God calls Christians to change their character. He calls angry people to be peaceful. He calls lazy people to be productive. He calls unloving people to be loving. He calls impatient people to be patient. God calls people to remodel their character so that it reflects His own character. That call for character transformation lies at the heart of the fruit of the Spirit Paul lists in Galatians 5:22-23, a list outlining features of the character that should define God’s…
The Fruit of the Spirit is Peace Romans 5:1-2 We continue our sermons on the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5. The hymn “It Is Well With My Soul” beautifully captures Biblical peace. Life can be a peaceful river. Life is also filled with sorrows that overwhelm us like an enormous billowing sea. The Spirit works in Christians amidst both situations. The well-being begins in our soul as God makes peace through the Cross. Christians then walk in step with the Spirit to produce and share the fruit of the Spirit with a world seeking peace.
The Bible mentions “joy” and “rejoicing” nearly four hundred times. While some of the instances of “joy”/“rejoicing” record people’s responses to their experiences, the volume of references indicates that the emotions represent something more than merely the incidental recording of human feelings. Surveying the Bible’s teachings about joy reveals an emotion inseparably connected to God’s presence and a defining character of the life He intended humans to live. This lesson continues our exploration of the “fruit of the Spirit” Paul lists in Galatians 5:22-23 and will consider the joy the Holy Spirit seeks to create within the lives of those who dedicate themselves to following Jesus.
This year we have been considering the theme of “bonding”, of developing our relationships with one another and with God. Our focus builds on the relational nature of God’s expectations (cf. Matthew 22:34-40) and seeks to cultivate within us a character that supports those relationships. This lesson furthers that goal by introducing a series examining “the fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23. The Spirit-produced fruit Paul mentioned describes the relationship-oriented character of those who commit to following Jesus. Therefore, we will take the next nine weeks to consider the fruit of the Spirit and its place within our lives. We will examine the first of those fruits in the lesson – love. Each Sunday morning, over the next nine weeks, we will examine one of the characteristics Paul includes in his fruit of the Spirit list. Then, on Sunday evenings, we will use the morning’s lesson as a starting point for a discussion exploring the place of that characteristic in our lives.
This year we have been considering the theme of “bonding”, of developing our relationships with one another and with God. Our theme builds on the relational nature of God’s expectations (cf. Matthew 22:34-40) and seeks to cultivate within us a character that supports those relationships. This lesson furthers that goal by introducing a series examining “the fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23. The Spirit-produced fruit Paul mentioned describe the relationship-oriented character of those who commit to following Jesus and into whose life God consequently sends the Spirit. We will therefore take the next ten weeks to consider the fruit of the Spirit and their place within our lives beginning with, in this lesson, a survey of Paul’s message in the book of Galatians and how it prepares us to understand the fruit of the Spirit.
Another Advocate John 14:15-18 Jesus promised the disciples that He would send…another advocate? He’s talking about the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit is another advocate, what does He advocate for? In what ways does the Spirit work in the life of a disciple? Seeing how the Spirit and the Son work together for our good imparts great humility & courage!
The Bible introduces the Jewish monarchy through a story of rebellion, giving the impression the Israelite kings were a begrudging concession to a sinful request. Even though a story of mutiny introduces the kings, they occupy an important and prominent role in the Bible’s narrative – they serve as a kind of bridge between humanity’s fall from its role as rulers of God’s creation to Jesus, the messianic king through whom God will restore humanity to its position. This lesson continues our slow movement through the major blocks of the Bible’s story of humankind by considering the Israelite kings, the role God intended them to fill, and the reality of their legacy.
I sat down at my desk for my first day as a minister twenty-one years ago this May. After busying myself arranging my little stack of books (I only had a Bible and four other books) and a few works items I realized something – I had no idea what to do. I have, fortunately, learned a few things about ministry over the years. In particular, I have developed some convictions that shape my practice of ministry, beliefs drawn from the Bible’s portrait of the church’s identity and of life in the church. This lesson will consequently consider three of those insights and how they can help us think about church.
We cherish the freedoms enjoyed in our nation and consider them central to our country’s identity. We also cherish the freedom Jesus extends to us and consider it central to our Christian identity. The freedom offered by our nation and the freedom offered by Jesus, however, differ from one another – our country guarantees freedoms to pursue our own interests while Jesus frees us to serve others’ interests. This lesson concludes a short series examining our dual identity as citizens of both our nation and of Jesus’ kingdom by considering the freedoms of both kingdoms and the place they should have within our lives.
