Holy Spirit

Love Your Neighbor

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Family Devotional Adult 5-28-17

Family Devotional Kids 5-28-17

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Adult & Teen Discussion Guide

1. Primary Statement

Loving people who love us is easy. Loving those who are different, who dislike us, or who intentionally hurt us, that’s a different story. To love these, though, is to prove that God’s love and grace are at work inside of us.

2. Bible Verse 

Matthew 5:43-45a [NLT] “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.”

Q. Looking back over your life, who would be some “enemies” on a personal level? Without God’s help, how difficult would it be to love them?

Q. What are a few groups, nationalities, or cultures which seem like enemies to you? (i.e. urban gangs, terrorist organizations, foreign dictators)

Q. What pressures are there from your own group, nationality, and culture to treat these people with hostility?

3. Application

Matthew 5:45b-48 [NLT] “For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.  If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Jesus called us to share the good news with everyone, even our enemies. When we remember our own need for God’s grace and forgiveness (things we don’t deserve), we can more easily extend grace and forgiveness to those who are hard to love.

Q. Who is more loved by God: you or the people from the list you made earlier? Who is more in need of God’s grace? Who is more deserving of it?

4. Prayer Focus

Take a few minutes as a family and thank God for extending grace to you. Ask Him to help you love those like the people on your list, and to share the good news with them.


Family with Small Children Discussion Guide

1. Activity

For this devotion, you will need a flashlight or lamp, and a TV or radio. Have your entire family go into the darkest room of your house and then ask them what they see.  Depending on how dark it is, they may or may not be able to see anything.  Hand the flashlight to one of your children (or have someone turn on a lamp or overhead light) and ask them again what they can see.

2. Bible Verse

“The Holy Spirit Will Give Me Power!”

Acts 1:8 “And you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…”

Then talk about the following questions:

Q. Why couldn’t we see much at first?

Q. Why did turning on the flashlight or lamp help us see better?

Q. What caused the flashlight or lamp to be able to light up? (electricity)

Q. Could you see the electricity? (No, but you could see what the electricity did.)

3. Application & Talking Point

Have your family move into the room where the TV or radio is.  Tell one of your children to turn on the TV or radio.  Listen for a few moments, and then have someone turn it off.

Ask the following questions:

Q. How does the TV or radio work? (Most children and adults won’t be able to answer this question very well, and that’s the point: we don’t really know how they work, we just know that they do.)

Q. What does the TV or radio need in order to work? (electricity)

Explain to your children that the Holy Spirit is kind of like electricity. When we become Christians, it’s like having a power plant in our hearts!  Although we may not fully understand how He does it, the Holy Spirit guides, convicts, comforts, and teaches us.  He also gives us the power we need to do what God asks us to.

4. Prayer Focus

Pray together, thanking God for giving each member of your family the Holy Spirit as a power source in your lives.

Receive Power

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The promise of the Holy Spirit’s power wasn’t just for Jesus’ disciples. It’s not just for pastors or evangelists. The Holy Spirit’s world-changing power is meant for all believers.

Building up our character is great, but it’s not a prerequisite for the Holy Spirit to empower us. Too many believers put the power on hold, waiting for the Holy Spirit to make them mature enough to be used. Read the passages below, and notice how quickly God’s power was available.

1 Samuel 10:5-6 (ESV) (Samuel to Saul, after anointing him the chosen king of Israel) 5 …you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. 6 Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.

Acts 19:1-6 (ESV)  1And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” … 5On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.

Acts 2:1-4 (ESV) 1When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting…4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Discussion Questions:

  • Are you waiting to become “good enough” to operate in God’s power?
  • Did the people in the examples do that?
  • How would you pray / affect your world if you felt like you were ready to be used by God like He used Paul and Peter?

Prayer Focus:

Take a few minutes as a family and pray for the Holy Spirit’s power to work through you, even while He’s still working on you.


Kids & Family Outline

Have you ever smelled something mom or dad was cooking and asked for a taste, but it wasn’t ready yet? (ask for an example or give one) Sometimes, we feel the same way about God using us. “Maybe when I’m older,” we think, “or maybe when I get rid of all the bad stuff in my life.” The truth is, God wants to use you right now!

