24
Apr
15

Spirit Life

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. — Galatians 5:25 (NIV)

What does it mean to live by the Spirit?  In Galatians 5, Paul talks quite a bit about the sinful nature.  He uses the phrase “sinful nature” six times in about 13 verses.  He contrasts living according to the sinful nature with living by the Spirit.  Christians have been freed from the Law by the grace of God through the death of His Son.  Though we are free from the requirements of the Law, it does not mean that we can use that freedom to live lives that are not pleasing to God.  We have to live by the Spirit.  The Spirit of God is mentioned seven times in those verses that mention the sinful nature six times.  Living by the Spirit is just as important, if not more so, as not gratifying the sinful nature.

The phrase “keep in step with the Spirit” comes from a military term.  It was used to describe a line of soldiers.  They would march in step with one another as they paraded into battle.  I find it comforting and reassuring that Paul’s exhortation to “keep in step with the Spirit” implies that the Spirit goes with us into battle.

I remember being in marching band in high school.  When we marched in a parade, we would have to keep our eyes on the people next to us so that we would keep the line straight and march in step with one another.  We also had to keep our eyes on the people in front of us so we would not plow into them if the drum major called for a halt.  In much the same way, we must keep our eyes moving all around us as we march into battle with the enemy.  We must look side to side so that we are all in step and we must look ahead to the Spirit who leads us into battle.  We all stick together with the Spirit to win the war.  The Spirit of God is right there with us.  It leads and guides us as we march toward our heavenly home.

Do not be afraid of the Holy Spirit.  It is God’s good gift to us.  The Spirit that dwells in us is there to challenge and change us and lead us into truth and righteousness.  Let us live according to the Spirit’s leading and march in step with God’s Spirit and lay aside the desires of the sinful nature.  As we do, we will see the fruit of the Spirit growing in our lives.

…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. — Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

Have a great, Spirit-filled day!

23
Apr
15

Ah Yes, The Good Old Days

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
    For it is not wise to ask such questions. – Ecclesiastes 7:10 (NIV)

There is a great comfort in reminiscing.  We think about “the good old days” and it brings warmth to our hearts.  We play, “Remember when?” and it brings a smile to our faces.  “Do you remember when gas was 19 cents a gallon?”  “Do you remember when we were kids and we didn’t have to worry about the things kids have to worry about today?”  “Why can’t we do this like we used to do back in the good old days?”  Solomon says, “Stop living in the past.”
Why would he say this?  Why does he say that is unwise to look back and ask, “Why can’t it be like it was back in the good old days?”  Because, as Billy Joel once sang, “The good ole days weren’t always good…” (Keeping the Faith).  Solomon had written earlier in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun.  Yesterday, today and tomorrow aren’t really all that different.  At least, they’re not as different as we’d like to think that they are.
So what can we do to “forget the past and strain toward the future” (Philippians 3:13, paraphrase)?  First, we have to stop looking over our shoulders.  The past isn’t  coming back.  The past has passed and if you continue to live in it, you’ll miss so much in life.  Second, we need to understand the present times.  We live in amazing times and, as that great theologian Ferris Bueller once said, “…if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  So enjoy the day God has given you and look for opportunities to do His will and share His love with those who need it.  Third, remember your future.  God has a bright and glorious future for His people.  Keep your eyes on Heaven as you run the race of life.  Follow Jesus today, for He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).
Ecclesiastes 7:7-12 (NIV)

Extortion turns a wise person into a fool,
    and a bribe corrupts the heart.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
    and patience is better than pride.
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
    for anger resides in the lap of fools.

10 Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
    For it is not wise to ask such questions.

11 Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing
    and benefits those who see the sun.
12 Wisdom is a shelter
    as money is a shelter,
but the advantage of knowledge is this:
    Wisdom preserves those who have it.

22
Apr
15

Take It To Heart

Ecclesiastes 7 is full of proverbs that give us little bits of wisdom.  One of my professors in Bible college used to call these “the bumper stickers of the Bible.”  These are little sayings that are chock full of wisdom and insight.  These first six proverbs of Ecclesiastes 7 have some dark overtones.  According to Solomon, laughter and happiness are to be shunned while death, mourning and sorrow are preferred.  What is Solomon saying when he says, “a sad face is good for the heart.” (Ecclesiastes 7:3b, NIV)?  I think that the key to unlocking this mystery is found in verse 2:
​…​death is the destiny of everyone;

    the living should take this to heart.​ – Ecclesiastes 7:2b (NIV)​

We’re all going to leave this life behind someday.  We’re all going to pass away at some point.  We celebrate our births every year, but think so little of our deaths, even though they are inevitable.  We’ll do many things to stave off death the best we can.  We diet and exercise (at least, we should).  We take vitamins and medicines.  We make figurative pilgrimages to fountains of youth to try and save ourselves.  But in the end, we come to an end.  We need to take this to heart and not waste our lives in reckless, foolish living.  For, as Solomon says:

