Believe 1-14-19

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There’s no doubt that there is a uniqueness to each of our faith journeys. However, there are four crucial steps that all of us take as we grow in Christ. Crosswinds’ uses four “B” words to describe these steps. The first step is to BELIEVE. To begin a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, we must receive Him as our Lord and Savior. This is why we are committed to faithfully REACH people with the love and message of Jesus Christ as they take the step to BELIEVE.

Jesus speaking to a man named Nicodemus declared: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This verse is the most famous summary of the gospel in the entire Bible. It actually summarizes the whole of Scripture. God’s love and sacrifice for the world (for you and me) makes it possible for “whoever” believes in Christ to have eternal life. God’s love for the world was not mere sentiment but led to a specific action: He “gave his only son,” to suffer and die and pay the price for our sin that separates us from God. Any finite sin against an infinite God has infinite consequences. The purpose God gave His Son was to make His great gift of eternal life available to everyone – to “whoever believes in Him,” that is, whoever personally trusts Him.

Eternal life is a life of abundant joy and immeasurable blessing in the presence of God forever. Those who “believe in” Christ have “eternal life” and already experience its blessings in this present time, although not yet fully, but in some significant measure. Those who have found salvation in Christ are called to allow themselves to be used by Him to reach out to others in the hope they too will choose to believe.

God’s plan from the beginning was for those who are saved, His followers, to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. Here is God’s plan:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20).

God’s plan is for us to know Him and make Him known. Obviously, this plan begins with knowing Him. The first step in our faith journey is to believe.

God desires for all people to take the step to believe, to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. He desires for all His followers to share His love and message with others in the hope that they too will believe. It is up to each of us to determine how we will respond to God’s great love and invitation to know Him and make Him known, to believe and lead others to Him so they too will believe.

It is a joy to serve with each of you. Let’s embrace our faith and share it with others. Let us rejoice in God’s great gift of eternal life for all who believe and lovingly share the good news with others in the hope that they will come to know Christ and do the same. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Step Into The Journey 1-7-19

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I like the term Journey. God calls us on a journey to grow to maturity in Christ. Unfortunately, some believers chose to receive Christ as Savior, then only halfheartedly follow Him as Lord. Then, they wonder why the power and peace that God has promised is not manifest in their life. Perhaps it’s the unknowns of this spiritual journey that keep them from taking the next right step.

In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, we read these words from Gandalf as he coaxes Frodo to go on a journey by borrowing these words from his Uncle Bilbo: “It’s a dangerous business going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept up to.” The truth is that life is a journey. We can either walk with Christ or on our own. We either follow in the Lord’s steps swept by His love and grace or take another path swept to places without real confidence in Christ.

There’s no doubt that there is a uniqueness to each of our faith journeys. Our path from here to the unforeseeable future looks different from one another. However, there are four crucial steps that all of us take as we grow in Christ. Crosswinds’ uses four “B” words to describe these steps.

The first step is to BELIEVE. To begin a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, we must receive Him as our Lord and Savior. This is why we are committed to faithfully REACH people with the love and message of Jesus Christ as they take the step to BELIEVE (John 3:16). Those who have found salvation in Christ are called to allow themselves to be used by Him to reach out to others in the hope they too will choose Christ.

The second step is to learn what it means to BELONG. As we enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, we now belong to God and His Church. The deepest desire of every person is to belong. As believers, in Christ, we are adopted as God’s children (1 John 3:1-2) and become a part of God’s forever family (Eph 2:19-22). Therefore, as Crosswinds, we will RAISE believers to follow Christ as they discover what it means to BELONG to Him and His church.

The third step is to BECOME. To grow in our relationship with Christ, we need to discover what it means to mature in Him, becoming the person we have been created to be in Christ (Col 2:6-7). This is why as Crosswinds we will RAISE believers to follow Christ as they BECOME who they were created to be. God calls every believer to help other believers grow in Him. We are called to make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples (2 Tim 2:2). Kingdom multiplication is our highest calling as we seek to know God and make Him known (Matt 28:19-20).

