Spiritual Fitness–Serving Together

The discussion on serving continues as we turn the focus to serving within a church body.  It pleases God when His followers work together.  As humans it sometimes seems easier to overestimate what we can do alone and underestimate what we can do together.  Our culture teaches us that maturity is to become independent, but Christ always turns things upside-down teaching us to be interdependent as we work together. That is why He compares His church to a body.  The heart can’t breathe and the lungs can’t pump blood, but when they do what they were created to do together, they help keep the body alive.  So it goes with the body of Christ.  Serving and working together is how we help keep Christ’s Church alive!  “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”  Romans 12:5 

Not everyone is ready for this type of living. Maybe you are investigating what being part of a church family is all about. There is a desire in you that want’s to know life matters and you want significance, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog.  You are searching for something, maybe a better way of life.  If you are feeling this way, examine where you are.  You might find you are either in:

  • Survival Mode–feeling numb to life, just living, putting in your time, getting by, sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.
  • Success Mode–Life is comfortable, you drive a car, have a home, living the good life but feeling unfulfilled.

The way to move from just surviving and feeling unfulfilled to a better life, a life of significance is to give your life away and serve together with other believers.  This is your gift to God, it is never boring and is an awesome way to live!  That is why Epic Church is always encouraging you to discover your role in God’s Story.  When you realize the part you play, it will be a special area of service that fits you well, used to minister to the needs of people, especially the body of believers.  The Holy Spirit will equip you with whatever you need to fulfill your purpose within the body of Christ.  When you find this special place of service, it is crucial you move to action.  God calls you to participate in building up His church and His people.  There you find a better life, purpose and significance.  “Therefore, whenever we have opportunity, we should do good to everyone–especially to those in the family of faith.”  Galatians 6:10

When you commit to giving yourself away in service, it contributes to your growth process; it’s the maturing of you, as well as building relationships with other believers. Remember to draw on Christ’s love and divine power daily so you will be strengthened to easily be His hands and feet to others.  If you are struggling in this area, go to Him in prayer and ask “Help me find a place in your church.”  Be patient, He will direct your path towards His plan for your life.  “God began a good work within you, will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6

  1. If you are just surviving in life or feeling unfulfilled, what is one thing you can do this week for someone else?
  2. Have you ever sent a card or made an encouraging call to a fellow believer?  If no, why not?
  3. Are you on a serving team?  If no, what is holding you back?

 

 

Spiritual Fitness–Serving Others

You have seen how personal growth leads to spiritual fitness by following Christ’s example.  You can gain knowledge until you are bursting at the seams, but until you use what you have learned and step out into the muck to help the poor, the widows, the orphans, and each other, you have missed the mark.  Jesus’ mission was to serve  others and give his life away to save us.  “For even the Son of  man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:28.  Often in His teaching Jesus gave a new perspective, instead of using people, serve them.  He knew when you get this and serve even in the smallest way, you receive joy and make an impact for eternity.  In serving others you serve God and the big change happens in you.  It truly is the best use of your life.  “…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you did for me!”  Matthew 25:40

Three points to ponder when serving others:

  • Fill up on Christ first.  If your tank is empty, you have nothing to give.  Jesus knew this well.  His example shows us the way to approach service.  His days of ministry were filled with people in need of His teaching, healing, compassion and love.  He knew in order to accomplish all He came to do, He would need time alone with His Father to fill up on God’s guidance, strength and love.  He would then be well prepared for the work ahead.  “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”  Mark 1:35
  • Remember who and whose you are.  You were created for service.  Many people feel empty today because they miss the point of life.  you are second; life isn’t about you, it is about serving others.  As you give your life away you find it.  In serving, you do what you were designed to do.  “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10
  • Check your motives.  You are not serving Christ if you are self-seeking or looking for the approval of others.  It is not so much what you do; it’s what is flowing from your heart and how you are serving with an attitude of faith and love.  You can then say ” I am serving because I love Jesus”.  “Above all else, guard your heart, everything you do flows from it.”  Proverbs 4:23

If you are feeling empty, board or stuck, be courageous and step out into a new you and do something for someone.  You will be amazed how it will lift you up and give you self-worth.  Be willing to do whatever it takes, for whoever you can, wherever you are and at the end of your life you will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant…!”

  1. How much time do you spend each day filling your tank with Christ?
  2. Do you find yourself in a comfort zone?  Will you take a faith risk and do something for someone?
  3. If God would bless anything that you did, what would you attempt?

