Each of us is a part of different groups; we function within various circles of influence. As Christians, we should influence others to a higher level of understanding, rather than allowing ourselves to be pulled down to a lower level.
Circles: Keeping God at the Center of Our Relationships
Pastor Stephen Hayes
February 11, 2018
Main Idea – Each of us is a part of different groups; we function within various circles of influence. As Christians, we should influence others to a higher level of understanding, rather than allowing ourselves to be pulled down to a lower level.
Circles of influence
- We are all part of different spheres of influence – circles – among which we socialize.
- These circles of influence affect our thoughts and actions, and also provide opportunities for us to impact others.
- We have a choice: to raise the circle’s standards, or risk hurting ourselves by being pulled down to a lower level by others in the circle.
Initiate, instill, and maintain healthy circles
- People in our circles need to know who we are. We should be comfortable in communicating our Christian view of life.
- 1 Corinthians 15: 33-34 – Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
- In the above verse, the apostle Paul was admonishing the Christians in Corinth to avoid being pulled down to a lower level by others in their community.
Just because we have the right to do something doesn’t mean we should do it
- 1 Corinthians 10:23 – All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.
- As Christians, we should be aware that what we do will be perceived in different ways by others.
- Everything we do has an impact of some kind on others.
- As Christians, our relationship with God is not established by what we do. It is established by what we believe about Jesus. Nevertheless, what we do can be misunderstood by someone else who does not know Jesus in the same way.
- If something we are doing could be misinterpreted, we should probably refrain from doing that thing – even though, in our mind, it is not sinful to do it.
- Psalms 24:1 – The earth is the Lord’s, and its fullness thereof. Everything, and everybody, on the planet belongs to God. We should focus on edifying – to morally and spiritually build up – others.
- Our immediate freedom to do something is not as important as the effect our actions could have on the souls of others who are observing us.
Jesus sacrificed His life to have a relationship with us
- When Jesus came to earth, He did so as a man. He did not simply appear to be a man, but fully was a man.
- Jesus, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, existed before time began. When He was born into humanity, that humanity was added to the divine nature that already existed.
- Hebrews 2: 17-18 – Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
- Everything that Jesus did is also possible for us to do. Just as God unified humanity with the divine nature, we are to pursue unification with each other.
- Fusion is defined as “the process, or result of, joining two or more things together to form a single entity.”
- Fusion is what powers the sun and, thereby, sustains physical life in our universe.
- Jesus’ purpose was to unify us to Him, and to unify us with each other.
- John 17 is a prayer Jesus prayed before He was crucified. In this prayer He prayed for himself (verses 1-5), His disciples at that time (verses 6-19), and for you and me (those believers who would follow: verses 20-26.)
- John 17: 20-23 – I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
Raise the standard
- To build healthy relationships in our circles of influence, we need to raise the standards in those circles so our relationships will benefit one another.
- Ephesians 5: 1-2 – Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
- As we seek to build positive, healthy relationships in our circles of influence, we should guard against becoming spiteful when others operate in weakness.
- God is our Father, and we should follow His example because others are watching us (see “I’ve Been Watching You” lyrics, below.)
- We want to demonstrate to others the importance of being submitted to a higher being.
Reflective Questions for Circles: Keeping God at the Center of Our Relationships
- Take a minute to identify two or three circles of influence of which you are part.
- Which of those circles are edifying for you (tend to build you up)? Do any of those circles tend to drag you to a lower level?
- Do you feel you are able to elevate others in any of your circles?
- Pastor Stephen taught that, even though we may have the right to do something, we should not do it if it will not be correctly understood by others. Do you agree? Why or why not?
We should be so enthusiastic about our faith that it shows in our actions and words. We should be “fans” of our faith.
A Real Fan
Pastor Stephen Hayes
February 4, 2018
Main Idea – We should be so enthusiastic about our faith that it shows in our actions and words. We should be “fans” of our faith.
Lead with love
- Our faith should reveal itself through the love we show others.
- John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
- “People won’t care about what you know until they know that you care.” This is a well-known truism attributed to many people, from Teddy Roosevelt to John C. Maxwell.
Being a fan
- The word “fan” is a shorthand label for “fanatic.”
- The Greek word “Theos” is a word that means God. The English word “enthusiasm” relates to the word “theos” because enthusiasm is defined as “to breathe life into something.”
- “Your spirit needs to hear your flesh respond to the Word of God.”
