Good Habits

Connecting with God helps us know Him better.

 

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NLT).

 

Habits are routine behaviors we tend to do a lot.

What kind of habits do you have in life?

Are they good strong habits or they weak worthless habits?

If we want to get to know God better and keep growing our faith, we have to make a habit of doing things each day that help us stay connected to Him. Connecting with God looks a lot like how you would connect with your best friend.  You get to know each other, stay connected, communicate a lot, and spend time together.

The more you do it, the better your relationship.

I know I have many habits in life I should reconsider.  One habit is when I want to just escape the day, I do a word search on my phone.  I can zone out for hours even though I have to think.  It’s not a bad habit, but when it takes away from reading the Word of God, praying or spending time with God, it’s now become an idol.  Eventually I have to plug my phone in because I used up all my battery!  If I don’t charge it my phone will shut off.  It can be the same with connecting to God, you need to plug in so your life doesn’t shut off from heavenly power!

Are your habits becoming an idol to you or is Jesus number one?

Do you want to help develop habits to make your relationship with God an everyday kind of faith?

Regardless of where we’re at with our faith, we all might wonder what it means to connect with God, why we should want to do it, and what it will do for us right now.

In Jesus’ last meal with His disciples, He told them something that would help them in the days after He was crucified.

 (John 15:5) The vine is the source of life for the branches. If the branches want to survive and thrive, they have to stay connected to the vine.

In the same way, if we want to keep going and growing in our faith, we have to stay connected to Jesus. If we stay connected to God, our lives will show it, and our faith will flourish.

Thursday Devo

 

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:19-23 NIV).

 

Even though the author of Lamentations experienced sadness and destruction, he decided to cope with things in a healthy and helpful way. He reminded himself that God’s love and compassion never fails and that he didn’t have to be controlled by his circumstances and feelings.  We can follow the author’s lead and also have hope in the midst of our pain.

 

We can choose healthy ways of coping that will carry us forward.

 

Coping isn’t a one-time fix, and we need God’s help daily.

 

You can choose what to do with how you feel.

 

I was doing this very lesson in youth group last Thursday and asked the teens how they cope with stress.  I then gave them some examples:  waiting on line at amusement park, dropping your phone and breaking it, a friend lying over and over again, going back to school after a bad rumor going around about you and living through the Coronavirus.

 

You know what the answer was to dropping their phone?   “It was the end of the world”.

 

We try to do anything to not have to face it, they said.

 

We avoid that it so we don’t have to deal with feelings or circumstances we’re experiencing.

 

We may not try to avoid our feelings, but we don’t really want to always deal with them, either.

 

Sometimes we just don’t know what to do about what we feel…so we don’t do anything at all.

 

So many different answers…because we all have different ways of dealing with what we feel.  The teens  would be willing to wait in a line for the amusement park, but not always willing to read the Bible or talk to God for advice.

 

(We all struggle with this. I’m looking at you.)

 

You get to choose the helpful ways to deal with what you feel.

 

You have the power right now to change the way you cope — for the better.

Start by choosing to change some patterns for the better. If you’re struggling to know where to start, maybe begin where the writer of this Scripture did. Shift your focus to what you know to be true about God and how He feels about you.

 

When you find yourself facing overwhelming feelings or hard challenges, focus on God.

 

You have the power to choose God…choose wisely!

 

Kathy Avens

Wednesday Devo

Flight Plan

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17

 

Every knife becomes dull with use. The sharp edge rounds out, and little chips develop. Cutting will render a blade ineffective, and on its own, it will never become sharp again. That’s the first truth about sharpening iron: a knife cannot sharpen itself. Nor can something weaker than iron, sharpen iron.

 

This is just like Christians. We are to be sharpened, and to sharpen others, in order to advance the Kingdom of God. Whether we are talking about a knife, a sword or ourselves, sharpening isn’t done for a passive activity.

 

A blade is sharpened to accomplish a purpose.