 

 

Loving Well Starts with Managing Your Thought Life

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Throughout the Gospels we come across a group known as the Pharisees and Sadducees. Although they were outwardly religious, their spirituality was shallow. Their idea of “loving well” consisted outward appearances, instead of inward transformation. Although they knew God’s Truth, they never really allowed it to authentically permeate the inside of their lives.  Because their inauthenticity was so evident, Jesus flat out called them hypocrites.  Matthew writes about a time when “One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’  Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  The second is  like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself, all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:35-39.  Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments and all the other Old Testament Laws by saying it’s about LOVING WELL…loving God and loving others. 

If we are honest, we often fall into the same category as the Pharisees. We hear the truth of Scripture, but we don’t let it permeate the depth of our lives. But loving well according to Jesus is an inside out job.  Authentically loving well starts when thought is born which grows in your heart into a passion that leads to an action.  

  • The first step to loving well is managing your thought life. This may sound strange, but God wants you to think about what you are thinking about!  Your mind is the part of you that engages in conscious thinking, feeling and decision making.  In the Bible, the mind is connected to your heart. Christ wants you to live what He teaches, outwardly as well as inwardly, but we can get in God’s way when you worry or let your thoughts lead you to assume something that might not be true. Thoughts can also become selfish or negative and can take you to a place of not trusting God’s way for you life.
  • The second step is to loving well is realizing every thought you have may not be healthy or God honoring.  When you look inward, you may discover wrong thinking produced by your brain that can come from three influences…Satan, our culture or your own selfish desires. When you live as a Spirit empowered believer, your mind has the capacity to take an unhealthy thought, desire or fantasy to Christ, admit and ask Him to help you redirect them towards loving God and loving others.  “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strong-holds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  2 Corinthians 10:3-5
  • The third step to loving well is taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ. This is where the rubber meets to the road and involves your will.  You can experience a wrong thought and want to linger there because it is desirable and may feel right.  As you grow into allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you, the conviction will come and you will allow that divine power to help you redirect that thought towards God’s will.  When things are in conflict within, you have no peace.  You do have the power to choose God’s weapons to help turn your will into His will, becoming the same on the inside as you are on the outside.  Your true authentic self emerges to be used by God for His glory.

 

God wants you to help you become the best, the truest…the most authentic you. A yielded heart, soul and mind are powerful tools in God’s hands. When you allow Him to control your heart, soul, mind, will and strength, you will love well and stay on His path for your life. “You learned Christ!…take on an entirely new way of life–a God-Fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces His character in you” Ephesians 4:23

  1. Do you think your brain or heart can lie to you?
  2. When are you most likely to use laughter or other masks to cover up your true feelings?
  3. Do you sometimes say or do things to make yourself appear more important in the eyes of others?  Do you ever exaggerate or lie in an attempt to make yourself look good?

 

Choosing to Forgive (…Even When It’s Difficult)

spiritual fitness imageForgiveness is one of the most difficult Christlike qualities to live out.  When someone hurts you, your first instinct is to hurt them back or get “revenge”!  But as you continue to dig deep into God’s Word you find quite the opposite precedent.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek, and pray for your enemies.  Christ is suggesting a radical response to injustice.  Instead of demanding rights, we are called to give them up freely.  According to Jesus it is more important to give mercy than dispense justice.  Only when you humble yourself before Christ and call out to Him for help can you forgive from your heart in a way that pleases Him.

The rabbis taught that people should forgive those who offend you up to three times and no more.  Peter approached Jesus thinking of himself as very generous when he more than doubled the amount, saying, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me?  Seven times? ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!”  Matthew 18:21-22  He follows that statement with a parable regarding forgiveness.  It is as if Jesus is saying, this needs to be a habit or attitude of a follower of mine.  “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  Matthew 6:14.  To refuse to forgive another’s sin towards you means that you have refused to see your own sins before God and that indeed you have never truly received His forgiveness.  “If we say that we never sin, we are only fooling ourselves, and refuse to accept the truth.”   1 John 1:8

The greatest thing that Jesus ever did was to carry your sins from the past, present and future with Him when He died on the cross.  He tossed them into the depths of the sea, as far as the east is from the west and thinks of them no more.  (Hebrews 10:17).  When you humble yourself before Christ and realize the great amount you have been forgiven, the action you need to take against your offender becomes clear…forgive. Paul teaches to not grieve God or take this free gift of forgiveness for granted. “Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, and profane talk.  Be gentle with one another, sensitive.  Forgiving one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:32  Jesus demonstrates the depth of His own willingness to forgive many times, even forgiving the people who crucified Him (Luke 23:34).

When the hurt is very deep, you often can’t come to a place of forgiveness on your own.  You need the Holy Spirit to help you by calling out to God in prayer.  You may even need to seek out a professional Christian counselor to help you work through the process of forgiving.  Christ is very concerned with your well being and knows our lack of forgiveness usually hurts us more than our offender.  They may not be sorry, want to change or even realize the depth of the hurt they’ve caused, which make the injustice gap seem insurmountable. It’s on those times,  you must place your pain in God’s hands and realize you are only responsible for your behavior – not theirs.  You have the power to choose to forgive and set yourself free from bitterness and anger.  With Christ’s help, do yourself a favor and let go, let God and forgive.

