The Spirit-filled Life: It’s More Than Just Beleiving

Click here to read today’s scripture from Galatians 5:22-26; 6:1-2


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When it comes to faith, we often ask the question, “How much do I need to get by?”. Many people often want to know how to live the Christian life just enough to get us into Heaven and escape Hell. If that sounds familiar to you, may I suggest that you’ve missed the whole point of the Christian faith?

Christianity isn’t about escaping something, it’s about entering something; that something is life in Spirit. Today’s verses from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians tell us what a spirit filled life looks like. Spirit filled lives area filled with love, joy, peace, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control – but not always all at the same time (At least not for me). St. Paul tells us these characteristics are the “fruit” of the Spirit. In other words they are the noticeable byproducts of a Spirit-filled follower of Jesus.

What’s He Really Saying?

However, if we fail to carefully and deliberately read ALL the great Apostle is saying, we may be left with the misguided thought that a life committed to Jesus automatically grows this incredible fruit. Well, you don’t have to live as a Christian long before you realize you often live below these fruitful characteristics. You may even doubt your faith since you have such struggles with living out this ‘fruit of the Spirit’. But, listen carefully to what I’m about to say.

Living ‘by the Spirit’ is not enough. What? That’s right. St. Paul knew as Christians we receive the Holy Spirit when we believe, after all, it is only by the power of the Spirit that we can turn from sin and repent in faith. So, in that sense we can be said to ‘live by the Spirit’. However, Paul says if we live by the Spirit, we must also “keep in step with the Spirit”. Keeping in step implies so much more than just a position of belief; it means we live under the complete control of the Holy Spirit. We live and move and have our very being in what He would have us do and say (Acts 17:28).

The Key to Bearing Fruit

If we want to live the fruit-filled life of the Spirit, we must come to a place of complete surrender of our will to God’s will. God has a will for each of us, but he won’t force it upon our lives. When our hearts recognize the true depth of love God gives to us through the sacrifice of His son Jesus, and through the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit, then surrender to His will and His way, becomes the pathway to transformation. In His power, walking step by step in His guidance, we are transformed into loving, joyful, peaceful, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled people. The transformation doesn’t happen in an instant, but the surrender of our will does. Then, as we walk in His power, He lights our way through experiences that transform us, step by step, into His likeness.

This Week

As you prepare your hearts for worship on the Lord’s day tomorrow, won’t you spend some time thinking about your level of surrender to Jesus Christ? Are you living in faith because you’ve accepted Jesus as savior? If so, great, you’re partially surrendered. Or, are you still trying to figure out life on your own, making decisions in your own power and wisdom without knowing or considering what God’s will is. If so, won’t you consider surrendering everything to Jesus; every fear your still holding on to, every doubt you have about what the future will bring, yes even the unknown things of the future? To surrender completely to Jesus Christ and His will for your life brings the fruit of the Spirit. You can have peace in knowing the Lord of Life is Lord of ALL – including you.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Image credit:  http://www.thinwithin.org/living-the-fruit-of-the-spirit/

 

 

 

Finally Then, Be Strong

Click Here for today’s reading from Ephesians 6:10-17


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When you wake up to face the coming day, your morning routine probably looks something like taking a shower, getting dressed, and eating some sort of breakfast food. My ritual has always included coffee, the miracle elixir that opens the eyes more fully in the morning, and props them open later in the night. However, about a year ago my Cardiologist restricted me to decaf and cut out all forms of caffeine in my diet in an attempt keep my heart out A-Fib.

So, while my morning routine was seemingly robbed of its power (aka caffeine), guess what I did anyway? No, I didn’t drink the regular coffee. I started drinking a cup of decaf every morning first thing, just as if I were still drinking regular. Why? Because I was used to it. I liked the taste of coffee first thing in the morning. And, even though it didn’t have the same physical effect, I found it could have the same psychological effect. The very aroma and flavor signaled to my brain it was time to wake up and get going; it’s time to get prepared for the day.

Half the Battle

A famous old proverb says, “He who is well prepared has half won the battle.” History is full of examples of armies which were over confident and under prepared for their battles, like the Union army at Bull Run in the American Civil War, and the Hessian forces who fought with British in the Battle of Trenton during the American Revolutionary War. Both armies were unprepared for what lay ahead of them, mostly because they underestimated their adversary.

Sadly, many people have great morning routines to get their day started off right and well organized, but they miss the one thing that has the power to bring victory to their day – Jesus Christ. No amount of organization can prepare us for the real battles of our days without the power of Christ within us. St. Paul speaks to the Ephesians about the importance of preparing properly for the real battles we face – spiritual ones.

