“Passion – Perfect Love”

Welcome back to church, everyone! Hope you’ve had a fantastic week. Val and I had a wonderful weekend with Emily and Beatriz last weekend. I am happy to say that Emily won both her doubles and singles matches. Today we are in week 3 of our Passion series. In the first couple weeks we learned that it wasn’t the nails that held Jesus on the cross. It was his love and passion for humanity. Jesus’ actions were fueled by a humble love, and as we’ll discuss further today, a perfect love… focused on the joy set before Him. 

Has anyone here hiked the Appalachian Trail? Or maybe you know someone who has done so. It takes months of planning and training and then it takes 5 to 7 months to complete the hike. 

Holly Zynda ​​wrote a blog that provides
“Eight Tips to Prepare for Hiking the Appalachian Trail”

The Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in America and every year a few thousand hikers make the decision to walk the 2,187 miles of trail, but not everyone makes it. More often than not, these hikers don’t prepare in advance for the walk in the woods that is an overall elevation gain equivalent to climbing Mount Everest 16 times. If you prepare your body, head, and gear in advance, you might be one of the few hundred that actually make it to the end.


The best way to train for a big backpacking trip is to do a lot of backpacking. If you can’t get away, load up your pack with gear as heavy as what you plan to carry on the AT and go for some long day hikes or wear the pack around work and your apartment. Don’t forget to train mentally as well as physically by visualizing your success. Bonus: Tell everyone on social media your plans so you’re held accountable and can’t wuss out.


You know you need a compass and a map and a water bottle, but there are other items that you’ll need to make room for in your packs such as diaper cream and sunblock. Yes, it rains quite a bit on the AT with lots of trees and cover, but when you’re walking 8–10 hours a day in the outdoors, you’ll be happy you brought the SPF30. The other cream—diaper cream—is for your butt, as advertised.


Make sure to pack rain pants and a rain jacket. Wear shorts, but when the wet stuff starts coming down, pull the rain pants over them and keep on truckin’. Remember to keep your cute cotton hoodies at home; wet cotton can be worse than wearing nothing and can contribute to hypothermia, a potentially fatal threat.


There are a few water faucets, pumps, and spigots on the trail, and natural water sources are listed in guidebooks and AT maps, but make sure you carry enough just in case the springs dry up. Before gulping water from the babbling brooks treat the water with portable water filters, disinfectant drops, or even by boiling the water. The AT is not an ideal place for a case of the runs.



You won’t be having any salads or steak cookouts on this hike unless you’re also dragging a cooler. Carry lots of snacks, including things you can stow in your pockets and munch while you’re hiking. You’ll have more energy if you snack often compared to if you eat only big meals. Energy bars or mixes of dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate bits work well.


Don’t grab your old pack that’s been in your closet since your Boy Scout days; get a pack specifically for this trail. Durability and weight are important, but the fit is the most important criteria for a pack.


Carry a small tent or a hammock—it’s a personal choice—because shelters on the trail are first to come first served. As for your sleeping bag, it’s advisable to bring a sleeping bag in the 15–20-degree range. You can get by with a 30-degree bag although it can be frigid during those long Georgia nights.


Whether you make it 20 miles or 2000, it’s all in the way you look at your journey. Enjoy the great outdoors; thank the powers that be that you’re not sitting in your cubicle only dreaming of this daunting trail. Be appreciative for the people you meet and who help you set up your tent. Be grateful for how far you make it, it’s about the attitude.


I particularly like the last suggestion, one has to have a “good attitude.” Yet, more importantly, in order to complete the hike, one needs to keep their focus on Mt. Katahdin, from the beginning of the preparation to the last step at the top of the mountain.

In hiking terms, Jesus was prepared for His hike while here on earth, and His hike took Him to His eventual death on a cross. Today, we hope to learn more about the perfect love that fueled Jesus on His journey. 

If you have a Bible with you, I want you to turn with me to 1 Corinthians 9 where the Apostle Paul has some profound things to say about self-discipline and training; 

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.

As I just said, Jesus ran a perfect race. And we know from the gospels that He was very disciplined with His time, He was intentional. He was neither running aimlessly nor boxing the air. He had an eternal crown in mind, a specific mission and calling. 

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” 

We are all called to run a similar race. While running through life, it’s important that we do so with endurance. Endurance requires commitment to the cause. It invites us to never give up hope of crossing the finish line. But today, I want us to talk a little bit about Jesus as the perfecter of our faith while we run the race. God is able to refine us as we run the race with endurance. 

But how does this happen? 

What is required from us in order to experience this?

We, too, are required to keep our eyes on the cross. We know Jesus suffered on the cross for our sins. We know it was His passion for humanity that held Him there. I believe, if we desire to experience that same passion, if we desire to experience Jesus Christ personally day by day, we must be willing to fix our gaze upon the cross. As humans we experience this ongoing conflict between where we fix our gaze versus where we glance. 

For many here today, maybe you have felt like every day seems like the last. What is life all about? You have felt as if you do not have much to give, and today you’re here seemingly out of obligation. Maybe it’s because you’re glancing at God while gazing at the world. I want to challenge you to make a switch today. 

I want to invite you to spend time gazing at God and beholding Him. Gazing at God invites us to spend time with Him constantly. Paul talks about this in his letter to the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 

pray continually,

Fixing our gaze upon Christ means praying when we are in the car, when we are in a coffee shop, when we drop our kids off at school, when we are getting groceries, everywhere. 

We have to train our minds to focus on Christ and stop focusing on all the other things that seek to occupy our time. 

There is no limit to the amount of time we can spend with God in numerous different ways. All of the time we spend with God is meant to direct our focus back to the cross. 

