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A Gift Often Left Unopened: the Holy Spirit

A Gift Often Left Unopened:

the Holy Spirit

Thanksgiving always begs the question, what are we thankful for? One gift our Father gives us is the Holy Spirit to teach, help, guide and counsel each one of us. John 14:15-17, 1 John 2:27

For years, I felt like God forgot me on this account. There were several reasons for this, but a couple were I really didn’t ask (Luke 11:13) and I wasn’t making an effort to listen. The Spirit is given to help us, but if we aren’t seeking and listening we’ll believe He isn’t there at all.

This gift we have been given is tremendous. If you’ve never stopped to listen to His counsel you may wonder – what is it like? Here is a quote I pulled off a fellow blogger’s site, RunHoly, from a woman and her experience of this gift;

“I know when the Lord is speaking to me because literally the air around me changes. There is a stillness that settles all my raging emotions and questions and simply bids me to be silent, listen, and consider what I hear. And then it’s almost as if it comes from the center of my being–the answer, the revelation, the instruction, and it is sealed in this definite place inside of me that I can’t describe. I only know that I must do what I’ve been prompted to do. If I resist, I can’t breathe, but when I say yes and obey, the most incredible sense of knowing and peace overtakes me, and the matter is settled once and for all.” –Michelle Mckinney Hammond

To learn to listen to the Spirit’s leading in our lives is an art especially these days with all the noise around us and in our heads. Cultivating this habit of being still and hearing the Spirit’s counsel is critical for several reasons:

The Spirit’s counsel:

• Is contrary to man’s wisdom
• Brings God’s power into our actions
• Has fruitful outcomes
• Is different from man’s wisdom

The Bible is loaded with examples of these points but here are two that I recently read. In Luke 5:5, fishermen had been casting their nets all day and catching nothing. Jesus told them to cast the nets out one more time. But what would another cast do when all the previous ones turned up empty? According to the wisdom of the world, it would be stupid to waste time and energy doing exactly what you had done before and what you proved doesn’t work, right? But at Jesus’ word, they cast their nets one more time and caught so much fish that their boat started to sink. The Spirit’s counsel is contrary to the world’s and at His counsel things happen. When He tells us to do something it’s for a reason and when we act according to His instruction, we are acting in a power beyond ourselves. We accomplish what we could never do on our own.

If the Spirit tells us to do something and we don’t or we aren’t listening, we will miss out on the blessing. What if those fishermen just ignored Him? What if they listened but said – you’re crazy there aren’t any fish I’m tired and going home? Often, when we do hear His instruction, we don’t realize it was His instruction and/or we talk ourselves out of following it because it doesn’t resonate with the wisdom we know and miss out on the blessings. God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts and that is why it’s so important to develop the art of listening to the Spirit. God wants to do so much in our lives, but many aren’t listening. And we have to listen to Him because His counsel is different from most counsel we receive. Many are praying and crying out to God, but are they listening to the instruction that will be an answer to their prayer?

Another great example is Joshua who sought and listened to God’s counsel and the accomplishments in his life showed it. The time he didn’t seek God’s counsel in Joshua 9:14 and acted on his own judgment he was defeated. But when he sought God’s counsel and obeyed it, God prospered all his efforts. It was tremendous the nations he conquered and the battles he won. But look at the crazy instructions God gave him, Jericho being a great example. Walking around a city blowing trumpets in order to conquer it? Doesn’t seem like a very effective strategy by the world’s definitions of logic. However, it brought the walls down and the Israelites took over the city. What unique counsel; not something man’s wisdom would suggest. But the oddity of God’s guidance brought glory to whom glory and praise are due – God. There was no doubt it was God’s doing. Listening to His instruction is for our good and His glory. Joshua 23:10, Judges 7:2

A main point of these two scenarios in Luke and Joshua and MANY others in the Bible where we see the uniqueness, contrary nature, power and outcomes of God’s counsel is that we should seek His counsel and not our own. We need to learn to listen to the one He gave us to counsel us, the Holy Spirit. He uses different strategies and if we aren’t listening we won’t know what they are and we’ll act in our own judgment and we will live the consequences of it.

