EVIDENCE OF THE SPIRIT

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Paul wrote to the Church in Galatia concerning the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). We don't use the word "fruit" when describing our actions in today's vernacular. A more fitting word might be "evidence." Is there evidence that you are inviting the work of God's Spirit as He seeks to make the traits of Jesus come to life in your daily attitude: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness & Self-Control?

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SPIRITUAL FORMATION

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To say that Paul felt strongly about the importance of spiritual growth would be an understatement. He used an interesting comparison when attempting to convey his concern: "for I am in the pains of a woman in childbirth that Christ would be formed in you." (Galatians 4:19) Paul obviously lacked firsthand knowledge of such severe pain, and yet he wanted to demonstrate the importance of the changed life and his own passion to see people become more like Jesus. How are we doing when it comes to the reality of Jesus being seen in and through our lives?

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GOD'S CHILDREN

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What does it mean to be one of God's children? Galatians 4:7 says, "So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir." You may answer the question differently based on how you were treated by your parents as a child. Even if you had incredibly loving parents, all would pale in comparison to God's love and grace.

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OLD & NEW COVENANTS

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"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, by becoming the curse for us..." (Galatians 3:13) What does it mean when we differentiate between the new and old covenants of the Bible? What did Jesus change by dying on the cross?

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DEALING WITH DISAGREEMENTS

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When you have a disagreement with another individual, how do you handle it? When Paul did not agree with Peter, he "opposed him to his face" (Galatians 2:11). Do we bottle up similar feelings, talk to other people about the person we are not getting along with or speak with them face to face?

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PLEASING PEOPLE

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Paul asked a question when writing to the church in Galatia, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?" (Galatians 1:10) It is an excellent question for all of us to consider - Who do we seek to please in life? Small children usually begin by trying to please themselves and their parents. Depending on family size, kids may also seek to please their siblings. As teenagers, adolescents often times shift to please their peers. What motivates us to please God? Have you ever stopped to consider your motivations?

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THE BIG CATCH

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Ever been fishing without catching anything? BORING! Imagine doing that all night long with zero fish to show for your time and energy. This was Peter's experience when he first met Jesus and yet Jesus demonstrated His power and provision, telling Peter how and where to fish for results. It is interesting that Jesus did the exact same thing in Peter's life after His resurrection in John 21.

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FAILING JESUS

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During the last meal that Jesus shared with His close followers, all of his friends pledged their allegiance to their master. Good intentions do not always equal the right actions. When they met with opposition in the Garden of Gethsemane, every single follower abandoned their confession and their Lord. Peter took it a step further by denying Jesus 3 times before the next morning. How do you act or react when you fail Jesus?

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DRAMATIC ENDING OR NEW BEGINNING?

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In the epic light saber battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader, Obi-Wan makes a strange remark to his opponent. Just when the fighting was getting tense, Kenobi said to Vader, "If you strike me down, I'll be more powerful than you can ever imagine." Vader didn't understand the remark or he may not have made the final strike. In a similar regard, Jesus announced to His close followers, "...It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you." - John 16:7 Jesus began to reveal to His friends the person of the Holy Spirit and what was yet to come after His death and resurrection.

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STAYING CLOSE

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How does a couple stay close over time? How do parents remain close while raising their children and how do adult children stay connected with their parents? How do you remain close friends with those you have known for a lifetime? When you experience different seasons in life and relationships begin to drift, how do you respond?

Relational drift can happen with regard to our faith and relationship to God just as easily.  Why does it happen and how do we change the dynamic when we recognize we’re not as close as we once were?  Jesus talks about the importance of remaining close to Him, comparing the relationship of a vine to a branch.

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STRONGER OR WEAKER?

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Years ago I sat across the aisle from my 3 oldest children while we were flying a transatlantic jumbo jet. My children were probably around the ages of 5, 7 & 9 and I recall watching their reactions when we encountered severe turbulence. My eldest daughter Courtney felt the bumps and laid her head against the window. She was asleep in a matter of minutes as that was her way to deal with some things. My son Murphy was seated across the aisle from me and he ...began nervously asking me questions, “Are we over water?” “If we crash now, how do we get the life jackets under our seats?” “Will we survive?” His questions may have rattled a few people sitting close by. I looked as he dug his fingers into the arm rests. In stark contrast, my youngest son Connor put his hands up as though he was on a roller coaster. “This is fun!” he exclaimed. Three children from the same family with such drastically different responses to a storm.

