Does our life line up well with the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)? Will someone who reads that list think of us? It is the kind of life that many dream of having but few find. Flesh and Spirit battle for dominance. One makes those attributes impossible, and the other makes them inevitable. These qualities come as a result of responding to the right stimulus.
There is a conflict within each of us. Flesh or Spirit? Which one will be the overriding principle for our decision making and action taking. It all starts in our mind. We tend to pass the buck. I acted as I did because of circumstances. It is the Eve excuse. That serpent made me do it. The Adam excuse. That woman made me do it. No, the truth is that we choose. Things happen. We react. Either flesh or Spirit will determine how. Each has its own set of outcomes.
Deception always lingers on the edge of our thoughts. Someone (Wonder who?) is always telling us that it is okay to act in unspiritual ways. It is not. There is a harvest that comes with that sowing (Galatians 6:7-8). Seeds of carnality bring a crop of corruption. The Lord rescued us from that, but poor choices will take us right back to it. Spiritual seeds germinate and grow into a harvest of eternal life. It is our choice which we want but not how to achieve it.
The fruit is attractive. The process is grueling. Shrugging off those longings that are prompted by our human side wears us down. Fatigue weakens our resistance to acting on impulse. “Pray,” Jesus said (Mark 14:38). It is a tough war. One side of us is committed and ready. Another is feeble and fumbling. We pick which one will control us. Temptation is everywhere. We sidestep one and run into another. Look for the escape route. God promised that there will always be one (1 Corinthians 10:13), but we have to find it.
We must set our minds to it. A half-hearted commitment will eventually be no commitment. A spiritual journey is filled with continuous self-denial, daily cross-bearing and absolute devotion to re-enacting His way, not ours. It is also filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). A bumper crop of the fruit of the Spirit awaits those who sow spiritual seeds. We cannot have one without the other. How is your harvest?
Call to Praise Scripture: John 13:34-35
His word on it: 1 John 3:18
Sermon: “Aim High”
Many thanks to all of those who helped to make Vacation Bible School a hit for the young people (And some of us who are not quite as young). It takes a cooperative effort to make any endeavor successful. There is no limit to what we can accomplish if we work together, and we look for every pair of hands we can find to make Westside all that we can be. There was plenty of encouragement offered to “Rise and Shine for Jesus,” and there is a lot of shining that we need to do.
Responsibility falls on all of our shoulders to shine for the Lord. Light is a common metaphor for Christian lives, and we cannot look to anyone else to take care of this task. Being a disciple makes us what we need to be to do what we need to do. The purpose of light is to shine, and that is exactly what we will do if we follow in His steps (Matt. 5:14-16). Darkness is merely the absence of light, and we have the joy of filling that vacuum.
We live in the midst of those who have twisted their lives and lost their way (Philippians 2:15). God is being shoved further and further out of the public consciousness, and that is a sure formula for disaster. Ingratitude and disregard for the Lord are among the first steps of a journey into the darkness that eventually consumes and destroys us (Romans 1:21-32). Most of our neighbors are at various places on that road. More than anything, they need for us to shine as never before.
Shining is tough work. Light has its residue (Ephesians 5:9), but it is hard to cling to that which is good when evil seems to be so profitable. Righteousness is portrayed as intolerance and narrow-mindedness. It is much easier just to follow the crowd. A lie stands in the way of every truth that we attempt to share. Goodness, righteousness and truth are rays of light that the darkness resists. We must shine anyway.
“Share the Son” is coming the first three days of October, and we will continue with the same theme. The weekend will be dedicated to “Life in the Light,” and we need everyone’s support to make it all it can be. Please mark your calendars now. It is inevitable that it will be inconvenient for some, but let’s plan around that weekend if we possibly can. A quick getaway can wait a week. The church family needs our support at every service. We have shining to do!
Call to Praise Scripture: John 21:15-17
His word on it: John 14:15
Sermon: “Do You Love Jesus?”
