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6 Ways to Impact Your Children with the Truth of Christmas

A couple of years ago, while speaking at a ladies’ Christmas event, something significant happened. I had planned to read portions of the Christmas story from Matthew 2 and Luke 2. But as I began to read from my open Bible, I discovered I did not need it.

The words flowed from memory – KJV style. “Being great with child.” “They were sore afraid.”

Christmas truthHere’s the truly amazing part: I’ve never worked to memorize those sections of Scripture. The passages were embedded in my heart simply because my father read them to our family every Christmas Eve. My dad desired to keep our hearts and minds on the real meaning of Christmas. And God honored his commitment to impress God’s truth on his children (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).

We can all have the same kind of positive spiritual influence on the children in our lives. Whether a parent, grandparent, aunt, babysitter, or Sunday School teacher, we can point them to Christ in Christmas with purposeful intent. Even in the midst of the commercialization of the season, we can help them see the important.

People over things. Spiritual over physical. Lasting over temporary.

6 Ways to Help Your Kids Focus on the True Meaning of Christmas

Although you can probably come up with a longer list, here are 6 ways you can help impact the children in your life with the truth of Christmas. We used them all with our own children!

  1. Tell the story of the 1st Christmas – And not just once! Let’s use various ways to share it with them again and again. For instance, do daily Advent devotionals with your family. For younger children, use a childproof nativity to tell the story and then leave it out for them to play with. And don’t forget the most basic way – read the biblical account to your family.
  2. Give to someone in need – It is so easy to get caught up in the “getting” of Christmas. But the season is the perfect opportunity to teach our children the joy of helping others. When our children were young we involved them in filling shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Since they’ve been grown, my husband and I have given in multiple ways including World Vision gifts, Angel Tree, and more.
  3. Sing the faith songs of Christmas – Most of our kids know Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman, but do they know Silent Night and Away in a Manger? The “religious” Christmas songs tell the real story! Play these great songs of faith while baking cookies, driving to school, or making the trip to Grandma’s house. Carol on your street or in a local nursing home.
  4. Tell someone about baby Jesus – I used to have one of those “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” pins. And I wore it too. But I don’t remember anyone ever asking me about it. We must look for opportunities to tell others about the reason for the season!
  5. Christmas Eve Service – Taking the time to attend church on Christmas Eve sends an important message to our children. “Jesus takes priority.” “Christmas is about Him.” Plus, the time in worship and fellowship helps put our focus where it belongs.
  6. Birthday Cake for Jesus – We began this tradition when our children were little. They always looked forward to helping make the cake, singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, and of course, eating it!

I would love to hear how you help your children focus on the real meaning of Christmas. Please share your ideas and traditions with us in the comments!

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A Glimpse of Heaven

heavenI feel like I got a little taste of heaven yesterday. It was “International Day” at our church – a special day set aside to celebrate the diverse cultures, nations, and peoples represented in our church and community. Displays with traditional clothing, special items, and food filled the Great Hall. We freely sampled yummy dishes from India, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa, and more.

The food made my belly happy, but the service touched my spirit. Dozens of people holding the flag of their home country lined the front. Then as individuals from 15 different countries each shared John 3:16 in their heart language, my eyes filled with tears. At first I was surprised my reaction, then the Holy Spirit brought a passage from God’s Word to mind:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice:  “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10

International DayPastor Bruce’s message yesterday focused on the glorious truth that Jesus came for all people. He reminded us of the angel’s words to the shepherds the night Jesus was born:

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  Luke 2:9-11

Yes, at Christmas let’s remember that Jesus came for all people. But let’s also remember that Jesus came to die for all people:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:16-18

Heaven will be a bit like “International Day.” People of all shapes, sizes, colors, languages, and cultures will fill the throne room to worship the King of Kings.

I don’t know what language we will speak in heaven, but there will be no language barrier. We will be one people. All brothers and sisters with the same God and Father. Praise Him!

Will you be part of the heavenly throng? If you’ve never made a decision to receive the gift of life Jesus offers, why not do it today? (Find out more)

 

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6 Christmas Bible Reading Plans

Christmas Bible ReadingThe Christmas season has officially begun. More than likely, activities like shopping, baking, and gift wrapping fill your December to-do list. If we aren’t purposeful, all the holiday activity can easily overshadow the reason we celebrate.

