Southside's Blog

Southside is a loving, vigorous, and growing congregation in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Our vision is toward the future: Our Children, Our Ministry, and Our Outreach. Our goal is to embrace all people in our hearts and fellowship as we strive together to support Christ’s mission on earth.

A Prayerful Reflection of Psalm 4

Troubles, trials, and people who reject goodness and seek their glory are never in short supply. Thanks be to God that He is always near. Please read this beautiful Psalm and my meditative prayer that follows.

 

“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.

O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? Selah.

But know that the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself; The LORD hears when I call to Him.

Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in the LORD. Many are saying, "Who will show us any good?" 

Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD! You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine abound.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.”

Psalms 4:1-8 

 

O God, my God, please, hear my cries to You! Continue giving Your grace to me and relieve me of my troubles.

Turn the hearts of humankind away from lies and empty promises. Turn their minds toward what is eternal and away from what is temporary.

The godly belong to You. They know You and You know them. May I ever be in their number.

May I be humble before You and not think of myself too highly to contemplate Your ways as holier than mine.

I want to be righteous and live in a holy way, always trusting in You and declaring Your glory.

Shine down on me in Your goodness always, O Lord! Lighten my heart that I might ever be glad before You! May I glory in You more than the bounty of the earth.

I thank You that I can sleep peacefully because I know that You never sleep and watch over me day and night.

Amen

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Showing Love and Respect in our Dialogue

Disagreements have been a part of our collective human experience since the beginning. Though I may disagree with another’s point of view, I should not be disagreeable in how I treat the person.They are not my foe; they are fellow human being who needs to be understood just as I need to be understood.

When I sit down and talk with someone, or interact with them through social media, I should treat them as I wish to be treated. I learned that from Jesus.Most people refer to it as the “Golden Rule”.

The truth is that we all have different personalities and points of view.I have not found anyone who agrees with me on everything.I do not even agree with everything I believed a few years ago.People change, but not often because one side does all of the talking.

Most people like Jesus because they see Him as, well, friendly.He is nice.Yet, no one would question Jesus’ commitment to His convictions.Though there were times when He did most of the talking, we most often find Him in situations where He is simply spending time with people.Jesus took the time to have dialogue, to listen to the hurting and the oppressed, and to touch those who the world had rejected.

One of the most convicting passages of Scripture showing the value of dialogue is found in John 4.Jesus finds himself alone with a woman who has a colored history, and whose present situation is questionable at best.She has had five husbands already, and she is now living with a man to whom she is not married.Jesus takes the time to have a conversation with her, and it is not one-sided.He let the woman talk and ask questions.He listened patiently and responded with kindness and conviction.In so doing, He proved we can have dialogue with anyone.

Let’s avoid stereotypes, prejudices, and labels; and let’s embrace conversation, sympathy, and love.Some of the best moments of my life have been when I had a genuine dialogue with someone whose views were different from my own.When I sat down with them to seek understanding, we both found that we were more alike than we ever knew.

"Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." (Colossians 4:5-6)

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Praying Part of Psalm 119

Praying the Scriptures helps me to internalize them and live them out. It is a wonderful way to meditate on God's Word. This is my prayer based on the passage below.

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.

I have sworn and I will confirm it, That I will keep Your righteous ordinances. 

I am exceedingly afflicted; Revive me, O LORD, according to Your word. 

O accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, And teach me Your ordinances. 

My life is continually in my hand, Yet I do not forget Your law. 

The wicked have laid a snare for me, Yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts. 

I have inherited Your testimonies forever, For they are the joy of my heart. 

I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes Forever, even to the end.

Psalms 119:105-112 

 

O Lord, I'd grope around like a blind man through life if I didn't have the Bible.

I promise to follow your teachings and seek your desires all of my days.

I'm sick because of the sin that is so rampant all around me. I can't go on without your strength.

Please listen when I praise you! Teach me more and more how to be like you.

I'm free to make choices every day but I can't make them without you.

People who do wrong want me to do wrong with them, but I refuse. You are my Lord, not them.