Read these stories below, and notice how fast God starts using people when the Holy Spirit comes.

1 Samuel 10:5-11 (NLT) (This is what Samuel said to Saul when he anointed him as the chosen new king of Israel) …you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the place of worship. They will be playing a harp, a tambourine, a flute, and a lyre, and they will be prophesying. 6At that time the Spirit of the LORD will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy (speak God’s words) with them. You will be changed into a different person …9As Saul turned and started to leave, God gave him a new heart, and all Samuel’s signs were fulfilled that day. 10When Saul and his servant arrived at Gibeah, they saw a group of prophets coming toward them. Then the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he, too, began to prophesy. 11When those who knew Saul heard about it, they exclaimed, “What? Is even Saul a prophet? How did the son of Kish become a prophet?”

Acts 2:1-4 (NLT) 1On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

Prayer Focus:

  • Did the people in the examples have to wait to get older or better for God to use them? What does that mean for you – is God ready to use you right now?
  • Take a few minutes as a family and pray for the Holy Spirit’s power to work through you, even while He’s still working on you.

If you are having trouble reading it, here is the family-devotional-3-5-17 pdf download.


We want to invite you to join this home discipleship program designed to facilitate Bible reading, discussion, and prayer.

There are two pages in the Family Discipleship Guide.  One page is for teen & adult discussion and the other is for kids.

  1. Choose the discipleship outline that works for you and/or your family.
  2. Sit down and read through the scriptures and questions each week and then take some time to discuss your thoughts.
  3. Later in the week we ask that you take time to pray for each other and for specific needs.
  4. Text DISCIPLE to 24587 after each prayer and discussion time or comment below so that we can celebrate with you, who are deepening your knowledge.

As always, please feel free to ask questions.

Prescription for Life & Peace

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This past Sunday I preached the second part of a four-week series on the Holy Spirit. We looked at how one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to be in opposition to our flesh. For those of you who haven’t been around church jargon when the Bible speaks about “flesh” it’s talking about that fallen, weak part of our humanity that leads us away from God and into sin. Here’s one of the main scriptures from my sermon:

in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:4–6, ESV)

I highlighted the words “death” and “life and peace” because those seem to me to be the real things at stake when you talk about this role of the Holy Spirit. You see, God intends that our lives have a sense of purpose and that within that purpose we find things like joy, laughter, rest, hope, warmth of relationship, and many others. These are things that when thought of collectively we might refer to them as “life and peace” or all of the things that make life good and fulfilling over it’s entirety.

On the other end of that spectrum are the things that the scriptures refer to as “death.” For many people when they hear the Bible refer to death they instantly think about hell and separation from God and that’s certainly in the intended meaning in reference to what the flesh produces, but there are a lot of things before you get to that ultimate loss. Having the mind filled with the pursuit of the things that make the fallen part of you satisfied begins this slow death. Things like purpose, hope, joy, satisfaction in your relationships, and in general a sense of peace begin to disappear from your life and life becomes an endless search for things to fill up the growing void in your mind and heart.

How do you prevent that?

Pursue the things of the spirit. Said differently, fill your life and mind with things that are good and godly. It really is like a prescription from the doctor.

  • Watch things that are wholesome.
  • Hear things that have virtue in them.
  • Go places and do things that establish goodness.
  • Build people up rather than tearing them down.
  • Serve those around you.

You might notice that I’ve tried to stay away from some of the phrases that you hear in church circles. Phrases like, “study the scriptures”, “worship the Lord”, or “spend time in His presence.” I did that not because these are bad things, but because I wanted you to think and sometimes hearing the same language over and over can keep us from thinking. These are exactly the things that we should do to fight the flesh!

Our world desperately needs to encounter people in whom the Holy Spirit is revealing the Spirit-filled life. A life filled to overflowing with the life and peace that only the Holy Spirit brings. People are hungry, but they’re hungry for something different and a life filled with “life and peace” is certainly different in today’s world. Let’s show it to them!

 

Blessings

 

What Draws You Closer to God?