What does it mean to be lead by the Spirit? To listen to the Spirit? To seek His counsel? It means abiding in the entire Word of God to become personally aquainted with His voice to be able to discern it in our lives. It means cultivating the habit of being still in His presence, seeking His counsel, understanding confirmation and acting on it. I’m finding this practice has MANY rewards as I’m learning to listen. When we are listening to His counsel for our lives and walking in it then we are doing His will and not our own of what we think we should do. We are walking in the spirit – literally walking according to His words.

God gave the Spirit to reside with us always to teach, counsel and guide. But if we never stop and listen, what’s the point of this incredible gift? It is like having a present that you never open and use. He has given us the Spirit for our good, to help us and lead us where we need to go, and to fill our lives with actions done in God’s power not ours.

This holiday season take time to consider this awesome gift and show true gratitude by cultivating the art of seeking and listening to His counsel. You never know what will happen – perhaps your nets will break or you’ll conquer those seemingly impossible giants. Whatever it is you’ll be acting in His power that is bound to blow your socks off.

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One Bible, So Many “Truths”

One Bible, So Many “Truths”


I wrote this while ago . . . but it is worth reposting with a few additions . . .

The other night, I was talking with my husband about a teaching I heard on end times, one area where there seems to be more theories than mosquitoes on a summer night in the Deep South; all fighting for life. Okay maybe not that many, but sometimes it feels like it.

Christians seem to disagree more than agree about the various aspects of our faith. What gives us our name, Christ, we agree on but outside of Him most beliefs are up for discovery; end times, hell, salvation by election, prosperity, authority, role of women, and state of church to name a few. The array of denominations and new ones popping up testify to the extent of our dissentions, but that isn’t how it should be. 1 Corinthians 3:3-7

In this life, disagreement will always be there because we are all in the process of learning but it shouldn’t divide us but unite. Dissensions can be beneficial in that they remind us not to put our trust in man’s words, doctrines or interpretations but to rely on God. The thoughts of man are futile, but God’s Word is perfect pure truth. Psalm 94:11, 12:6

But if we are all reading the same Bible how can we have so many different theories?

For several reasons, but I think one is about trust. If we depend on God to be our Teacher of His Word and not humans we move closer to truth and not farther away. There is one truth and He wants us to know it. The problem is many believers trust people instead of God. Therefore you get a multitude of philosophies and interpretations. How many are learning from God verses from highly esteemed teachers who are just passing along their limited understanding? That system gets us further and further from the truth. It’s like the game of whispering a secret from ear to ear around a circle. In the end it is quite humorous because the statement is much different than how it started. You have to go back to the source to know what was really said. Dwelling in the Source, the Word, you’ll start to see the multitude of lies out there being taught and believed by many.

Many believers aren’t sitting alone with God and diving into the Word with the Spirit as their teacher. There is often the accompaniment of a teacher, commentary or study guide. Not that anything is wrong with these at certain times, but if we rely on them to show us the truth, we aren’t relying on God and probably will be misled. It’s necessary to be with God alone on a regular basis and spend significantly more time with Him listening to His pure words without man’s interpretation than any other source to establish Him as the source of truth in our lives.

In Matthew 23:8, 10 the titles teacher and Rabbi denote authority in the area of instruction. The Rabbi held an honorable place in the synagogues and he was seen as the authority and expert in spiritual matters. When Jesus came, He took the place of the teachers who held that superiority as noted in the verse. Christ alone became The Teacher having preeminence in instruction about Him and His kingdom. He gave each one of us the Holy Spirit to teach us. 1 John 2:27 The Spirit gives us understanding of passages, applies them to our lives, prompts us to dig deeper, and takes us into the depth of God’s Words. If we trust Him to teach, ask for understanding and wait on His instruction, then He is faithful to teach us what we need to know when we need it know it. No one can teach us like He can because He knows exactly where we are at, how to build our understanding, write it on our hearts, and how to explain it so we understand. Jesus came and made everything personal including instruction. Galatians 1:11-12

