A disciple of Jesus is one who follows the teachings and ways of Jesus. There should be no doubt that we are followers of Christ because our lives should look more and more like His life. There are several distinguishing characteristics of a disciple of Christ. As followers of Jesus, we imitate His ways.
Being His disciple means that we imitate his love. Jesus says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35 (NASB). In a cold world, we must still have a warm heart for people.
It is no accident that the command to love others is found in the same setting when Jesus gave His disciples the promise of the Holy Spirit. God’s expectations are based upon God’s empowerment. God does not ask us to do that which He has not equipped us to do. If there is a command, know that there is power to obey the command. When Jesus gives this command, he says “love one another as I have loved you.” The love that we should aspire to have is the kind of sacrificial love that could very well cost us our lives. There is no greater demonstration of love than willingly giving up your life so that someone else can live.
The love for God that we profess to have is demonstrated in the way we in the church treat one another. Just like with the apostles, there are plenty of opportunities for conflict in the church. That’s why Jesus would say love one another! Be different from the world. Love, even when you have reasons not to. Don't run away when times get hard. Hang in there and love one another.
There should be some evidence of our love. It's good to say you love someone, but if what you do conflicts with what you say, people will believe your actions more than your words. Love must be demonstrated. There is no point in saying I will die for you if I won't even do for you. Are we willing to go the extra mile for our brother or sister? Are we willing to treat people right even when they do us wrong? Do our relationships and interactions as God’s children make our Father look good? Disciples of Christ love one another!
Each child is unique and every phase of parenting is unique. As children grow, your parenting takes on different shapes. As your children grow, they lose their innocence. They start asking difficult questions and exploring new ideas. As our children enter into and experiencing adolescence, there is great change. Parents must understand the changes, and figure out how to help their child survive the changes without somebody getting hurt!
In addition to physical changes, there are social and emotional changes. Teens live on an emotional roller coaster. High one minute, low the next. Today is a good day, tomorrow the world is coming to an end. As their brain continues to develop, the amygdala, the part of the brain that is the seat of emotions, such as anger and fear, matures. But the prefrontal cortex, that part of the brain that is involved in reasoning, decision making and self-control doesn’t finish maturing until between the ages of 18-25. That’s why some teenagers do stupid stuff. Their capacity to think through things hasn’t caught up with how they feel. So they end up living in moment without pausing to think about the consequences of their actions. Socially, teens are in the midst of redefining their relationships. They are seeking to develop an identity separate and apart from their parents. There is sexual curiosity as they seek to develop a sexual identity. They begin thinking about girlfriend/boyfriend relationships. For many teens, high school is about being social instead of being scholarly.
Teens are experiencing spiritual changes. They know what their parents and the church have taught them. Now they are beginning to evaluate that teaching. They are coming to some conclusions about what they believe, why they believe it and what difference their beliefs will make in their lives.
All of these changes create challenges. The typical teen is too old to be a child and too young to be grown. They are anxious to grow up and dragging their feet at the same time. They want the rights of adulthood with the carefree nature of childhood. They are considering their career identity, exploring their religious identity. To add to the identity crisis, there is the challenge of the culture. Television shows, the over-sexualization of everything, the music we listen to, the moral relativism that says do what feels right to you and if anyone disagrees they are prejudiced and close-minded.
During the teen years parents can support their children by choosing to make God the family’s priority. Teens need to understand the important of choosing their friends wisely and making decisions prayerfully. Home has the greatest impact on your teen’s development. If your child is a teen, they need you now more than ever!
We have a fascination with relationships. We want to understand how they get started, how they work, how they come to an end. Relationships are the essence of life. They can be a source of joy, happiness, disappointment and sorrow. As humans we have a longing to belong. And the truth is that our longing to belong is part of God’s design. What often happens is that we seek to be fulfilled through our relationships with others rather than through our relationship with God.
Without an authentic relationship with God, we are left empty and detached. There is in all of us, at our very core, a longing desire that is so deep that no physical connection can reach it. However, many people try to fill the God-sized void in their lives with a human relationship. But the reality is that no human relationship, no matter how wonderful, can ever complete us. We were created for an intimacy that is even deeper than marriage (1 Corinthians 6:16-17).
Many singles often seek a relationship from God before building their relationship with God. Psalm 37:4 states, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Delight means to enjoy, or be fond of someone or something. Enjoy God and He will give you the desires of Your heart. Too often, our delight is in our desires and not in God.
Many people view God as a means to an end. But a proper view of God sees Him as the beginning, the means and the end. When we serve God to get stuff, we are not seeking God. We are seeking stuff through God. God should be the source of my delight, pleasure and enjoyment. And when we delight in the Lord, our desires begin to change. When we delight in the Lord, the question at the forefront of our minds is, “How will God be glorified in this relationship?”
In 1 Corinthians 7:32-34, Paul highlights the divided loyalties of the Christian husband and wife. They are to be concerned with both serving the Lord and pleasing their spouse. The word please in this context means to actively adapt to your spouse. It also suggests contentment with your spouse. It means that your heart has been softened toward your spouse. The desire to please your spouse shows up by behaving in a way that satisfies your spouse. It denotes a positive relationship. The word was used to express interest in accommodating others by meeting their needs.
Pleasing your spouse involves the sacrifice of self-interest (Philippians 2:3-7,14-15). Instead of focusing on what you aren’t getting, shift your attention to what you aren’t giving. Two of the most profound questions that you can ask yourself are, “What is it like living with me when I’m at my best?” and “What is it like living with me when I’m at my worst?”
Spouses must actively adapt to each other. Your behavior towards your spouse changes based upon his or her changing needs. With each child you have, adjustments in your marriage are necessary. As your spouse ages and goes through hormone changes and midlife crises, expectations should be adjusted. As the pounds and wrinkles increase and the libido decreases, your spouse may need to be complimented and reassured more often that you are still into him or her.
Having your heart softened towards your spouse means that your tone is not rough. You learn how to compromise and yield your will. You don’t push your spouse away when they seek to be affectionate. Think of ways to let your spouse know that you are thinking about him/her. Take an interest in meeting the needs of your spouse. It starts with me understanding those needs and then prioritizing those needs.
A Prayer for Husbands and Wives: “Father, help me to see me with all of my imperfections. Empower me to love my spouse with Your love, for Your love covers a multitude of flaws, faults, and failures. Let the me that I am be lost in the me that you want me to be. Amen.”
Minister Ross' creativity, wisdom, and insight have inspired community, church and corporate audiences throughout the United States.