Some of my favorite verses in the Bible are found in Galatians 5, where Paul is teaching us about the fruits of the Spirit. In Galatians 5: 22-23, Paul writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Probably my favorite part of that passage is the very last phrase, “Against such things there is no law.”
Believe it or not, that phrase makes me think of the worst-case scenario that might result from living our lives as believers. Have you ever thought about what might happen if we have falsely placed our belief in the Gospels? What if we live our lives for Jesus, according to the principles of Scripture, only to die and fade into oblivion – no heavenly reward, no streets of gold; What if nothing awaits us on the other side of death? Even the apostle Paul contemplates this possibility. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is writing to some who are claiming that Jesus did not rise from the grave, to which Paul responds that if this is true, then our hope in Jesus is false and “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (vs. 19)
Ostensibly, we are the ‘most to be pitied’ because we have placed our hope in a false hope, and it will lead to nothing. However, Galatians 5 tells us something else; What kind of legacy will we leave if we live our lives in such a way that we exhibit the fruits of the Spirit to those around us? Even if we don’t receive the gift of eternal life, we will still show love, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and patience to those in our lives, and that will leave a wonderful legacy where our loved-ones will know that we cherished them, and valued them, and loved them! If this is the worst-case scenario for my life, then sign me up!
I have always told each of my kids that I love them as much as I can. There is no competition between for my love because I am giving as much of my love to each of them as I can! That is the legacy that I want to leave for them, and I think that the best way that I can do that is to live my life in the faith that I have, believing that Jesus has died for me, and my best response is to live in obedience and submission to him. The life that I then live will exhibit the fruits of the spirit, and will be a blessing to those around me.
This worst-case scenario, however, is not where I want to leave this thought however, because Paul did not stop in 1 Corinthians 15 with the position that Christians are the most to be pitied of all people. In 1 Corinthians 15: 20-22, Paul says, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” This is the best-case scenario that comes from living our lives as believers – we have the promise of eternal life!
Everything that scripture calls for us to strive for a) involves what is best for us both individually and collectively, b) leads to a life worth living in the here-and-now, and c) comes with the promise of the inheritance of Jesus Christ – living for all eternity in the presence of the Triune God. This life is not a life of selfish indulgence, but selfishness brings division, and loneliness. It is a life of self-sacrifice as we love others. If we all do that together (live self-sacrificially, giving ourselves to the good of others) we will receive back blessings from many others who will be putting our interests first. Let’s live our lives together for God!
Communion with the living God is the essence of true worship.
We are made in God’s image, we were created to have a close one on one relationship with Him; thus, when fellowship is broken, we are incomplete and need restoration. Communion with the living God is the essence of worship, it is vital, touching the very core of our lives. True worship and oneness with God begins as we confess our sin and accept Christ as the only one who can redeem us from sin and help us approach God.
Worship is multifaceted.
- We worship God with our daily lives
- We worship God by how our lives relate to others
- We worship God in private confession, public service, and in group celebration.
Honest pure worship consists of more than just singing or just praise. In John 4:23-24 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” So I have to get a grasp of “spirit" and “truth".
It is the believer’s responsibility to discover how the
Lord wants to be worshipped and to explore and cultivate
a relationship with Him out of which sincere, Holy Spirit
enabled worship will flow. Jesus instructs this: worship in
“spirit” – that is alive through new birth and glowing with
Holy Spirit enablement. This is not mechanical, rote, or
merely human activity but dynamically capacitated
spiritual action. “In truth” emphasizes biblical integrity
joined to personal honesty, manifested in a heart of
sincerity, a humble manner of transparency, and a
relational integrity. As I write this, I am struck by how
complicated it sounds in my mind. God’s love is the great
simplifier of His Word. Learn to rely on God’s love for you.
So, I have started to simply draw near to God consistently
every day and as scripture says “If we draw near to God,
He will draw near to us” James 4:8. I think I can do that.
And I think I can trust and depend on God as He takes
care for the rest. He loves us with an everlasting Love.
One shortcoming of Bible belt Christians is the assumption that “we” are so steeped in, and familiar with, the Scripture to the degree that we don’t often see the need for serious introspection regarding its application in our own lives.
I had an awakening regarding this pitfall last week while reading the parable often referred to as the “parable of the sower” or the “parable of the four soils”. It is found in the three synoptic gospels: Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8. I have read it hundreds of times, heard it expounded scores of times, and even preached it many times, once in Mexico. To say I was familiar with these passages was like saying the Queen Mary was a quaint little pleasure boat.