In contrast, Paul tells us that God appointed teachers in the church. 1 Corinthians 12:28 However, this role doesn’t contain the authority of what Jesus spoke about in the previous verse. If so the verses would be contradictory. Teachers among the brethren are simply that, our brethren. All they say is secondary to our Teacher’s words. Growing up I had two brothers. No doubt in certain areas they were knowledgeable and I could learn from them, but they didn’t hold the authority, wisdom and overall instruction that my father did. Though they had points of enlightenment, they were young and immature like me and often lead me down the wrong path. It is the same within God’s family. For a healthy family, our Father, God, should hold the role as the utmost Teacher in each one of our lives. Both can’t hold first place. We need discernment in listening to others and that comes from spending time in the Word with the Spirit as our Teacher. It’s critical for the strength of His body, the true church, that each one of us builds our foundations on Him and not each other. 2 Timothy 4:3

The Word says that each one of us should be able to teach. 2 Timothy 2:24 That skill is a hint to how we should be spending our time. Students learn from the Master teacher not other students. From our fellow comrades, we share an insight, see another side of an issue, or get confirmation, but we have One, who is our Teacher. Learning from others and disagreement can be healthy, enriching, and a wonderful experience as long as our trust is in God for the source of truth and not man.

Without God’s Word no one can know the truth. There is one truth. The only way to gain truth is by spending time with Him alone one-on-one. I believe He designed it this way to draw us near to Him because He loves us. The one-on-one time builds trust and intimacy which lead us to fulfilling the first commandment and our ultimate eternal purpose – to abide with God in a unity of truth and love.

God isn’t limited by our educational backgrounds. He is able to teach each one of us one-on-one. He is God after all. Yet, if we don’t believe we won’t find. Our minds will be closed off and we won’t seek. We can’t get frustrated by the diversity or throw our hands up and think, how can I know? That mindset is counter to God’s will for us. We will never have the full picture but we can get continually closer. He wants us to know. He wants us to seek and to learn from Him. We have been given the Spirit to teach us and we need learn to hear His voice and to trust Him to do His job.

3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

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Purging Pride

Purging Pride


Once again I’m laying out my brokeness before you. I hope that in showing you what I have learned it will encourage you to seek the truth of your actions and reactions that we may see ourselves as we are and grow in the grace and love of God. So here we go as the blinders come off . . .

This past week it has come to my attention – thanks to the Spirit – that when I get deeply hurt by someone pride becomes my best friend. She comforts me telling me how wrong they were, justifies my frustration, builds walls for protection from further hurt, gives counsel on how I should respond (all very justifiable), produces a copy-cat forgiveness, reassures me the issue is about them – not me, and keeps the situation focused on me ~ of course.

As I reflected back, I realized pride has been a faithful friend for years, but I didn’t see her true colors until this past week in this area of my life. I was surprised because she was so faithful that I never recognized her when she came around. I suppose I thought she was someone else.

The Spirit brought to mind a couple of different situations where she was controlling and needed to be taken out:

In one, pride reinforced her walls so that even though the pain was from the past, it was affecting the present. I held back and kept a safe distance emotionally for protection – when I didn’t need protection. But pride kept the memories fresh and the walls standing.

In the other, pride was giving all kinds of self-focused advice about how to respond to a friend’s judgments, condemnation and jealousy. And with pride’s thoughts filling my mind, my attitude and responses toward my friend lacked true love.

As the Spirit pulled off the deceptive veil of pride, this is what I learned.

As an example, here’s the second situation. My pride was trying to get me to abandon the friendship or at least have minimal contact with her because of how she was acting toward me. But the Spirit gave me different counsel – to stay in her life and love her. This is what He said . . . I need to not provoke my friend with areas where there is jealousy (He showed me what I did and how it affected her, because I didn’t realize what my actions and words were creating). I need to be sensitive to her struggles. I need to encourage and lift her up because she is so beaten down by others. I need to put my expectations about how I think the relationship should be aside. She needs the love of God to flow into her life, and the Spirit wants to use me to do that. Yes, I need boundaries, but I need to let the walls crumble that prohibited God’s love from flowing into her life through me. Boundaries allow the love to flow, and creates a healthy balance in a relationship. Walls block love. As someone commented on my last blog, if a friend stole money out of your wallet you wouldn’t leave your wallet laying around, but you don’t cut your friend out of your life either. Glup. Pride didn’t like that as I felt her power deflate.