Being Prepared

Using the metaphor of putting on the “Armor of God”, the great Apostle shows us how unprepared we are in believing without being equipped. The Ephesians were believers in Jesus. But, the fact they believed wasn’t enough; they had to actualize their faith with preparedness, just as a soldier for battle. We’re no match on our own for Satan and his minions who seek to derail our faith. However, by centering our mind each morning on Jesus (Who is the very word of God), we put on the protection of His Armor, the Holy Spirit.

This Week

If you aren’t preparing for your day and all the battles it will bring by centering yourself on Christ, now is the time to begin. You may be going to church, and even meeting in a small group to grow as a disciple, but if you’re not daily putting on the Armor of God by centering yourself on Jesus Christ and the power of His Spirit, you’re going into battle unprepared. Don’t take the grace of God for granted. Think of the Holy Spirit like you would that morning cup of coffee; don’t leave home without Him. When you reach for that morning cup of whatever gets you going, don’t forget where the real source of power comes from…“Finally then, be strong in the Lord”

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Image credit: http://www.dumpaday.com/funny-pictures/funny-pictures-38-pics-11/attachment/funny-morning-cup-of-coffee/

In God We Trust – or Do We?

Click Here to Read Philippians 3:20-21; 4:1-3


 

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Power is fleeting, yet we strive for it in this world. Too often we strive at much to high a cost. Lord Acton, 19th Century British Statesman, is famously quoted as saying, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Those who seek to be President of the United States are certainly seeking power. There is perhaps no more powerful office in the world. And, there seems to be no limit to what some will do or say to achieve such heights of power.

Everyday there’s a new round of accusations among the many candidates of both parties, as they jockey for position as the front-runner in the race. I know, I know it’s just politics, right? Maybe so, but much of the rhetoric can lead one to think the end of the world is at hand depending on the outcome. But, before we assign the end of the world to the outcome of who wins the respective nominations for the Democrats and the Republicans, we need to remember the words of St. Paul, “But, our commonwealth is in Heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20)

I love my country, the US of A, but I must admit the older I get the more I realize my real country is Heaven. As Christ followers, we need to be careful not to get our allegiances switched around. Regardless who wins the next election, God is still God and our citizenship won’t be in question.

We can and should be thankful for the gift we have in being Americans. We are born in the most free nation ever to exist in the history of the world, and with that freedom comes much responsibility. At the end of the day, only one candidate will stand as the so called next ‘leader of the free world’. But, we must remember above that leader stands the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.

The power struggles we see being waged before us in the campaigns are not really that different than the ones we are all tempted to wage in our daily lives. The desire for power, whether at work, family, or in relationships is counter to the Spirit of Christ we are called to live and exemplify. Jesus calls those who would be His to be poor in spirit – meek and humble. True power is found when we serve our brother not lord it over him. Could there be better example among us mortals of such power, than when Pope Francis knelt to wash the feet of prisoners? Perhaps but that picture sure sticks in my mind of true power in leadership.

This Weekend:

Today is Friday, a day Christians revere as holy because on it we remember Jesus died for the sins of the world. He died for all will believe. He died not just to save us from our sins, He died to redeem all things. St. Paul tells us when we are “in Christ”, we are a new creation. Genuine faith produces a change in us; the old is gone, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).

As you look toward Sunday, hopefully to gather with other faithful souls who are seeking to worship the true leader of the free world, would you take a few moments to consider how you’re using the power given to you, as a husband, wife, parent, or boss? How are you doing at trusting God to lead you in ALL things? Our nation’s motto is “In God We Trust”. Is it yours? I hope so. If so, then you will realize with me God is still leading those who will follow Him no matter who wins the next election.

The old gospel song is still true:

“This world is not my home, I’m just passing through. My treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me to Heaven’s open shore, and I can’t be at home in this world anymore.”

P.S.

St. Paul also urged the people of Philppi to get along (Vs. 4:1-3). And, he asked those in the church to be the ones to help them get along. Another question I’m considering this election season, as the arguments increase, is what am I doing to help others to get along? Let us not be divisive, but loving, for it’s in God we trust, not this world.

Grace & Peace

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

 

What’s the State of Your Union?

Click Here to read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20


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You and I aren’t the only ones who look back at the previous year, trying to discern where we are now. The New Year makes even government leaders want to review their status. Every January, the President of the United States and the Governors of the states, even a few mayors of cities give a ‘State of the Union’ (State, or City) address. Most, I think, use the speech as a chance to promote their future agenda rather than truly  look at the current status and address the factors led to it.

What about you? What’s the state of your union? You’re probably wondering what union I’m talking about; marriage or relationship, work or personal. Actually, I’m wondering about the state of your spiritual union. St. Paul tells us that if we are ‘united’ to Christ, then we are one in spirit with Him (1 Cor. 16:17). We need to try and get our minds around what that means.