The final step is BLESS. We are not to hoard God’s blessing, but to be a conduit of His blessing to others (Genesis 12:2; Gal 3:8, 29). The true mark of a believer is not a disciple, but a disciple maker, a kingdom multiplier. As a result, Crosswinds will RELEASE believers to partner with God to BLESS others by advancing His kingdom (Acts 1:8).

I hope each of you is encouraged and equipped to take the steps God is calling you to take on your journey with Him and willing to be used by Him to help others do the same. God calls us on a remarkable journey, but we by faith must be willing to follow His lead and take the steps. Let’s encourage one another to get swept up in Him. God is willing to do more than we could ever ask or imagine in and through our lives (Eph 3:20). Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone).

A New Beginning 1-1-19

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It’s a new year. All of us face the new differently. Some face new with excitement, while others receive it with a little apprehension. I always like the New Year. It is a new beginning of sorts.

When I enter into the New Year, I am reminded of God’s invitation to walk with Him in continual newness. God calls us to be teachable and put any harmful old ways behind us as we do life His way. We are to give our whole selves to Him. Paul writes:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him” (Rom 12:1, The Message).

We are called to give ourselves entirely to God because of His saving grace. We are to be a living sacrifice, meaning that we have been offered new life in Christ. We are also a living sacrifice because unlike the Old Testament sacrifices that gave their lives by death and blood, we are saved through the finished work of Christ’s death on the cross and covered by His blood. He is the ultimate sacrifice that makes our living sacrifice possible. Therefore, we are to be dedicated entirely to God. This is our reasonable response to God’s profound love. Only as we commit ourselves to the Lord in this way can we be transformed by the renewing of the mind. Paul continues:

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you” (Rom 12:2, The Message).

When we focus on the Lord, He leads us down a Spirit-empowered life of newness. The world, the flesh, and the devil still threaten those who belong to Christ, so we must resist its pressure. Our lives are changed as the Lord makes our minds new. This empowers us to recognize God’s path and walk with Him.

The New Year for me speaks of a new beginning. I am able to press forward like Paul who wrote:

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14, ESV).

Paul is writing about progressing in the new life a believer has in Christ. Like Paul, we are to put the past behind us. We are to learn from our past for sure, but we aren’t to allow it to keep us from advancing in Christ. We are to focus on the Lord and continually reach ahead to see God’s kingdom expand in and through us. We are to “press on” to receive the “prize” that is the fullness of blessings and reward in the age to come, seen especially in unhindered fellowship with Christ forever. That is a new I fully anticipate.

As we head into this New Year, let’s focus on Christ and embrace the new He has for us. It is a new year and each day is a new day. Don’t allow anything to keep you from the pursuit of walking with God and truly being blessed by Him in newness of life and power, so that, we will be a blessing for others. I wish you a Happy New Year. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Christmas Carol 12-24-18

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Keeping Christmas is exciting. Christmas – the celebration of Christ – is a celebration of the transformational presence of God. John writes: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1,14a). God literally moved into our neighborhood. The Christ-child, born in a stable, is God who brought to the world, to you and me, hope and the offer of new life through radical transformation.

There is a scene in Dickens, A Christmas Carol, where Scrooge realizes he can change…he can be changed…he has been given a new chance and a new life with a preferable future. Dickens wrote his story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a mean-spirited man, to show how the power of Christ offers new life and can radically transform our lives, as well as, use the transformed to bring significant change to the world. This is the story of Christmas. Christmas is a celebration of Christ who makes this offer of new life to each and every one of us.

Christmas, literally means, the celebration of Christ. How are we to celebrate? I would propose, by exchanging gifts with God. After all, it has been said, “Christmas is the time for giving” and I would add “receiving.”  Giving is the act of turning over the possession or control of something to someone without cost. Receiving is the act of taking or getting something.

