Chapter OneSession 1
THE BIG PICTURE
When a building is being constructed, the groundwork is critically
important. If the foundation is faulty, the whole building
will be unstable. If the foundation is solid, the building will be
stable and stand firm under stress.
The same is true when building loving relationships. We need
to have a solid foundation on which to build. If we don't, the
whole structure of the relationship is in danger. If we have a
solid base of love, we can experience deep and meaningful
Although all of us desire to be genuinely loving, we all have
different natural capacities for receiving and expressing love.
If I were to teach a ski class, there would inevitably be a variety
of skill levels displayed. Some people would barely be able to
stand up. They would be falling over in the lift line, impaling
themselves on their ski poles, or accidentally stabbing those
around them. Others could negotiate the bunny slope with a
certain amount of confidence. And then there would be those
who could ski down the hills with ease and style. It doesn't
bother us to think about how some people are better at a certain
sport or activity. However, when it comes to loving, we assume
everyone has acquired the same abilities and skills. The hard
truth is that some people have a great natural ability to love,
while others have to work at expressing love.
There are a variety of loving capacities among the members of
your small group. This may be partly the result of how much
love each received in their family as they were growing up. It
is also determined by basic temperament and personality. Some
of us have soft and gentle temperaments, while others do not.
Our capacity to love is also based on how we have responded
to the things life has thrown at us. Life is a mixed bag. Some
people encounter obstacles and difficulties and become
increasingly bitter and hard-hearted over the years. Others
tend to become more open and kind and gentle over time. In
almost every group there will be those who are more naturally
caring and kind and others who can be short-fused, calloused,
and even a little tough-hearted. The majority of us are somewhere
in the middle.
A WIDE ANGLE VIEW
1 Put an "X" on each line below to indicate where you
would place the following people in relationship to
their ability to feel and express love.
Expressive of love Not expressive of love
Expressive of love Not expressive of love
Expressive of love Not expressive of love
Why did you choose to put the "X" where you did on each
A BIBLICAL PORTRAIT
Read Hebrews 10:22-25
2 In this passage we are called to "spur one another on
toward love and good deeds." If you view your small
group members as the "one another" in this passage,
what can you do to "spur one another on" to be more
SHARPENING THE FOCUS
Read Snapshot "You Matter to God!"
YOU MATTER TO GOD!
God wants to see each of us transformed into a more loving person. The first thing He does in this
transformation process is convince you, to the core of your being, that you matter to Him. You are the
focus of His affection. You are precious in His sight. You are loved beyond words.
When seekers turn to the Bible they find countless portions of Scripture where God takes a huge risk.
He knows, with His omniscience, that certain people are going to reject His love, but He says it anyway. I
like the way it is put in Isaiah 43, verses 1 and 4. God says through Isaiah, "I have summoned you by name . You are
precious and honored in my sight." And then there are the words "I love you." In a loveless world, God reaches out and
says we matter more to Him than we could ever dream.
3 What would you say to a person in your small group to
express to them how much they matter to God?
How do we show kids that they matter to God?
Read Snapshot "Love in Action"
LOVE IN ACTION
When it comes to love, God takes it far beyond just words. We all know that talk is cheap. God didn't
demonstrate His love in some glittery, Hollywood style with soft colors and moving music in the
background. God rolled up His sleeves, put on human flesh, and came to live among us. He became
part of a family. He developed a trade as a carpenter. He became active in relationships. He came out
of the heavenly grandstand and got knocked around on the playing field of life. This means that when
we pray to Him, we can be assured that He knows all about family joys and struggles. He knows all about
work. He knows all about relationships. We have rock-solid assurance that He understands. He truly has walked in
Another reason God put on human flesh was to show people a purer kind of love than they had ever witnessed before.
Love for the unlovely, the needy, the forgotten people, and love for sinners like you and me. Of course, in
the supreme demonstration of love, He sacrificed Himself voluntarily and paid the penalty for our sins so that we could
come into a relationship with the Father. "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his
friends" (John 15:13). If you miss this, you miss everything. When you become personally involved with this kind of
love, when the scales fall off your eyes for the first time and this kind of love grips you and moves you and comes
crashing into your soul, you will never be the same.
4 If you were talking with a seeker who had never
stepped foot into a church, how would you explain
what God has done to show His love for them?
5 When did you first really experience the depth of
God's sacrificial love for you, and what helped you to
Read Snapshot "The Presence of the Holy Spirit"
THE PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Not only does God tell us that we matter to Him, but He also proves His love by His actions. One of
the things God has done to show us His love is to send the Holy Spirit to live inside of us. The Holy
Spirit assumes the full-time task of warming up your heart and making you a more relational, tender,
loving person. When God puts His Holy Spirit in your life, it's like turning a spotlight on a cold, hard
heart. The Holy Spirit starts melting you, tenderizing you, making you soft toward God and people. And the
good news is that the Holy Spirit will continue to work in you for the rest of your life!
6 How have you experienced the transforming presence
and power of the Holy Spirit in the following areas of
How you love family members
How you love and care for other followers of Christ
How you feel toward those who do not yet know
7 What are some of the things you do that limit the
impact of the Holy Spirit's power in your life?
What can you do to give the Holy Spirit greater control and room to work in your life?
Read Snapshot "A New Community"
A NEW COMMUNITY
Like it or not, we are deeply impacted by those with whom we spend time. If we are around people
who are filled with hate and anger, that hate and anger will eventually begin to infect us. If we are in a
community filled with people who know how to love each other, this will also have a transforming
effect on our lives. When we become followers of Christ, God places us in a loving community where
we are surrounded by people who are diligently seeking to become better at loving.
8 If there is a person who is having a negative influence
on your life and faith, what can you do to limit their
ability to impact your life?
What needs to change in your schedule so that you can spend
more time in community with other followers of Christ?
9 Picture someone in your life who would benefit from
an expression of love from you. What will you do to
express your love, and how can the group keep you
accountable to this commitment?
PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE
You Matter to God
Take time in the coming week to identify two people who
need encouragement. Commit yourself to either call them on
the phone, write them a letter, or meet with them. Let your
primary concern be to communicate to them how much they
matter to God. Remind them of what God has done to show
His love for them and what Jesus has done to extend forgiveness
to them. Also, communicate your love and care for them.
Let them know they matter to God and they matter to you.
Growing in Community
Think of one follower of Christ you know personally who
has stopped participating in regular times of worship and
Christian community. Contact that person in the coming
week and invite them to join you for some kind of gathering
What changes can you make to create more opportunities for
Christian community? Is there an opportunity for deeper
fellowship you are not taking advantage of? Spending time
with other followers of Christ is essential for our own spiritual
growth. What can you do in the coming month to deepen
your commitment to developing Christian community?