I have a challenge for us – for you and for me. Let’s commit to putting Jesus at the top of our list every day between now and Christmas. Let’s make time with Him each morning a priority. (Check out these practical tips for having a Quiet Time.)

What would that look like? For me, it means sitting with a mug of hot coffee, my Bible, and my journal before I start my daily activities. I read and meditate on God’s Word to renew my mind with His truth. I talk with God in prayer, sharing my heart and listening for His direction.

Over the years, I have discovered that I need the discipline of a Bible reading plan. This great discipleship tool helps me be intentional and regular with my Bible reading. For a brief few moments I contemplated developing a plan to use and to share with you. But then I realized there is no need to reinvent the wheel and decided to find out what Christmas Bible Reading Plans are already available.

6 Christmas Bible Reading Plans for the Season

I’ve done a little internet searching and found 5 great Bible reading plans for the Christmas season.

  1. “Christmas Bible Reading Plan” on BibleStudyTools.com – “Designed for personal or family reading times, these 25 New Testament readings highlight the birth of Jesus and the purpose for His coming. Related Old Testament passages are also featured daily.”
  2. “Advent: Christ is Coming” – This 28-day devotional is designed for families and available on the YouVersion.com
  3. “Rediscovering the Christmas Season” – Another YouVersion.com reading plan, this 25-day plan combines Old Testament and New Testament readings.
  4. “All the Colors of Christmas” – This family advent devotional by Focus on the Family is brand new for 2016 and free to download!
  5. “Family Christmas Bible Reading Plan” – I found this 25-day plan on the website for a church in Ontario, Canada. It focuses on the purpose of Jesus’ coming.
  6. “Bite of Bread: Bible Reading Plan for Christmas Week” – This 7-day plan by Christians author and blogger Andy Lee at Daily Grace focuses on the significance of the name “Jesus.”

What are some things you plan to do to keep Jesus at the top of your Christmas to-do list? Let’s talk!

Other helpful resources:

 

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Refocusing Christmas

ChristmasMy big, beautiful 7 foot tall Christmas tree is sitting at the end of the driveway this morning waiting for the garbage truck. Every December, for almost a decade, it graced a prominent spot in our living room all decked out with glittery gold and brilliant red ornaments. But not this year.

Yesterday afternoon I drug it out of the storage closet in the garage. I cleared the spot in front of the window and set up the stand. I stumbled in with the heavy bottom section, wrangled it into the slot in the stand and fanned out the branches. One fell off onto the floor. Oh well, just one. I could fluff to fill that spot.

Then I plugged it in to test the lights. Only about a fourth of them worked. After trying in vain to get the rest working I made a difficult decision. It was time to retire the tree. We had hoped to get one more season out of our old friend, but alas, it was not to be.

With a sigh I carried the prickly base back out to the garage then out the open door and down the driveway to the edge of the street. Soon I had the tree bag and all the other sections out there too.

I had been vacillating on whether or not to even put up the big tree this year. This is our “off” year with our grown children. They were all here for Thanksgiving. They will be with the in-laws for Christmas. But I love the festive red and gold ornaments. I couldn’t imagine the season without them twinkling at me every time I pass through the room.

Yes, I could run out and buy another big tree. But since we will be moving some time in 2017 it doesn’t make sense to buy a new tree before we know where we will be living.

Briefly I contemplated going the “no tree” route. In the end I decided to put the 4-foot tree that usually goes in my office in the living room. We call it the “outdoor tree” because we decorate it with woodsy ornaments and top it with feathers. It’s a tribute to my husband’s hobbies.

I put the wreaths on the front doors and hung the stockings on the fireplace. Done. Anyone who knows me knows that this is a fraction of the decorating I usually do. Normally “Christmas” shines in every corner.

Last night as I sat and looked at the outdoor tree, I really missed my big, beautiful red and gold creation. But this morning I have decided to take a step back and refocus.

I could make this year’s “scaled back” version of Christmas an opportunity to focus on the more important things of the season. Less decorating and more sharing. Less cleaning and more loving. Less me and lots more Jesus.

Ah, that’s what it should be all about anyway. Christmas. More Jesus.

In what ways have you lost focus on Jesus in Christmases past? How can you refocus on Jesus this year?

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3 Reasons for Thanksgiving Even When You Don’t Feel Blessed

ThanksgivingThanksgiving is just 3 days away. Are you dreading it? It may not be the cooking and the cleaning and a house full of people. Perhaps you are dreading the thought of trying to be thankful when you don’t feel blessed.

