In John 15:13 Jesus says, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Then He tells his disciples that they are his friends (John 15:15).

It sounds like Jesus is preparing the disciples for His death. But if we start in verse 12, it says, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." He goes on to say in verse 15 that the disciples are His friends.

Now it sounds like Jesus is telling the disciples that they should be like Him and lay down their lives for their friends, or for Him.

Would you "lay down your life" for your friends? What does that actually mean? Would I take a bullet for you? Would I allow myself to die for you, or possibly for Jesus?

Oswald Chambers clarifies this verse when he says, "Jesus does not ask me to die for Him, but to lay down my life for Him."

That statement made me stop and think.

Personally, I think it would be easier to take a bullet for Jesus. It's a one-time thing and once you get past the fear, it’s over. But I don’t think that’s what He’s asking me to do.

Over and over in the Scriptures, we see commandments of how to live our lives, what we should avoid, how we should act, etc. Lots of do's and don’ts. But I think Jesus is summing up all of the commandments in one statement: lay down your life.

It's not about the commands - it's about the lifestyle.

In the same paragraph, Jesus says, “This is my command: Love each other.” When we truly love someone, we’ll put aside our own desires for theirs. We will put their needs before ours.

1. Whose needs do you tend to put before your own?
2. In what areas are you self-centered, putting yourself first?
3. What will it take to give that area of your life to God and “lay down your life” for Him?

Read John 15, the whole chapter. Learn about what our relationship to Jesus should be. Pray through those verses and ask God to show you how much He loves you, so that you can truly lay down your life for Him.


Just Another Hill...

Lord, give me eyes that I may see,
Lest I as people will,
Should pass someone’s Calvary,
And think it just a hill.
        -Author Unknown

You ever see someone's pain and just walk on by? Maybe you don't think it's that bad or you don't have time to mess with it. Or you just aren't in the mood. Or maybe you're afraid of what it will cost you (time, energy, compassion, money). We have all done it and will do it yet again.

Calvary is one of those old terms that you find in a lot of church hymns, but not everyone knows what it means. Calvary is derived from the Latin word that means skull. Why? The name of the area near Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified was called Golgotha (Aramaic for "skull"). It has been known as a hill, but no one is for sure that it was a hill. However, it could be seen from a long way off, so that's probably why everyone assumes it was a hill. So if we talk about Calvary, it's the place where Jesus suffered on the cross - the beating, spitting, cursing, and ultimately hanging by his wrists and feet from spikes until he either bled to death or suffocated.

If we talk about "someone's Calvary" it implies to me the place where someone is in their deepest suffering.

Your Calvary is not my Calvary. If I've been thru a lot and you haven't, I could be tempted to judge you for "overreacting" to something so seemingly small. But your pain is no less, no matter what I might think of it. Thus, the point of the poem.

I know a LOT of people dealing with their own Calvary right now. And many of them feel so alone and hopeless. My heart breaks for them. God calls us to reach out to them.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn.  -Romans 12:15
  • We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. -Romans 15:1-2
  • Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? -James 2:15-16
  • Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me. -Jeremiah 8:21
  • Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. -Colossians 3:12
1. Who do you know who is "suffering" right now? It could be someone going thru divorce, grief, job loss, parenting issues, betrayal of friendship, or even things that you don't consider a big deal.

2. What can you do to show them they are not alone (without giving them unsolicited advice)?

3. If you are the one suffering, what do you need right now? Who do you trust that you can confide in or lean on?

4. Pray for this person. Ask God to show you how you can help, and be willing to do just that. Also pray for yourself:

God, help me to see others' pain as significant and not to judge
it by what it seems. Amen.



Romans 5:6-8
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If Jesus were just a man, do you really think he would have submitted himself to the beatings, whippings, and other brutalities placed upon him? He had a choice. All he had to do was say, "You're right. I'm not God's son. It was just a hoax!" He might have done some jail time but would not have gone through all the misery he experienced. He must have really been convinced that he was doing the right thing, right? Either that or he was telling the truth, that he's the Son of God, God incarnate, sent to the world to deliver us from the penalty of sin, a penalty we all deserve.

Don't take this too lightly. Put yourself in his shoes: You've been making some bold statements about yourself and about God. The religious people of the time weren't too fond of that. The law wasn't too fond of it, either, since it could start riots and cause lots of people to move their patriotism away from the Caesar (that's just a title, by the way, like president or prime minister - it's not a guy's name).

Then, one of your closest friends betrays your trust and hands you over to the cops and you're arrested. You know in your heart you're innocent and doing the right thing, but it still looks like it's breaking the law. Before you know it, the masses are calling for your execution and the guy who has the power to free you is worried about votes. So he gives in to the crowd and allows you to be executed. But it's not just any execution - it's the type of execution that is reserved for the worst of the criminals. Crucifixion.