As the Spirit guided me to what I needed to do, He filled me with the love and desire to want to do it. So “need to” became “desire to’. Incredible. Some of the hurt still remains, but the pride is fleeting. I have a feeling as I obey the Spirit’s lead in this situation, He will heal the hurt.

I can’t believe how selfish I was . . . well I guess I can because I’ve seen it before. It’s hard to see your flesh so clearly at times, but it’s the only way to fully turn from its ways to God’s. What never ceases to amaze me is as this raw reality of my actions was exposed, the Spirit gently encouraged me along. The Spirit doesn’t condemn us; He leads us to truth in love.

One of the many problems with pride is that all she creates within my thinking prohibits the flow of love, which is counter to God’s will for us. So the spirit is working on purging my hurt of pride and changing how I view these type of situations.

I’ve learned a very important lesson – when I get deeply hurt by someone, pride steps in posing as my best friend and governs my thoughts and actions. As a result love flees. I’m thankful for this awareness. I’m glad I finally saw pride, who comes in so many disguises, for who she is in this area of my life. I’m thankful for my eyes being opened to the state of my soul because only then can we truly be set free. The Spirit is a tremendous counselor if we will learn to listen and heed His instruction.

Pride and true love can’t co-exist.

1 Corinthians 13:4-6 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth

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Love like You’ve Never Been Hurt

Love like You’ve Never Been Hurt


army_men This past week I had a humbling lesson in mercy, love and letting go. I’m sharing a picture of my flesh side rearing up and God’s lesson to me about it – so prepare yourself.

Rewind several months ago. . . Sitting in my office, I heard this strange noise outside our house. I went to investigate. I discovered a rainbow of colors that created an abstract piece of art on the side of our house. I was starting to get upset. As I looked down, broken balloons marked with paint fluttered across the driveway. As my eyes widened in disbelief, I saw little toy green men resting quietly. Now I was starting to get really upset. I looked to my neighbor’s house. Their balcony was perfectly positioned for this target practice on my house. But I saw no one. I stomped over and rang the doorbell – nothing. Knocked on the door – nothing. I lingered back inside and the noise started again. Looking out the window, I saw mischievous delight on my neighbor’s son face and his friends. I ran outside – no one. What a fun little game – errgg. As I looked around the little army men were everywhere – in the planters, in the top balcony, on the driveway! Now I was really upset. I’m going to call the police, the HOA. Stop. Breathe. I needed to calm down. Get some perspective. Then the noise stopped.

Days later, I finally got a hold of my neighbor and she said they wouldn’t do it again. Wow, it amazed me how frustrated I got. I mean they are just kids. Look at the stuff I did. In hindsight, my passion came from a deeper issue in regards to respect. (Our reactions are rarely just about the moment, but filled with the past) So, I got a little carried away in my frustration. But I remained civil with my neighbor and it worked out. But for weeks after as I found those little green men here and there, I tossed them back into their yard. I know. You don’t have to exhort me. I know.

Fast forward to recent weeks. A car sat in front of our house for days and nights. Occasionally it moved but rarely. There’s a “no parking on the street” policy in our neighborhood for residents. Visitors can but not extendedly. We don’t have a lot of parking space and it was taking up the little room we had for our visitors. Plus it was an eye sore and it’s kind of a pet peeve. Anyway, after weeks – I had enough and called the HOA security. They came out right away. Moments later the owner moved his car. The security guard said something about possibly a ticket . . . thanks officer. (I know it’s ugly, but the honesty is the only way to show the powerful lesson gained.)

Then this past week as I was returning from a walk, I saw smashed eggs – several on the side of our house (same side as the rainbow art) and several on the driveway. First thought – it must be those little rascals. Immediately my blood pressure rose.