 

Last Sunday we had Upward Soccer Sunday and the lesson was on Proverbs 27:17. In the lesson I had them make paper airplanes.  They creased them into many different ways, some made the front of them pointy and some of them were round. Of course, if you know anything about making paper airplanes, pointy planes fly better! I had them fly the planes and the contest was which airplane will go further.  We had four winners!   Then I had the four winners help the other kids redesign their airplanes.  What a difference on how they flew with a friend helping a friend.

 

Sometimes we take a nose dive in life.

 

We are not flying solo, though.  God has put other people in our lives to come alongside and help us soar.  Will you allow other Christians to be a part of your life, to offer the gifts and wisdom that they have been given?  Or will you insist on a solitary flight plan?

 

We should thank God for the people He brings into our lives to help us. We should thank Him to give us the kindness and initiative to help others.  Thank God that He is always there to help us with whatever “plane we are trying to fly”.

 

Why fly solo in life?

 

Kathy Avens

 

Rest in Jesus

It reads in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

Physical exhaustion is God’s way of telling us to slow down.  God expects us to work hard, of course, but He also intends for us to rest.  When we fail to take the rest that we need, we do a disservice to ourselves and to our families.

 

We live in a world that tempts us to “go” constantly, to “never stop working”, to stay up late—very late.  But too much “going” or late-night habits, combined with too little sleep, is a prescription for exhaustion.

 

Jesus promises us that when we come to Him, He will give us rest—but we, too, must do our part.  We must take the necessary steps to insure that we have sufficient rest and that we take care of our bodies in other ways, too.

 

As adults, each of us bears a personal responsibility for the general state of our own physical health.  Certainly, various aspects of health are beyond our control: illness sometimes strikes even the healthiest men and women.  But for most of us, physical health is a choice: it is the result of hundreds of small decisions that we make every day of our lives.  If we make decisions that promote good health, our bodies respond.  But if we fall into bad habits and undisciplined lifestyles, we suffer tragic consequences.

 

Are your physical or spiritual batteries running low?  Is your energy on the wane?  Are your emotions frayed?  If so, it’s time to turn your thoughts and your prayers to God’s Son.  And when you’re finished, it’s probably time to turn off the lights and go to bed!

 

Vince Havner writes, “Satan does some of his worst work on exhausted Christians when nerves are frayed and their minds are faint.”

Fixing Problems

In Mark 10:27 it reads, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” 

 

Are you facing a situation that looks impossible to fix?

 

In 1969, the pollution was terrible along the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland, Ohio.  It was unimaginable that it could ever be cleaned up.  The river was so polluted that it actually caught fire and burned.  Now, years later, this river is one of the outstanding examples of environmental cleanup.

 

But the river wasn’t changed in a few days or even in a few months.  It took years of work to build new sewage plants and reduce the industrial pollution.  Eventually, that hard work paid off and now the water in the river is cleaner than ever.

 

Maybe you are facing an impossible situation.

 

Maybe you have a habit that is driving your family crazy.

 

Maybe you drink too much.

 

Maybe you’re in a destructive relationship.

 

Maybe you don’t know how to control your anger.

 

Maybe you struggle in managing your finances.

 

When you face such an impossible situation, be honest…don’t  you want a quick fix and something to change immediately?

 

While God can perform miracles and instantly remove us from our unhealthy or sinful decisions, for most of us the changes are gradual and involve a lot of effort and work . . . like cleaning up that polluted river.

 

Our challenge when facing mountainous difficulties is to put them in God’s hands and trust in His timing.

 

As a great poet once said, “Only God can make a tree.”

 

This is because it’s too hard for us to figure out how to get the bark on.

 

~ Charles Rowley

 

 

 

What Now, After Easter?

Matthew 28:5-7

 

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

 

I don’t think Easter is quite done with me yet. Are we still looking for Jesus?

 

I know what glorious things this Holy Day says to the world.

 

But what does Jesus want me to know, to think about, and to say this time of year?

 

 My husband and I went out to buy tomato plants the other day.  I found a plant about 36” tall and said to my him, let’s get these, they are already started and many flowers and little tomatoes on it.  He looked at the price and said, “Why would I spend that much money when two weeks from now it could be the same size? I will water, fertilize, and take good care of them to grow properly.”  My first thought was don’t be cheap, but then gave in and we purchased tiny little ones for $2.99 each.  I looked back at the plants after two weeks ….he was right they are growing and have much more flowers on them then the one in the store for $25. I am watching these plants bloom into food.

