

Worship in Witness

The Samaritan woman came to a well to fetch water but found Jesus. She left her water jar behind and told others about Him. Her sincerity generated curiosity, motivating others to come and meet Him.

A Change of Plans

A real encounter with Jesus changes the trajectory of a person’s day and ultimately their entire life.

The challenge

Pursue a genuine encounter with Jesus. Be open to a change of plans. Bring others to Him.

How has Jesus changed the direction of your life? Share your comments below.

True Worship

Jerusalem is a city of religion. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism consider the city sacred. Pilgrims come from around the world to journey where Jesus, Mohammed, and Abraham walked. They seek spiritual experiences in religious locations.

While speaking with a Samaritan woman Jesus reveals genuine worship is not dependent on places or things. God actively seeks true worshippers, those willing to worship “in spirit and truth,” those with a sincere and honest approach to God. Are you a true worshiper?

worshipJohn 4:20

“So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”

A holy mountain

The Samaritan woman tried to move the conversation away from her many husbands to an even more controversial topic: Which mountain is holy?

There was a bitter division between Jews and Samaritans over rival claims about the genuine place of worship, Jerusalem or Gerizim? Samaritans read only the Pentateuch, the first 5 books of the Old Testament — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Within these books Mount Gerizim is given importance. Abraham and Jacob set up altars on the mountain and later, after Israel took possession of the land, it became the hillside of blessing.

Jews, however, included other Scripture that helped define Jerusalem as their holy place (2 Chron. 6:6, 7:12; Ps. 78:68).

John 4:21-24

Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The nature of worship

Jesus did not wish to be drawn into the debate. Location does not matter. His concern is the nature of worship. Worship inaugurated by Jesus is not tied to any place considered sacred.

Worship is an issue of “spirit and truth.”

God is actively seeking true worshipers – those who maintain a complete sincerity in their approach to God. True worshipers do so in spirit, as defined by emotion, intellect and will. They also worship in truth, through their speech, actions, and thoughts. God is ceaselessly active as the life-giving Spirit and is worthy of all worship.

But how does one worship? In the sanctuary God has prepared, the arena of life, He makes a person’s whole life worship. Faith communities come together weekly to engage a person’s emotions, intellect and will, but worship of God extends far beyond this brief corporate encounter. Genuine worship is spiritual. It is not dependent on places and things. A person’s daily work, words, actions, thoughts…their whole life is worship.

John 4:25-26

The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus told her, “I Am the Messiah!”

The Messiah revealed

The woman does not dispute Jesus’ comment and understands the Messiah will fulfill all that was spoken.

On this occasion Jesus admits being the Messiah. He safely uses the term in a region away from Jewish political circles. His confession is a beautiful invitation to “come unto Me.”

More than the Messiah

Jesus was more than a Jew or Samaritan could comprehend at the time.

He is the Answer to the undeniable sin problem.”

The challenge

Genuinely worship God in spirit and truth! Sincerely come to Him and dedicate your life to His will. He is worthy of worship.

What does being a true worshiper mean to you? Share your comments below.

Experiencing Jesus

Many decide to follow Jesus because they incorrectly think He will give them a trouble free life. They desire to experience life without pain. The abundant life Jesus promises does not mean no difficulties. Rather, Jesus becomes the rock people build their life upon. Without Him life is built on shifting sand.

Jesus wants you to know the real blessing of abiding in Him.

Photo: Valley where Jesus met the Samaritan woman

Photo: Valley where Jesus met the Samaritan woman

John 4:15

“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

Personal Convenience

The woman took the words of Jesus literally, similar to Nicodemus taking the discussion about new birth literally.

The woman’s concern at this point was personal convenience. Wouldn’t it be nice to avoid frequent trips to a well and the regular hassle of drawing water?

Many want Jesus in their life as a matter of personal convenience. They hope Jesus will reduce the hassle of life, making inconvenience and trouble go away. This is not what Jesus offers.

John 4:16-18

“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.

Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”

Jesus confronts sin and offers wholeness

Jesus decides to bring the woman’s situation into the open. In only a few words she attempts to quickly stop the dangerous subject. Jesus’ reply is humbling, showing He knows all about her relational issues. Jesus cuts to the core of the problem.

Things left in the dark are not resolved until brought into the light.”

Jesus wants to see this woman fully restored, not possible until light is brought upon her unwholesome lifestyle choices.