I called my neighbor. . . she said her son didn’t do it but in fact they had an egg on their driveway on Halloween. I still thought it was them. I mean who else could it be? But I let it go . . . yeah, right.

Then the next day as I was taking out the garbage, I saw two more eggs splattered on the driveway. Those weren’t there yesterday! I took a deep breath and went inside to have my quiet time with God. This is what I learned.

When I called the HOA security about the car, I didn’t even think of going over to my neighbors and asking them not to park there, which would have been the neighborly thing to do. My first response was I’ll show them and call out the big guys. I hadn’t really forgiven them of pelting my house with paint and army men. So, my ill-will emotions just stacked one on top of another. It’s much like a wife getting upset at her husband for squeezing the toothpaste from the middle instead of the end – it isn’t about the toothpaste; it’s build-up from the past. So I reacted.

I’d been harboring ill-will toward them since the rainbow-army men event. Not that it was something I thought about it, but my reaction to the car revealed my heart. However, I didn’t fully realize what I felt until the egg episode. I hadn’t forgiven. God taught me through this that mercy is letting go and giving someone a clean slate; like you are meeting them for the first time. That means you aren’t harboring any ill will – anger, resentment, bitterness. So in a sense, each new episode is disconnected from the rest – emotionally speaking. Make sense? I never thought about it quite like that before. Forgiveness isn’t getting in harm’s way again, if someone harmed you. It’s establishing boundaries when needed, but it’s giving others a clean slate so your following emotional reactions aren’t fueled by the past. So there isn’t a seed of anger hiding in your spirit ready to jump out at the next opportunity.

When we give others a clean slate, then the love of God is able to flow through us to them. If there is no love flow, then we haven’t truly forgiven from our heart. And often those who upset us are the ones that need God’s love the most. Loving others is part of our purpose as God’s family because unlike the world we love with His love which is powerful in others’ lives. Love like you’ve never been hurt. It can change others. Now, unexpectedly, I feel love for my neighbors. Incredible! The blockade has been removed and love is flowing. I want to bake cookies or give them flowers for something. It’s amazing how when God teaches us a lesson He transforms our heart in the process to carry out His will and that is the power of HIS instruction and not someone else’s.

Psalm 18:35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

God has given us a completely clean slate always. We are pure, blameless and perfect in His sight and I’ve done far worse in my life than splatter paint, pelt army men or throw eggs. We need to give others what He has given us. But it isn’t us but God who cleans that slate for us giving us the ability to truly love. His love is real, powerful, and tremendous. Matthew 18:21-22

The world is about revenge, getting even, not letting someone off the hook. But that attitude is more damaging to us, than anyone else. Anger and the like eat away at our soul, verses love which replenishes and heals. Ill-will prohibits the flow of love. Whether it was my neighbors or not who threw those eggs I don’t know. But I called her and established a clean slate which from the sound of voice she appreciated the gesture. I’m thankful for this lesson. Because now in this new awareness I have some other people in my life of whom I really need to give a clean slate to, and I’m confident God will make that happen in me.

Psalm 18:25 With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless;

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Unhealthy vs. Healthy Fellowship

Unhealthy vs. Healthy Fellowship


In the past years, the question of fellowship has come up more and more. Perhaps because of the times we are in. It’s a topic heavy on my heart as I see many who are in unhealthy fellowships, as I once was. They looked good on the outside, but the subtleties of what they supported or didn’t took me on a path away from God by thinking I was on the right path when I wasn’t. For example these fellowships entailed; the Word wasn’t really the focus, my time in the Word wasn’t critical, cultivating personal intimacy with God wasn’t the center, dependency on teachers was accepted, trusting the spirit to teach wasn’t emphasized, a works mentality was honored, as long as I was in church I was headed in the right direction, and so on. They had major impacts to my spiritual health.

Now, we are all fallen. Look at who Jesus hung out with. Fallen people but they had a hunger for truth and listened and followed His Words. He is The Word. He was the authority. As in His communities, is the Word really first in ours? Now contrast that to the Pharisees who didn’t listen to His Word, but were quite religious, who followed the doctrines of men, and thought they knew better. It is about our hearts. It is about who is our authority, who we truly trust, who we truly follow – God or man.