 

So, what does that have to do with the week after Easter?   Sometimes in life we need to sit back and take care of what God puts in our path, especially the little things.   If we   don’t take what God did for us on Easter and water, fertilize and care for others, just like the little tomato plant, we miss out on what HE intended that Holy Day to be.

 

 Is Easter this year done for you or will that beautiful day live on in you?

So, in the midst of a world putting Easter away, might we let it sit with us for just a bit more?

 

“Do not be afraid,” – God, I hand over to You those things that make me so afraid. Resurrect the parts of my faith squelched by fear.

 

“Then go quickly and tell his disciples,” – This verse touched my heart deeply.  Jesus, I don’t want to be a secret keeper with my faith. I want to be a bold and gracious truth proclaimer for You.

 

Let people see Jesus in you throughout the year!

 

Kathy Avens

 

 

 

MAUNDY THURSDAY

On the night before Jesus was crucified, He said to His companions, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, you must love one another” (John 13.34).

 

On this night, in a profound act of humility, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. He also instituted the Lord’s Supper, which is commonly called Holy Communion. It was just before the Passover Festival and Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. While the evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already tempted Judas, Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist.
After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them.
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.“

In this last supper He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise, the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”   

 

What if we were like Jesus in our every day life? The Messiah washed the feet of twelve men who followed Him for years. WOW! I probably, being a relating individual, would say the same thing Peter said: Lord you are not going to wash my feet, I am not worthy. May we humble ourselves and go with an open heart, love, encouragement, and not waste our God given gifts to win people to Christ.
As they say where I am from (that would be NJ):

“Let’s Do it!”

Kathy Avens/Youth Director

SERMON NOTES

 

The Bible makes clear there are two types of people in the world: sinners and saints. Of the saints there are two types: those who are “Indwel tby the Spirit” and those who are “Filled with the Spirit.” What’s the difference? Which are you? Let’s find out as we continue our “Holy Spirit Is” series today.

The Indwelling Spirit

All genuine Christ followers have the HS indwelling in them. When did this happen? When we were born? No. When we were water baptized? No. When we became members of the church? No. The HS took residence in our hearts the moment we surrendered to Jesus Christ as Lord/Savior or as Jesus told Nicodemus, when we were “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). Here’s what happens when the Spirit indwells us:

  • We are “baptized in the HS and with fire” (Matthew 3:11) which means we have been initiated into the spiritual “Body of Christ.” (water baptism is the initiation into the physical body of Christ i.e., the local church)
  • We receive power to become the children of God (John 1:12)..
  • Our physical bodies become, “Temples of the HS” (I Corinthians 6:19).
  • We are being shaped in to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29)
  • God’s power is at work in us to regenerate our souls (Philippians 2:13). .
  • We receive the “down payment” of future glory (Ephesians 1:14).
The Filling Spirit
As amazing as being indwelt by the HS is there’s more, much much more. The more is being continually “filled with the HS. Listen to Ephesians 5:18

Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Being indwelt by the HS is a one-time phenomenon while being filled with the Spirit is a many-times phenomena (drink refills). For instance, the disciples were filled with the HS at Pentecost and then multiple times thereafter. Listen to Acts 13:52, “And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” As he was being stoned to death for preaching Jesus, Stephen was “full of the HS” before he was killed (Acts 7:55). Paul was “blinded by the light” (i.e., resurrected Jesus) on the Damascus Road. A few days after his “crisis conversion,” Ananias comes not only to restore Paul’s sight but to command him to be “filled with the HS” (Acts 9:17). Paul, and his ministry partner Barnabas, were “filled with the Spirit” on numerous occasions.

The Purpose of the Being Filled with the HS

The purpose of being filled with the HS is to experience the “fullness of God.” Paul explained in Ephesians 3:14-19.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

The “fullness of God” means many things but here it is experiencing God’s power, having Jesus live in our hearts by faith, and the ability to grasp the ungraspable i.e., the “width, length, height, and depth” of God’s love for us. His love for us is so amazing that we need supernatural help to comprehend it!