The gift God offers us is new life and radical transformation through His son Jesus Christ. We read: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). That is why Christmas is the celebration of Christ. Christmas is the celebration of a gift offered to us by God. God Who dwelt among us. Jesus came that people may have new life in Him that is meaningful, purposeful, joyful, and eternal. We receive this abundant new life the moment we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. The gift of God is real power, peace, and His presence in all of life throughout eternity. In a world filled with heartache and pain, God offers peace and power. Now that is a gift. That is a reason to celebrate.

What gift can we offer God? How do we exchange gifts with God? Many have tried with much exhaustion and frustration. They have offered their hobbies, money, even good works, but when everything is said and done, it is neither the things we possess nor the things we can do that God desires. It is our whole self. Only when we give all of what we know of ourselves to what we know of God is He our true foundation and our walk with Him characterized by love. This is the gift we can give God. We can give Him ourselves. Mindy Caliguire in her book Discovering Soul Care writes: “Full devotion is that state of your heart where your understanding of truth is equal to your level of surrender.” What better gift could we give God then our very selves?

There is no better way to keep Christmas – to celebration Christ – than to receive His loving gift of salvation (abundant, and new life) and our giving Him the gift of our very self. Just like in A Christmas Carol we too have been offered a fantastic opportunity. We have been given a chance to do life differently…to be transformed by the love and power of Christ.  Let’s receive and live new lives in the One the angels proclaimed:

“This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:12-14)!

We keep Christmas – we celebrate Christ – Who left His neighborhood to move into our neighborhood, dying on the cross for our sins, being resurrected for our salvation. The good news is that all we need to do to experience new life in Him is to receive Him and be transformed as we offer our whole selves to Him. What a wonderful gift! That is a gift worth receiving and a carol worth singing!!!

I pray this Christmas finds each of you richly embracing God’s gift of new life as you joyfully give yourself to Him. As we celebrate Christ and this blessed gift I hope you have a very merry Christmas. May we be immersed in the grace and love of Christ, sharing His message and love with others. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Be blessed and bless others.

Christmas Future 12-17-18

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Charles Dickens wrote his story A Christmas Carol to show how the power of Christ can transform our lives, as well as, use the transformed to bring significant change to the world. Dickens wanted to bring the Christmas spirit to each of his readers in the hope that they would be filled with the love of Christ and share his love with others. In a genuine sense, Dickens desired to see the power of Christ work in his day, leading to a preferable future. I believe within each of us is a desire to have hope in our future and leave a real legacy.

God has created us with an understanding of eternity that in the least leads our hearts to yearn for a positive outcome of our time on earth and to leave a trace after we pass. The ancient preacher writes: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecc 3:11). Human beings were created with a capacity for eternal things and a realization that this life cannot be all there is. Yet, sin has cut us off from eternity and darkened our understanding and will. What a burden to bear: to yearn for eternity and yet not know God.

A short time after Christ’s birth, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him at the Temple. It was a baby dedication of sorts. They encounter a man named Simeon, who was waiting for the time when God would come to rescue and comfort His people. We are told that the Spirit was upon Simeon, indicating the powerful anointing and manifest presence of the Holy Spirit on his life. Simeon, filled with the Spirit, proclaims:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

Simeon rejoices that he has been granted the ability to see the Savior and affirms that He is the Savior of all people (Jew and Gentile alike). He looks upon the Christ child and proclaims that He is a light for Gentiles living in darkness and glory for Israel. Simeon, inspired by God declares that Christ connects our inkling of eternity with the eternal God.

To have a secure future and leave a real God-honoring legacy, we must make two significant shifts. Shift number one is from darkness to light. I am speaking here of receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. Shift number two is from living to legacy. Everyone has a life to live, but not everyone leaves a legacy. Legacy is when you are genuinely grounded in offering yourself and making a meaningful, lasting and energizing contribution to humanity by serving a cause greater than your own. Legacy speaks of a life rippling through the ages, for God’s glory.