You gave me your words as a gift and I'm not giving them to anyone else. I'll cherish them always and forever.

I want to always do what you desire.  Oh God, help me to please you. Help me to honor you all my days.

Amen

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General Thoughts about Spiritual Gifts

Read Ephesians 4:11-16:

  • Paul uses words (about church leaders using their gifts in the church) like “equipping”, “building”, “attain”, “mature”, and “grow.” Christians use their talents and gifts to strengthen the body of Christ so that all aspire to the full stature of Christ.
  • Some of the spiritual gifts listed in Ephesians 4:12-13 have become, in many instances, “formal positions charged with forming” believers. 
  • These gifts (sometimes referred to as offices) are for the purpose of spiritually forming other believers. 
  • What is clear in Ephesians 4 is that spiritual growth is important for the whole community, not just individual Christians. As Paul teaches, the greatest spiritual gifts are those that edify the whole church (1 Cor. 14:2-12; Eph. 4:12). 
  • Christian spirituality is “conceived, nurtured, and realized within the body of Christ.” True Christian spiritual formation cannot be achieved individually; it can only be achieved in the communal setting where every member utilizes his or her gift to help others mature.
  • When every part is “working properly,” the result is both bodily growth and spiritual building up in love (Eph. 4:16). The beautiful reality is that believers are not only united to Christ the head, they are also united, like the physical body, to all other members (Eph. 4:16).

Two pivotal passages of Scripture where Paul addresses the role of the body of Christ in the maturing of Christians are 1 Corinthians 12-14 and Romans 12:

  • Paul explains how each member plays a role in building each other up and, by so doing, builds up the entire body of Christ. 
  • A key phrase for Paul is: “For the body is not one member, but many.” 
  • According to Paul, God has placed every member in the body “just as He desired.” 
  • Paul’s view is that one person cannot possess all of the gifts needed to edify themselves. The gifts that belong to individual Christians serve to promote formation of the community of faith.
  • He emphasizes the idea that gifts are given for the building up of the body of Christ and are not meant for the individual. 

Read Romans 12:1-13:

  • Paul elaborates on his theology of the body of Christ’s role in spiritual formation. The church members were to be diligent in using their gifts to build each other up and seek “harmonious relations” with one another and those outside the church.

So, what are your gifts and how do you use them for the good of the Body?

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The Role of the People of God in Spiritual Formation: An Environment of Love and Accountability

Individuals cannot be fully formed spiritually without participation in a strong community of faithful believers. The congregation impacts the spiritual formation of the individual within it by mentoring, building up, and providing an environment of love and accountability.

The apostle Paul stresses the role of the people of God, or faith community, in spiritual formation. His key thought on the role of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12-14 and Romans 12) is that every member of the community is there to build each other up and so build up the whole.  The people of God provide an environment of love and accountability, mentor others to be more like the Lord, and use their gifts to build up the body (Eph. 4:11-16). Therefore, spiritual formation occurs as we interact within the faith community.

Being a Christian means to be part of a community and to take responsibility and accountability in the community seriously.1 God expects Christians to be there for each other “to spur one another on to good deeds” (Heb. 10:25). Parker J. Palmer writes, “the community is a check against my personal distortions; it helps interpret the meaning of texts and gives guidance in my experience of prayer.”With the people of God, “I can live out (or discover I am lacking) the peace and joy, the humility and servanthood by which spiritual growth is measured."3 I need my brothers and sisters in Christ to love me, to keep me in check spiritually, and to model for me what it means to be like Christ. This is a sentiment shared by Paul in several of his epistles.

Jesus calls his followers to a life of spiritually mature faith evidenced by love for God and love for others. Practicing spiritual disciplines like solitude, hospitality, contemplative Bible reading, and prayer can help us live out these two great commandments and create a loving church community. Practicing solitude (Luke 4:42) helps us to create a space for God and deepen our relationship with him.4 Extending hospitality to those in need (Matt. 25:31-45) demonstrates our love for others. Meditating on the Bible gives us the strength to serve God and overcome temptations (Matt. 4:1-10). Spending time in prayer, praising God and interceding for others, connects us with both commands (Matt. 6:9-16). 