John 4:19

“Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet.”

The Messiah

Samaritans acknowledged no prophet after Moses other than one mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:18, “I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him.” This coming prophet was considered the Messiah. For the woman to speak of Jesus as a prophet was to assign him this special designation.

The challenge

Step into the light and seek God’s forgiveness. Desire to experience the full measure of divine grace. Come to Jesus – the Rock of Ages.

How has Jesus made Himself known to you? Share your comments below.

Eternal Satisfaction

After graduating from college, Shellie and I were married, I started my teaching career, and we moved into a one-bedroom apartment. We were on our own, with respectable work, a home, and cars to get around. We found some fulfillment in our work, but were yearning for something more. We knew Jesus promised an abundant life and we were convinced we had yet to experience “life to the full.”

In John chapter 4, Jesus meets a woman at a well and introduces her to life eternally.

To experience an eternally satisfying life, a person must encounter Christ.”

satisfaction

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John 4:4-8

He had to go through Samaria on the way. Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

Obeying God

From a practical standpoint, Jesus did not have to pass through Samaria. Most Jews avoided travel through Samaria, but it seems Jesus had to travel this way in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s leadership.

Upon meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus makes a request in order to get connected with her. He establishes common ground, a need for water, to begin sharing the gospel with her.

John 4:9

The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

In need of water

The woman at the well recognized the vast difference between herself and Jesus, but He established a simple commonality – thirst. Jesus and the woman shared common human aspirations and needs.

John 4:10

Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

Living water

Jesus quickly transitioned to spiritual matters, referring to the new life He gives, a life connected with the activity of the Spirit. He used the analogy of living water to raise interest and left the woman wanting to know more.

John 4:11-12

“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

Greater than Jacob?

By all appearances, it seems the woman thinks there is nothing extraordinary about Jesus as He engages her in spiritual conversation.

John 4:13-14

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

Abundant life

The living water that Jesus gives will bring permanent satisfaction. A vigorous stream bursting forth into an abundant, everlasting life in the Spirit that motivates believers into action.

Life bringing forth more life.”

The challenge

Seek the abundant life only Jesus can bring. Everything else only temporarily satisfies, but Jesus brings permanent satisfaction.

How have you experienced an abundant life in Jesus? Share your comments below.

In God’s Time

After graduating from college, Shellie and I had a desire to teach overseas. We began exploring different opportunities but in the end took teaching jobs in the Chicago area. One of the things we learned following Jesus is to trust His timing. During Jesus’ ministry, He always waited for the right time.

time

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John 4:1

Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John.

Curious

The Pharisees had taken an interest in John the Baptist (John 1:19). Yet now Jesus was baptizing more than John. They became equally curious about Him.

John 4:2

(though Jesus himself didn’t baptize them—his disciples did).

Under God’s authority

Jesus himself did not do the baptizing but the disciples did under His authority. The value of baptism is not found in the baptizer but in the One whose name the rite is administered, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

John 4:3

So he left Judea and returned to Galilee.

The right time

Jesus withdrew from Judea and set out for Galilee before a confrontation could occur with religious leaders. The timing was not right.

God’s time

When it comes to the work of God, His will and His way is not only involved but also His time.”

According to God’s will and way Jesus would die on the cross. Just as important was the timing. Jesus needed time to train His disciples so they could carry on the work after His resurrection and ascension into heaven.

Leaving America

After teaching in Chicagoland a number of years, Shellie and I began working with an international school in Khartoum, Sudan. We trusted God’s timing and He led us to a great school that we were able to lead for a few years. Our experience in Africa changed us forever, moving us from a routine to radical life, dedicated to God’s glory among the nations.

In pursuing the will and way of God, trust in His timing as well.

The challenge

Pursue God’s will, way, and timing for everything. Allow Him to order your steps and make your path straight.

How has God’s timing made a difference in your life? Share your comments below.

Exalting Jesus

We live in a world that pushes the pursuit of greatness. Everyone is to take all of their ability and skill and maximize their potential. Become glorious– wealthy, healthy and wise. Be capable, competent, strong, secure, and independent. It often ends with self-worship – idolatry.  The whole goal of life can turns into getting your own glory, setting up your own fame, and chasing your own reputation. Some Christian theology goes right along with this world based idea, saying, “Love Jesus, he’ll make you rich, he’ll make you happy, he’ll make you brilliant, he’ll make you powerful, he’ll make you victorious.”

