10 Love Challenges

All Christians want to bless the church, witness to the world, and grow in assurance of faith. But did you know that there’s one thing you can do that accomplishes all three of these aims at once?

Love other Christians.

Yes, loving other Christians produces the triple benefit of encouraging believers, evangelizing unbelievers (Jn. 13:35), and assuring ourselves that we are believers (1 Jn. 3:14, 19).

But how do we do this? Yesterday I gave my congregation 10 Love Challenges that  translate the sometimes nebulous idea of love into very practical, do-able actions. In some ways each action might not seem very much; each challenge has only one fairly quick and easy action per month. However, when multiplied by 100 or 200 Christians, the cumulative effect on your whole congregation could be huge.

Love Challenge 1: Pray for one family
What better way to love someone than to pray for them? As well as praying generally for your church, pray for specific and special needs in your church family, and for one other family in particular. Use the church directory or membership list to select one family to pray for regularly in the next 30 days.

Love Challenge 2: Speak to one person
We all have our favorite people and our favorite places to sit and stand in church. Why not sit somewhere different, exit through a different door, or stand in a different place and risk meeting a different person! Just once a month, do something different that will make you speak to someone you don’t usually speak to.

Love Challenge 3: Encourage one person
You appreciate many people in your church family, but have you ever told them that? Have you ever highlighted one of their gifts or graces and told them how thankful to God you are for them? Again, not asking for a lot here, but just once a month, go out of your way to find one person and encourage them.

Love Challenge 4: Carry one burden
Speak to someone who is suffering in your church and ask them how they are. It may be someone who is ill, someone struggling with a wayward child, someone who’s struggling financially. As you listen to their story, express concern, and feel sympathy, a strange thing happens – the sufferer’s pain reduces slightly as you take some of it into your own mind, heart, and soul. Although you walk away heavier, they walk away lighter.

Love Challenge 5: Visit one person
Perhaps start with the seniors, the sick, and those with special needs, but select one person in your church to visit once in the next 30 days. If you can’t do it in person, you can “visit” by phone.

Love Challenge 6: Give one gift
Share your abundance with those who lack. There are people and families in your church who cannot afford to buy a book, go out for a meal, go on vacation, or even buy all the groceries. $10 gets them a book, $20 gets a couple a meal at Applebees, $50 gets them a day camping, $100 would make a huge difference to their family grocery budget. Give as the Lord as prospered you.

Love Challenge 7: Forgive one person
Is there someone you’ve fallen out with? A strained relationship? Whether you are the offender, they are, or you both are, make one attempt to reconcile with them. If you can’t make progress in reconciliation, at least speak to them, express interest in them, and show affection towards them.

Love Challenge 8: Welcome one person
Different people visit your church every month – vacationers, friends and family of church members, strangers, seekers, church-hoppers, etc. Don’t leave it to others to welcome them. Take the initiative, go out of your way to show that you’re glad they came, exchange contact details, etc.

Love Challenge 9: Share one meal
Once a month invite someone, a single, a couple, or a family to share a meal with you in your home. Don’t make it fancy or complicated (or you won’t do it again) but simple, informal, and do-able. The focus should be the fellowship not the food.

Love Challenge 10: Relegate one preference
There are some things in church life and the Christian life that are a matter of biblical principle. These things we cannot let go of, we cannot demote, we cannot dismiss. Other things are a matter of personal preference – clothing, hobbies, sports, education choices, etc. When we make our preference equivalent to principles we inevitably erect barriers between us and others, we put others down and puff ourselves up. Search your life for one preference that you’ve turned into a principle, relegate it, let it go, and watch your relationships improve.

If you want to take up The Love Challenge, why not download this checklist, share it at your church, and watch the impact not only on believers, but also on unbelievers, and upon your own heart too.

Check out

God’s Pleasure in You
Tony Reinke gives us three categories of God’s delight in His people.

5 Reasons You Should Write in Your Books
Joel Miller: “Here are five reasons I believe defacing an author’s work is warranted.”

How the Scandal of Preaching Will Reach our Postmodern World
“When faced with the challenges of postmodernity, do we really think the solution is to stick some guy in front of the group and let him talk for 30 minutes?  Wouldn’t a video be more effective?  Or at least a dialogue or panel discussion? But, as scandalous as it is, there is something about preaching that is unique and special.  Let us consider what those things are.”

Why do Firstborn Kids do Better in School?
Apparently, “parents focus on disciplining their first children, and then … they give up!”

Study Theology Even If You Don’t Believe In God
“The dwindling role of theology among the liberal arts is a paradigmatic example of dispensing with the baby along with the bathwater.” Interesting argument, but I doubt the kind of courses being suggested would help anyone spiritually.