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What draws you closer to God? I was working on a few chores around my place this past weekend and as I was working, my mind was dwelling on a difficult situation from the past. I had heard a comment earlier that day that reminded me of a very difficult leadership situation that I had dealt with some years ago. It was a great season of learning and faith development and as usual for me, the catalyst for that growth had been fear. As my mind reflected back on this time it dawned on me how often it takes fear to move me closer to the Lord. Frankly, I want something better. How about you?

In 2 Timothy 1:7 we read

…“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (ESV)

Said more simply, the spirit that God gives us doesn’t make us afraid. Rather, this spirit convinces us of the power that we have in and through him, confirms and demonstrates his love for us, and enables us to control ourselves.   His Spirit does not reduce us in any way but rather builds us up.

God’s desire IS that we would be in close relationship with him, and I believe that he WILL allow fear to drive us into him, but that isn’t his best plan, just the one that we leave him with after we’ve been too busy for his kindness, gentleness, and the still small voice that invites us into his presence. It’s as we disassociate with the Holy Spirit’s voice and the Word that our merciful Father, who knows we are ill equipped to face this world without his presence, allows circumstances or thoughts to cause us fear and thereby moves us close to him once again.

Think about how full the churches were immediately following September 11, 2001. People were afraid and turned to God for solace and hope. Wouldn’t it be much better if through devotion and discipline we kept ourselves closely attuned with the Holy Spirit’s voice and in regular times of reverence and worship our faith grew and grew. That love and revelation would be the context of our growth rather than fear.

Today, I’m committed to the pursuit of His presence motivated not by fear, but by a genuine desire to know him more fully and to walk from sunrise to sunset with a profound sense of his presence.

Blessings!

Jesus Has It All

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I must admit that I have been anxiously awaiting our arrival at John chapter 16.  Of all of the chapters of John, this one is my favorite.  It’s my favorite because it contains a promise with a possibility so great that I get excited each and every time I read it.  The section of chapter sixteen that I am referring to is found in verses 12-15.

John 16:12–15 (ESV)   “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

Let’s look at these verses in reverse order because there is a promise with so much potential that I don’t want you to miss a single piece of it.

Notice what Jesus says in verse 15…

“All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

Don’t miss this truth: Everything that God the Father has also belongs to Jesus the Son.  “ALL that the Father has is mine…”  Can you imagine the scope of this?  In actuality, no you cannot.  No one can. The scriptures say that we can’t even imagine what he has prepared for us in heaven, so how could we possible comprehend EVERYTHING that is the Father’s!  So Jesus has it all.  All power, all knowledge, all dominion, all possessions… all everything!

The next verse above this one says…

“He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

Do you see it?  Can you try to imagine it?  Consider this.  The Father gave everything to Jesus.  Jesus just said that the Holy Spirit will glorify him by taking that and making it known to us.  Therefore, what’s the limit on what the Holy Spirit can do through us?  There’s not one.  What’s the limit on what the Holy Spirit can teach us?  There’s not one!  What’s the limit on the power available to us through the Holy Spirit?  There’s not one!

As I examine these verses of scripture I am always left with an excitement about what the Holy Spirit wants to do in my life but I am also always left with a sense of disappointment.  I’m disappointed in a depth, or lack of depth in my openness to the Spirit’s work in my life.  I want to go deeper!  How about you?  I want God to be able to use me to advance his kingdom in a miraculous way.  I want to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice louder than all of the other things vying for my attention.  I want more than what I have seen or experienced.  I want… “He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

As we have come down to the last week of our prayer and fasting, lets really press in and ask the Lord to teach us great and mighty things that will truly equip us to move his kingdom forward in 2014!

He’s got some spectacular things that He wants to say to us!  Are you listening?

Blessings

Didn’t See That Coming

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Once again this morning I am faced with a daunting task.  Take a chapter full of truths and things worthy of being mentioned and pick just one to bring before you.  Today we are looking at John chapter 14.  Jesus is continuing to instruct his disciples concerning his departure.  They don’t yet realize what is about to happen to Jesus and he knows that the events that are about to unfold will shake them to their core.

You and I have the benefit of being able to look back at this chapter knowing all that eventually happened to Jesus but these men hear and examine these things through a totally different mindset.  Consider if you will, their most likely frame of mind.