- Enthusiasm should be a visible response to what we know from our faith.
Characteristics of being a fan
- Real fans show up early. Real fans look forward to church and worship. Psalm 122: 1 – I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
- Real fans want the best seat in the house. Real fans do what needs to be done to get as close to the action as possible. Mark 2:4 – And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.
- Real fans never miss a game. Everything that happens at church is an opportunity to do – and experience – something significant.
- Real fans endure the elements. Just as sports and entertainment fans often withstand extreme weather conditions, Christians persist against things that come against their involvement in the faith. There are no “fair weather” Christians.
- Real fans know the statistics. Real Christians keep up to date with the events in their churches. They know the history and back-stories of their congregation. Real Christians study and meditate on God’s Word. Psalm 119:11 – Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Joshua 1:8 – This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.
- Real fans don’t care what others think. Real fans are not swayed by the opinions of others. Real fans know the truth, and are persistent in believing it. John 9: 24-27 – So they again called the man who was blind, and said to him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner.” He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?”
- Real fans are vocal. Real fans cheer loudly at important moments. God will add His miraculous power to believers’ vocalness. Joshua 6: 16, 20 – And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city!” . . . So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.
- Real fans are invested. Real fans pay the necessary price to be part of what is happening; they are totally committed. “He wants to be Lord of all, or He does not want to be Lord at all.” That statement is originally attributed to Hudson Taylor, a Christian missionary to China in the 1800s.
Fans in God’s Kingdom
- Christians are fanatical about being part of God’s family.
- Fans in the Body of Christ are not diverted by life’s events from their participation in the faith.
- When we are fans, God will work through each of us to show others the way to happiness and satisfaction.
- God has given each of us unique gifts through which He works when we use those gifts with enthusiasm.
- Romans 12: 4-8 – For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (1 Corinthians 12: 4-11 gives a similar list.)
- The gift of giving is sometimes overlooked by churches. Covenant Church wants individuals with the gift of giving to know their contributions are meaningful, because giving represents time and talent.
Reflective Questions for A Real Fan
- Have you ever thought about how the Greek word “Theos” is related to the English word “enthusiasm”? How does that information help you understand how you should be acting as a Christian? Considering your own, unique personality, what are the ways you demonstrate your enthusiasm through your actions and words?
- Take a few moments to look over Pastor Stephen’s Eight Characteristics of a Fan. Which ones particularly have meaning for you? Give an example of how you can apply them to your life as a Christian.
What we say, and how we say it, is important. Words have power; they can be used for good or bad. As we grow toward perfection, we should control what we say so that everything we speak is for good.
Uphill Habits – Word Perfect
Pastor Stephen Hayes
January 28, 2018
Main Idea – What we say, and how we say it, is important. Words have power; they can be used for good or bad. As we grow toward perfection, we should control what we say so that everything we speak is for good.
We can’t control what others do, but we can control what we do
- Auto-correct features on our smart phones and computers can both help and hurt effective communication.
- The specific words we communicate are important to the messages that are being received. We are to work toward communicating things in the spirit of what God wants communicated. Matthew 5:48 – Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
- Until we reach perfection, we are not qualified to correct others on every little thing that may seem to go wrong. When man tries to balance judgment and mercy, he stumbles. 1 Chronicles 13: 9-10 – And when they came to Chidon’s threshing floor, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzza, and He struck him because he put his hand to the ark; and he died there before God.
- Rather than judging things as we go through life, we should seek discernment to understand what is happening.
The ability to discern - rather than judge - comes through an ongoing process
- Philippians 3: 12-14 – Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
- Sanctification is the ongoing process of being set apart, through holiness, to be used by God. We are a work of God that is in the process of being perfected. Hebrews 10:14 – For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
- James 1:4 – But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Being able to control our tongues is a big part of the sanctification process
- James 3: 1-12 – My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
If you’re not listening, you’re not learning
- James 3:4 uses the analogy of a ship’s rudder that controls the direction of the boat. This rudder is able to direct the boat against the natural flow of the water.
- Likewise, our tongues – properly used – will direct us against the natural flow of what we might feel like saying.
- When speaking, we should resist what feels natural. Proverbs 18: 21 – Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat of its fruit.
The tongue is a fire; used for both good and evil
- James 3:6-10 tell us it is not right that we sometimes use our tongue for bad purposes while sometimes using it for good. We should not use our tongue both ways.
Are we deceived?