  • Why do you suppose God doesn’t just step in and eliminate all wrong doing?  Where would that leave you?
  • Have you ever has someone do something for you or give something to you that you did not deserve?  How did you feel?
  • Who do you need to forgive?  What will you do to follow through?

 

Spiritual Fitness–Growing in Prayer

spiritual fitness imageJesus finished His sermon on the hillside and began to display his divine power through miracles, wonders and signs beginning in Matthew 8.  A miracle refers to the unseen force or power by which the person was affected.  Wonder describes the emotional effect of amazement as Jesus’s divine supernatural power was demonstrated before their very eyes.  Lastly, signs refer to the spiritual meaning or purpose of each miracle.  Jesus never does anything without giving us something.  As I read about the miracles Christ performs, I see two recurring themes; our inability to cure ourselves and our deep need for Him.

There is a deep need for Christ placed in each of you and the amazing thing is, He is pursuing you and wants a real and lasting relationship with you.  Relationships flourish when time is invested.  The creator of the universe is present and wants to spend time performing miracles in your life and says “Come to me with your burdens, worries, struggles and joys.  I want to laugh with you, cry with you, but most of all I want to help you through this life because I love you and am with you always”.  This communication works when we talk to God and listen to God through prayer.  “Call to me and I will answer you.  I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that  you could never figure out on your own.”  Jeremiah 33:3.  God’s voice will be consistent with His character and the Bible.  It will also be consistent with who He made you to be and will be filled with His lavish love for you in a personal way.

You should pray with confidence, in your own words, in a quiet place and in Jesus’ name.  “This is what I want you to do: Ask in my name, according to my will, and He’ll most certainly give it to you and your joy will be complete!”  John 16:24.  God is sovereign and sometimes He answers your request quickly, we are amazed and love when this happens.  But sometimes He says no, sometimes the answer is slower than we would want and sometimes He is teaching us about personal growth.  True prayer is an awareness that God has heard you’re every word and one day you will understand that even his “No” was because He loves you and it was for your good.

He still performs miracles today!  If you wonder or are unaware of the signs all you have to do is begin praying for others and wait, watch and see how God answers your prayer.  One of the greatest gifts you can give to someone is to pray for them.  This pleases God because it shows Him you are concerned for others.  He also uses your prayer to reveal Himself to you and the person you are lifting up to Him.  There is nothing better in this life than to see how real and present our Holy Father really is.  “…pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.  The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with…”  James 5:16.

  • Do you believe you can encounter God in a personal way?  What is one thing you can do this week to grow closer to Him?
  • How can you build on your trust in God even when His answer is “No” or “Grow”?
  • Pause your life this week, look for His miracles as you practice going to a solitary place to pray.  Ask for guidance, pray for others and listen to God speak to you.  What did you discover?

Growing in Christlikeness

spiritual fitness imageAs you dig deep into God’s Word this week you see an example in Christ on how to live.  The Sermon on the Mount is filled with traits He would like to see in His followers because they are in Him.  Then He says come to me and talk to me about your challenges in prayer and I will help you become like me.  Living this way is very different from the way the world teaches.  He gently leads you the same today as He did when He walked this earth, to turn away from your “self” centeredness and “self” control and turn your life over to His direction and control.  As you act in a way He would you discover true joy, peace and the abundant life we all seek.  The more time invested in God’s Word the more you will have a “knee-jerk-reaction” to live like Christ.  “By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.” Psalm 119:105

Perfection or flawlessness is never the goal because we are not Christ.  Aspiring to be as much like Christ as possible should be every believer’s Spiritual Fitness Goal. We see in Matthew 5:14-15 the result of living this way.  “…You’re here to be a light bringing out the God colors in the world.  God is not a secret to be kept.  We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.  If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you?  I’m putting you on a light stand.  Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand-shine!”  You are a bright light in this world showing others who Christ is and ultimately giving glory to God.

Be aware that you share that light in the same amount you receive it.  You cannot help others until you allow God to help you first.  You help others more by who you are than by what you say.  Therefore there must be both an inward life directed by Christ and a clear outward passion for Him if you are to be His light.  If you look in your own circle of family, friends, co-workers, you see many confused, unhappy, board or lonely people who might respond to you if you are responding to Christ.  Can you see the positive ripple effect you have in the power of the Spirit of Christ? Go and Shine!

  • How are you making room in your life to receive the life-giving Spirit power of Christ so you can shine?
  • What are the current challenges in your relationships this week?  How are you acting like Christ and reflecting His traits in your circle of influence?