What if you’re in the midst of some trial or difficulty or heartache right now? Can you still join in the Thanksgiving celebration with joy or will you just be going through the motions?

The writer of Psalm 118 knew trouble. His life had not been easy. He had been betrayed and attacked. And he had felt caught in a hopeless and dangerous situation with no way out.

3 Reasons for Thanksgiving in Times of Trouble

But in the middle of those trials, he also experienced God’s personal intervention on his behalf. In Psalm 118:8-14, the psalmist testifies to God’s deliverance and expresses his gratitude. In this passage, we find 3 reasons to thank God when we face times of trouble:

  1. God is our refuge – When storms are raging all around us, we can always find safety in God’s presence. He is our shelter from the storm. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Other people may not be fully trustworthy, but God can always be trusted. Other people may not always be dependable, but we can depend on God in any and every situation. Like the psalmist, when we’re in the midst of trouble, let’s thank God that He is our refuge. When we hide ourselves in Him, He will be our shelter!
  2. God is our protector – When people and circumstances fight against us, we do not have to wonder or worry about victory. God Himself goes with His people and fights for them (Deuteronomy 30:3-4). When the psalmist was surrounded and swarmed by his enemies, victory came through the name of the LORD. Do you ever feel “swarmed by enemies?” Call on the name of the LORD. Thank Him that He is your protector!
  3. God is our strength – “The LORD is my strength, and my song; He has become my salvation” (Psalm 118:14). God saves! He will deliver us through trouble with the strength of His might. He is our reason to sing, so let us lift a song of praise and thanksgiving to the God who is our strength!

God is our refuge, our protector, and our strength! If you can name no other blessings in your life today, you can thank God for these. Let’s thank Him today, especially in the midst of trouble.

How else can you thank God today? Express your gratitude in the comment section.

 

 

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Should Christians be the Morality Police?

morality-policeThe cultural norm in America has shifted dramatically in the last few years. In fact, almost every day, another story pops up in the news revealing an ever-widening gap between the world’s values and God’s standards. Our culture glorifies and increasingly normalizes attitudes, values, and behavior that blatantly contradict biblical standards for godliness. But should Christians engage in this cultural clash? And if so, how?

A Christian’s Purpose in the World

Sometimes Christians get so distracted by cultural skirmishes we lose sight of our prime directive. A quick reminder of God’s purpose for Christians in the world will help us better determine how we should respond to our culture’s changing values:

  • We are “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).
  • We are God’s priests, declaring His praises to the nations (1 Peter 2:9).
  • We are Christ’s ambassadors, imploring the world to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

In Acts 20:24, the apostle Paul beautifully described this God-given task in the world as “testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” A Christian’s God-given purpose in the world is to introduce non-Christians to Jesus and His salvation. God has reserved judgment of the world for Himself (1 Corinthians 5:12-13), but we Christians often attempt to take His job. We expect non-Christians to share our standards, values, and viewpoints. When they don’t, we sometimes try to force them to accept and live by our Christian standards and worldview.

But forcing Christian morality on our culture focuses on the symptoms of the problem and not the cause – the need for Christ. It’s like a doctor prescribing aspirin for a brain tumor. We cannot change the world and its ways from the outside in. Non-Christians will naturally act like non-Christians. Without the indwelling Spirit, God’s standards seem foolish to them (1 Corinthians 2:14). A true change of values and behavior must begin with a heart change.

The Danger of Fighting Like the World

Christians often use the world’s tactics in an attempt to fight a spiritual battle. We flood our status updates and tweets with shock and indignation over the latest symptom of a spiritually dead culture. We demand a secular business conform to God’s standards with a boycott. The usual result? The culture labels us intolerant hypocrites and closes its ears to the message that can change their eternity.

Even if our efforts are deemed “successful” by the world’s standards, we must ask how a one-time temporary victory in a cultural skirmish impacts the greater spiritual battle. How do our efforts impact the name of Christ? Jesus invites the world to come to Him but we often throw stumbling blocks on their path. Rather than expressing Christ’s unconditional love for the sinner, our words and actions sometimes imply they must be “good enough” before they can come to Jesus.

