Thursday, September 25, 2014

Power Source

I know that you, as I do, desire to live an authentic empowered life.  When we look at the Scriptures it tells us to be careful how you walk with God (my emphasis) (Ephesians 5:15).
In other words, to live an authentic empowered life, we have to pay attention.  Be careful to listen to His word.  Be careful to pray.  Be careful to seek His help.  Be careful because we are being observed by others.
So how can we live with His empowerment, His enablement, His power?  I think Ephesians 5:18 gives us a clue ‘Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.’
The verse begins with a negative command, ‘Don’t let anything like wine cause you to be hopelessly out of control.’  But a positive command follows, ‘Be filled with the Spirit or be controlled by the Spirit.’
Notice with me four things about this filling: First, it is a command, not a suggestion.  It is not a casual option, I play a part in this command.  I cannot be filled (controlled) with the Spirit while being controlled by something else (living by the flesh, unconfessed sin, resisting the will of God, relying on my own strength).  Second, the command is for every believer.  You all, as believers, have the Spirit – let Him control you.
Third, the expression ‘being filled’ is in the passive voice.  That means something is done to us.  You have to be filled (let the Spirit fill your life).  But you have to ask Him.
Fourth, the command is in the present tense.  Literally, keep on being filled.  It’s not once in a lifetime or once every year, it’s every so often.  Asking God to fill you with His Spirit is an essential part of walking by faith and not by sight.
Try this prayer every day – honestly several times throughout the day:
This is you day Lord, I want to be at your disposal.  I’m yours Lord.  Help me to: lean on You; to draw strength from You; and to have You fill my mind and my thoughts.  Take control of my senses and my circumstances.  Help me to be filled with Your presence and empowered by Your energy.  I want to be Your tool and Your vessel today.  Lord, fill me with Your Spirit right now.  Customize this prayer to your own details depending on what may be the needs of that particular day.
This is how we walk the Christian walk.  We need the Spirit to take our eyes, tongues, emotions, wills and use us because we want to operate under His control on a continuing basis.

P.S. God wants to use you, resource you, to advance His Kingdom.  Come this Sunday and discover how God does these things in us.  See you soon.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Does First Free need to go on a diet?

Most churches – more than eight out of ten – are busy, too busy.  These churches need to slim down their plethora of programs, activities, and ministries.  They need to go on a ‘busyness diet.’  How about First Free?  Do you think we need to go on a ‘busyness diet?’
Too many of us equate activities (and I’m talking about good activities) in the church with godliness or ministry fruitfulness.  Did you realize that some of the busiest churches actually diminish discipleship fruitfulness?
Studies report that the average church attender will give to their church two slots of time a week.  Yet so many churches ask for 6-10 slots a week.  Now, of course there are always exceptions.  Stay at home moms and retired folks will give you three slots.  Ministry fanatics will give you four or more, but the average attender will give you two slots.
How many slots do you believe First Free requires of you each week?  If you answered over two slots, then maybe it’s time for us to pursue the ‘busyness diet.’
Reasons for the ‘busyness diet’ are many, but here are a few I will share with you.  First, excessive activities can actually preclude members from growing spiritually. (They are so busy, they don’t have time to read the Bible.)
 Second, a church that is too busy rarely evaluates the effectiveness of its activities.
Third, activity-focused churches are often not in "world" focus. (Is First Free getting out into our community?)
Fourth, a busy church can hurt families.  (We have too many activities for children, students and adults; therefore, the family has no time left to be together.)
Fifth, activity-focused churches can cause member burnout.  Burnout usually leads to dropout.
Sixth, it is difficult to do a few things well when a church does too many things. (we have got to narrow the focus.)
Seventh, busy churches often lack vision clarity. (Too many directions leave members with confusion about priority.)
Let me know what you think.  Does First Free need to go on a ‘busyness diet?’ Diets are usually not pleasant but necessary for health.


P.S. God changes us from the inside out.  This week we will witness and hear how He did this in the lives of three individuals.  We will also discover some ways to get God’s Truth in our lives.  See you at 9:00 & 10:30 a.m. worship.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Developing a "Sticky Faith" in your kids

It is estimated that 40 to 50 percent of the freshmen starting college this Fall will abandon their faith by the time they receive their diplomas.  These are the same kids who actively participated in church youth groups in high school, and when polled the year before college, 80 percent had every intention of sticking with their faith.

Drs. Kara Powell and Chad Clark, faculty members of Fuller Seminary, studied 500 youth group members following high school graduation and their journey in college.  Their research results are reported in their book: STICKY FAITH: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids.

Here are a few broad and fundamental concepts for all parents: (1) Their faith will reflect your faith.  Their prayer patterns, attendance patterns, bible study patterns, involvement will be the same as their parents. (2) Most kids have been taught sin management-not relationship.  We need to teach them how Christ changes us from the inside out and we obey Him because we love Him. (3) Strong community builds long-lasting faith.  We all need a network of caring supporters who aid in the spiritual development process and hold us accountable to staying connected to the faith.

Here are some recommended suggestions for parents and their children: For pre-school and elementary kids – spend time everyday debriefing their day and saying prayers at bedtime as well as other healthy rituals.  Middle school kids – listen and ask questions.  Talk about your faith - its ups and downs, and then encourage them to talk about theirs.  High school kids – two million go on mission trips annually.  Five out of six report that these trips have little impact on their lives.  For service to stick, find causes that hit close to home.  Make service a family affair.  Those who serve younger children are more likely to develop stickier faith. College bounds – talk about life after high school before they graduate from high school.  Discuss issues like managing money and time.  Help them plan a schedule including church attendance.

Let’s continue to encourage, help and pray for all parents.

P.S. If you want to be effective in your spiritual journey, you must talk to God.  If you find this a struggle, you will appreciate our services this Sunday at 9:00 and 10:30 a.m.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I'm an "SJ." How about you?

I am going to give you a little insight into my personality type. I am, according to the Meyers/Brigg personality indicator, an extrovert, a sensor when taking information. In other words, I take information through my five senses. Some people take it in intuitively. I am a feeler more than a thinker. In other words, I go with my heart more than my mind. I also have judging life type, meaning I like structure and perimeters more than just “go with the flow.”

Since I am an SJ I like to know how things are to be done and how things work. Here is where the rub comes in for me spiritually. The Bible is clear on the “what” you do; love God, love others, tell others about Jesus, love your bride like Jesus did, be patient, be kind and you can fill in the blank of a host of other commands.

These are things we must do. These are the non-negotiable, not up for debate commands of the Bible. The Bible also has a host of “This is what must happen things.” Those things we must take responsibility for: you must make followers of Jesus, you must raise your kids to fear God, you must respect your husband, you must present your wife spotless.

Ok. So we have the things we must do and a few things that must happen the questions for me is always how?

The Bible doesn't answer the question how? There is a reason for that. We are all different and the Bible was written to transcend time, age, education, culture and context. Our how must come from God. We must pay the price to hear from God how we should carry out His commands. Like husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church. That is a “must do” but how are you supposed to do that?

How you love your spouse is certainly not how I love mine! And how I love her now is not the same as it was 30, 20 or even one year ago. The how must come from God and there is a price for the how – you must listen to Him. It is certainly worth it! It is just a little more challenging if your personality makeup is an SJ like mine.


P.S. Our sermon based Life Group series begins this week. It’s not too late to join a group. If you want to be effective in your Christian walk, come and discover the traits needed to Walk This Way.