Crucifixion involved nailing a person's wrists and sometimes ankles to two beams in the shape of a cross. The nails were like railroad spikes and driven through the ankle bones and the wrist bones. Sometimes a seat was made for the person to sit on, which meant their dying would take a longer time. But if no seat, they would often lose blood to their upper body and cause pressure on the heart. They also would lose oxygen and suffocate if they couldn't push themselves up because hanging by their wrists made it where they couldn't get a breath.

Some took days to die, but according to scripture, Jesus died within 6 hours. Since the Sabbath was the next day, and no one was allowed to work on the Sabbath, the Romans were going to break Jesus legs to ensure a quicker death (so he couldn't push himself up to get a breath), but instead they poked him in the side with a spear. This was predicted by Isaiah (ch. 53) 700 years before Jesus was born. Other predictions about the crucifixion can be found in Psalm 22, 1000 years before Christ lived.

So, if Jesus were just a man, do you think he would have been able to bear all that without saying, "Wait! You got the wrong guy!" Yet, even til the end right before his death, he still gave of himself to others and shared God's forgiveness with others. In Luke 23, as he hangs on the cross, he offers grace and new life to the criminal dying next to him.

Very rarely, the Bible says, will someone die for a righteous man. Yet, all of us are not righteous. Think of some of the most sinful thoughts you've had or deeds you've done. Things you'd be ashamed for your kids to find out. Pretty ungodly stuff, isn't it? But He still came for us and took the punishment we deserve. Why? Because God loves us and wants us to have the opportunity to receive grace (his undeserved favor).

But I think another reason is so that we can share that love and grace with those who don't know much about it. So that they can see that when Jesus said he is the "way, the truth and the life" that he really meant it. And that every other option can't measure up to the awesomeness of Christ.

If you don't know what the grace of God is, or you haven't accepted that Jesus really is God's son and died so that you and God can be reconciled, ask yourself what's holding you back. Time is short and we don't know what tomorrow holds. You could die tonight and if things aren't right between you and God, it's not gonna be pretty! Today is the day, my friend.

And if you know Jesus as your Savior, then take time to share him with someone. Pray for their salvation. Show them what he's done in your life. And don't give up on them until God calls you home.


To sacrifice myself...

I learned this week that my brother, Brian, will be headed to Iraq in January. He’s in the Army reserves for now but will be going active duty in May. He’s 19. Both my parents were in the Army and my dad served in VietNam. We always knew Brian would go into some form of the military at some point as well.

I think the military was created to defend a country that was founded on the basis of freedom and individual rights. I know those things have changed since our country began, but the basic principles of government still stand for freedom. And I believe the military exists to defend that freedom.

When you join the military, you no longer belong to yourself. You belong to the government. Where they send you, you go. What they teach you, you believe. What they stand for, you fight for. Your identity is no longer in yourself; your identity is within the branch of the military which you belong. Their enemy becomes your enemy. And sacrificing yourself for your country or your fellow man becomes a way of life.

The life of the Christian should be no different. If we have truly given ourselves to Jesus Christ, we no longer belong to ourselves. Paul said in Galatians 2: 20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

We belong to Jesus, to our God. Where he sends us, we go. What he teaches, we believe. What he stands for, we fight for. Our identity is no longer in being a wife or father or salesman or student or recovering addict or movie star. Our identity is in Jesus – we are God’s children, Christian brothers and sisters. God’s enemy is our enemy. Sacrificing ourselves for Christ and God’s creation is a way of life.

Sounds tough, huh? Those who join the military do it all the time. They sell out their lives in exchange for the life of a soldier or pilot or rescuer or defender. Have you heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as an ex-Marine?” People who give themselves to their government do it for life. Yet, their dedication is only until their body dies, which is a relatively short time.

Our service and identity as a Christian, however, continues after death. We sell ourselves out to Christ for eternity. This life is short compared to what happens after our bodies are gone. Yet, the Bible tells us that there’s one decision we have to make in this short life that will determine what happens when we breathe our final breaths.

As Christians, are we sold out enough for Jesus that we care about those who don’t know who he is? Do we care enough about someone else’s eternity, that we are willing to make any sacrifice possible to serve and protect others from hell? Do we love humanity enough to help them understand that their eternity is based on one decision they have to make before they die?

Our military people protect, serve, dodge bullets, survive miserable weather and difficult conditions because they believe the people that they are defending are worth defending or protecting.

Do you believe that the people around you are worth protecting? Do I believe that the people I know who don’t know my God are worth sacrificing for?

This life is short. We only have so much time. We can spend it on ourselves, thinking, in vain, that we’ll “do it tomorrow”. But if you love someone enough that you don’t want them to have to live any longer in danger of hell, today is the day to tell them about Jesus. Today is the day to sacrifice yourself for your God, the one who made you, the one who bought your freedom at the price of his own son’s blood. You are no longer your own – you are God’s. Out of gratitude for what he’s done, shouldn’t we respond by telling people about how great he is? And aren’t we bound by our dedication to serving Christ to sacrifice ourselves for him?