Others have a tremendous influence on us and it’s critical especially these last days to examine the fellowships we are engaged in. Fellowship to me means the gathering of believers with the goal to encourage, exhort, pray, serve, tell of God’s good works and praise among other purposes. Healthy fellowship enriches our spirits, while unhealthy destructs.

The questions we all need to ask ourselves:

1. Are the fellowships we are engaged in healthy according to God’s Word?
2. Are they what GOD desires of us? Or are we following the crowd?
3. Have we taken time to deeply seek God’s will in this area?

Here are some verses on what kind of fellowships NOT to engage in:

Psalm 26:4-5, 2 Timothy 3:5

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”

1 Timothy 6:5 “useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. “

In these last days, the false prophets, teachers, leaders, and messengers, will be where the majority of God’s people are – in the church system. There are a multitude of verses warning us about this unhealthy association with others as well as the vastness of deception and lies in the end days. God knew unhealthy fellowship would be extensive these days and warned us over and over because its influence is powerful. Let’s take heed to His warnings. Let’s understand our ability to be influenced by those around us.

Our guard from being in unhealthy fellowships is abiding in the Word in faith on a daily basis. Psalm 17:4 It’s our responsibility to examine our fellowship in the light of God’s Word like the verses above and act according to His instructions not our justifications. Justifications like; sure they (their church) are off on some things but overall I think they are doing good. By whose judgment, ours, the church’s, or God’s?

Lies are damaging, yet too often we excuse them. 2 Corinthians 11:4 The other day a fellow blogger mentioned in her blog, God’s Promises are Real, that Satan’s only weapon is lies. But what an effective tool that is! I think Christians start compromising the truth when they fear of appearing judgmental, pushing others away, being alone, or being rejected. At least these have been some of my reasons in the past. But it is for the sake of our spirits and others that we need to hold fast to the truth and expose lies with a motive of love when we see them.

Right now most of us, if not all, are living in some deceptions and lies because we live in a fallen world and its influence is strong over us. But as we abide in God’s Word and He reveals those lies to us what do we do? Continue to accept and support them? The Apostle Paul encountered all sorts of issues among believers. What did he do? He exhorted them and if they didn’t take heed to God’s Word, he responded as in 1 Corinithians 5. He didn’t hold back, justify or ignore. When it was necessary, he said certian people needed to go if they didn’t heed instruction. He told them to not compromise by letting damaging behaviors slide. And in some cases, he told them to leave unhealthy fellowships. He understood that one bad apple ruins the batch. He did this because He loved them.

Healthy Fellowship

True, healthy fellowship is a wonderful treasure. What does it look like? Different fellowships hold different purposes, but here are some of the characteristics I see in the Word:

  • Informal gathering of 2 or more believers getting together being open, honest
  • Each person is in the Word being taught by the Spirit and He is the source of truth not a human teacher
  • What is spoken of is tested against the scriptures
  • Drawing near to God and love as the goal – not entertainment, not increase in numbers
  • Each actively uses their gifts
  • More mature ones help others to learn from God and be dependent on God not man
  • All parties are active, not passive
  • Time to encourage and exhort as lead by the Spirit
  • Opportunity to help others in need
  • A place where it is okay to question beliefs of others and okay to disagree
  • Where there are no man-made rules only the Word of God
  • No dominations, but unity in the Spirit
  • Intimacy to pray for one another
  • Minister to each other’s deeper needs because you take time to know them
  • Share God’s work in each others lives and praise God

Fellowship is a gift. God designed us to be connected to one another. But with this gift, as all gifts, we need to take heed to His instruction in this area so that we aren’t misled and the gift isn’t misused. It is a very influential area in our lives, whether good or bad. We each need to examine our fellowships in light of God’s Word and spend time seeking His will for where and who we fellowship with. Fellowship comes in many different forms. Let’s not limit Him or ignore His leading in this area. It is critical to our spiritual health.


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