John 12:37 says, “Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in Him.” Imagine that many saw the amazing things that Jesus did and were strengthened in their faith, while others found ways to question Him and it made their faith weaker. How do you respond to trials or positive circumstances? Do they strengthen or weaken your faith in the One who created you?

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SHEEP LOOKING FOR A SHEPHERD

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Between chapters 9 - 11 in John's Gospel account, Jesus refers to Himself or is described as one of many titles and descriptions: The Good Shepherd, the Gate, the Light of the World, the Son of Man, the Way to Salvation, The Shepherd who knows His sheep, the Son who knows His Father, the Resurrection and the Life, the Messiah... In the same 3 chapters, He opens the eyes of a man born blind and raises the dead. Who is Jesus in your life?

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DROP YOUR ROCKS

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If you have ever watched an episode of Modern Family then you may have heard Cam ask with a flamboyant accent, "Who hurt you?" Allow me to ask you that question, "Who in your life has caused you pain?"  Jesus confronts an angry, self-righteous mob, poised and ready to hurl rocks at a woman caught in sin. He issues a challenge to those about to end her life, "Only those who have never sinned can throw stones." Their sense of entitlement to exact justice is met with the hard truth that they are also guilty. Is there anyone on the planet who you believe should pay for what they did to you?

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A LOT WITH A LITTLE

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There are a few accounts covered by ALL 4 Gospels and the Feeding of 5,000 is one of them. The followers of Jesus believed that it was a good idea to send everyone home, before the masses grew hungry. However, Jesus made a simple request, "You feed them."  Philip commented, "Eight months salary wouldn't be enough money to purchase food for these people." Why would Jesus ask his disciples to do something beyond their budget?

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AN UNLIKELY CONVERSATION

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Jesus began speaking to a foreign woman at a local watering hole. His conversation was not socially acceptable in that day, and yet He engaged regardless of what others may think. Why do you think He did that? Why would Jesus take the time? Her people group was considered low class according to the Jewish customs and heritage, so Jesus ignored her status as a Samaritan, not to mention that women were considered a lower class than men at that time in history. Why would He ignore the social norms and do more than talk and offer her living water?

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JOHN'S ACCOUNT OF JESUS (week 1)

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This week we kick off our study of John's account of the life of Jesus. Of the 4 gospels, John's is the most unique. He has a great deal to say about IDENTITY. Who is Jesus and who are we called to be in relation to Him? As you read through the daily passages, look for identity statements with a fresh perspective. Invite God to speak to you through the Scriptures about who He is and who you are meant to be.

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LAZARUS, COME FORTH!

How do you imagine Jesus calling out that particular phrase when standing beside the occupied tomb? I once heard a pastor say, "Jesus needed to call Lazarus by name, for if He had merely said, 'Come forth', every dead man and woman within an ear shot would have rallied the call!" That would have been something to see, perhaps a bit like Michael Jackson's Thriller video. It's important to keep in mind that Jesus has resurrection power! He has the power to raise the dead and to breathe life back into situations, relationships, finances, children, marriages and any other area of life that we may deem beyond repair. Do you believe that? How would we live life if we truly believed that on a daily basis?

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NOBODY IS HOME

How many world religions have a shrine or memorial to commemorate their life? They visit the tomb of a unique individual to pay homage. If you want to do the same with Jesus, you can visit the top locations where Jesus was believed to be buried, yet nobody's home! What is more remarkable than resurrection is the fact that Jesus predicted that this would be the case while He was alive and interacting with His closest followers. It was even prophesied before His birth.

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THE CROSS

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"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit."  This is the time of year when we remember the price Jesus paid for our sin. He went willfully to the cross for one reason: LOVE. He loves us and was willing to pay the ultimate price to remove the barrier of sin.

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SIN

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"If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is SIN for them." (James 4:17)  Our culture seems to be confused these days about what SIN actually is. Try telling someone from your school, neighborhood or office that certain practices and behaviors are sin and see how they respond. You may be called judgmental or closed minded, but what can people agree on regarding sin? If we are not clear about sin and try to justify all human actions, then there is no need for the cross.

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