Only Jesus can bring light out of darkness and glory out of hopelessness. Only Jesus can fill our hardwired capacity for eternal things with eternal meaning. Only Jesus can take unknown tomorrows and replace it with a known and secure future. A believers Christmas carol is full of hope. The song of celebration of our Christ proclaims that in Him our future is certain and our legacy can be good.

Let’s encourage one another to consider how we will allow Christ to impact our future. In Christ our future is secure, and the legacy we leave will echo throughout eternity. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Christmas Presence 12-10-18

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I do enjoy the Christmas season. I like Christmas lights and decorations. I like giving and receiving gifts. It has always been for me a wonderful time of the year. The thought of Christmas gifts has been and still is a source of excitement. I get pleasure from seeing people open their presents and to be honest opening those given to me. One year I received from my wife, Krista, the gift of a framed picture of our three children. It still is one of the most precious gifts I have ever received. What the picture represented was so much more than a photo it was a celebration of our family and the continued blessings of God in our daily lives.

A gift is defined in the 1828 Webster’s dictionary, my favorite dictionary, as follows:

GIFT, n. [from give.] A present; any thing given or bestowed; any thing, the property of which is voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation; a donation. It is applicable to any thing movable or immovable.

A gift is voluntarily transferred (passed on) to another without compensation (reimbursement). This selfless act is what makes a gift so special. This is why we call the act of God that first Christmas a gift. What a fantastic gift God gave us that first Christmas!

It is amazing that an event that occurred over 2,000 years ago has a real impact on each and every one of our lives. This is made crystal clear through the very words of Christ recorded in Hebrews where we read His actual words as He entered the world. Jesus states in Hebrews 10 how He came into the world to fulfill the type of sacrifice that God demanded. Christ became fully human so that He could offer Himself. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human. When Christ came into the world, the Spirit prepared for Him a body, and He was completely dedicated to and dependent on His Father’s will. That body would be sacrificed on the cross for the sins of the world, your sins, and mine.

God’s purpose for creating each of us is to live in a loving relationship with Him. Our problem is that our wrongness (sin) keeps us from naturally experiencing this relationship. God’s remedy was that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as His gift of love for us to pay for our sin on the cross so that through Him we may experience the relationship with God for which we have been created. This beautiful gift can only be made useful in our lives as we respond in faith and accept it.

When we receive salvation in Christ not only is our future secure in Him, but our present is impacted as well. For instance, we have access to God’s grace (Eph 2:8). We are children of God (1 John 1:12). We become a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). We are reconciled to God (Rom 5:8). We are indwelt by the Spirit (John 14:23). We are given spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12). In short, when we receive Christ as Lord and Savior we are given access to the resources of heaven to glorify God, be blessed, and benefit others. We are actually used by God to see His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Now that is a gift that radically impacts our daily living.

I enjoy giving and receiving gifts, but I have never received a gift that even comes close to salvation in Christ. It is the gift that keeps on giving to me as well as those around me. The gift of Christmas covers my past, gives me a sure hope for the future, and grants me confidence as I walk with Christ today.

I encourage each of us to take time each day to reflect on God’s gift of salvation. As we consider the extravagant love this gift represents I hope we will also consider the profound impact this gift has on our present lives. Christ is so worthy of our celebrating. Soli Deo Glory (Glory to God Alone)!

Christmas Past 12-4-18

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There is little doubt that our past can significantly influence our present. This becomes crystal clear around the holidays. For instance, the way Christmas was kept or not kept in our homes growing up can influence how we keep it today. The experience of a loved one passing can have a real impact on how we receive the Christmas season. The birth of a child can magnify the joys of the season. Our past can affect our present in so many ways.