It is where our hope lies in any and every season of life while running the race. 

As we direct our focus to the cross, God is able to refine and perfect our faith. He is able to take us deeper in prayer and deeper in His word. However, allowing God to perfect our faith does not just include gazing at the cross. 

The Bible makes it clear there will be hard times we face while running the race. We will have to learn how to endure frustration, pain, and hardship. 

In John 16:33 Jesus tells us, “in this life you will have trouble.” And James 1:2 reminds us we should, “count it all joy when we face trials of various kinds.” 

And these are just a couple of passages that reiterate a consistent message you’ll find throughout the Bible. Even Jesus had to endure trouble, persecution, pain, and suffering. This Thursday is Maundy Thursday, the day set apart to think about the anguish He felt, in the garden, just before being arrested. While there He prayed and asked God to, “Let this cup pass from me.” 

However, He was ultimately willing to endure the cross, as Hebrews says, for the joy set before Him. 

For the sake of you and me experiencing new life. If we want our faith to be refined and perfected, chances are we will have to go through the fire. Here is what Paul says in Romans 8:17,

 “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

When we allow God to use our sufferings He can make something beautiful in our lives. I am sure each of us can share a time in our life when the circumstances around us produced suffering. Whether they were produced by our own poor choices or by the poor choices of the world around us. More often than not, we get so absorbed by the circumstances we failed to keep our eyes on Jesus, except to maybe argue with Him and complain, asking Him, “Why?” The facts are, He allows such pain. 

However, like any muscle, in order to grow, it needs to be used, and over time, as you exercise the muscle of trusting God, in all things, you begin to realize that He has your back. Let’s face it, Jesus was God and His muscles were well trained. He is our example, the goal we are working towards. Through every struggle, He is perfecting our faith. 

When we feel like we are at the most difficult points in our lives, that is when God is able to shine His light the brightest. Maybe God has you in the season you are in right now so that He can shape and mold you into the person He wants you to be. This may not feel comfortable. However, the Bible promises we can still have joy in the midst of the suffering. 

The decision that Jesus Christ made to endure the cross was, in the eyes of the world, foolish. 

Culturally, this was a death tool that illustrated shame. It was for criminals to be punished. And yet, Jesus was willing to die that way. Why? For the joy set before Him. “Wait, so that means that Jesus was joyful in reconciling sinners like us to God?” 

No! However, He did feel joy, because He knew that through His suffering, all of His creation would have the opportunity to live with Him eternally. Something well worth enduring pain. 

Does it bring you joy to think about those in your life that don’t know Christ coming to faith in Him? What if God is trying to use you to plant the Gospel seeds? Even through sharing Christ, He will perfect your faith. Keep your eyes fixed on the cross, endure whatever the race brings, and remember that you are not alone in the race. 

All throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, He was reminding people that He was not alone. God the Father was directing His steps. Jesus was finding moments, even in the Garden of Gethsemane, to spend one-on-one time with His Father. He models for us what it means to be fully reliant on God’s strength and God’s plans. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in. When we realize what it means that we are never alone, we are willing to allow God to lead us through difficult things.

This past weekend Beatriz was sharing how disappointed she is with the behavior of her coeds in college. They seem to spend more time focussing on the weekend and parties than they do on their education. I recall having the same opinion when I was in college. One semester I started out renting a room off campus. Turns out the house was infested with rats! Within two weeks I moved into a single room on campus. 

The first night I was there it was a Friday and the dormitory seemed desolate. I didn’t visit the bars, I had grown up with alcoholic parents and wanted nothing to do with drunk people. I remember sitting on the bed, all my things in bags and boxes, feeling so alone. I had memorized Bible verses and started praying, something like, “God, You promised to never leave me alone.” As I continued praying I began hearing music, songs from the “Second Chapter of Acts,” a Christian group of that time. I thought I was going crazy. I remember asking God if I was hearing things? I realized the music was coming from next door. So I went out of my room and knocked on the door. I met two other ladies who were Christians, with a record player listening to Christian music. Who knew? God knew. 

This may not seem profound to you, but for a single college student, who had no family behind her and was trying to live a Christian life in a new place, it was as if God spoke directly to me, telling me I was never alone. I can share so many more experiences like this where I have witnessed Jesus perfecting and refining my faith. It happens when we are solely reliant on God’s ability and willingness to lead us through life. We must learn to trust Him, learn to have faith, and remember, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—” and then remember to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit in us. 

Jesus himself says that the Holy Spirit will never leave us. 

Whether you are enduring a tough season right now, or one that is producing much fruit, give glory to God for His faithfulness in never leaving or forsaking us and for giving us the Holy Spirit! We are truly never alone in the journey. 

The perfect love of Christ for His church is an amazing gift and encouragement. And it’s worth remembering that Christ learned perfect love and received perfect love directly from His heavenly Father. 

In John 15:9 Jesus reminds us, As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” 

As many of us here know all too well, you’re not going to find the unconditional all-powerful love of Christ from some counterfeit god, or vocation, or hobby, or worldly relationship. 

But if that’s you, and you’ve been looking for perfect love everywhere else but Christ let me invite you back to Him today. 

Jesus, the Savior of mankind, is asking you to remain in His perfect love. Don’t go looking for it anywhere else, stay… remain…and learn to abide in the love of Christ. So if you have never given your life wholly into the ever capable hands of Christ. Let me invite you there today. Receive the perfect love of Christ. He will never leave you, He will never forsake you, and He will remain faithful to you until the very end of time. (Matthew 28:20) 


Let’s pray together 

“Lord, Please help me today to have complete trust and faith in your perfect love for me. Please help me to remain in your love through all the ups and downs of life. Help me to keep my eyes on You.”