Ed Stetzer describes this danger in a recent article at ChristianityToday.com:

Our desire must not be to prove ourselves right or to force our way on the world around us. Instead, our goal is to show Christ to be true and worthy. Just as wrong as running away from our culture is driving people away from the church. Countering culture doesn’t mean attacking it. Countering culture means engaging culture with conviction and compassion. We stand firmly on the truth of God, empowered by the Spirit, to extend the love of Christ to the world. Our desire isn’t to conquer but to redeem. It matters what we do, how we do it, and why we do it… A wrong response to culture is more than unhealthy or unhelpful. Engaging our culture is literally a matter of life or death.”

Christians Can Share Jesus and Counter a Godless Culture

Making the Gospel message our first priority doesn’t mean Christians simply go with the cultural flow. Armed with the proper goals, attitudes, and purpose, we can extend the grace of Jesus to the lost and stand firm on godly values and principles. Whether we’re considering a boycott, picket line, or social media statement, these guidelines can help us evaluate our cultural engagement:

  1. Keep the cause of the Gospel primary – Will our actions and words help or harm the spread of the Gospel? If I refuse to purchase Starbucks coffee or shop at Target will it help me engage my neighbor about spiritual things or hinder my opportunity to share Jesus?
  1. Model a godly lifestyle – When Christians refuse to conform to the world, the world notices. A Christ-like life points people to Jesus and causes them to glorify God (1 Peter 2:11-12). We don’t want the tone of our cultural engagement to negate our lifestyle witness. Will the way we choose to engage the culture foster respect or derision?
  1. Engage in gracious conversation – Public words of condemnation only hurt. Dogmatic diatribes close down lines of communication. But honest, grace-filled conversations within the context of relationship can spark interest in Jesus (Colossians 4:5-6). Always be prepared to lovingly, respectfully, and biblically speak to specific topics when asked (1 Peter 3:15).
  1. Do not support ungodly behavior –Sometimes Christians condone sinful behavior in a misguided attempt to be tolerant or relevant. For instance, after the Supreme Court’s decision last June to uphold same-sex marriage nationwide, many Christians added a rainbow to their social media profile photos.
  1. Do promote social change in positive, non-confrontational ways – Christians can vote, donate time and money, engage in politics, and support community efforts in ways that don’t invite confrontation and incite anger. Respectfully choosing to shop at a different store because of personal faith convictions elicits a different response from our culture than public words of condemnation. Supporting a crisis pregnancy center builds more relationships than an angry protest at an abortion clinic.

As we seek to share the Good News with the lost, let us be marked by our good deeds, not our opposition to the world. Let us be seen as for Christ, not as against the world.

This article first appeared at Crosswalk.com on May 18, 2016.

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3 Potential Dangers in Over-Celebrating the Trump Win

Trump winFor almost a week now, Christians across America have been celebrating the Trump win. And yes, if he follows through on his campaign promises, America could see a positive shift in many important principles.

I also long to see things like a stronger military and conservative Supreme Court judges, but I am concerned about the response to the election I’ve seen from many Christians. Since last Tuesday, praise, conservative high-fives, and victory laps have filled social media. It was as if believers had placed all our hope for the future in getting a republican in the White House.

But Trump cannot heal America. No man – or woman – can. Yet I see this prevailing attitude among Christians that we must “take back” American for God. It seems we’ve forgotten that the United States of America does not equate with the Kingdom of God. So why do we spend so much time and energy trying to conform the world to “godly values?” That is not the mission Jesus gave us.

Sometimes Christians get so distracted trying to conform the culture around us we lose sight of our prime directive. Our God-given task is to take the Gospel to the world (Matthew 28:18-20). To implore the world to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

The world needs Jesus, not dogmatic diatribes about right and wrong. Yet we expect non-Christians to share our standards, values, and viewpoints. When they don’t, we sometimes try to force them to accept and live by our Christian standards and worldview.

A “Christian America” won’t save the world. A conservative in the White House is not the answer to our country’s problems. In fact, “over-celebrating” this Trump victory may actually create a few problems.

