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Archive for April, 2015

To me Church is a group of people. When we get together, or ‘assemble ourselves together’, it is for a time of fellowship, fun, eating and getting to know one another.

As far as I’m concerned, the traditional view of church, which is a building we go to on a particular day at a set time and sit and listen, is not what Jesus meant when he talked about building his Church.

My wife and I were part of the organized church for years and years, and although there were a lot of good experiences and friendships made, it is not what I would consider the true Church.

When we get together with other believers, maybe only two or three, the Church has assembled. This can be at someone’s home, at a restaurant, in a park, or anywhere we are able to spend some time together.

Outside the Walls

Since the Spirit of God lives within us, He is always with us, no matter where we may be, no matter what day or time it is, and no matter if there is a set agenda, singing or sermon to be preached.

Church is you and me. It happens anywhere, anytime. My wife and I have had more meaningful fellowship in the past couple years of being out of the organized church, and just meeting with others as God leads. We may have dinner and talk about what God is doing, we may pray for one another, we may sing a song or two, or we may just talk about things in general, laughing, and getting to know one another better.

I know there are a lot of people who attend a regular ‘church’ service each week, and there is nothing wrong with it. Although for my wife and me, we came to be very dissatisfied with the normal gathering each week, listening to one person talk and going home without hardly a handshake from others.

The Spirit of God is our teacher and each of us are equal participants in the Kingdom of God. We each have something to say that the Spirit can use to encourage others. It has been so much more meaningful for us to be in a group where everyone gets to talk, pray, encourage and build up one another.

I know many who are in the traditional church who do not agree with this, but for my wife and me, we would not want to go back into the organized church setting. Things outside the walls have been so much better, and we have enjoyed much closer fellowship with those God brings into our lives.

So, I guess the best thing is for all of us, inside or outside the walls of religion, is to accept each other the way we are and let God do any teaching or changing that needs to be done. Rather than look down on one group or the other, accept the fact that what we do, we do for God. We want to learn from Him and enjoy the gift of Grace He provided. Let’s love and accept one another no matter what we do or do not do on Sundays.

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Galatians 5:22 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

fruit of the spirit

We hear about the fruit of the spirit and how we should produce fruit, but what does it really look like to have the fruit of the Spirit in our lives?

Letting God live from within us and His Spirit producing the fruit is the only way for us to manifest the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. It is not by our strength or actions. We usually want to produce fruit by our good works. Unfortunately, that does not work. We cannot product fruit, only abiding in the vine causes the branches to grow. Jesus is the vine, we are the branches. Apart from him we are not able to produce any fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit of God living within us produces the fruit, which will be a natural by-product of His life within us.

Also notice that we have the fruit of the spirit, not the fruits. When the Spirit is allowed to live through us, each and every fruit mentioned is active and working through us. It is like one gift of fruit of the Spirit manifesting in nine different ways. We can’t pick and choose which fruit we like or think we need, we have them all.

That does not mean that life is always perfect and we will not have problems. It does mean God is within us and never leaves us. He produces love for others that we cannot give in our own strength. We can have peace and patience when things are going crazy around us.

In the world we live in, most people are not used to being treated with kindness or seeing goodness in others. God’s spirit within produces both, which will make a difference to others when they see us being kind and good to people. How many of us, in the stressful situations we find ourselves in during a day, can be gentle with others? Certainly not in our own strength.

Being faithful to our Father is not even in our power, but as He gives faith it becomes a reality in our lives. Even self-control is not actually self-produced. What it boils down to is Jesus is everything. He lives within us and He produces all the good fruit that grows and manifests through our lives. When the fruit of the Spirit is manifested in our lives, I think it will look a lot like the life of Jesus.

It is the fruit that God produces in us that others see. It is the fruit that looks good and is becoming to others. The fruit will help others know that our Father is good, loving and kind. Stop trying to produce the fruit of the Spirit, and rest in God. Allow Him to cultivate the good fruit in us so others will see Him.

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This article is listed on Synchroblog as the theme for April. Following are others who also posted this month:

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I took my wife to the store the other day, and as I was sitting in the car waiting on her, I observed some people going in and out who stood out based on their style of dress. A gentlemen in his late 50’s came out in a sun dress and carrying a purse (yes, I actually saw that), then two women in their 30’s walked in wearing small scarf-like head coverings, blue blouses and green skirts.