- Are there things (ideas, dispositions, etc.) we have allowed into ourselves that have deceived our thinking?
- James 1: 26 – If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.
- When we speak negative things by the flesh, we are putting ourselves on the enemy’s radar.
- When we speak positive things, we are speaking a language Satan doesn’t understand.
What are we full of?
- 1 Corinthians 15: 33 – Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
- Our mouths will speak what we have previously put into our hearts. Luke 6: 43-45 – “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Become a peace maker
- Jealousy is the enemy to promotion.
- Speak life into those around you.
- Work to walk in the same mercy and peace God has given to you. James 1: 19-20 – So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Reflective Questions for Uphill Habits: Word Perfect
- We have all experienced regret from the effects of having spoken careless words. Why, then, do we continue to speak without thinking?
- Knowing that our road to perfection is a process, why is it especially important to carefully consider our words before saying something?
- Is it possible careless words have happened because you allowed yourself to be deceived by a wrong idea of some kind? If so, from where did that idea originate?
- Is it possible careless words have happened because you have allowed your heart to be exposed to harmful information or material?
- What are practical things we can do to put good things into our hearts, so we can stay in a mindset that speaks forth the blessings of God?
In life, the only thing that really matters is faith expressed in love. As you love, know what Scripture says and act on it.
January 21, 2018
Main Idea – In life, the only thing that really matters is faith expressed in love. As you love, know what Scripture says and act on it.
Jesus doesn’t want your help, He wants your heart
- People don’t follow vision, they follow availability.
- Jesus was always available to people.
- We should not so much worry about being right, but about being like Jesus.
- Jesus doesn’t see us as we were; He sees us as what we are turning into.
- If we hang around Jesus, we will become as He sees us.
- We are to come to Jesus with the openness and trust of children. Mark 10: 13-16 – Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.
- We should always retain the joy we had when we first experienced God. Revelation 2: 3-4 – and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
- When we remember to approach Jesus as a child we will naturally be able to express our faith through the love we give. Galatians 5:6 – For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love. (MSG)
- To become more like Jesus, we may need to give up some of the things we are currently involved with. Lose whatever it is that is keeping you from being like Jesus.
Engage and love those who “creep you out”
- If you want to look like Jesus, love those who “creep you out” the most. Engage people whom you might otherwise avoid.
- We are not defined by our worst day. God the Father doesn’t see our mistakes; He sees Jesus. Likewise, we should see people for what they will eventually become. (If you hear a voice telling you negative things about yourself, that voice isn’t Jesus.)
Know the Scriptures
- We can’t be like Jesus if we don’t know about Him. Read and study the Bible. It is an instruction book. Mark 12:24 – Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?” Galatians 1:8 – But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
- What will get us to Jesus is Jesus. He (through His Word) leads us to Himself, and it doesn’t take many steps to get there.
What Jesus wants us to do
- We don’t have much time in life. It is important to use our time for good purposes.
- The Bible tells us to love those who are not loveable. Matthew 5: 43-48 – You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore, you shall be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
- The Bible tells us to help those who are in need. Matthew 25: 34-36 – Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.
- Jesus really meant it when He said those are the things He wants us to be doing. Those are the things He wants to talk about with us.
- Don’t just agree with Jesus. Do what is important to Him.
- Love everybody always. If we get this one thing right, then we will get right everything else as well.
Stick with it; don’t quit
- Embrace, and make the best of, every circumstance. Stay at it. Don’t stop expressing your faith through your love.
- When we do this, we ourselves begin to change.
- Jesus will give you whatever you need. Simply tell Him what you would like. Jesus would often ask people what they wanted from Him, and would then give it to them. Mark 10: 48-52 – Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. He is calling you.” And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.
- Jesus also gave people a “second touch.” Mark 8:25 – Then He put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up. And he was restored and saw everything clearly.
- God uses imperfect people to do marvelous things. Realize how God perceives you, and be willing to ask for a “second touch” if you need it.
- God will use the talents He gave you, and will give you whatever else you ask, when you do the things that are important to Him.
Reflective Questions for Love Does
- What does it mean to “receive the kingdom of God as a little child”? What does one have to give up in order to be able to do this?
- Bob Goff has given love to evil witch doctors. Does this mean he also “likes“ them? Why or why not?
- When you are in a circumstance where you are with people you don’t like:
- What do you need to ask God for at that moment?
- What do you need to tell yourself so you are able to follow-through with love?