Like most of us, I think, I just assumed that being a pastor automatically put me in the soil group that was the most productive. Surely I wasn’t the hard soil along the road. After all, I understood the Gospel. Obviously I was not the rocky soil type. I, like many of you, have endured hardships and ridicule for my faith and have not caved to the often scorching heat of society or man-made religion. Nor have I been captured by the cares of this life or the alluring inescapable desire for great wealth as the third soil type was described.
Then I decided that there was no doubt whatsoever that I was definitely in the good soil group. I am one of those 30/60/100 percent producers. I was GOOD soil. I gladly received and abundantly produced for Jesus.
It was at this point The Holy Spirit seemed to say, “look a little closer at the Scripture and a lot deeper into your heart.” I believe he was revealing to me that in our humanness and often unsanctified attitude, we may find ourselves in more than one of the four soil categories throughout the day in regards to truly understanding and sharing the Good News of the Gospel.
We at CFC, by mission statement and pledge, are to be an “abiding and fruit bearing people.” May we continually take soil samples (by asking The Lord to examine our hearts) to determine if we have a deficiency that would prevent us from being a 30/60/100 percent producer for Him.
As believers, we are given several commands in the Bible as to who we should love. The good news is that, we are only told to love members of three different groups.
The first group that we are commanded to love is our brothers and sisters in Christ – we are to love our church family! In 1 John 4: 11, the apostle John writes, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” This first group is probably the easiest group to love, because other believers are much like ourselves!
The second group that we are commanded to love as believers is our neighbors. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus reveals that the definition of a neighbor is broader than just the person next door. In Luke 29, Jesus tells of a Jewish man who was attacked and beaten by robbers as he was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. A priest and a Levite (both Jews) passed him by, but a Samaritan (with whom the Jews were not supposed to associate) stopped to help him, thereby loving him as a neighbor should. The implication here is that our neighbors include all those who might cross our path – whether they are “like us” or not. This is a bit more challenging, but it is one that our church has tackled via our outreach to our neighbors on Connell Road over the last several years.
The third group that we are commanded to love as believers is our enemies.
In Matthew chapter 5:43-44, Jesus tells us, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’, but I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It is this kind of love that Jesus showed to each of us when he came to die for us. We were all sinners, who had alienated ourselves from God, and yet he chose to sacrifice himself in our place.
Now, if you look over the list of groups that we are to love – our brothers, our neighbors, and our enemies – you may notice that everyone is included in one of these three groups. We are to love everyone! In high school, I had a Bible teacher (obviously at a Christian school) who was a Ph.D.-level theologian. He told us that the biblical definition of love (as Jesus had demonstrated) was self-sacrifice – placing others and their needs before ourselves. This is tough to do, but it is exactly what Jesus modeled for us throughout his life, and even in his death.
The best way for us to do this in our lives as believers is to make every effort to show compassion to those around us. There are numerous occasions in the ministry of Jesus that we are told that he saw the people around him and was filled with compassion for them. When he was filled with compassion, he ministered to them and met their earthly needs – feeding them food, healing the sick, etc… There are many things that people of the world are passionate about, and their level of passion for their beliefs can match our own passion for our beliefs. What truly sets us apart in the world as believers is our love – our compassion. This is how we can let our light shine in the world, and point to Jesus!
Have you ever found yourself “Rearing to go but you can’t go for Rearing”? So many of us want to do the right thing but fail to get started in the right direction. We find that so many excuses pop up that we never get to do the right thing. We just seem to put it off till later. I have found that focusing on the right thing to start with is the most critical point.
As I have looked at my spiritual development, it was not trying to figure out some of the mysteries of God’s word that helped me the most, but it was to start doing the things that I was sure were the things that God wanted me to do. It helped me tremendously to be able to see principles in God’s word that I could apply to the situations every day. These principles apply every day to everything we face. If we will “start where we are, use what we got and do what we can”, our confusion will go down and our obedience will increase.
Growth has occurred in my life as I step into obedience of God. When I started reading God’s word every day my focus improved toward the principle of “loving my neighbor as myself”. The more I focused on this principle the more I was able to understand what Jesus meant by “if you have done it unto the least of these you have done it unto me”. When issues come up at work or in the home and there is anger or confusion it helps to put forth the principle that “God is not the author of confusion”. If you know where the confusion comes from you can direct your prayers and your actions to help calm the waters and point someone to the real solution.
We don’t start with the wisdom of Solomon in us, but we can use what we have (God’s word) and apply those wisdom principles to every situation in life. There are things that you can’t do because most things in other folk’s lives require them to do something, but you can love them. The world will know that you are a Christian by how we love one another. Many times, in relationships the only thing we can do is just sit with a person going through troubles. I call this “the ministry of presence” and sometimes that is all that is required. You cared enough to just be there. That may be all you can do but you can do that. We may not have the training or experience of a Pastor, but we can find that principle of unconditional love and be there to help by just being there.
