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The Halo Effect

Today’s message of January 22, 2017 from Melvin Gaines:

The previous U.S. Presidential election also provided many lessons about another type of information gathering much like a survey…polling.  For several weeks during the campaign, Donald Trump was losing big to Hillary Clinton (anywhere from 10 to 25 percentage points), but the end result of the election proved that the narrow margins in many key battleground states was much closer than the polling, and the reason for this is that many people voted in this election that (1) never voted in a presidential election in a long time, if ever, and (2) they would never, if asked to take a poll, participate in one to show any preference.  As a result, many previously trusted pollsters lost public trust, after the election, due to accusations that their results were far from accurate. Today’s methodology of poll sampling (telephone polling) is becoming more and more obsolete.

Here’s more polling data to consider.  Gallup put out a poll in 2014 that covered religious service (church) attendance by state.  In general, with a very solid sampling nationwide of over 177,000 adults and a confidence level of 95%, the statistics reported that of those surveyed, on average about 34% of those surveyed attended church at least once a week, and about 21% attended services ever other week or at least once a month. [1] On the surface, this isn’t great but it sounds like it’s OK, until you take into account a phenomenon within polling referred to as “the halo effect.” The halo effect is the difference or discrepancy between what you tell a pollster (which often involves leaving a positive impression of yourself) versus what you actually do.  What was found in a gathering of statistical data by two different groups covering church attendance and trends was that actual number of attendees each week is closer to 17.7 percent of the population. [2] Even Gallup Poll Editor in Chief Frank Newport had to acknowledge that poll numbers can be skewed by “the halo effect.”  Newport said that many people will say they regularly attend church when they really don’t attend every week; in fact, many people will stay home from church due to illness or readily sleep in. Of those who claim to go to church on a regular basis, some may show up less than 12 times a year, and pastors will often acknowledge that their inactive church membership is anywhere from 40 to 60 percent.

We live in a different day and time, and there are few places in the United States where churches are growing. They’re shrinking, and some are rapidly declining in attendance.

So what’s going on here?  It would be very easy to point the finger at the church itself for the decline in church attendance (some criticism is warranted); however, we also have to acknowledge that churches come in different sizes, shapes and colors. There is no such thing as a perfect fit for a church. If one doesn’t work, there should be an inclination to try another one that can be a better fit.  Perhaps the lack of church attendance is not all about the church, or the pastor or leadership, or even other members.  Perhaps the lack of church attendance lies solely with the person.

No one will deny that going to church every Sunday requires a regular routine, but wait a minute…maybe that’s not quite right.  If you love the Lord and recognize how much He has done for you, going to church is more than just a routine or even a duty…it would be your priority and even something to look forward to every Sunday!

When we look at what the purpose of a church is, we begin to understand where church attendance should be more of a priority.

Matthew 18:20 ESV

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

Acts 2:41-42 HCSB

So those who accepted his (Peter’s) message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.

Here in this verse is the takeaway that I hope you can see where some individuals will determine that church is either more or less important.  Peter, in speaking to the crowd, told them to repent and ask Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin (verse 38), and that they would be born again. The people who believed his message trusted him and accepted his message.  You will not devote yourself, or make yourself available for teaching or fellowship with others unless you begin to trust the message.  It is faith in the message that leads to acceptance.

Romans 10:17 ESV

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Acts 16:31 declares that you are to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

Romans 10:9-10, 13 HCSB

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Trust is the first step that leads to faith.  Faith means you accept and believe the message of Jesus Christ, and, as a result, you begin to see the value and benefits of church fellowship.  This is where you can associate the well-known expression, “Take a step of faith.”

The sad part of this is that people don’t readily trust what they are told. People have grown to be skeptical of others.  This skepticism, however, falls back on the listener.

How many people will sit in church for a period of days, weeks, months and years, and hear all kinds of information, and yet make the conscious decision to not believe? It is a lack of trust in the Word, and is ultimately just like not being in church at all.  A lack of trust is crippling, and for some, it can lead to spiritual death.  Church is not just fellowship with other people, or friends or other believers, it is also about fellowship with God.