John the Baptist had a very different viewpoint. His desire was for Jesus to increase and for himself to decrease. Are you exalting Jesus with your life?

jesus

Photo credit: Speedboat (cc)

John 3:22-24

After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).

Working together

Between the baptism of Jesus and the arrest of John the two cousins ministered side-by-side for a brief period. Jesus’ disciples were baptizing people along with John’s disciples, both preaching repentance of sins.

John 3:25-26

Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”

Competing ministries

John’s disciples brought a complaint to John regarding the success of Jesus. Human nature is often competitive, even when advancing the Kingdom of God.

John 3:27-28

John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’”

What God gives

John did what God gave him to do. As the forerunner he could do no more. John let his followers know people were flocking to Jesus because God willed it. John did not come to intrude on the place of the Messiah.

John 3:29-30

“The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

A friend’s joy

John introduced the bride (the church) to the bridegroom (Jesus). John’s joy was complete in knowing Jesus ministered alongside him in the desert. His desire was for Jesus to continually increase, while he, the servant, decreased.

Making Jesus famous

Followers of Jesus are not in competition with one another. They work in cooperation in order for lost people to become introduced to the Savior.

The goal of every believer should be decreasing so Jesus might increase, in their lives and throughout the world.”

The challenge

Cooperate with others! Work together to see Jesus become famous. Put Him first in your life and encourage others to do the same.

What can you do to increase God’s work in your life? Share your comments below.

Made New in Christ

While serving as School Administrator of an International school in Sudan, I had opportunity to work with people of various backgrounds. One of the Arabic teachers made the decision to follow Jesus while I was there. A person who daily came dressed in black, with a countenance to match, was transformed by the power of God. She happily greeted passerby’s with a sparkle in her eyes and a smile on her face previously not seen. Her decision to follow Jesus not only made her behavior new but also came with the promise of eternal life.

John chapter 3 reveals eternal life involves being completely remade by the power of God.

new

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John 3:1-3

There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

Being remade

Nicodemus came to Jesus impacted by the miracles he witnessed. Jesus, without delay, got to the very heart of the matter. In one sentence he cast aside everything Nicodemus stood for and challenged him to be remade by the Spirit of God.

John 3:4-8

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

Genuine transformation

Nicodemus refers to physical birth in his response. Does he think this more probable than someone’s nature being transformed? Every time a person comes to Christ a miracle occurs. Genuine life-change begins by divine intervention.

John 3:9-15

“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.

Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.”

Lifted up

Jesus refers to His death as being “lifted up.” Jesus would experience the momentary humiliation of a cross that was actually the ultimate display of eternal glory. This one act would bring new life to those believing in Jesus.

Defining eternity

John’s reference to “eternal life” is about the life to come. The importance of eternity is not the quantity but the quality. When passing from this life into the next, a person moves from the earthly to the heavenly.

How is this achieved? As a gift from God, not based on human achievement. John 3:16 unpacks this idea.

The challenge

Ask Jesus to transform you completely. Be remade by the power of God and begin experiencing eternal living with Christ.

How has Jesus changed you? Share your comments below.

Confidence in Christ

Many people find their identity in family, work, religion, hobbies, sports or recreation. This reminds me of Jesus’ teaching on house building in Matthew 7:24-27. If someone’s identity is built upon temporal things, they build on faulty foundations. When troubles come there is no firm footing. If identity is found in Christ, He provides strength to stand in the midst of a changing world.

confidence

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John 2:23

Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him.

A forming faith

Miraculous signs caused people within Jerusalem to be attracted to Jesus but did not cause them to have profound faith in Him.

Faith, by definition, is not acquired “by sight.” Faith is found by acknowledging Him the Lord of your life and believing God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9).

John 2:24

But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature.

Genuine transformation

Many who witnessed Jesus perform miracles were willing to make Him a national leader but Jesus would not entrust Himself to them. His desire is for people to experience genuine transformation, not just enthusiasm for something spectacular.

There was an eternal purpose behind the miracles of Jesus.

Although He desired to address physical needs, Jesus wanted to open people’s eyes to eternity.

John 2:25

No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.

A faulty heart

God fully knows the hearts of men. First Kings 8:39 states, “Give your people what their actions deserve, for you alone know each human heart.”

People were impressed with Jesus’ miracles, but He knew many would not fully devote their lives to Him.

