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- A Heart of Flesh
We see the Spirit of God introduced on the first pages of the Biblical narrative representing the creative power of God as his Spirit hovers over the chaotic waters and brings order to chaos (Gen 1). Throughout the Old Testament we also see the God of Israel tell of a time when his people would have their hearts of stone (hardened, immovable, resistant) removed and replaced with a heart of flesh (malleable, soft, supple), as he puts his own Spirit in his people. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. - Eze 36:26-27 The Spirit of God, the same Spirit present in the creation of the universe that brought order to chaos, is the same promised Spirit that God says will one day be given to his people. That day is now. Now under the new covenant of Christ, the Spirit of God is still bringing order to chaos as he leads and guides us and helps us to overcome our flesh. This process of course is not without conflict (Gal 5:17), but God has indeed given us a heart of flesh and removed our heart of stone. He is shaping our lives as we walk with him and surrender our lives and hearts to him. We must remain malleable and supple as we walk with God's Spirit, paying attention to how he may be trying to bring order to the chaos. God, through his promised Spirit, moves us to follow and obey him, but not against our will. We must submit and surrender to the Spirit's movement, otherwise we can harden ourselves and take up that immovable heart of stone again and again (Heb 3:13; 1 Tim 4:2). We do this, we surrender to the Spirit, but choosing to obey when the Spirit brings things to our attention. This can happen as we hear and read the word of God, as we talk with people, the small and quiet places that allow us to hear from God and his direction for us. The Spirit can move us in many different ways, but are we willing to be moved? Memory Scripture: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.." - Eze 36:26-27 Meditation/Reflection/Prayer: Lord, thank you for giving me a new heart. Thank you for giving me your Spirit who leads me to follow you. Action Item: Where do you see your "heart of stone" tend to rage against the heart of flesh that God has given you through his Spirit? What can you do to act upon the heart of flesh, and not the heart of stone in that area? Study Questions: Do you believe that God has given you a new heart? Why or why not?
- The Kingdom of God - The Future Breaks In
Continuing our Kingdom of God series, here Jon discusses the nature of the kingdom breaking in through Jesus and how the future kingdom of God in heaven is to be made a reality in our lives right now. #kingdomofGod #kingdom #kingdomofheaven
- The Kingdom of God - The Coming Kingdom
Here we discuss the coming of the kingdom as depicted in the Old Testament, the foretelling of a kingdom that would be eternal and governed by a prince of peace. #kingdomofGod #kingdom #kingdomofheaven
- The Holy Spirit of God: It or Person?
In a word play, Jesus said that just as the wind is mysterious and you don't know where it comes from or where it goes, so it is with those born of the Spirit (Jn 3:8). The same Greek word pneuma is used for both "Spirit" and "wind". So this leads us to the question: is the Spirit of God an impersonal it, or a personhood of God? The earliest Christians wrestled with the triune nature of God, that God was three unified, but distinct, persons in one, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. Of course these concepts are difficult for our finite minds to comprehend, but would we expect anything less when pondering the creator of the universe (Isa 55:8; 1 Cor 1:18-25)? The Spirit of God, while certainly mysterious and difficult to understand at times, is a person, a personhood of the triune God. So the Spirit of God is referred to as a person, and not an impersonal "it". This can have profound meaning and impact for Christians as they are to be filled with the Spirit and to walk with the Spirit (Gal 5:16), as the Spirit is their counselor, comforter, advocate (Jn 14-16), and guarantor (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:14) of the eternal promises of God. This is to be a personal and intimate relationship with God the Father (and mother) as we interact and surrender to God's personal Spirit that lives in us. So, perhaps one of our first steps toward this kind of intimate relationship is to believe and understand the personal nature of God's Spirit, and that the Spirit is not an impersonal "it." Even this small change of nomenclature can help us as we walk with the Spirit, experiencing the personal nature of God's Spirit as the Spirit interacts, leads, and guides us on the journey toward the new creation, and helps us transform more into the likeness of Jesus. Memory Scripture: "The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us." - 1 John 3:24 Meditation/Reflection/Prayer: Lord, help me to know, believe, understand, and experience, your personal presence that is in me through your Spirit. Action Item: If you have a tendency to refer to the Spirit as an "it", try to begin changing your language to refer to the Spirit as a person. See how this simple shift can make a difference in your relationship with God. Study Questions: If you refer to the Spirit as an "it", why do you think you do so? Where do you think that originated? Try having a conversation with another Christian about the personal nature of the Spirit in their lives.