Although the days of my childhood are decades ago, I still approach Christmas with childlike excitement. My memories of Christmas past are filled with joy fueling a growing anticipation of the season. I start listening to Christmas music on October 1. I really like Christmas.

This Christmas season is an interesting one for me. My Mom passed last April. I have to admit that it will be different experiencing the season without her presence. I mourn a bit while celebrating her first Christmas with Christ unhindered by the stuff of earth. Past events, situations, and the sort have an impact on our present.

There, however, is one past event that can radically change our present. In fact, this one past event has the potential to overcome the difficulties of the past and by far outshine the good memories of yesteryears. This event is the birth of Christ.

The prophet Isaiah prophesying about the divine birth proclaimed:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6).

The context to the message Isaiah presents here is in response to the dark situation he mentions prior to this passage in the book bearing his name. The purpose of the message is that where darkness had fallen light would shine. The world we live in is full of heartache and pain. All the peoples of the earth are under judgment. This is grim news. However, God is not determined to allow His children to remain in such a bleak and hopeless situation, even if it is due to our rebellion. God’s goodness provides salvation. For a child will be born who is the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.”

God’s answer to the destructive pride of the world is a child, God’s own Son. He will be what no human king has ever been. As “Wonderful Counselor” he can give guidance that is truly great. As “Mighty God” Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. As “Everlasting Father” He is to His people a Father who is always present. As “Prince of Peace” he can bring lasting peace. This is hope personified in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

The process of redemption begins with this knowledge of Christmas past. However, knowledge is not enough. What happened 2,000 years ago has implication on our lives today. Many know that Christmas is about Jesus’ birth, but few know the personal cost this was to God. This act of love was set into motion at the beginning of humanity. God in all His majesty determined to be humbled so that everyone would have the opportunity to have a personal relationship with Him. This was at great personal cost, to say the least. God loves us so much that He took on our debt so that we can know Him. We were on the very mind of God from the beginning. In fact, that first Christmas was marked by God’s love for us with the most selfless act of all time – the very decision of our Lord to humble himself and come born into poverty and die on a cross so that we can have a personal, saving, relationship with Him. This past event can radically change our present by bringing salvation and infusing us with hope.

I pray this Christmas season finds you immersed in the grace and love of Christ. I pray that this one event, Christ’s birth, outshines everything else in your life. I pray that the light of Christ warms your heart and shines brightly to those around you. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Christmas Me 11-26-18

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It’s hard to believe Christmas is less than a month away. One of my favorite Christmas stories, obviously other than the actual Christmas story, is Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Many know that Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, but few know the personal cost Dickens took to get his message out. Dickens began writing his “little carol” in October 1843 finishing it by the end of November in time to be published for Christmas with illustrations and all. He fought with his publishers to get the book printed and distributed. Finally, Dickens himself financed the publishing of the book, ordering lavish binding, gilt edging, and hand-colored illustrations. In spite of the significant cost, he insisted on setting the price at 5 shillings so that everyone could afford it. In the first few days of its release, the book sold six thousand copies (a tremendous amount in the 1800’s), and its popularity continues to grow today.

Dickens wrote his story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a mean-spirited man, to show how the power of Christ can transform our lives, as well as, use the transformed to bring significant change to the world. God offers transformation to each of us, but we must receive it. Our response to Christmas (meaning the celebration of Christ), our response to Christ determines whether or not we will experience Christ’s love and power through salvation in Him and transformation by His Spirit.

In one of the opening scenes of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge responds to Christ as a humbug, as something designed to deceive or mislead. Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, visits him at his office to invite him to Christmas dinner. Fred responds to Christ by treasuring the gift of life and pondering all the good blessings he received from the Lord. We also discover that Scrooge’s mistreated clerk Bob Cratchit responds to Christ with hope and a willingness to speak the truth of Christ’s love to others.