Identity in Jesus

Jesus did not need human approval to stand firm in who He was, is, and forever will be. He knew Himself to be of divine origin. His confidence came from His relationship with the Heavenly Father.

As a follower of Jesus, our identity is found in Him. If you have made Jesus Lord of your life you are a child of the King. Paul relates from 2 Samuel 7:14, “I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18).

People will have varying opinions of who you are, but Jesus sees you as a child of God.

If your confidence is in a relationship, a job title, social standing, or anything else, insecurity and fear will constantly be part of your life. Placing confidence in Christ enables you to stand on a firm foundation.

The challenge

As a follower of Jesus, confidence comes from Christ. Stand firm in faith and do not allow circumstances or people to overwhelm you.

In what ways have circumstances or people kept you from claiming an identity in Christ? Share your comments below.

Missing God

Jews have been waiting for a Messiah for thousands of years. Jesus’ messiahship was regularly challenged. Many Jews formulated their own concept of what the Messiah should do and missed the One reconciling man to God and inaugurating His Kingdom.

John 2:18-22 reveals misunderstanding the nature of Christ can cause someone to miss God’s eternal work.

god

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John 2:18

But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.”

The Messiah

Jews were questioning the rightness of Jesus’ action of cleansing the temple. They wanted a miraculous sign to authenticate this Messianic act.

A shallow understanding of God and lack of faith cause people to demand proof. I have known people who asked God to show them a sign in order to believe in Him. That is not faith. The writer of Hebrews states,

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1).

John 2:19

“All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

A gospel sign

The ultimate sign Jesus gave to the Jewish leaders was His death and resurrection. He knew they would destroy the temple (Jesus) and three days later God would raise Him up.

The religious authorities wanted a sign, but not the one Jesus ultimately gave. God works in people lives, but this often takes shape in ways different than they anticipate. His ultimate desire is for everyone to become right with Him through Jesus Christ.

John 2:20-22

“What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?”
But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said.

A spiritual temple

Commentators argue for a double meaning in His words, one referring to His death and resurrection and the other referring to the abolition of the Temple and sacrifices. Both occurred by Jesus dying on the cross and being raised from the dead.

Jesus was handed over for crucifixion by Jewish religious authorities and three days later raised from the dead. The rebuilt Temple is the New Covenant put into effect by the cross and empty tomb, a spiritual Temple.

God is greater

Isaiah shares, “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). God is at work. It is better to align yourself with His perfect plan than be consumed with questions about actions or motives. People need to come into line with what God is doing, not seeking self-rightness by challenging His plans.

The challenge

Avoid coming to God with preconceived ideas of what He desires for your life. Passionately pursue Him knowing His ways and thoughts are not of your measure or standard.

Have there been times when you have missed God? Share your comments below.

Kingdom Access

The story of the prodigal son is interesting. The brother became angry at his brother’s celebrated return. Had he not been in the field at the time, would he have guarded the doorway to the house? Are you joyfully welcoming others into the Kingdom of God or restricting their access?

As a follower of Jesus, shouldn’t you make room for others?

kingdom

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John 2:13-14

It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money.

Open eyes

As a yearly custom, Jesus celebrated the Passover at Jerusalem. He saw merchants selling and trading goods within the outer Temple area, the Court of the Gentiles. The merchants took up space where foreigners should have had access.

As followers of Jesus, it is important to become aware of what is keeping others to have access to God.

John 2:15-16

Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

That all might hear

Jesus states why he acted so harshly, “Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” It was not the physical force but the moral power Jesus employed that emptied the courts (Morris, Gospel According to John).

The Messiah’s desire was for everyone to have access to God”

“I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.” (John 10:16)

John 2:17

Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”

Messianic revelation

The actions of Jesus remind the disciples of Psalm 69:9 and Scripture is once again fulfilled by Jesus. “The action is not merely that of a Jewish reformer: it is a sign of the advent of the Messiah” (Hoskyns, The Fourth Gospel).

Passion for the lost

Followers of Jesus can inadvertently keep others from access to God by looking down on outsiders. Christians critical of how God-seekers appear and act need to remind themselves of the Holy Spirit’s transforming work. Christ followers should reflect the fruit of the Spirit and accurately display the character of Christ. A life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control provides others with a living gospel witness.

The challenge

Make way for others to have access to God. Be passionate for others to experience the transforming work of God in their lives.

How can you provide greater access to the message of Jesus? Share your comments below.