1 John 1:5-10 HCSB

Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him. If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

If you don’t get anything else out of this, please, please don’t lie to yourself about your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Psalm 139:1-3 HCSB

LORD, You have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I stand up;

You understand my thoughts from far away.

You observe my travels and my rest;

You are aware of all my ways.

The halo effect may also be an issue when it comes to a person’s honesty when it comes to matters of faith. Very few people who you see in a church will share that they don’t have this faith thing all together.  It’s very personal. It’s a private matter.  While it is personal, and it is a private matter, but only God knows where you are with your faith, and He is the ultimate litmus test.

Jeremiah 17:10 HCSB

I, Yahweh, examine the mind,

I test the heart

to give to each according to his way,

according to what his actions deserve.

If you think you’ve got it all together in your relationship with Jesus Christ, you probably don’t.

Proverbs 16:1-2 HCSB

The reflections of the heart belong to man,

but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

All a man’s ways seem right to him,

but the Lord evaluates the motives.

We are reminded that we have nothing in salvation without the grace of God. Salvation is an undeserved gift from God through the mediator, Jesus Christ.  This alone is a reason to be grateful to God and give Him due praise and worship.

Ephesians 2:4-10 HCSB

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.  For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

We worship God publicly through our daily actions and activity, but we learn about worship within a church fellowship.  A bible-teaching church gives instruction and teaches you how to develop your own study habits to learn more about Christ.

We live in a different day and time, but that doesn’t mean that church is less important today. If anything, it is much more important because it is a place where you can develop your faith and build upon a healthy and intimate relationship in Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 10:24-25 HCSB

And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Colossians 3:12-17 HCSB

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

When it comes to your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, do you rely upon the halo effect, or will you humble yourself before God, trust in Him and allow yourself to be teachable and live in the richness of His presence?

True faith in Jesus Christ begins by just believing in Him.  All He desires for you is to “come and you will see” (John 1:39).

 

 

1 http://www.gallup.com/poll/181601/frequent-church-attendance-highest-utah-lowest-vermont.aspx

2 http://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

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Prayer: What Difference Does It Make? (First of a Series)

A summary of Asst. Pastor Travis Jackson’s message of October 16, 2016:

Just as much the Lord invites us to partake in the sacred sacraments—the Lord’s supper.  He says, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).  The blood and the bread is a foretaste of what we will experience in the next life.  And I hope we understand that the Lord’s supper is invitational.  Also keep in mind, Jesus did not allow his body to be broken and his blood to be shed for his own sake, but for ours.  Likewise, prayer is invitational and it is not for God’s sake, it is for ours.  God does not benefit from our prayers, he already knows what we will pray for and he commands us to pray.

So today I invite you to give careful thought about the reason why you pray. As humans, innately, have a need to pray to someone higher than ourselves.  Some people pray to false god’s. Some people pray to Buddha. Some Catholics pray to the virgin Mary.  Muslims pray to Allah. People who do not know the one true God of the Bible will continue pray to idols because praying is spiritual and psychological.

“One cannot be a Christian and not pray[1]  1 Thess. 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing.”  Eph. 6:18 says “Pray at all times in the Spirit.”  Paul said he prayed day and night to the Lord so that he can visit the Thessalonian church (1 Thess. 3:10).  In Matthew 5:44, Our Lord Jesus said, “Pray for those who persecute you.”

One pastor said, “Prayer is to the Christian what breath is to life, yet no duty of the Christian is so neglected.”[2]  As Christians, we know that we ought to pray but don’t really understand the purpose of prayer.  What do you think the purpose of prayer is?  Some Christians pray to God, believing that God will grant every request of theirs. This type of belief can be found in the health and wealth prosperity gospel. There are several reasons why we pray to God.  One of the main reasons is to communicate our deepest thoughts and emotions to him.  As we communicate our prayers to God, our prayers can manifest into different forms, like, crying out to him, making a complaint to him, and rejoicing in thanksgiving with him.