The 3Cs

Before we see a very easy and practical way to be filled with the Spirit, I think saints that are continually filled with the Spirit are more in the minority than the majority. Why is that? Because of the 3 Cs.

#1 Commitment (Lack)

The 1st “C” is commitment or lack thereof. We will not be filled with the Spirit if we are not deeply committed to Christ. As a disappointed Paul said to the saints in Philippi (2:21),

Everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

If we’re not really interested in the things of God, i.e., the mission and ministry of his church, how much of the HS do we really need? That’s like saying, “I need a $200,000 sports car to drive a few blocks to Walmart.” No you don’t, any old Honda will do. The good news however is that the more we are committed to Christ the more of the Spirit we get

.#2 Compromise

Undoubtedly, lack of commitment fuels the 2nd “C” which is compromise. If we compromise the vision-values, ethic-morality of the Kingdom of God as revealed in Scripture, not only will we not be filled with the Spirt we will end up “grieving” him and “stymieing” his work in our lives. (Ephesians 4:30, I Thessalonians 5:19). And we never, ever, want to do that.

#3 Carnality

If lack of commitment fuels compromise then compromise leads us smack dab into carnality, the 3rd “C.” Carnality is caving into worldly lusts and passions. Paul called the saints in Corinth “carnal” because they kept engaging in behaviors that were far more pagan than Christian. Therefore, he scolds them (I Corinthians 3:1-3)

1 I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly.

The Focus Factor

Another reason only the minority of the saints are filled with the Spirt is because of the “focus factor.” There’s a principle in life which states that “We become what we focus on.” Thus, if we focus on:

Money we will be filled with materialism.
Sexual images we will be filled with lust.
Grudges/hurts we will be filled with unforgiveness, bitterness, and anger.
Problems we will be filled with anxiety.
Drugs we will be filled with addiction.
Alcohol we will be filled with drunkenness.

These things will end up dominating us so if we rather be dominated with the Spirit we need to stay focused on Jesus, “The author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and avoid the 3Cs like the Virus!

Conclusion: How to Be Filled With the Spirit“

“Be filled with the Spirit” is a command; therefore we must be able to do it. How? It’s so easy any saint can do it at any time. Ephesians 5:19-20 tells us:

19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Singing “psalms, hymns and spirit songs,” with hearts full of gratitude is the easiest and most practical way to be filled with the Spirit. But why? Like nothing else, singing opens up our emotions to God much like preaching opens our minds to God. When our emotions are opened up the Spirit fills our spirits with healing, hope, love, joy, peace and the fullness of God. This is why Christianity was, is, and always will be, the foremost singing religion. It is the best way not only to be continually filled with the Spirit but to be flooded with the Spirit! So church, let’s sing and never stop singing!

IT IS FINISHED

When Jesus had tasted it, He said, “It is finished!” Then He bowed his head and released his spirit. —John 19:30

The Bible is filled with the stories of so many people who had tremendous potential but crashed and burned in the spiritual race.
Saul who later became the apostle Paul, had incredible potential, but he disobeyed God repeatedly. Then there was Samson. Talk about power. He had an incredible ability to vanquish his enemies. Yet Samson went down in flames… because he played around with sin. Sin ultimately played around with him, and it culminated in his own death.  Both of these men started well, but they didn’t finish well. They ran fast in the beginning, but they didn’t get across the finish line as they should have.
It reminds me of the game Relay Race; we played it every year at my company picnic where I used to work. We lined up at one end of the field with a ball between our knees. We would then run to the opposite side… if we dropped the ball we would have to go back to the start line and try again. Of course, the person to make it to the finish line first, won the race! I started well but then gave up, after dropping the ball ten times.
How many times do we start off well and then give up on being loyal to our Lord and Savior? Like Saul and Samson, these men ran fast and then dropped the ball in the end. They didn’t get to the finish line the way they should.
Are we getting to the finish line the way God wants us to, or are we taking it in our own hands and dropping the ball?

If your life were to end today, would you be able to say, “I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful?”

 

Kathy Avens
Youth Director