Q - When you notice that the Spirit isn't flowing through you in the way He should, how do you increase the Spirit's power? Biblical reading, prayer...anything else?
When I read the New Testament letters to Christians, I hear the apostles teaching us that we should be a) very much aware that we are the home-vessel for the Holy Spirit, b) that He is there to empower our living, see Ephesians 3:14-21, and c) that we are urged to consciously and intentionally choose to be "filled" by Him (Ephesians 5:18) and to "walk in Him" (Galatians 5:16). So how do we put in play this filling and walking? Romans 8 teaches that "those who set their mind on the things of the Spirit" experience his life and peace. I take it that a regular time alone with the Lord ("Did God make my day?") and a heart/mind that is memorizing helpful portions of God's Word, and a habit of praying in the Spirit (1 Thess 5:17, and Ephesians 6:18) -- those simple habits will increase one's awareness of the Spirit and one's sense of His presence. Personal time with God, and with other spiritual partners, putting minds on the things of God's Spirit, can make a huge difference.
Q - What should someone do if it feels like he/she is "fishing alone," because laborers are few in a particular place of ministry?
Sometimes, we have a ministry opportunity that others don't immediately share. Jesus said, "Pray to the Lord of the harvest for workers." The place to start is to ask God for a ministry partner. The other option is to join others where they are doing ministry. You may be the answer to prayer of someone who is laboring in an adjacent field!
Q - What would you say to someone who feels they can't ask themselves these (LIFE) questions? They feel hurt or alone or anger or bitter. They feel like they want out because they feel unseen in church.
Feeling hurt, holding on to anger or bitterness, feeling "unseen" -- all of these things are quite common for some. Someone close to me complained, "No one said 'Hi' to me, or greeted me, at your church, David!" I was checked up by that, but was prompted to answer, "OK...but to whom did you say 'Hi'? What person standing alone in the atrium did you decide simply to approach and say, 'I don't know you, but would like to! I'm (your name)'."
Anger and bitterness of heart are a cancer. If one chooses to hold on to them - insisting that 'someone make this right with me' - is a dead end. The way out of that 'house of mirrors' is to ask God's Spirit to make you more interested in others than you are in yourself. I've never seen an others-oriented person who is lonely, or who is trapped in their anger. Jesus' love in us looks to bless and encourage others.
Q - How do we teach our kids to stretch/grow in Christ if they have a bad game at Upward FB and have a poor attitude instead?
Competitive kids need intentional coaching to truly understand, and feel, that their value is not measured by a scoreboard. Never is, never will be. Losing in a game - despite what our culture shouts - is not the worst thing in the world. Not even in the top 10. Proverbs has so much to kids about what is truly valuable in their lives - see 3:1-12. Great question...take the time to explore a child's feelings about losing, and to reshape them with what is really valuable.
Q - Does heaven/eternity look different for those who are born but 'fail to thrive' vs. those who accept their calling to grow?
Clearly, the gift of eternal life and one's assurance of entering heaven for eternity is conditioned on nothing else but simple trusting faith in Christ - that His sacrifice for sin satisfied God's just wrath, that His resurrection from the grave is God's assurance that the sacrifice was accepted and sufficient.
It is also clear -- beyond the gift of eternal life -- that growing and being fruitful as a disciple in the days and years of walking with God is to be both noted by our Lord and rewarded. 1 Corinthians 3 teaches that some "build on the foundation...with wood, hay, straw...and shall suffer loss" in the refining evaluation by the Lord of our walk and obedience to Him (2 Corinthians 5:9-10). While we don't know how 'ongoing' the rewards distinction will be in eternity, there will be an evaluation, there will be rewards. Those who are fruitful through their dependence on the Holy Spirit and their obedience, will hear the Lord's "well done." Others (it seems to me) will not.
Q - What's an acceptable level of treasures so to speak? We need to have shelter and transportation and clothes, but when do our treasures become too much?
As we noted on Sunday morning in the Q-A, this is a matter between the Lord's Spirit and our financial priorities as a committed disciple of Jesus. The consistent tenor of Jesus' teaching, and that of the NT letters to Christians, is that we should be content with what God provides for our life needs (and that includes a well-thought through savings plan - the Financial Peace class and teaching we offer underscores this).
The Biblical call is to be generous with God, and to do this without sounding trumpets or calling attention to ourselves. That anything we invest in Kingdom ministry and work is an eternal investment and will not fade away. Time in prayer, asking the Lord for His direction with His word near at hand, should bring you to the conclusion about these matters in a way that fits what Scripture teaches and fits your situation.
Q - What should our intentions be as we give? (worship, return from God, etc.)
The example of the churches (i.e., Christians) in the Macedonian region was one Paul points us to. Ready through 2 Corinthians 8-9 carefully, reflectively. How then would you answer your question?
Q - How do you not let spiritual growth become your god?
Growing spiritually, becoming more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ, is an excellent passion and objective. It fits with God's direct will for each of us (cf. Romans 8:28-30). It strikes me that you're wondering about it being "an obsession." Hebrews 12:1-3 is a great scripture to keep in mind. We keep our eyes on Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. We long for the Spirit of God to sanctify us, to help larger portions of our living to express the very person and life of Jesus.
Q - Do babies, who never did anything wrong, go to heaven, or children who die before they really had a chance to know God (i.e., kids with tumors, or even children who perish in the womb)? Did they ever even receive souls?
This is an important question. The short answer from the testimony of Scripture is "yes." By "yes" I mean (1) Scripture teaches that God grants personhood (i.e., an eternal, living soul) to the human being (even in the embryonic state) in the womb, (2) God's satisfaction with Christ's sacrifice for sin and condemnation in Adam covers those whose lives end prematurely or who at incapable of understanding the truths of the gospel and exercising personal faith (i.e., those mentally underdeveloped or challenged). Let me direct you to several helpful resources -- Jack Hayford I'LL HOLD YOU IN HEAVEN, John MacArthur SAFE IN THE ARMS OF GOD: WORDS FROM HEAVEN ABOUT THE DEATH OF A CHILD, Robert Lightner SAFE IN THE ARMS OF JESUS: GOD'S PROVISION FOR THE DEATH OF THOSE WHO CANNOT BELIEVE.
Thanks for asking, and reading! See you next week. Pastor David Staff