Nagging feelings and thoughts might indicate we have unconsciously allowed Satan to plant negative ideas in our heads. We are not to allow negative thinking, and negative ideas, to coexist with the love and faith God has placed in us. We must intentionally speak truth into our hearts and minds - followed by meaningful action - to replace the false ideas.
Uphill Habits – Thinking Higher
Pastor Amie Dockery
January 14, 2018
Main Idea – Nagging feelings and thoughts might indicate we have unconsciously allowed Satan to plant negative ideas in our heads. We are not to allow negative thinking, and negative ideas, to coexist with the love and faith God has placed in us. We must intentionally speak truth into our hearts and minds - followed by meaningful action - to replace the false ideas.
Internal smoke alarms
- Most of us have smoke alarms in our homes that beep when the batteries need changing.
- In the same way, we have internal smoke alarms in our brains that give off small “beeps” – or intuitive feelings of concern - that indicate something in our lives is wrong and needs to be fixed.
- When we experience such internal feelings of unrest, we must ask ourselves where the alarm is coming from.
- It could be we have unconsciously allowed Satan to plant a negative, or untrue, idea in our minds.
- We need God’s help to identify the false idea we have unconsciously adopted. Psalm 139: 23 – Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
- If we don’t take care of this situation, the negative idea will take authority over all our thoughts. We cannot allow a wrong idea to undermine the authority God has given us in life.
Cohabitation with the enemy
- We cannot be happy, or effectively used by God, if we allow ourselves to live with negative thoughts or wrong ideas. It’s hard to defeat an enemy if it has an outpost in our head.
- Clues you may be co-habiting with the enemy
- Feelings of anxiety
- A tendency to over-react to things
- Such things are not normal. They may be warning signs that something is not right in our lives. We cannot allow these feelings to remain in our lives as if everything is okay.
- Limiting Beliefs are beliefs that in some way constrain us. When we believe these things, we do not think, do, or say the things we should be doing.
- We cannot defeat these beliefs and feelings by just ignoring them, or simply wanting them to go away. They must be replaced by true ideas.
- We must change our thought patterns by intentionally thinking differently and taking sure, opposing actions and steps.
- We must eliminate small thoughts before they produce fruit.
- 2 Corinthians 10: 3-5 – 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 strongholds. 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.
- The Gospels tell a story of an ill woman who took action to receive healing by simply touching Jesus’ clothing. She took an action that followed from her faith.
- Matthew 9: 20-22 – Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.
- It is unlikely she would have been healed if she had remained inactive in her faith. She was healed when she took an action.
- Faith is not just a feeling; it involves follow-through. James 2: 17 – In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
- Exercise your faith, not your feelings.
- In Scripture, when Jesus complimented someone, he was usually responding to something he or she had done – an action taken.
- Each of us might ask ourselves, “What action can I take to show God I am focusing on Him, and not false ideas?”
- In this season of fasting at the start of a calendar year, pray God will reveal to you any limiting thoughts that are inhibiting your effectiveness and happiness.
- Then, take an action to affirm the good thing God has shown you. Don’t allow the enemy any foothold in your mind.
The Hebrew year 5778
- The calendar year 2018 is the Hebrew year 5778.
- The symbol for eight (and also the eighth letter in the Hebrew alphabet) is called “chet.”
- Chet breaks cycles of 7. It is the next thing beyond 7.
- If seven is a number that represents perfection, eight is what follows – or happens after - having experienced God’s miraculous grace.
- Chet (8) represents
- new beginnings
- connections and divisions (a gateway)
- God is opening up an opportunity for us to step up to the next higher place in our lives by not co-habiting with negative ideas.
- We must take the next upward step in life – going from seven to eight – as we continually move toward a Heavenly perspective of things.
- Isaiah 55: 8-9 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
- One way to understand the year 5778 is: “Behold the beautiful kingdom, seeing the superabundant next level, miraculous, cycle-breaking, new beginning.”
Reflective Questions for Uphill Habits: Thinking Higher
- Can you recall a time when you had an uneasy feeling about something in the back of your mind? Could this have been an example of your internal smoke alarm saying something was wrong and needed to be corrected?
- At such times, why is it necessary to ask God to seek out the problem instead of trying to reason it ourselves?
- Once God has identified the problem, why must we take a decisive action instead of simply trying to “think away” the problem?
- What do you need to do to “cross a bridge” in the Hebrew year 5778 to a higher level of understanding?