I think that they are still expecting Jesus to be a Messiah very different from the one that Jesus actually is.  They expect a Messiah that will throw off the Romans or anyone who oppresses Israel.  A ruler who is like King David and who will establish Israel as a great power once again.  A king who will take the throne of Israel and perhaps even take them up the ladder with him.  Someone impervious to death or any challenge to his rule.  In short, someone and something very different from who Jesus was.

Jesus knew that they were expecting one thing and were about to get something totally different.

Isn’t that the framework for how most of our greatest disappointments, setbacks, or fears occur?  We anticipate one thing and something totally unforeseen happens.  Or we imagine that the worst is going to happen.  These men are about to have their greatest disappointment ever.  They are about to face their greatest fears ever and all of this centers around the events that are about to happen and they don’t see it coming.

With all that in mind it is all the more powerful when Jesus says…

John 14:27 (ESV)  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

If you read this chapter with this frame of mind, you see that the entire chapter feels like Jesus giving his disciples something to hold on to in the days ahead.  Jesus is creating an anchor for their faith.  Jesus is laying down bedrock for them to be built upon.  I think that’s what he meant when he said, “Not as the world gives do I give to you.”  This kind of assurance is not found in money or power or position.  It is found only through our faith in who Jesus is and who we are!

My personal theology says that there is a place in God that each of us can reach, where faith grows to a level that this world begins to loose its hold on us.  Where the circumstances of our lives pale in comparison to not only what awaits us in heaven, but also what Christ has built within us here and now.  I refer you to Ephesians chapter one where Paul writes about the Holy Spirit being the down payment of our eternal inheritance.  For me, that has to mean that even on this side of eternity, I can procure some of what heaven will be.  I see this all over the writings of the apostles.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:11 (ESV)  “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

I’m after this kind of trust and faith in Jesus’ care for me.  I have no doubt that out in front of me are some things that I don’t expect.  My prayer is that today Jesus would prepare me for those things and that when they come, I’ll rest in him and that my heart won’t be troubled.

I’m praying the same for you!

Blessings

Fill me up

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Over the past couple of months we have been examining the logical basis for the Bible being God’s book.  I have to believe that by now you have either accepted that the Bible is a book that God wrote, or that at least for now you are not going to.  Therefore, I want to move out in a new direction.

Each day God gives me something from his Word during my time of study with him.  Some days there are many things that the Holy Spirit speaks to me from His word, from the natural world, from things that people say… well the list can go on forever.  What I am going to do for a while is take a break from evidences for God and just show you how He reveals himself to me.  Hopefully, along the way you will start trusting that God wants to reveal Himself to you as well.

Today I want you to notice Romans 5:5 where we read…

“…God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit whom He has given to us. “

Wow! What an awesome possibility! 

Have you ever had a person in your life that you just didn’t want to be around, let alone like, and certainly not love! Maybe it was someone that intentionally went out of their way to hurt you.  Perhaps it was what they said or did.  Or perhaps it’s just the way they see the world or their personality.  For me it’s the “glass half empty” type of personality.  You know the type.  Nothing good ever happens!  In their mind, everything will eventually go bad and everyone will eventually do them wrong in some way.

Even as a pastor and as someone that has been serving the Lord for many years, this still happens to me at times.  Sometimes it’s difficult to be kind to everyone.

Are we even supposed to try? I mean, aren’t there just some people that I don’t have to be kind to?

The answer that I hear coming consistently from the Word and from the Holy Spirit is NO!

I am called to demonstrate the heart of God to every person that God brings into my life.  Now before we go on, I don’t always succeed!  But how can we ever do it?  Romans 5:5!  The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit!  It’s not my ability to love that I need, its God’s.  And God does not expect us to represent him in our own strength but in His.  How do we appropriate this love? Through the Holy Spirit making His Word leap off the pages of the Bible into our hearts, through the Holy Spirit saturating our spirits with Himself as we fellowship with Him in times of worship and prayer.  These are crucial aspects in the daily routine of a Christian. 

 Without them we end up acting like ourselves rather than Jesus. 

In fact that’s what’s wrong in the world today. Christians act more like themselves than they do Jesus. Find a place right now and ask the Father to place His love in your heart today!