3 Potential Dangers in Over-Celebrating the Trump Win

  1. Harm the Gospel –So many of our social media posts are divisive. Because Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton sincerely believe in liberal principles and values, our “celebration” fosters an “us against them” mentality. The world will simply close its ears to anything else we have to say. We have ruined any opportunity we might have to share the message of Christ.
  2. Handicap the Church – God’s people have a tendency to focus on the temporary and physical rather than the eternal and spiritual. But it’s nothing new. The disciples even asked the risen Christ if He was about to “restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). Trump’s temporal “victory” could easily distract us from our real mission. A republican president might be a cultural victory for conservatives, but it is not a spiritual victory for the Gospel. Our mission is NOT to shape the culture or build a “Christian” nation. Our mission is to share Christ with a lost world.
  3. Hinder our Growth – An American return to conservative principles could easily make us spiritually lazy. The more the culture looks like the church, the less incentive we have to conform to Christ-likeness. And a victorious attitude drops our guard. We may fail to purposefully “watch and pray,” always pushing forward toward our real goal.

This country does not have to be a “Christian nation” in order for God to fulfill His purposes in the world. Let us reveal Christ and share the life He alone offers. Simply Christ and Him crucified. America needs Jesus. Not a Christian political agenda.

 

 

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Fruit of the Spirit Week 6: Beautiful, Bountiful Harvest

Fruit of the Spirit 6This post is the last lesson in a 6-week study series on the Fruit of the Spirit. (You can still access previous posts: Intro, One, Two, Three,  Four or Five.) You can read today’s post and make notes in a journal or print the PDF version.

When we began this study, I mentioned my lemon tree. How it budded and bloomed. How the little lemons began to grow. Six weeks later the lemons weren’t ready to harvest. The fruit was still growing; the lemons still green. Fruit production takes time. But I did eventually drink lemonade!

Like physical fruit needs time to grow, the fruit of the Spirit will not ripen in our lives overnight. We must work consistently to crucify the old nature. We must continually refuse to give in to our fleshly desires and yield our will to the Spirit’s. We can say “no” to our sinful nature, accept the “way out” God provides, and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading.

As we grow, the characteristics of Christ – fruit of the Spirit – will be manifested in our lives. As the Spirit transforms us more and more into the image of Christ, we will produce a beautiful, bountiful fruit harvest!

Get to Know the Qualities of the Fruit of the Spirit

In Week Two, we discussed the meaning of “fruit.” The Greek word “karpos” refers to the natural product of the Holy Spirit, who lives inside every believer. The word is singular, signifying that “fruit” is a unified whole. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary suggests we think of the fruit as a “bunch of grapes instead of separate pieces of fruit.” As we grow in Christ-likeness we will produce all the characteristics of His nature.

In this week’s printable PDF lesson, you will work through definitions for each quality of the Holy Spirit’s fruit and see other passages in God’s Word that will help you cultivate them in your life. You don’t want to miss that! But here in the post, I thought I’d share a little trick that helped me memorize Galatians 5:22-23.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience (forbearance), kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23, NIV 1984

Early in this study, I challenged you to memorize Galatians 5:22-23. Years ago, when I tried to memorize the passage, I kept missing some of the qualities or getting them out of order. But then I noticed a pattern in the qualities in the way they were listed in the passage. (Note: This was using the 1984 NIV translation.)

There are 9 qualities. The 1st three each have one syllable, the 2nd three each have two syllables, and the 3rd three each have three syllables. Learning the qualities in 3 groups of three caused a memorization breakthrough! I hope it helps you.

Prepare for a Fruitful Harvest

We’ve talked facts and definitions. Now, let’s get personal. It’s time to do a fruit check. This is between each of us and God. Spend some quiet time with Him now and reflect on each characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit.

Ask God to show you the quality of the Spirit’s fruit in your life. Think about some recent circumstances. Was the Spirit’s character manifested in your life or did you allow your natural, sinful character to take over?

Although we will battle our fleshly nature for the rest of our lives, we become more sensitive to the Spirit’s leading as we mature and learn to recognize His voice. As we end our study, I pray God will encourage, strengthen, and grow you in the days ahead!

Let’s talk: What did you learn in this study series that has encouraged or challenged you the most?

 

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4 Things to Remember No Matter Who Wins the Election

Presidential ElectionTomorrow is the Big Day. THE election. In less than 48 hours the American people will have a new President Elect. Some of us may celebrate, some may mourn, and some may not care very much.

But the outcome will affect all of us.

A new president will bring new policies. New influences on Congress. A new agenda for his or her administration. We may agree with the changes or we may not. But the changes will impact the direction of our country, the economy, our nation’s security, our lifestyle, our bank accounts, and more. Some effects may be positive. Some may be negative.