Again, praying is for our own sake, and the main thrust of praying is to have a relationship with him by communicating to him.  Please raise your hand if you are married or dating someone.  If your spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend stop talking to you for two months, how would you feel?  Would you question your relationship with that person?  Would you feel that your spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend, do not want to have a verbal intimate relationship with you?

This principle applies to our relationship with God.  How often do you communicate to Him?  How much time do you spend with God?  Are you listening to God’s voice when you pray?  If you are not praying to God, do you not think that he is questioning your relationship with him?

For some of us, our prayer life is like baby language because it is difficult to express our thoughts and emotions toward God.  Babies cannot intellectually communicate to adults, although, they can still express their thoughts and feelings in baby speech. We know when babies are happy, sad, upset.  Some people are more experience in praying than others; some people just don’t know how to pray.  For this reason, Jude, the Lord’s brother, commands us to “pray in the Holy Spirit,” according to Jude verse 20.  According to Romans 8:26, Scripture says, it is “the [Holy] Spirit who helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.”  In other words, it is okay if you do not have the right words to say to the Father, because the Holy Spirit understands what you are trying to express and, the Holy Spirit communicates inexpressible words to God on your behalf.  What matter is that you pray.

As an encouragement, please do not feel as if you have to have everything “spiritually right” before you pray.  That is to say, in order to pray, everything in our lives do not have to be just right before we can approach God in prayer.  All of us come to prayer with mix motives, selfishness, faithlessness, pride, and impurity (Foster. p. 23).  We can approach God just as we are, as long as we approach God with humility.  And he is able and willing to listen and answer our prayers, if it is according to his will.

Now, there are no instructions on how to pray, but there are postures of prayer. today, we will also discover three postures of prayer.  1. Simple prayer. 2. Prayer of Forsaken. And, 3. Prayer of Examine. As a disclaimer, these postures of prayer is coined by an author, Richard Foster.

What is simple prayer?  Simple prayer is approaching God just as we are, and God “accepts our prayers just as they are” (Foster. p.24).  It is being transparent to God by expressing your present feelings.  It is okay to pray to God when you feel disappointed, overwhelmed, discouraged, bitter, anxious, scared, excited, or angry. That is a good example of what simple prayer is.  Simple prayer focus on “our needs, our wants, our concerns” (Foster. p.24).   Simple prayer focuses on us.

Have you ever been upset at God?  For example, have you ever prayed in anger towards God like Jonah?  When Jonah prayed he questioned God’s motives.  Remember Jonah’s story.  Jonah fled from God when he was called to preached to the people of Nineveh. Eventually, God used a large fish to bring Jonah to the city of Nineveh.  After Jonah preached for forty days to the people of Nineveh, they repented. But the Ninevites responds greatly displeased and angered Johan, so Jonah prayed to the Lord.  Please turn to Jonah 4:1-4.  In Jonah 4:1-4 says,

And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore, now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

The Bible depicts us as adopted sons and daughters of God the Father.  Like all children, they approach their parents with mixed feelings we too can approach God with mix feelings.  There is no need for us to try to hide our feelings from God because he already knows our hearts.  One author said, “We should feel perfectly free to complain to God, or argue with God, or yell at God.  As you continue to pray like this your desire to converse and pray to God will increase. The point is this, when you pray to God it is okay to be frustrated, angry, happy, impatient.  It is okay complain to God.  It is okay to tell God that you feel abandon by him. Amen?

But I warn all of us, it is never okay to be disrespectful to God, nor is it okay to curse God.  There is nowhere in the Bible God responded well to those who cursed him.  After Satan struck Job with painful sores all over his body. Job’s wife said to Job, “Curse God and die.”  Now I am sympathetic to Job’s wife because she watched her husband deal with painful health problems and her seven sons and three daughters were murdered.  This help us to understand that she went through a traumatic events causing her to not be in a right state of mind.  She felt abandon from God.