We all know of the Amish, Mennonite and various religious groups who dress modestly and alike, and of the various denominations that focus on women not wearing makeup, jewelry, pants, to low of tops or to short of dresses.

I have noticed that people make a point of dressing a certain way based on their beliefs, lifestyle, doctrine or religion. I have also noticed a lot of people who make sure they wear appropriate clothing, yet sometimes dress their inner spirit as mean, grumpy and unloving. It has always bothered me to see someone wearing a cross necklace or a group praying before eating, then treat people mean or uncaring.

I remember when I was younger I liked an evangelist that was fairly popular. His name was Bob Harrington and he was known as the Chaplain of Bourbon Street (anyone remember him?). He mentioned once that he wore certain colors of clothing based on what they meant to him, such as red for the blood of Jesus, and green for eternal life. Of course I had to go out and buy certain colors based on that, but what did that really mean to anyone? No one else knew what that meant and it did not make a difference to anyone else.

I wonder sometimes why it is we seem to put so much importance on our outward appearance, dressing the right way, wearing appropriate jewelry or images, yet we seem to forget our inner person.

It’s our inner self where the Spirit of God resides. It is his love and acceptance that really makes the difference, not our outward apparel.

It is just like living by law or grace, we want to do things to justify our relationship with God. Living by law is our way of outwardly trying to earn salvation and God’s love, yet we no longer live under the Old Covenant of Law. Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant and made a new agreement whereby He did all the work. It is by grace and his work that we are justified, holy and righteous. It is not our outward appearance but His spirit within us.

christian shirt

Our outward style can be anyway we feel comfortable, but it is the inward spirit that makes the difference. I think it is appropriate to dress modestly, but there are so many styles, and each of us are unique that we can dress according what we like, and let the loving Spirit of God be what really stands out in the way we love, accept and treat those we come in contact with each day.

When we base our christian witness on what we do outwardly and with our appearance, it is not going to make any difference in any one’s life. When we try to imitate someone and how they do things, it is not going to make any difference in any one’s life. It is only when we realize that God lives within us, and it is by His power that anything will happen. We are to allow Him to live through us, loving others and accepting them, no matter what their outward appearance.

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In our world today, people are constantly fighting over who is right and who is wrong, or whose rights have been violated. Abortion rights, women’ rights, gay rights, discrimination by race, gender, nationality and on and on it goes. I think we could come up with a different topic each day to fight and argue over.

In the natural world, I do not think this will ever change. Each of us want to have our rights upheld, and we do not want to back down from what we think are our rights.

In Kingdom living, I’m not sure any of us really have any rights. We have turned everything over to God and we let His life flow through us. At least, that is the way it should be. We have been crucified with Christ, we are dead to the old self and it’s no longer about what we want, or how we want it, but letting His love and compassion live in us every day.

God created man (being both men and women) in His image. No one group of humans are better than another. There is no upper, middle and lower class of human beings. We were created in His likeness, and we are equal in His eyes. Needless to say, in our world each of us grow up in different cultures and have different opportunities and lifestyles, so there are upper, middle and lower classes based on economics, but spiritually each of us are created equally in His image.

One area that has been given a lot of light recently is the decision in Indiana of the so-called Religious Freedom Act. Although I don’t understand the law completely, it is certainly not right for anyone to be discriminated against. Truthfully, I do not know why, especially in America, we need a religious freedom act. We already have all the ‘religious’ freedom we need. True, there are certain things we feel are being taken away, but honestly, we are free to love God, talk to God anytime and anywhere, love others, attend church or not attend church, and many other things without the fear of being put in prison or killed.

Acceptance1

In regard to the Religious Freedom Act, I personally believe the gay and lesbian community should be free to live their lives and be loved and accepted like anyone else. It seems we Christians want to demonize gay people and say they are worse than anyone else. I’m not sure why that is, but I certainly do not believe this is the way it should be.

Even those who try to show acceptance have a strange way of doing so at times, such as a recent posting I saw on Facebook stating something like .. Jesus ate with tax collectors and prostitutes, yet you can’t make a cake for a gay couple? I understand what they are trying to say, but to me the underlying message is still saying that being gay is a sin.