A good name is better than fine perfume – Ecclesiastes 7:1a (NIV)

Don’t ruin your name by living foolishly.  Don’t ruin your name by chasing destructive pleasures.  Instead, live soberly and wisely.
Ecclesiastes 7:1-6 (NIV)
A good name is better than fine perfume,
    and the day of death better than the day of birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
    than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
    the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
    because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person
    than to listen to the song of fools.
Like the crackling of thorns under the pot,
    so is the laughter of fools.
    This too is meaningless.
21
Apr
15

Words That Don’t Mean Anything

The more the words,
    the less the meaning,
    and how does that profit anyone?​ – Ecclesiastes 6:11 (NIV)​

Solomon could have been writing to our media in 2015.  Everywhere we go there is a hunger for information and words.  How much news can we absorb?  There is CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox Business, CNN Headline News and CNN International.  Those are just some of the 24 hour networks.  Then there are the local news channels.  What about the daytime talk shows?  The late night talk shows?  “Everybody’s talkin’ at me.  I can’t hear a word they’re sayin.” (Harry Nillson)
There’s a problem, according to Solomon.  The more we talk, the less our words mean.  Words have lost their meaning in a cacophony of sound bites.  We pull things out of their context and use them to support our own ideas and thoughts.  We see politicians do this every year with political ads geared to sway voters.  Because of the many words people use, we are less inclined to trust them.  We believe (oftentimes correctly) that people are manipulating words to get what they want and so we don’t trust them – the people and their words.
But there is a Word we can trust.  He is Jesus – the Living Word of God.  According to John 1, Jesus is the Word.  He is trustworthy.  He never lies.  He never manipulates.  He is not a sound bite.  He is the Truth.  You can trust Him and He will bring meaning to your life.  Don’t fall for the profitless words of man.  Put your faith in the Word of God.
Ecclesiastes 6:7-12 (NIV)

Everyone’s toil is for their mouth,
    yet their appetite is never satisfied.
What advantage have the wise over fools?
What do the poor gain
    by knowing how to conduct themselves before others?
Better what the eye sees
    than the roving of the appetite.
This too is meaningless,
    a chasing after the wind.

10 Whatever exists has already been named,
    and what humanity is has been known;
no one can contend
    with someone who is stronger.
11 The more the words,
    the less the meaning,
    and how does that profit anyone?

12 For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone?

20
Apr
15

The Power Of God When You’re Paralyzed

The latest sermon from Griffith First Christian Church in Griffith, Indiana.

20
Apr
15

To Love or To Not Sin?

Love Fulfills God’s Requirements

Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.”  These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.

11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires. – Romans 13:8-14

In the last half of Romans 13, Paul wonderfully sums up what being a Christian is all about – love.  When we love God and we love others (Matthew 22:36-40), we’ll keep the requirements of God’s Law.  How?  Because when we perfectly love God, we won’t sin against Him.  When we perfectly love our neighbor as ourselves, we won’t sin against them.  I really think that we put the emphasis on the wrong things in our Christian walk.  We worry so much about not sinning that we forget to focus on loving God and others.  We live our lives with a negative emphasis instead of a positive one.  Worry over sin is self-focused, but living a life of love focuses on God and others.  Do you see the difference?  Instead of turning our sight inward, it is much better to turn our sight outward and focus on love.  When we truly become people of love, we will find ourselves sinning less and less.  May your day be filled with so much of God’s love today that it overflows and pours out into those around you!
17
Apr
15

No One Can Defeat God

In Acts 4:25-26, the Apostles Peter and John quoted Psalm 2 in response to the persecution they suffered at the hands of the Jewish elders and chief priests:

You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?

26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.

Peter and John had performed a miraculous healing of a crippled beggar in Acts 3.  They were preaching in the Temple about Jesus being the Christ, the Messiah.  They were arrested in Acts 4 and thrown in jail for the night.  Then they were brought before the rulers, elders and teachers of the Law (Acts 4:5, NIV).  They were asked by what power or name they were able to do what they did.  Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, began to proclaim the Truth about Jesus.  Those who had arrested Peter and John were unable to figure out how to punish them so they let them go.  The Apostles went back to their people and that’s when they quote Psalm 2.
In Psalm 2, attributed to David by Peter and John, David writes of how the nations conspire and the peoples plot against the Lord and His anointed One.  The “anointed One” is referring to the Messiah.  Way back in David’s day, he prophesied about the Messiah and the fulfillment of that prophecy was found in Jesus.  God’s response is one of laughter and scoffing, rebuke and wrath.  No one conspires against God!  No one can defeat God!  There is coming a day when those who plot and conspire against the Almighty will be judged and punished.  There is only one God!  He exists in three persons: Father, Spirit and Son.  We will all bow down before Him.  Some will bow willingly in honor and worship and others will be brought to their knees in fear and awe of the One they rejected in this life.  But make no mistake, my friends.  Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11, NIV).

Psalm 2

New International Version (NIV)

Psalm 2

Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”

              7
         I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
Ask me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.




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