- The Kingdom of God - Introduction
In this sermon, we dive into the introduction of our year long series THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Books referenced: Tom Jones, The Kingdom of God, 3 Volumes, Illumination Publishers, 2005-2020. #kingdomofGod #kingdom #kingdomofheaven
- Quenching the Spirit
I built a fire pit once around an old tree stump that had been chopped down close to the ground but the roots were never excavated. I simply stacked some wood on top of it and lit a fire, it ended up burning really well. The stump of that old tree heated up, and the warmth of the fire went deep into the ground. A full 24 hours after the fire had died out that stump was still smoldering, burning deep beneath the ground. It took several days for the fire to be fully extinguished from that stump. This is the language that the apostle Paul uses in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 where the NIV translates not to ‘quench’ the spirit, literally meaning not to extinguish Him. Just like a fire that roars in blazing heat and dances with beautiful but dangerous colors of red, orange, and blue, amongst the black backdrop of the night, so the Holy Spirit can be ablaze in our hearts, minds and lives, yet become fully extinguished if not tended. Quenched to the point that there is nothing left, no heat, no flame … just the remains of white ash. This is why Paul reminds his protege and partner in the gospel, Timothy, to fan into flame the gift of God that he had given him (2 Tim 1:6), literally to rekindle afresh; to rekindle the fire that is smoldering where the flames have grown small and dim. It can be difficult for many of us to relate in the developed western hemisphere, where the need to constantly make fire is no longer a part of our daily lives as it was to our great grandparents. Now with the advantages of central heating and air systems, not to mention the ambiance setting flick of a switch that turns on a gas powered fire with crystals or wood that don’t burn up only to be turned off just as effortlessly as it was turned on, we often don’t connect with the real struggle and diligent attention it takes to keep a fire going strong over time. In ancient times nomadic peoples, like the native Americans, when they needed to travel due to running out of local resources or water sources drying up, would carry a hot ember from a fire carefully wrapped in heat resistant vegetation so as to keep it warm during their travels, so they would be able to use the ember later that day to start another fire more easily than starting from scratch. And so it is with the Christian as they walk with the Holy Spirit. It is something that requires constant attention and care in order that the Spirit’s is not quenched and extinguished in our hearts and minds. Just as fire takes ignition, oxygen, and fuel (such as wood, gas, or some other flammable substance) in order to produce flame, so it is with the Christian life. Peter tells us that the ignition of the Holy Spirit’s fire in our life and His residence in us is when we believe the message about Christ, repent and are baptized in his name (Acts 2:25-40). The oxygen and fuel that it takes to keep the Spirit’s fire and presence strong in our lives comes through our adherence to the spiritual disciplines of daily reading and study of God’s word, prayer in and through His Spirit, meditation on God’s precepts, confession of our sins to God and others (1 Jn 1:9-11), fellowship and consistent meaningful relationships with other believers (Heb 4) and daily putting what God teaches us into practice (James 1). Through daily spiritual disciplines such as these we supply the oxygen and fuel that the Holy Spirit needs to continue to burn brightly in and through us to the glory of the Father. Without this oxygen and fuel, even after proper ignition, the Holy Spirit can indeed be extinguished. And any of us who have been walking with him for more than a short time have seen this happen to others around us; who beginning with strong ignition in the Holy Spirit and walking boldly with him, only to see the Spirit’s fire quietly burn out until He is fully quenched (Gal 3:3). Some of us might have even experienced that phenomena in our lives personally. “You can have all your doctrines right - yet still not have the presence of God.” ~ Lenard Ravenhill I believe it is important to mention at this point the concept of “falling away” from the Lord (Heb 6:4-8), which is contrary to the understanding that it means simply to leave a particular church. The concept of “falling away” presented in Hebrews 6 is a state in which it is impossible for someone to come back to repentance (and presumably, thus salvation itself). When exactly someone gets to this state of having “fallen away” and unable to be brought back to repentance is ultimately unknowable by any human being, even perhaps the individual themselves, because every human being is bound by time and none of us know the future. It is only God, from his eternal non-time-bound perspective, that can ultimately know if someone has “fallen away”. It is at this point as well that I would advise the reader to adapt their language appropriately if needed, to more accurately represent God’s word when referring to others. Technically we can never say for sure if someone has “fallen away” biblically. We can can use language that is perhaps more accurate, such as they no longer believe in Jesus (especially if that’s what they are communicating), or have wandered away or stopped following Jesus, or have left our fellowship, etc.. Just before Paul tells the Christians in Thessolonica to not quench the Spirit, he gives them some insight into how not to do this. He tells them to rejoice always, to pray continually, and to give thanks in all circumstances, for that is God’s will for them in Christ Jesus (1 This 5:16-18). It is so easy to not be thankful during difficult times. It is so easy to not be joyful, but rather sullen, faithless, and cower in the face of adversity. It is so easy not to pray, but instead lean on our own wisdom and understanding to lead us forward in life during difficult circumstances. These are the types of things that can quench the Holy Spirit of God within us. Memory Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-20 - Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Meditation/Reflection/Prayer: Lord, let me fan into flame the gift of your Spirit that you have given to me. Help me to prioritize in the midst of chaotic daily life to give attention to not letting your Spirit be quenched within me. Action Item: Plan a personal spiritual retreat (at least half a day, longer if you can) in which you will specifically fan into flame (fuel and oxygen) to the Spirit’s fire in your life. Study Questions: Have you received biblical “ignition” of the Holy Spirit? How can you know? What scriptures from God’s word give you evidence of this? Has the Spirit’s fire begun to be quenched and extinguished in your life? How so? In what ways are you providing the Holy Spirit with “fuel” and “oxygen” in your life to continue to burn brightly? In what ways do you need to add “fuel” and “oxygen”?