Philippians 2:12-16 Paul’s command to do all things without complaining or arguing is one of the clearest ways children of God stand out in the world. Resisting the temptation to grumble is as important as our prayers for restoration and deliverance. We are inspired toward this goal out of gratitude for Jesus who left heaven, lived as a servant and endured the cross, all without grumbling, arguing or complaining.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. Those familiar words were included in the Declaration of Independence that the second continental congress adopted on July 4, 1776. Those same words have become the foundation of the hopes and understandings many people in our nation have about our country. The words adopted by the second continental congress stand in contrast to the words embraced by the preacher in the book of Ecclesiastes. At the end of the book, the preacher wrote that things like the ‘self-evident truths’ of the Declaration of Independence belong to the “vanity of vanities” he saw filling the world (Ecclesiastes 1:2; 12:8). Given our nation’s celebration of our nation’s independence, including the freedoms and rights attached to that independence, we will consider the perspective of Ecclesiastes and what insights it offers us on our relationship with our nation.
The 4th of July marks an annual highpoint in our nation – we celebrate the birth of our nation and the freedoms central to our understanding of its identity. We are right to celebrate such things; freedom is a blessing and, as James wrote, all blessings come from God (James 1:17). Our celebration should, however, also be paired with a recognition that the Bible offers a complicated picture of the relationship God’s people ought to have with the world’s nations. This lesson therefore begins a short series considering our identity as citizens of Jesus’ kingdom and its meaning for our lives in the kingdoms of this world.
Near the end of his first letter, Peter encouraged the elders in his audience to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you” (1 Peter 5:1-3). He followed his encouragement with a promise – if the elders faithfully fulfilled their duty, Jesus, “the chief Shepherd”, would give them an “unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4; cf. Hebrews 13:20; John 10:7-18). The connection Peter makes between elders who “shepherd the flock of God” and Jesus “the chief Shepherd” offers an insight into being an elder – elders follow the example of Jesus. Our elders have announced the beginning of a process to appoint additional elders for our church family. This lesson, which concludes a series about elders, reminds us of elders’ responsibility to follow the example of Jesus, “the good shepherd” (John 10:7-18), whose teachings and behavior outline the expectations God has for those to whom He entrusts the care of His church.
Luke, in Acts 20, narrates Paul’s journey to Jerusalem. Despite “hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost” (Acts 20:16), Paul took time to stop in Miletus and meet with the elders of the church in Ephesus (Acts 20:17). Luke uses three different terms to refer to those elders in his record of Paul’s conversation – “elders” (Acts 20:17), “overseers” (Acts 20:28), and shepherds (Acts 20:28). Luke’s descriptions of elders map the role of the leaders to whom God entrusts the care of local congregations (cf. Acts 20:28) and offers insights into their place within our church family. We will therefore consider the terms “elders”, “overseers”, and “shepherds” in this lesson as we prepare to begin the process to appoint additional elders for our church family.
This lesson begins a series of three lessons on elders in preparation for the beginning of the process to appoint additional elders for our church family. This lesson will focus on the historical background of elders in the Bible and how that background emphasizes that elders are older men recognized by their community as individuals of proven character and wisdom to whom they entrust their care.
THE SMART GOD-1 Corinthians 1:18-24–We don’t often say that God is smart. We tend to prefer more spiritual-sounding words to describe his wisdom, knowledge or understanding. Even so, our God is amazingly smart, and we are better off when we acknowledge it. Ever since Eve looked at the forbidden fruit and saw that it looked good to eat, humans have struggled to accept the fact that God knows more about life on earth than we do. Most of our sins…
2 Samuel 24:17 One lost sheep endangers themselves; a lost shepherd influences and endangers an entire flock. Suffering the influence of a failed leader reminds us all to not lean on our own understanding & deceitful heart. God doesn’t throw vessels away when they break but can use the broken to demonstrate His redemptive power. God demonstrates his power as leaders choose to “repent, turn to God, and demonstrate your repentance by your deeds” (Acts 20:26).
Acts 17:11-12–God is not far from those who are eager to learn. It’s why we must be on the lookout for excusing our spiritual stubbornness. It’s easy to see in others, but easy to miss in ourselves. Christians who are learners avoid the trap of unrepentant stubbornness. They receive God’s Word with great eagerness. They examine the Scriptures every day to see what is true.
Proverbs 31:30-31–Why does Proverbs praise the woman who fears the Lord? Fear of the Lord doesn’t prevent hurt in this life. But it does free us from the control that fear exercises over our attitude and actions. The one who fears the Lord has an antidote to their fear of being hurt by people or circumstances. In Exodus, Moses owed his life to the mothers, daughters & sisters who chose to fear God rather than people.