When we explore the true first Christmas account, we also discover a variety of responses to Christ. Herod the Great saw Christ as a rival and responded horrifically (Matt 2:1-3). Mary, Jesus’ mother, had received the news of Christ’s birth from an angel and from that moment ventured on an unexpected faith journey. When Jesus was born, Luke records, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Then, we have the shepherds who were the first recorded to hear of Christ’s birth. Upon hearing the news, they visit the Christ child. As they leave to return to the fields, we read they left, “glorifying and praising God” (Luke 2:20).

I would pose the real question is not how others, whether fictional or real, respond to Christ, but how you and I will respond. Will we respond to Christ as a humbug, someone other than our loving Lord and Savior? Will we respond to Christ by treasuring the gift of life and pondering all the good blessings received from Him? Or, will we respond to Christ with hope and willingness to speak the truth of Christ’s love to others? I ask you: How will you respond to Christ this Christmas season?

I pray this Christmas you and I will receive Christ as Savior and share His love and message with others. I pray that our celebration of Christ will be infectious. It is worth whatever cost to get the good news out to everyone. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!

Show the Fruit of the Spirit 11-19-18

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Jesus said a disciple would bear fruit. Fruit bearing is not something that comes from merely trying hard. Jesus says the only way to bear eternal fruit is to stay close to Him. We are to be like a branch attached to a vine (see: John 15:5). If we endeavor to accomplish something apart from Christ, our efforts will produce absolutely nothing of eternal significance. Like the other marks, Christ presents as distinguishing His disciples, bearing fruit, is not something we merely will our self into accomplishing. Instead, it is the life-result of God showering a believer with His grace. A follower of Christ who is experiencing God’s extravagant love and leadership will bear fruit.

A careful reading of John 15:1-9 reveals some useful insights. For instance, we discover in verse seven that a believer, whose mind is being transformed by God, can ask for anything and receive it. However, there is a crucial caveat. Such a believer must ask in Christ’s name in accordance with His character and for His glory. If a believer truly abides in Jesus, they will desire and will pray according to His words, and those prayers will be pleasing to Him.

We discover that Christ’s disciples glorify God by bearing fruit. Jesus said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8). We often think about glorifying God as we sing praises to Him. This is true enough, but God calls us to glorify Him with more than words. A believer glorifies God when they bear much fruit for the advancement of His kingdom on earth.

The critical thing to note is that when the follower of Christ is connected to Him, it is God who makes the bearing of fruit possible. God makes it happen! This passage shows that God is glorified when people are brought into a right relationship with Him. These disciples will soon begin to “bear much fruit” in their lives.

Paul writes to the Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23). When a believer is under the control of the Holy Spirit the fruit of the Spirit evidences his or her life as Christ’s disciple.

The fruit of the Spirit is a result of the Holy Spirit working in the life of a believer. These fruits produce traits like those found in Jesus Christ. The fruit is not of any human origin, but the product resulting from Christ’s control of a person’s life. We cannot produce the fruit in our own strength. The fruit is produced when our life is joined with the Lord’s. We must know Him and walk in obedience with Him.

Growing in Christ (abiding in Him) takes studying and applying God’s Word, sharing our faith, and among other spiritual exercises prayer. Prayer is a dynamic dialogue with God that helps us grow in our relationship with Him. It is one way our will is molded into that of the Lord’s. We discover in Matthew 6:9-13 a lesson Jesus teaches His disciples on prayer. He actually gives an example of how to pray.

Someone once shared with me the acrostic (A.C.T.S.) to help guide me as I pray. I was told to remember that these are the acts of prayer. The “A” stands for adoration where we spend some time praising God. Be specific! The “C” stands for confession. Here we ask God to examine our hearts and deal with any sin issues. The “T” stands for thanksgiving. Spend some time thanking God for all he has done. Be personal! Finally, the “S” stands for supplication, where we intercede on behalf of our needs and the needs of others. We seek God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.