This leads us to our next point: Prayer of Forsaken.  Prayer of forsaken is feeling deserted.  It is feeling abandoned; it is feeling as if you are in need of God because you were left in a hot dry desert to die.  Prayer of forsaken is seeking God’s face, and acknowledging that God will not answer you when you need him to.  God will remain silent, which gives the impression that he is absent from our lives. I remember two occasions I prayed to God and fasted seeking God’s guidance.  Out of those two occasions he only answered me once.  He was silent.

Have you ever felt forsaken?  Have you ever felt deserted, abandon and ditched?  All of us felt this way before.  I felt this way and sometimes I still do. Some of us is still feeling we were abandoned by our ex-husband, ex-wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, sisters, brothers, cousins, mother or father and God. For example, I did not grow with a good male role model this cause me to abandoned.

And, prayer of forsaken is not only feeling that you were deserted by others and God, but it also knowing that God allowed a devastating event to happen in your life.  It could have been a loss of a love one like, a child, a husband, a father or mother, a sister or brother.  It could have been loss of a job, a house; it could have been an emotional and physical abuse.

We know that we serve a good and gracious God.  But sometimes we have to ask, where is God?  Why God is allowing this to happen?  Why innocent people suffer?  Many people in the Bible have asked these questions and this is why they have prayed the prayer of forsaken?  I am sure Joseph questioned God in this manner when he was sold into slavery because his brothers betrayed by him.  Moses, David, Job, Isaiah and many more people questioned and complained to God.

Prayer of forsaken is crying out to God in any moment of disparity.  Jesus exemplified this before he went to the cross and when he was on the cross.  Before he went to the cross he said, “Father, if you are willing remove this cup from me” (Luke 22:42).  When he was on the cross he cried to God saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:42).  Jesus did not say those words because he did know that he was going to beaten, humiliated, and to be hung on a cross.  He knew those things would take place.  He said those words because, he is holy, and he knew he had to endure the sins of the world.  The Father and Son is inseparable; however, Jesus felt abandoned by the Father at the moment when endured my sins, your sins and the sins of the world.

Prayer of forsaken is found in many passages, like, Psalms 119:145 which says, “With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep your statutes.  I call to you; save me.”  Or like Psalms 88:1-3 O Lord, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to [the grave].”  A better example would be Job.  I believe that Job yell at God when he was distressed, under pressure and felt forsaken by God.  Job believe that God was cause of his of his troubles and that God was nowhere to be found. In Job 30:20-23 he said,

“I cry out to you for help, but you do not answer me; I stand up, and you turn your attention against me.  You have become cruel to me; With the might of your hand you persecute me.  You lift me up to the wind and cause me to ride; and you dissolve me in a storm.  For I know that you will bring me to death.”

When you are feeling this way tell God.  I encourage you to let him know how you feel, Job did.  However, even if you are feeling that you “do not understand what God is doing or even where God,” I also admonish you to believe that God is for always for your good.

Last point: prayer of examine.  Prayer of examine turns our prayer from being outward to inward.  This prayer our consciousness. It also helps us to think introspectively. It is an invitation to God to help us examine our hearts and to see the ugliness of our own sins. Psalms 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” Keep in mind, when we are examining ourselves in prayer, is it for God’s benefit?  No.  It is for ours.

Prayer of examine causes to remember our surroundings in another way.  All of us deal with rudely neighbors, unsanctified coworkers, challenging children.  Instead of complaining about our relationships with other people, we should examine their pain and suffering and their need for the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In other words, when your coworker or son or daughter is upset, being sarcastic towards you don’t look at them as an enemy, look at them how God looks at them.

Prayer of examine was done by David.  After David’s infidelity with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, who was adversely murdered by David.  David conducted a prayer of self-examination.  We find this prayer in Psalms 51.  Turn to Psalms 51, we will read verses 1-12.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.  Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.  Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Let us put in practice what we just learn by responding corporately.  I invite all of us pray these three postures of prayer.  I will afford us one minute of praying time to pray.  You can remain where you are.  I want us to tell God how we presently feel.  If you are feeling angry, sad, disappointed, happy, content, thankful, tell him.