Truthfully, I don’t think we are to be the judge of such decisions. We are not called to say who is right or what is sinful. We are called to love God, love others and make disciples. The decision of who is right or wrong, what is sinful and what is not is in God’s hands, not ours. The Holy Spirit will convict the worldly of any sinfulness. We are to love everyone we come in contact with, and accept them as they are….just the way God did for us.

We all have different thoughts on what is right and wrong. What we feel is wrong, may not be wrong to someone else. No matter how we feel, do we have the right to point out the issues in someone’s life that we don’t agree with or accept? Many times we want to uphold our right to express our views and point out the differences of others, when we should not say anything, show God’s love and allow God to do what needs to be done.

It seems each of us have certain sins that we consider worse than others. I’m not sure why we are so hard on some things and yet never talk about others. You never hear, gluttons can’t eat at this restaurant…is that a sin or a poor life style? Cussing isn’t allowed around here…is it a sin or a bad choice of words? Smokers aren’t allowed here…is it a sin or an unhealthy choice? No divorced people allowed to participate in our church…is it a sin or a bad choice in your mate? Why do we make so much out of making it our right to point out what we consider sins or flaws in others when we should be showing Jesus and his love to them?

Let’s face it, we all sin at times. There are no levels of sin, none that is better or worse than another. Through Christ, our sinful nature was crucified and buried at the cross. We are now free of the sinful nature, although we obviously still sin when we take our focus off Jesus. Thank God our sins have been forgiven by Christ’s death because God has provided His grace for everyone.

GraceforAll

Just as much as we should love others and accept them for who they are, that doesn’t mean we are always going to agree. Each of us have our way of thinking and each of us have what we feel is right and wrong, and we don’t have to give that up. We do need to realize we are all different, we feel different ways about things, and we consider different things right and wrong. We should not discriminate against anyone for being different, and we should love and accept everyone and just agree to disagree on some things.

I think it is time to stop being negative and focusing on what we think is wrong, stop worrying about our rights and start realizing that God loves each of us. We need to stop putting people into groups we do not want to associate with or those we treat differently, and accept the fact that we are not all the same. We can accept and love one another in Christ by letting Him live through us, and loving those He brings into our lives each and every day.

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As Easter approaches, a popular morning TV program has been doing a series on the topic, ‘Can you be Spiritual without being Religious?’.

Now I don’t agree with every opinion given, but that the topic is being discussed is a good thing, bringing to light that there is a difference between being spiritual and being religious.

Obviously these days when you use the word spiritual, you can get into all kinds of strange thoughts and ideas. When I say spiritual, I am talking about a daily life following Christ and allowing His love to flow through us.

Spiritual Religious

My wife and I are no longer religious, but we are more aware of the spiritual, day-to-day life with God.

We realize that God is not a being up in heaven, coming down to visit us only when the conditions are right, or we are in a certain building, or we have been extremely ‘good’ over the past week.

No, God is spirit, and He is with us constantly. More than that, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and God dwells within us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us.

I am not sure why it is we have always thought of God as a being who is way up there somewhere. The bible makes clear that we are one with God, and that God dwells within us.

We  seem to think that the Kingdom of God is a place we go one of these days when this life on earth is over. I think this also is a big misconception. God says His Kingdom is within us. That means right now, not some future date.

If we could only get these truths in our head and in our spirit, I think we could live a life that would really make a difference. People would see such a change, a life of love, caring, power and compassion. Unfortunately, we have been taught by religion that this just isn’t the case. We rely on trying to work hard, follow the rules and just survive until we get to heaven. So we go on, living life without the power of the Kingdom of God, arguing amongst ourselves over doctrine and belief, and letting people see we really don’t have anything to offer them that is meaningful and different.

It is time we come to understand that God and His Kingdom are within us. He is not up there in heaven waiting on some future day when we go to join Him. God lives in us and is with us constantly.

Jesus was the perfect example of God living in man. We can be Jesus to the world today. We can show love, compassion, and acceptance to the world around us each day. We are not God, but we are one with God. The Spirit is within us and he will teach us and guide us daily. Listen for the voice of the Spirit in every situation. Realize God is within you and allow His love to touch those around you every day.

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