Recently I have been using a resource at blesseveryhome.com that allows me to adopt a portion of my neighbors to pray over. It sends me out a daily email with five neighbors I can pray for each day. It even gives me some suggestions on how to pray for them. It also encourages me to share the love and message of Christ with them. Here is the simple truth, it is impossible to grow in Christ (abiding in Him) and not partner with Him in His work and bear fruit.

The good news is that the fruit we are to bear as disciples of Jesus is not by our own effort, but the by-product of God working in us. No doubt one of the main purposes of the Christian life is to progressively allow the Holy Spirit to produce more and more of His fruit in our lives—and to let the Holy Spirit conquer the opposing sinful desires that linger form our old life or self. The fruit of the Spirit is what God desires our lives to exhibit and, with the Holy Spirit’s help, it is possible. This is a beautiful mark of a disciple.

Let’s encourage one another to abide in our Lord. I pray we will surrender ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s leadership and by His power bear much fruit. When we partner with the Lord He does amazing work in and through us where God is glorified, we are blessed, and others benefit. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone!).

Express Love for Other Christians 11-13-18

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In the Gospels, Jesus shares the marks or qualities of those who are His disciples or His followers. One of these marks is to express love for other Christians. This mark, like the others, is not intended to bring about a guilt-driven self-willed determination to make them a reality. Such a path only leads to frustration and a diminished spirit. The path Christ invites us on is one where we join Him realizing that these marks represent the life-result of God showering a believer with His grace. Another way to express this is to understand that the marks give us a picture of what living out and enjoying God’s grace looks like. Again, one such mark of a disciple is to express love for other Christians.

Jesus declared:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-45).

Jesus said that His disciples would express genuine love for one another. He describes this as a new command, which is interesting since this command is recorded way back in the Old Testament book of Leviticus. We read: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (Lev 19:18). These words were shared with God’s people nearly 1,500 years before Christ spoke the command recorded by John. Why then does Jesus call this a new command? The reason Jesus calls this a new command is because Jesus’ own love and teaching deepen and transform this command. The newness is not the actual command, rather the newness is found in loving one another as Jesus loved His disciples. In light of Jesus’ subsequent death, “just as” implies a love that is even willing to lay down one’s life for another (see: 15:13). The challenging nature of this command is found in the fact that we are called to love others with the sacrificial love of God. Such love will serve to strengthen believers as well as attract unbelievers.

How would you define love? Some would describe love as a feeling, but it is really much more. Love as used in John 13:35 is an attitude that makes it known through actions. This kind of love gives when it’s not convenient. It gives when it hurts. This kind of love is hard to do and is only possible when a person receives Christ, being filled by His Spirit, therefore, knowing Christ’s love intimately and empowered to share it with others. It’s no wonder it will attract unbelievers and encourage Christ followers.

As we explore the New Testament, we discover that this love will lead us to serve one another (see: Gal 5:13). Such love brings about the confessing of our sins and praying for one another (see: James 5:16). This Spirit-empowered love will lead us to honor one another (see: Rom 12:10). A believer overflowing with the love of Christ bears with other believers (see: Eph 4:2). Such love leads to forgiving others (see: Eh 4:31-32), as well as, encouraging one another (see: 1 Thess 4:18). Such love leads us to unity (see: Eph 4:3).

John writes: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). Christ exemplifies love. Jesus showed love by laying down his life for us. The greatest act of love is giving of oneself for the good of others. We do this through selflessly serving others. We must put the desires of others before our very own. Jesus clearly calls His disciples to this love.

I am honored to journey with each of you. I am asking the Lord to show me who someone may be that I need to love as Christ has loved me. I ask Him to help me demonstrate this extraordinary love by His Spirit’s power and leading. It is interesting that this extraordinary love Jesus describes as ordinary for His disciples. One of Crosswinds’ values is extravagant love. I pray this mark of a disciple will be ever-increasingly present in us as His Church. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!