Let us pray. Dear Jesus, how desperately I need to learn to pray. And yet when I am honest, I know that I often do not even want to pray. But I am so grateful for your invitation to enter your heart of love. As best I can I come in. Thank you for receiving me. —Amen.

[1] Sproul, R. C. (2009). Does Prayer Change Things? (Vol. 3, p. 2). Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing.

[2] Sproul, R. C. (2009). Does Prayer Change Things? (Vol. 3, p. 2). Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing.


A Fathers’ Day Message

Today’s message summary of June 19, 2016 from Pastor Gus Brown:

The task of being a father can sometimes seem to be unending. When will the kids leave? When will they take care of themselves? Upon reflection, it goes by very, very quickly.

Today, there have been fathers that have run from the responsibility because it is a heavy load to be a father; furthermore, a lot of fathers are not prepared to be a father. Fathers did not raise a lot of them.

The bible teaches how to be a father, but it is important for us to look at successful fathers and learn to live the way that they do. Our heavenly Father is an excellent example of that. He loves His children and cares for them.

We need to see more examples of fathers who know their Father.

The definition of a father should go beyond mere financial support. The courts are only concerned about this, but children need so much more…they need emotional support.

Children without fathers will grow up and experience emotional problems, and often they result in behavioral problems.

God has a plan for fathers. The question is whether or not fathers will work according to the plan that God has laid out for them.

Using the word FATHER as an acronym:

F – Father. The fathers are to know the Father. There should be a strong relationship between the two.

Deuteronomy 6:5

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7

These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Impress upon your children that the heavenly Father will guide them even when you are not present. They are to be obedient to God, and they should see your obedience and reverence of God, as well.

Psalm 127:4

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons born in one’s youth. Happy is the man who has filled his quiver with them. Such men will never be put to shame when they speak with their enemies at the city gate.

A – Advice. The child of a skilled father will follow his direction, take his advice and live in a capable manner.

Proverbs 4:1-2

Listen, my sons, to a father’s discipline, and pay attention so that you may gain understanding, for I am giving you good instruction. Don’t abandon my teaching.

If a father fails to teach his child, someone else will be teaching him something.

Ephesians 6:4

Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

A father affirms his children. He gives them recognition by simply saying, “you are mine.”

A child values a father’s affirmation. We value when God affirms us with His love and compassion for us. He does not measure us by how successful we are. We still are His.

Three things that are very important for a father to give to a child:

  1. Recognition.
  2. Acknowledgment (Acknowledge them in their accomplishments).
  3. Accepting him for who he is.

T – Teacher. Fathers are the teachers. They educate their children and impart knowledge and skills for life.

H – Hero. A father is the hero of his child. Every child needs a hero. He is a person who is highly revered (respected) for their courage (heart). A fathers is the reliable helper in the life of his child. He ministers to him and guides him, and helps him do what is right.

E – Encourager. A fathers is to be an encourager. He imparts strength and confidence to his child and gives him valuable support.

R – Readiness. A father brings about a state of readiness for his child. When this occurs, the child is ready to perform, and perform well.

A child is prepared by his father to be ready to perform in life, and this is important because life never asks if you are ready–it just comes at you. (People who are ill prepared and not ready tend to run away from life.) A father readies his child for life no matter what may come along.

Proverbs 22:6

Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Fathers are the caretakers of their children. Let’s be the best caretakers that we can be.


Change Comes from Acknowledging Truth

Today’s message summary from Pastor Gus Brown:

Are you ultimately in control of change in your life? The answer is no. It is not in your control at all. You will find that change happens whether you are ready for it or not.

You will not experience change by laws or by observing rules. Change comes about only by truth. The issue is whether or not one will accept truth. If you are not changing, who is keeping you from it? Are you improving? Are you better off? This is where truth comes in. Truth can bring about real change.

Why do people change? Change is undertaken when one wants to adapt to something different.

Why don’t people change? They do not see a need to do so. The conflict here is to recognize where change is needed.

What does it take to change? It requires looking at truth and the facts about your life.

When God claims “all have sinned,” it requires a person to either agree with the statement or just deny them. This requires being truthful to self.