Paul believes that the transforming love of Christ is found in “loving communities of faith."5 Certainly this is expressed even at the outset of his letters. John affirms that the ultimate test of authentic Christian community is love for one another (1 John 4:19-21).

Andrew Purves speaks emphatically about the importance of the faith community where Christians live in loving communion with God and each other:

To assume one can be a Christian without attending church and participating in the life and mission of the fellowship is to misunderstand the meaning of being joined to Jesus Christ. Communion with Christ involves communion with one another and sharing together in Christ’s mission to and for the world. While Christianity provides a deeply personal relationship with God, Christianity is not to be construed as individualistic and as an essentially private experience. Christian faith is lived as a communion in the body of Christ.6

Purves argues further that “the congregation has the function of creating the community that is lacking in society, providing warmth and authenticity.”7 This rings familiar with themes found in Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Philippians. This love and authenticity was also evident in the early apostolic church (Acts 2-4).

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul puts great emphasis on the community living out a transformed existence, living out their heavenly citizenship in the present. He explicitly describes ways for Christians to show love and support for each other. Paul encourages the believers at Philippi to follow his example, as well as the example of others, to be unselfish, to love one another, and to hold each other accountable.

This post discussed how the people of God provide an environment of love and accountability. In the next two posts I will discuss the role of God’s people in mentoring and edification.

 

1Israel Galindo, “Methods of Christian Education toward Christian Spiritual Formation”, Review and Expositor, Vol. 98 (2001), 418.

2Parker J. Palmer, “Leaping High Walls: Education as Spiritual Formation”, Educational Horizons, Vol. 82, no. 1, (Fall 2003), 56.

3Palmer, 56.

4Jim Wilhoit, Spiritual Formation as If the Church Mattered: Growing in Christ through Community, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008, 48.

5Gary Holloway and Earl Lavender, Living God's Love: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality. Siloam Springs, AR: Leafwood Pub., 2004, 139.

6Andrew Purves, Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 41. 

7Purves,142.

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The Holy Spirit Works in Us to Bring About Growth

Christians are called to a maturity and transformation beyond the ability to enact themselves.1 We wait for the hope of righteousness through the Spirit (Galatians 5:5). Only through the Spirit is it possible to overcome the flesh and produce righteous fruit (Galatians 5:16-25). Only through the Spirit can we reject the flesh and embrace Christ (Romans 8:6-9). We cannot grow without the assistance of the Spirit.

Paul unveils an interesting tension within us when he writes, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). So we are to work it out while God also is at work within us. He works within us through the Holy Spirit. Yet, the Spirit can only work to bring about growth through our cooperation with the Spirit (Colossians 1:3-11).

Paul emphasizes our continued cooperation with the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:2-17:

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

In this passage in Romans, Paul directs us to “set” our minds on “the things of the Spirit.” The Spirit is active in giving direction as we submit to his guidance. The “things of the Spirit” are in direct opposition to the “things of the flesh.” Walking according to the Spirit enables us to grow more into the likeness of Christ.

Still another important aspect of the Spirit’s work is found in the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” These qualities are evidence of the Holy Spirit working in our lives to produce growth.

Scripture teaches that the Spirit works within us to transform us, to give us gifts, and to develop character. So the qualities of character that make up the fruit of the Spirit are formed in us as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit. When “Christ is formed” in us (Galatians 4:19), our lives will be marked by the fruit of the Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit (Ephesians 4; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12-14) are two significant parts of Paul’s description of the function of the Spirit. R. P. Meye writes,

The exercise of the gifts of the Spirit is subject to the control of the righteous fruit of the Spirit. And the fruit of the Spirit is caused to flourish and grow within the community wherein the gifts of the sanctifying Spirit are exercised. This symbiotic relationship between fruit and gift fosters the fulfillment of the divine intention that the gifts of the Spirit should sanctify and upbuild the church. Pauline spirituality, the practice of the Spirit, is the believer’s “Yes to God,” whose righteous fruit and gifts are to be sought, embraced and lived out in the community of the Spirit and in the world.2

Only as the body of Christ recognizes the great value of each gift, and all the gifts of the Spirit are working together, is the church built up (1 Corinthians 12:1-14:4). When Christians exercise their Spirit-given gifts, there is fertile ground for the fruit of the Spirit to flourish.     