What does ‘one in spirit’ mean?

To be one in spirit is more than just feeling you’re somehow connected because of your knowledge of God, it’s realizing that as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ you are no longer your own. As St. Paul points out in verses 19 and 20, you don’t own yourself, Jesus does. When you put your faith in Him, you accepted his payment for you – the cross. Several places in scripture believers are called ‘bond-servants’. That’s right, we’re slaves. But, we’re slaves to the most loving master in the world; Jesus knows our every need and thought. He knows who we really are and knows our darkest secrets. And get this, He loves us any way! Why? Because He made us, and He knows exactly what we’re capable of being when we give ourselves over to union with Him.

So what’s the state of your Union? If you’re IN Christ, it’s strong. In fact, nothing can breakdown your union with Christ, except your own will, should you desire to leave Him. He never forces Himself on anyone. But, like any union, if there isn’t consistent and open communication, accompanied by a mutual love and respect for each other, then the union cannot only be strained, but eventually broken. Unions are only as strong as the love that binds them together. And, concerning our union with Christ, He brings to our relationship the strongest love possible, the unfailing, unconditional love of God, and that’s why the state of all Union in Christ is strong.

This Week:

If you’re not sure about the strength of your union with Jesus Christ, why not stop and communicate with Him from your heart right now? He’s always ready to hear from you, and to reassure you how much He loves you, and loves being in union with you. Ask him to open your heart each day to see just how precious is your union with Him.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Happy RE-NEW Year: Do You Perceive It?

Click here to read 2nd Corinthians chapter 4


Has your start to a new year gotten you into a new groove? Are you finding a fresh approach to things that were previously stale? For many people the new year offers an opportunity to start over, and while that’s always a good thing, we need to remember that with God every day is New Year’s Day. God is always faithful to forgive, forget, and renew.

Here is a link for you to listen to a message I delivered last night, Jan. 7, 2016 for a prayer conference call with the Second Baptist Church of Winfield, KS. I pray it inspires you to let God bring Renewal to your life today.

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Grace & Peace

Pastor Brad

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

Matthew 5:6

Why All the Fuss About New Year’s?

Scriptures for the start of a New Year: Isaiah 43:18-20 & 2 Cor. 5:14-21


 

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Why all the fuss about New Year’s Day? Can one day really make a difference in our lives? After all, January 1 isn’t really any different than December 31, is it? Well, that all depends on us. It seems most people throughout history have thought celebrating the New Year was pretty important.

The History

The desire to celebrate the starting of a new year is about four millennia old. The Babylonians were the first in recorded history to celebrate the coming of a new year, according to their calendar four thousand years ago. in the year 46 BC, Julius Caesar declared January 1 as a day of celebrating his newly reformed 12-month calendar.

As Christianity began to grow in Europe, the Julian day of celebrating the New Year fell out of practice; they began to emphasize other important days such as Christmas or the Annunciation as the beginning of the new year. However, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII established January 1 on his newly reformed calendar as a day for celebrating the coming new year. As most of the world began to switch over from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian (the one most widely used today) different cultures around the world began to develop ways of ringing in the New Year.

So What?

But why? Why this need to emphasize starting over. Perhaps it’s because there is an inherent need in all of us for forgiveness. We recognize the things in life we wished we’d done differently. January 1 seems to offer us an opportunity to start over. Of course we can start over any day, but there is something special in knowing there is a collective consciousness in society to begin again all at the same time.

Our inherent need for forgiveness is due to our inherent imperfection as humans; also know as our sinfulness. Sin can best be compared to sickness, and all humanity is sick. The cure for our sickness of sin is always found in Jesus Christ, and He is always willing for us, and encouraging us to repent and begin again with a clean slate.

Maybe that’s why New Years Day is so universally observed; we all need clean slates. We all need to begin again from time to time. I know for me, New Year’s Day is a spiritual experience. On this day I turn to Christ and say, “Thank you for forgiving me over and over again. Help me today to begin again with a fresh, clean slate in my relationship with you and everyone around me.”

So That’s Why

Why all the fuss over New Year’s Day? Because it represents the heart of our God to always let us start over. There aren’t very many things in life that give us a “do-over”, but God does; not just on New Year’s Day, but anytime, anywhere. So, here we are on January 1, 2016. Why not start over? Let’s all confess our sins, both to God and to each other. Let’s all turn to God and our families and tell them we’re sorry for all the ways we let them down this last year, and ask them to not only forgive us, but to give us a “do-over”. I know God will, and I’m betting they will too.

Grace and Peace for a Happy New Year!

Pastor Brad

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

Matthew 5:6