These potential changes can easily create concern, worry, and maybe even fear in many of us. What’s going to happen? What will the country and the world be like for my children and grandchildren? Maybe I should just move to Canada…

But, oh believer! We don’t have to allow the circumstances of this world to dictate how we feel. We don’t have to be consumed by anxiety even over potentially very real, negative affects caused by a change in the White House. Our God is bigger than all that! We sometimes simply lose sight of this marvelous truth.

4 Things to Always Remember to Never Forget

No matter what happens tomorrow, we can stand firm on God and His glorious truth. Review the 4 truths below and hold them close. When worry threatens to overtake you, remind yourself of what is true.

  1. God is still – and always – in control – The Bible tells us again and again that our sovereign God is the One who raises up leaders and takes them down again. He alone decides who, when, and for how long. No one takes a worldly position of power without God’s approval. No one. (See Daniel 2:21, Daniel 4:17, Acts 17:26, and Romans 13:1.)
  2. God works through all world leaders to accomplish His purposes – Chaos, greed, and even violence may seem to reign supreme across our planet. But our all-powerful God can and does work through and in all that to bring about His will and ultimate plan for the world. (See Isaiah 45:1-5, Romans 13:1-5, and Acts 17:24-28.)
  3. God’s character – Sometimes we forget just who our great God really is. He is good and just and faithful and loving and trustworthy and powerful and kind. We can rely on Him, His character, and His ways no matter what the circumstances of the world look like to us.
  4. God’s Kingdom is not of this world – The kingdoms of the world are nothing compared to the Kingdom of God. His Kingdom reigns supreme and eternal. And if you have been born again through a saving relationship with Jesus, you are citizen of His Kingdom. His Kingdom trumps all other kingdoms (Did you see what I did there? Pun intended). When all other nations and countries have passed away, God’s Kingdom will remain! (See John 18:36.)

Let’s be honest. There’s a lot at stake tomorrow for the United States of America. I’ve caught myself wringing my hands over what lies ahead. I wrote this post as much for me as for you. I am choosing to stake my future on God and His truth. Not on the oval office. What about you?

 

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Fruit of the Spirit Week 5: The Walking Dead

Fruit of the SpiritThis post is the fifth lesson in a 6-week study series on the Fruit of the Spirit. (You can still access previous posts: Intro, One, Two, Three, or Four .) You can read today’s post and make notes in a journal or print the PDF version.

I know what you’re thinking. Images of horror movies and the undead have probably crept into your mind. Just for fun, I Googled “The Walking Dead,” the title of today’s lesson. Did you know there’s a TV series with the same name? This drama on AMC tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a zombie epidemic.

Thankfully, our fifth lesson in the “Fruit of the Spirit” has nothing to do with zombies. But we do need to talk about death – our own, in fact.

We Cannot Produce the Fruit of the Spirit

Here’s the truth of it: We cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit. We cannot – with any consistency – live a life characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control.

You may be able to muster up a loving act now and again. I might work up enough will-power to control my fleshly desires in one instance today. But our lives will never abundantly exhibit the characteristics of Christ by our own strength and works.

So just how can we live a life full of the Spirit’s fruit? Galatians 5:22-25 tells us:

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. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Nowhere in this passage does God tell us to produce the Fruit of the Spirit. But He does command us to do two things:

  1. Crucify the flesh – Paul used the “active” voice in verse 24 when he wrote “have crucified the sinful nature.” This signifies an act that a believer has done and must continue to do to herself. We can choose to turn away from our sinful desires. Because of the presence of the Holy Spirit, we have the power to resist temptation and choose the way out God provides (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  2. Keep in step with the Spirit – Since the Holy Spirit has given new life to our sin-dead souls, we are obligated to follow His lead. This is the second thing we are commanded to do in this passage. Depending on your translation, you may read “keep in step with,” “follow the Spirit’s leading,” or “let us walk by.”

Since “fruit” is the natural by-product of the Holy Spirit, only the Spirit can produce these characteristics in our lives. As we allow Him to take control, His life will be manifested in ours. (For more on “crucifying the flesh” and “following the Spirit” print this week’s PDF lesson.)

On my own, I would produce nothing but sinful works. Even my “good fruit” would be rotten. My flesh is too weak and sinful and to produce the characteristics of Christ. Kathy must “die.” I have to get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit live Christ’s life through me. It’s the appropriate response to the One who saved my life. And my eternal hope.

Let’s talk: What is the hardest thing for you about following the Spirit? What helps you submit to His leadership?

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