As believers, we may never fully grasp how the Holy Spirit works. Yet, Christians are called to live in community with others who love and support one another to live like Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11). It is within the community of faith that the Holy Spirit operates, empowering spiritual formation.

1Susanne Johnson, Christian Spiritual Formation in the Church and Classroom, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989), 110.

2R. P. Meye, “Spirituality”, The Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1993), 913.

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The Holy Spirit Comforts, Convicts, and Helps the Christian

For Paul, “life in prayer, life in the Word of God and life in the community of the Spirit, are each and together a creation of the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).1  Jesus promised his disciples that the Spirit would provide comfort and help after he was gone, and that it would also convict the world of sin (John 16:7-9). The Holy Spirit provided comfort for the early church so the church might continue to grow (Acts 9:31). The Spirit convicted the Thessalonians of the truth of the gospel (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

The Spirit inspires (2 Timothy 3:16) and illumines the Word of God (2 Corinthians 3:1-18).2  Thus, by meditating on the Word of God, we are comforted and convicted by the Holy Spirit. As we meditate on the Scriptures, the Spirit works in us to form us into what God wants us to be by teaching us, correcting us, and equipping us (2 Timothy 3:16-17):

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

 In Romans 8:26-27, Paul tells of how the Spirit helps the believer in prayer. The apostle pens these thoughts,

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Through this prayer help, the Spirit comforts us in our weaknesses. The Spirit, who knows the heart of the believer, intercedes on behalf of the believer. When we pray, we are never alone; God’s Spirit is with us. Paul implores the believer to “pray at all times in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). It follows that God’s Spirit cannot form us if we do not pray. No one can be spiritually formed without being a person of prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-8). No one can pray properly without the Spirit’s help.

As Paul states in Romans 8:5-10, living a life pleasing to God apart from the Spirit’s help is impossible:

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Praise God that the Holy Spirit testifies that we are children of God so we can be heirs with Christ of the glory yet to come! The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:16-17)

May the Spirit strengthen you as you live for God so that you might be glorified with Christ!

 

 1R. P. Meye, “Spirituality,” The Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1993), 911.

2Meye, 911.

3Gary Holloway and Earl Lavender, Living God’s Love: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality (Abilene, Texas: Leafwood Publishers, 2004), 60.

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The Holy Spirit Confirms That We Are the Children of God

For Paul, “the distinguishing mark of the Christian is that God himself, through the Spirit, indwells us” (Issler, 2000). Paul states, “However you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9). The working of the Spirit allows us to live life to the fullest; this means living as God’s children, according to his will.

The Holy Spirit confirms in us that we are the children of God. In Romans 8:9-16, Paul emphasizes that we “are not in the flesh but in the Spirit” and that those “who are being led by the Spirit of God” are children of God. Being led by God’s Spirit, and living according to God’s will confirms our relationship with him.

In our finite minds, we can never fully fathom all there is to know about the working of the Spirit, but Scripture alludes to two major aspects that require our participation (Issler, 2000). As Christians, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are: “1) to become increasingly aware of the Spirit’s guidance in our lives; and 2) to initiate new steps of faith in which we leave room for God to work” (Issler, 2000). The Spirit guides us because we are children of God (Romans 9:14). As we learn to surrender daily to the Spirit’s guidance, he “makes us more and more like the God we love” (2 Thessalonians 2:13; Holloway & Lavender, 2004). Part of the way we surrender to the Spirit’s guidance is by practicing spiritual disciplines.