A New Perspective for Moms
All Moms (and Dads), please watch this and be encouraged. (HT: Ann Voskamp)

Children’s Bible Reading Plan

Here’s this week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

The second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf.

The first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

The daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books.

Old Testament

New Testament

One Vital Lesson from Doug Phillips’ Resignation

Does Satan attack our strengths or our weaknesses? Does he try to destroy us where we’re strong or where we’re weak? For most Christians, it’s usually our weaknesses that the devil targets. But for Christian leaders it’s usually their strengths, the areas they’ve built ministries upon, the moral and spiritual qualities they are best known for promoting.

Why? Why does the devil go for the citadel rather than for the little cracks in the wall?

Because the damage is so much greater, the fallout is more horrendous, the church is more discouraged, and the world is most delighted when a Christian leader falls in the one place he really planted his flag and made a stand.

No surprise
That’s why when I heard that Doug Phillips had resigned from Vision Forum Ministries, it was no surprise that it involved an “inappropriately romantic and affectionate” relationship with a woman not his wife.

Here’s a Christian man who built a much-loved ministry out of promoting Christian marriage, Christian leadership, Christian family, etc. He was a strong leader with strong views, courageously taking a public stand against the weakening of Christian marriage and parenting, producing lots of valuable resources to strengthen Christian marriages, to instruct children, to call men to bold leadership of their families, and to promote virtuous behavior through quality Christian films.

And this morning so much of what he built now lies in ruins, with many Christians he helped (and I include myself and my family in this) demoralized and depressed at the fall of a man in the one area that he went to war with our culture on.

Serious warning
What a warning to us all, especially to those of us who have leadership roles in the church, and especially in the areas we are strongest and most vocal on.

Is defending the doctrine of justification your big thing? That’s where the devil will attack.

Has the Lord given you a passion against Internet porn? Be sure the devil has targeted that area of your life.

Do you preach against materialism? Know that the devil is planting seeds of discontent, greed, and covetousness in your heart.

Do you protest against the promotion of homosexuality? That’s right, the devil’s set his sights on kindling that lust within you.

Is gospel-centeredness your “thing?” Watch the devil turn that into a new “law” to forcefully impose on others.

Do you major on humility and service? The devil has pride and tyranny lurking just round the corner.

“Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

Niggling worries
I must admit, over recent years, I did worry at times that Phillips’ leadership and some parts of his wider homeschool/full quiver/patriarchy movement were coming across as a bit arrogant and overly self-confident. Although I valued so much of what they were promoting, I’d grown increasingly uneasy at the somewhat condemning and condescending tone towards any who did not sign on 100% with that agenda. Sometimes I feared that the Gospel of grace seemed to be lost in the midst of all that we were meant to be and to be doing as Christian fathers and mothers.

That’s why I hope that, awful though these events feel to all of us this morning, perhaps this is a much-needed opportunity for humble re-evaluation for all concerned. On the one hand, I dread telling my children about this; we’ve grown to love Doug Phillips over many years of homeschooling. On the other hand, God can turn it into a blessing by reminding them (and me) that the best of men are men at their best and that the Gospel of Christ is not just something we need at conversion, but every day of our lives. I also plan to read Doug’s letter of resignation with my kids, as in many ways it is a model letter of repentance and faith for Christian leaders everywhere.

This morning we pray for Doug, his family, and the other woman and her family. But, more than ever before, I also pray and beg the Lord that I will never have to write such a letter.

UPDATE: Comments are now closed

5 Beliefs Atheists and Christians Have in Common

As it’s always a good idea to find common ground before disagreeing with someone or trying to correct them, here are five areas that both Christians and atheists agree on:

  • Natural selection via micro-evolution (not macro-evolution)
  • The universe had a finite, singular, beginning point
  • There are objective morals
  • There is objective truth
  • There are “good” (and bad) people on both sides

Read the rest of the article together with a fine Gospel conclusion here.

Check out

Evangelical Pullback/Retreat
Is it possible to be too nice?

6 Lessons of an Influence Seeker
If you’re a Christian with a message to communicate and limited opportunities to do so, Joe Carter has some encouragement for you.

7 Issues We Need To Talk About In Our Youth Groups
I’ll bet the least talked about in this list is #6.

America’s Mood Map: An Interactive Guide to the United State
West Virginia is the most neurotic state, Utah is the most agreeable and the folks of Wisconsin are the country’s most extroverted, a new study says. Take TIME’s test to find out which state most suits you.

The Christian Traveller
I enjoyed this piece by Jeremy Walker on how Christians can communicate Christian character in a way that might open doors for witness.

Are All Affairs Alike?
Tim Lane is writing a series on adultery in the church. In this one he describes six kinds of affair.