From the Shepherds

January 2024 | Tom Zimmer

Greetings Northside family,

I hope 2024 is off to a good start and that you’re gearing up for some personal spiritual growth.

I also trust that you’ve been encouraged by David’s sermon series on “Love first,” which has been very helpful to me. As David mentioned last Sunday, please don’t view this sermon series as only informational, check that knowledge box, and then wonder…what’s for lunch? (Don’t do that; stay focused!)

Let me share a few thoughts from a leadership perspective. For me, I must admit that the mantra “Love first” was just too vague and diluted, especially today, to capture the essence of our vision. However, this is what came from many months of listening to a cross-section of this body of believers, praying, and discernment. This was presented to the leadership team with clarifying meaning, which brought us to unanimously decide that this is what we understand God to be calling us to at Northside.

My meditation on the idea of “Love first” brought many hyperlinks to mind of scriptures about our loving God the Father. I came across a great question from a book entitled “Delighting in the Trinity,” by Michael Reeves, which asked: “What was God doing before creation?” This is a great question, and was it answered by Jesus very simply in John 17:24: “Father,” He says, “You loved me before the creation of the world.” And this is the God revealed to us by Jesus Christ. Before he ever created, before he ever ruled the world, before anything else, this God was a Father loving his Son! What’s even more amazing about God the Father is in the prior verse 23, Jesus plainly states that “He (that is the Father) loves us as much as he loves the son”! That should give you pause and some deep personal introspection about your relationship with a God who loves you truly as his own son and daughter.

If you and I can get that Godly relationship straight to know God and be known by God, then the second of the two greatest commandments becomes much easier, I believe. This gets unpacked for us in 1 John 4:7–8. He says, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

This God, he says, is love, in such a profound and potent way that you simply cannot know him without you, yourself, becoming loving like Him. This is why a “Love first” mindset must be the first impression we make to our neighbors. Christianity already suffers from a poor reputation of being unloving, so we need to be known as Christ followers who take the message of Jesus seriously. Our desire is that “Love first” will be the character formation reminder to all of us that we are willing to reach out to those who have not yet experienced the life-changing love we have experienced through Jesus.

May God bless you with all His goodness and all His righteousness. We love you tremendously! All glory to God! Amen.

Tom Zimmer

Dexter Freeman
From the Shepherds