Christians become children of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-27). Paul speaks of the beauty and blessings of being God’s child, confirmed by the Spirit, a few verses later in Galatians 4:4-7:

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

The apostle John also speaks of the great blessings of being a child of God (1 John 3:1-4:4). Among those are that we abide in God, that he abides in us, and that we know God (1 John 4:7-16). In other words, we have a deep, intimate, relationship with God. These things are confirmed in us because God has given us his Spirit (1 John 4:7-13).

Along with the blessings of being a child of God comes the responsibility of keeping God’s commandments and loving our brothers and sisters (1 John 4:19-5:3). We can only do these things through the help of the Spirit (1 John 3:24-4:4) who confirms that we are God’s children.

References

Holloway, G. and Lavender, L. (2004). Living God’s Love: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality. Leafwood.

Issler, K. (2000). “The Spiritual Formation of Jesus: The Significance of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ Life.” Christian Education Journal. Vol. 4, 6-22.

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Every Follower of Jesus Matters to the Mission

I recently completed a 14-week sermon series from the Book of Colossians, called Christ, Church, and the Christian. Paul truly focuses on all three Cs, with Christ being the greatest C of all!

In this post, I want to recap the final lesson in the series, to remind every follower of Jesus they have a part to play in the mission of the Church that Jesus gave to each of us.

Some Deliver Messages (Col. 4:7-9). 

As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information. For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts; and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your number. They will inform you about the whole situation here. 

Some Provide Encouragement (Col. 4:10-11)

Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings; and also Barnabas’s cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions; if he comes to you, welcome him); and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.

Some Offer Prayers (Col. 4:12)

Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.

Some Practice Hospitality (Col. 4:15)

Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house.

Some Hold Potential (Col. 4:17)

Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”

We all have gifts to offer in service to Jesus and His Church.

We need everyone to use their gifts to further the mission of Jesus to make disciples, teach people to obey Him, and encourage each other to keep following Him daily.

Let's Pray, Prepare, and Participate Together

  • Pray about how we can contribute to reaching the lost and strengthening the saved.
  • Prepare our hearts and minds to learn more about how we can contribute to the Great Commission Mission.
  • Participate when we have opportunities to learn how to serve to help reach the lost and strengthen each other in Christ.
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Focus on Jesus

I first got reading glasses when I was studying Hebrew in graduate school. It put quite a strain on my eyes, but I only needed reading glasses. My vision was still considered 20/20. However, a few years ago I noticed I was having trouble seeing things on the computer screen, reading my small print Bible, and even making out street signs. So, I made an appointment with the eye doctor. He said I needed progressive lenses. Progressive lenses are at the top of my list of things that will humble you. Thankfully, they help me to see.

Focusing on Jesus helps us to see the world more clearly. Focusing on Jesus helps us to have an eternal perspective. Focusing on Jesus helps us to live life as it is meant to be lived. Focusing on Jesus helps us bear up under the pressures of life. Focusing on Jesus helps us to become more like Him.

The writer to the Hebrews urged those struggling Christians to stay focused on Jesus in Hebrews 12:2-3,  “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

In God’s great scheme of redemption, He gave His very best. He sent the One who helped Him create the world.

John 1:1-5; 14

Jesus is the Word, the conduit of creation, the Light that shines in the darkness and He came down to pitch his tents with us. He is full of grace and truth. The world needs Jesus. He offers life. He offers grace. He is the Truth.

John 3:16-17 (People in the world are deceived for various reasons as to who Jesus is, but one thing is for sure He has come to save us and not to condemn us. He wants to save us from ourselves most of all).

John 8:12 (The Light of life…amazing…beautiful)

John 14:6 He declares this about Himself. “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

Jesus took on flesh in the form of a baby, lived a perfect life, declaring the truths of God, went to the cross to die, was buried in a borrowed tomb, rose again three days later, and weeks later returned to sit at God’s right hand to make intercession for us.