The book of James has a simple directive “be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only”. This is a call to doing God’s word and not being a spectator. Stop rearing and start going by starting where you are, using what you have and doing what you can.
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season there are those that are struggling with grief, loss, and sadness. It is this group that I believe God would have me speak to today.
God wants you to realize that He loves you just the way you are.
Hebrews 13:5 reads ”...I will never leave you or forsake you”
If you will let the truth of that scripture rest in your heart the struggles will leave. God’s light will chase the darkness away. Take a moment today and yield every thought and emotion to Him. He loves you with an everlasting love. Let Him be Lord of your life in every way. Let Him wrap his arms around you and give you rest and peace.
The lyrics of a song written by Jason Crabb express what I am trying share. I love you and so does Jesus. I wish you great blessings as we honor our Savior’s birth, death, and resurrection!
I can’t tell you why you’re walking through this valley
I can’t tell you just how long you’ve gotta stay
I can’t tell you why your heart feels so unsettled or when this all will change
But I can tell you there is something you can lean on
It’s a promise that won’t bend and it won’t break
And it will keep you when the future is uncertain
You’re not out of grace
You see, when the darkness overwhelms you and the fear just won’t subside
When your questions outweigh answers on those long and lonely nights
Friend, you’ve gotta keep on moving He is with you in the valley of despair and He won’t leave you there
He is with you when you think you just won’t make it and He is right there when it looks like hope is lost
You’re gonna find out He’s nothing less than faithful so keep holding on, keep holding on
There has never been a moment
There will never be a day
He’s not strong enough to rescue
He’s not strong enough to save
No, He won’t leave you there
He won’t leave you
He won’t leave you there
Hey Y'all. This is Bruce Merriman. Because of our many daily distractions, here is what is on my heart lately:
A Broadway musical, "Man of La Mancha" , based upon a 16th century book, "Don Quixote", produced a song that became very popular in the 1970's. That song "The Impossible Dream" was one that inspired the listener to practice perseverance and integrity while on a quest of the utmost importance. While the theology of the song is not perfect, it does point us in a truly right direction. The lyrics in part are:
This is my quest/to follow that star, no matter how hopeless/no matter how far, to fight for the right/ without question or pause, to be willing to march into hell/for a heavenly cause.
As we are in the Advent season and heading toward Christmas, I am very mindful of the account of the Magi in Matthew's gospel. Some traditions hold that those wise men traveled 800 to 900 miles following that star to complete their quest to locate the Christ Child, The King of the Jews. The contemporary Christmas Carol says they traveled far over "field and fountain, moor and mountain". There is no indication that they ever lost sight of that quest to find, present gifts, and worship Jesus.
The collective quest of the eldership at CFC is to be guided by the Holy Spirit in our personal lives and in our leadership here. This is a quest that requires each of us in this body to not only love Jesus with our whole hearts but to persevere in seeking His direction, comfort, and even correction as we serve Him together. May we never lose this focus "no matter how hopeless no matter how far".
Merry Christmas with love and blessings
Hello CFC family. This is Stan Alderman with just a few
thoughts to share with you.
Has anyone ever asked you, “What is your favorite verse
in the Bible?” If so, how do you respond? My answer is
usually, “Well I have several ‘favorite’ verses.” I mean,
how do you choose just one out of the over 31,000
verses. It’s like asking, “Which is your favorite child?” In
that situation I would say I have two – my daughter and
my son are my favorite. So, as we move from the
Thanksgiving season into the Christmas season, I have a
verse that to me sums up its true meaning. And it’s
interesting that it is found in the Old Testament and not
in the traditional Christmas story in the New Testament.
In the rush of shopping, and buying, and cooking, and
traveling, it’s easy to forget that love is at the center of
Christmas. Sometimes as we part company we may say a
flippant “I love you”, or “love you” without thinking. But
there is a love that surpasses all others – the love of a
Father for His children. When our heavenly Father says
“I love you” He say it this way:
I LOVE YOU!!!
So now, here is one of my favorites:
Isaiah 9:6a – For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is
Why do I like this verse so much? A child being born is
something we can all relate to. But then, “a son is
given”. I think it is so very important that we not miss
that one word, given. It is an act of immeasurable love
that the Father chose to do. He gave to us His Son
because He loves us so much that He wants us to be with
Him forever. So let me leave you with this thought:
From Christmas to the cross, to His coming again,
JESUS IS LOVE
Be blessed, be a blessing