Jesus and truth make up one inseparable package. When John took a long look at Him, he saw glory. Glory is a visible expression of grace and truth (John 1:14). He was filled with both. Truth has a liberating quality (John 8:31-32) that the Lord embodied and brought into this world. It is not simply desirable; it is essential to our well-being both now and into eternity.
Satan’s first assault was on the truthfulness of God. The serpent sought to undermine the factual nature of the restrictions that had been placed on the first couple. He appealed to her sensual side and sold the lie. His selling point? The consequences of disobedience were misleading. Surely, God did not mean that (Genesis 3:4). That deception is still around and continues to numb our minds to the gravity of sin.
A baby born among the livestock came to remedy that problem. Lies robbed humanity of paradise once, and Jesus came to open up the possibility of reversing that theft. He lived among the sinful and the weak. He confronted the self-righteous and the demon-possessed. He liberated the hostages and humbled the proud. Truth does that. It sets everything on its proper footing, and Jesus is the truth (John 14:6).
Truth is not a welcome commodity in every arena. It seems that it would be embraced by everyone, but it is not. It has met intense opposition ever since the garden. Eve was the first, but certainly not the last, to run into a smooth presentation of a lie. Paul ran into such strong reactions that he wondered out loud if the truth had cost him in the way of human relationships (Galatians 4:16).
Learning facts does not equate to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7). How many people have a head full of Bible knowledge but no relationship with Jesus Christ? They can quote it book, chapter and verse but have never come to Him. That, too, is nothing new (John 5:39-40). Let us strive to know the Word (John1:1) and not simply the words.
Only then will we be truly free.
The battle between truth and lies confronts us everyday. Deception will enslave us, and the truth will liberate us. The devil is behind one, and the Lord is behind the other. The words behind which they stand will lead us directly to them. Listen with discernment. The messages are guiding us to our eternal homes.
Call to Praise Scripture: 1 John 3:1-3
His word on it: Ephesians 1:5
Sermon: “Ultimate Love”
Mission trips have a way of bringing us back into focus. We learn to concentrate on those things which are truly important. It forces us to decide what those things are and frivolous excesses fade into the background where they really belong. A minor inconvenience becomes merely that and not a cause of panic. We are continuously reminded: God is in control.
When roads are bumpy (at best) or totally washed away (at worst), you learn to look beyond the moment. Discomfort is simply a way of life. You live with it. Your van grinds to a halt while a family of monkeys convenes in the middle of the road. You will move along whenever they settle their business. They do, and on you go. Traveling in the jungle is different. I-95 is a million miles away. Two hundred miles in six hours is high speed.
Slowly, they are all beginning to advance. Eight years ago there was no electricity or running water in Siparuta, Guyana, one of our mission points. Now, we call home on a cell phone standing by the Correntine River. Later, it will serve as our bath. Tomorrow, one of our Christian sisters will wash our clothes in that same water. She has done that faithfully for years. And we complain about things here. We lose sight of how easy our lives are.
Cruising down the river is a different adventure. We hear sounds that are unfamiliar to our North American ears and we ask. We are told that it is the screeching of baboons. Oh yes, we are not on Lake Gaston, are we? This is the jungle, or as they call it, “the bush.” They are bush men. It is a different culture and unfamiliar surroundings. They eat roti. They speak Dutch or some kind of indecipherable English. It is two weeks of being shoved way out of our comfort zone. Sleep is fitful. Tired. Hot. Hungry. Home never sounded so good.
What a blessing! It is an in-your-face object lesson about our time in this world. We do not belong here. Our citizenship is in heaven. The language here is not like ours. Neither are the values and goals. We feel like misfits, and we should. Another authority has control of this environment but not of us. We march to the beat of a different drummer. He is King of kings and Lord of lords wherever we are; whether it is primitive village in Suriname or Guyana, South America or right here. He is in control. He is our God in every circumstance, and that should make all the difference in the way we live in this world.
Call to Praise Scripture: Ephesians 5:25-27
His word on it: 1 Peter 2:17
Sermon: “The Church We Love”