Paul declares boldly in Galatians 2:20“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Philippians 1:21 (Paul declares, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”)

In Colossians 1:13-20, Paul spells out exactly who Jesus is and what He means to us.

Colossians 3:1-4. If we have been raised with Christ (this is a clear reference to baptism in Colossians 2) then our focus should be on the things above, not on the temporal things here. Why? Because that is where Christ is…He is our focus. Now, that doesn’t mean that we turn all of our attention to the reward of Heaven, but instead to the will and desires of Christ. Paul explains it so:

  • We have died and have no more agendas
  • Our focus should be on living for Him every day. The Bible is clear about how we should live. (The Greatest Commands)
  • Christ is our life. Christ is our life. Christ is our life.
  • Our lives are to be hidden in Him. He will reveal Himself again and we will share in His glory.

Focusing on Jesus helps us to see the world more clearly. Focusing on Jesus helps us to have an eternal perspective. Focusing on Jesus helps us to live life as it is meant to be lived. Focusing on Jesus helps us bear up under the pressures of life. Focusing on Jesus helps us to become more like Him.

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Walk4Water was a Huge Success

Walk4Water2024 475e606ff93021db4cf11d782cabfc4e

Wow! We had over 120 folks participate on the day of our Walk4Water event last weekend. We raised enough money to dig a well in a developing country and also provide help with irrigation and farming for a church community. These funds will help provide clean water and food for a community, and also open doors for the Gospel of Jesus to spread!

To learn more about the wonderful work of Healing Hands International, please visit their website at https://www.hhi.org/. If you want to learn more about Jesus Christ, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Thank you!

Tim

 

 

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Forsaken Advice

What should I do when someone forsakes sound spiritual advice and suffers the consequences? Do I say, “I told you so!” and leave the person to suffer? Do I pretend nothing happened and enable them to keep making poor choices? Do I ignore them? When certain people scorned Paul’s advice and wound up in a storm that left them in grave danger, Paul did not simply say, “I told you so!” He did not enable them to continue to make poor choices. Nor did he ignore their pleas. Let’s pick up the text to see what he did.

Acts 27:21-26 “Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, ‘Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island.”

The situation was dire, but Paul knew that God was still involved. When people don’t heed sound spiritual advice there are consequences. However, to repudiate them, to enable them, or ignore them is not right. Like Paul, we need to help them see their mistakes and learn from them while helping them to move forward.

 

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How does Jesus's Resurrection Impact the Christian?

Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). There are mounds of Biblical and extrabiblical evidence for the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (I am happy to discuss this with you further.) For now, I want to briefly share some of the impact of the resurrection on believers.

1.  Our faith in Jesus Christ is based on His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

2.  Our baptism (by immersion) into Christ is based on the resurrection of Jesus (Romans 6:1-7).

3.  Our attitude, behavior, and speech toward others (Colossians 3:1-11).

4. Our salvation from our sins (1 Peter 1:3-5).

5. Our hope for Christians who have already died (1 Corinthians 15:16-18; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).

6. Our patience and perseverance through suffering (1 John 2:15-17).

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ impacts my life completely (or at least it should)!

 

 

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What Held Jesus to the Cross

And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. “HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIGHTS IN HIM; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:39-43)

Jesus did not come down from the cross, even though the mob and the leaders of Israel challenged him to do so.He remained on the cross despite every reason to come down. Despite the physical pain, the emotional anguish, the anger and frustration, he remained on the cross.

Jesus was not held to the cross by a Jewish mob, the leaders of the Jews, Roman law, a lack of power, nor the nails.

It was not the nails that held Jesus to the cross! He had “prints from the nails” in his hands (John 20:24-25). He had the power to remove the nails.God could have provided him with “more than twelve legions of angels,” (Matt. 26:53). He had the power to still the storm, feed the multitudes and raise the dead. He COULD have removed the nails.

The crowd could not have killed Jesus if He had not allowed it to happen. “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18) 

It was the will of God that put Him there and kept Him there. The entire aim of His life on earth was to do the will of His Father. John 4:34“My food”, Jesus said, “Is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” John 5:30“By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” John 6:38“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” 

The plan from eternity was for Jesus to die upon a Roman cross. “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Eph. 3:10-11) “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:23) The will of God held Jesus to the cross.