- One Another Scriptures
One Another in the New Testament There are several passages in the New Testament (this is not an exhaustive list) where God teaches us the types of relationships that we are to have with one another in Christ. Perhaps one of the best passages that frames this idea is found in 1 John 4:21 - “And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” Assembly with one another: Eph 5:19 - speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, Col 3:16 - Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Concern for one another: 1 Cor 12:25 - so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. Gal 6:2 - Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 1 Thes 4:18 - Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thes 5:15 - Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Correction of one another: Rom 15:14 - I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. Col 3:16 - Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Different functions in the body: 1 Pet 4:10 - Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. Encouraging one another: Rom 1:12 - that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. Rom 14:19 - Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 1 Thes 5:11 - Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Heb 3:13 - But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Heb 10:24-25 - And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Unity with one another: Rom 12:5 - so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Rom 12:16 - Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Rom 15:5-7 - May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 1 Cor 11:33 - So then, my brothers and sisters, when you gather to eat, you should all eat together. Eph 4:25 - Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. #oneanother #biblestudy
- Fasting from Social Media
Have you ever opened up your favorite social media platform with great anticipation and expectation of fulfillment, hoping to find wonder, meaning, and satisfaction only to find yourself ten minutes later full of despair, jealousy, anger, and frustration at the stupidity of the world? (or yourself?). Yup, I know the feeling well. It is the feeling of let down. It is the feeling of being bamboozled, hood-winked, and getting got. And I don't know about you, but I think social media has been gettin us y'all. The strife, the conflict, the bitterness and distrust. All while the companies, and people behind them, are getting ridiculously rich. I'm tempted to say that social media isn't intrinsically bad, but I don't think that is actually true. Of course, like most things, it depends on the user. But it has been scientifically shown through studies that increased social media usage is correlated to increase mental health problems. (For more on this see: The Social Dilemma, also check out their tips to a social media reboot). Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." - Prov 13:12 This January, I and many in my local church, are encouraging one another to fast from all "non-essential/work related" social media (please don't ask what that means and where the boundary lines fall exactly, you can figure it out lol), in order to try to draw near to one another, God, and to perceive him more clearly together. Creating this space can help us to have greater clarity and focus, to be able to see what is true. It can help us not get so fixated on a mirage (or nightmare) that modern digital media often creates for us. Of course, any time we cut and gouge out (Mat 5:29-30) something we have become dependent on, it is very difficult and painful. But this is why Jesus used such strong language, because he wants us to be enslaved to him alone, for his burden is light and his yoke is easy. We literally can't say that about anything else in life. It is interesting that we think the internet, and social media in particular, tend to give us more access to information (forget the fact that much of it is fake) and thus is a good thing. But as DeYoung said, "We need to fast from the information feast, lest we gorge ourselves on trivialities." Should you fast from social media? The short answer is yes. But if you need more markers to help you identify, simply try it for 3 days and see if it is the least bit difficult. If there is any difficulty, that should tell you enough about the fact that you could really benefit from the discipline of abstinence and simplicity. In a world of increasing tech (that is not alway neutral), may we always be able to say with St. Paul, "I will not be mastered by anything." (1 Cor 6:12). #socialmedia #technology #fasting
- Disciple: Hell
In this installment of the series Disciple we discuss Jesus' teachings on the topic of hell. #sermons #disciple #hell
- Disciple: Marriage, Divorce, & Singleness
In this part of the series we discuss the teachings of Jesus on the topics of marriage, singleness, and divorce. #sermons #disciple