Our sins held Him to the cross. Paul writes, in Galatians 1:3-4—that the Lord Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age. Peter writes, in 1 Peter 3:18 -- “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor. 5:21) Our sins kept Him on the cross.

Love held Him to the cross. John 15:13“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Revelation 1:5“…To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” Galatians 2:20—“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Ephesians 5:2“And live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Love held Jesus to the cross.

Not the nails, not the crowd, and not even Rome could hold Jesus to that cross!  It was his choice to stay!

There is no better way to honor the sacrifice of Christ than to sacrifice yourself. Not on a cross, but by giving your life today and everyday to the work of the Lord.

Love, 

Tim (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

 

 

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Reading up to the Death, Burial, and Resurrection

Easter Sunday is coming on March 31. On that day, I will be preaching from Colossians 3 about what it means for us to be raised with Christ (baptism plus His resurrection victory). To get our minds thinking more about what Jesus said about what he would go through, and to revisit His sufferings, I invite you to read along in these passages each day, starting this Sunday, March 24. 

Daily Bible Readings

Sun: Matt. 20:17-19; 26:6-13

Mon: Mark 10:33-34; 14:1-11

Tues: Luke 22:37-53

Wed: John 16:16-22; 18:1-11

Thurs: Matt. 27:11-66

Fri: Mark 15:1-47

Sat.: Luke 23:1-56

If you would like to discuss them, learn more about Jesus, or discuss more about how to become a follower of Jesus Christ, please reach out to me: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Sincerely,

 

Tim Gunnells

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Psalm 15: A Prayer Reflection

I remember translating this passage from Hebrew in one of my Hebrew Reading classes a few decades ago. The professor did not tell us where it came from so we would look at it and translate it with fresh eyes. As it came to light, word by word and phrase by phrase, it took on a power I hadn’t noticed before.  Who may abide with God indeed?

O Lord, who may abide in Your tent?
Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,
And speaks truth in his heart.
He does not slander with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
In whose eyes a reprobate is despised,
But who honors those who fear the Lord;
He swears to his own hurt and does not change;
He does not put out his money at interest,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things will never be shaken.
Psalm 15

O Lord, the thought of living with you and spending time with you is overwhelming. I cannot even fathom how it is possible.

I try to live a life of truth and openness. I strive to be a person who is whole and complete. I want to live right with You and people but I can’t do any of it without You.

Keep me from talking bad about people and injuring them with my words and thoughts.

Teach me to honor those who honor You. Keep me from defrauding anyone and complaining about anyone doing me wrong (in my estimation).

Never let my tongue be still when innocent people suffer.

I want these principles, Your principles, to be my guide.

Amen

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Enemies of Spiritual Passion

If you are a Christian, you are part of the Church. If you are part of the Church, then you are the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-32). Just as we can lose the passion for our earthly spouse, we can also lose our passion for our heavenly one, Jesus.  

Kenneth Boa, in his book, Conformed to His Image (Zondervan, 2001), points out some natural enemies of spiritual passion:

  1. Unresolved areas of disobedience.  You know God wants you to do something for Him, but you continually push Him aside. James says, “Therefore, to him who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:17).” Maybe it’s time to truly give your life over to God in serving Him. Or, maybe you are caught up in a sin that you refuse to give up.
  2. You have stopped intentionally seeking Him. Your hunger and thirst for God is gone. Indifference has set in. It is time to ask God to awaken us to Him again.
  3. Erosion in spiritual disciplines.  When spiritual disciplines like prayer, bible study, time in solitude with God, and fellowship with other believers take a back seat to other things in life, it is natural for our spiritual passion to wane.
  4. External obedience.  Are you more concerned with conformity to rules, moral behavior, and duty than with imitating Jesus? External obedience without internal affection falls short of obeying God from the heart (Jeremiah 31:33; Ephesians 6:6).
  5. Loving truth more than Christ.  Keep reading….don’t give up on me. Some students of God’s Word can easily fall into the trap of loving the content in the Bible more than the Source of that truth.  Doctrine and theology are worthy pursuits, but not when they replace the pursuit of knowing and becoming like Jesus. Some of us can quote a lot of Scripture and not look anything like Jesus.
  6. Elevating service and ministry above Christ.  Fellowship, serving those in need, and telling other people the Gospel message are all essential parts of being a disciple of Christ. However, if we elevate those things above becoming intimate with Jesus then they become empty actions.
  7. Greater commitment to institutions than to Christ.  Does your activity with the church or some other organization occupy more time than your devotion to Jesus? It is easy to get more passionate about causes than to be passionate about Christ.
  8. A merely functional relationship.  Are you in a relationship with Christ only for what you think He can do for you? Do you follow Him because you want help with your marriage, your career, or your health? We have to grow beyond the gifts-above-the-giver mentality if we hope to be spiritually passionate. What if you got nothing in return for serving Jesus other than forgiveness of sins? 

Love for God can truly be threatened by these enemies.  If any of these hit home, then I would encourage you to take some time to examine your life, pray to God about it, and seek out a spiritually passionate person to help you reignite your passion for Christ.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;

Try me and know my anxious thoughts;

And see if there be any hurtful way in me,

And lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23-24)

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Jesus is Worthy to be in First Place

Jesus is the Supreme One and He is worthy of our devotion. The Apostle Paul writes, 

 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:15-20)

 

Why is He worthy to be First Place? Here is the list:

  • He is the King of His Kingdom.
  • He is the Savior of our sins.
  • He is the image of the invisible God.
  • He is the firstborn of all creation (meaning the one with all authority).
  • He is the creator of all things. 
  • He is the sustainer of all things.
  • He is the head of the body, the church.
  • He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.
  • He is the fullness of all things.
  • He is the reconciler of all things.

 

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Jesus Deserves to be in First Place

In Colossians 1:18-20, the apostle Paul is trying to help the church at Colossae, and all of us today understand the place that Jesus deserves in our lives. He explains why Jesus and Jesus alone is to be at the top.

18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.

Why is He the head of the body, the church? Why will He have first place in everything?

The answer follows in verses 19 and 20.

19 For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Jesus gave His life for all of us. He did not have to because it was required of Him. He did so because it was required for us to be saved.

He deserves to be the most important relationship in our lives.

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A Prayer Reflection on Psalm 111

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart,
In the company of the upright and in the assembly.
Great are the works of the Lord;
They are studied by all who delight in them.
Splendid and majestic is His work,
And His righteousness endures forever.
He has made His wonders to be remembered;
The Lord is gracious and compassionate.
He has given food to those who fear Him;
He will remember His covenant forever.

He has made known to His people the power of His works,
In giving them the heritage of the nations.

The works of His hands are truth and justice;
All His precepts are sure.
They are upheld forever and ever;
They are performed in truth and uprightness.
He has sent redemption to His people;
He has ordained His covenant forever;
Holy and awesome is His name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments;
His praise endures forever.
Psalm 111

O Lord, You are truly worthy of praise from all people!

I will say thanks to You in front of everyone I meet, without any reservation; whether they acknowledge You or not.

Your works are so great that there are many who doubt that You exist because they cannot fathom a being capable of such creative wonders.

Your righteous deeds, Your redemptive power, Your creative grace has never been forgotten in all the history of the earth.

You are grace and compassion, and You show it by Your care for those You honor You. When we show grace and compassion to others, we are simply being like You.

You never forget a promise.  Your works are truth and justice and Your rules to live by will never be wrong.

You buy back those who turn from their slavery to sin, and You never forget those who love You.

To say that Your name is holy and awesome is not enough for You, but it is the most I have to offer with words from my lips.

May all my decisions emanate from a reverent respect for You and Your teachings.

Your praise will not end.

Amen and Amen

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