Did you know that 80% of all fitness equipment is sold between December 15th and January 1st? Someone decided that he would make a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight and get fit; however, the equipment may wind up sitting idle after March of the next year.

There are 10 million procedures of cosmetic surgery each year.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to change.

Change is a lot of hard work. We need help from others. We must have the help and power of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Since you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, what has changed most in your life? What has not changed in your life that should have changed? What is keeping you from changing more in your life? Are you ready for change?

Are you willing to accept the changes that God wants to make in your life?

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

 

Isaiah 45:9

“Woe to the one who argues with his Maker—

one clay pot among many.

Does clay say to the one forming it,

‘What are you making?’

Or does your work say,

‘He has no hands’?

 

God will speak to each one of us about what needs to change. Obedience to God and His Word is the key to effective change.

Isaiah 64:8

Yet Lord, You are our Father;

we are the clay, and You are our potter;

we all are the work of Your hands.

 

God is our Heavenly Father. We are the true works of His hands by His grace.

Philippians 1:6

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

 

Psalm 119:99

I have more insight than all my teachers

because Your decrees are my meditation.

 

What is insight? It is the ability to see and understand clearly the inner nature of things. God will give you clear insight if you remain obedient to Him and stay in His Word.

What are decrees? They are statutes; a testimony that establishes a fact, affirmation or declaration. Decrees are unmovable. It establishes God’s testimony, and it will not change for you or for me.

John 8:32

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

If you acknowledge truth, it will bring you out of difficult situations and circumstances. Failure to acknowledge truth will keep you where you are, and often that’s not a great place. Satan will keep a person in their sin to a point where he is “just trying to survive.” God wants you to do more than just survive. He wants you to exchange lies for the truth and be set free under His Word. When the truth is before you, which way will you choose to go?

Romans 1:25

They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.

 

2 Thessalonians 2:10-11

10 and with every unrighteous deception among those who are perishing. They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth in order to be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a strong delusion so that they will believe what is false.

 

A believer must choose to emulate Jesus Christ or to allow the flesh to prevail. Satan will attempt to deceive a person to cause you to deny God and the truth. If Satan is allowed to prevail, it will separate a person from a healthy relationship with God. The unbeliever who refuses to acknowledge God’s truth will eventually be given over to one’s own desires, for God will never tolerate sin.

John 8:44

You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars.

 

Satan knew what truth was, but refused to acknowledge it. Change is all about accepting the truth.

Don’t make any excuses about not being able to change. If God reveals it you can do something about it. God is more than able and gracious. You need to believe it and hold onto it.

God must establish the change in one’s life. Knowing truth brings about this change. Truth is a reality that should no longer be denied or worked around. Running away from truth doesn’t change what it represents. Recognition of the need for change begins with being honest to yourself about needing it. God will graciously help you when you are ready to accept it and begin to follow His direction.

Ephesians 6:14

Stand, therefore,

with truth like a belt around your waist,

righteousness like armor on your chest.

 

Romans 3:4

Absolutely not! God must be true, even if everyone is a liar, as it is written:

That You may be justified in Your words

and triumph when You judge.

 

Paul had to be changed from being a self-righteous Pharisee to be conformed to a person who would serve Christ in a mighty way:

Romans 7:18, 24

18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.

 

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body?

 

Paul would never had said these words as a Pharisee unless God was dealing with Him personally. He had to humble himself and allow for God to work in his life. He knew the truth about himself and knew that he needed to change.

Change has to be substance–it has to be real, and you need to have the ability to endure it. Satan will challenge every change you want to make in your life.

John 10:10

A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

 

Ephesians 1:3, 14

3 Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.

 

14 He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.

 

Ephesians 5:6-10

6 Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for God’s wrath is coming on the disobedient because of these things. 7 Therefore, do not become their partners. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light— 9 for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth— 10 discerning what is pleasing to the Lord.


Fighting For Your Victory

Today’s message summary from Pastor Gus Brown:
When you are born again in Jesus Christ, you are to live your life in such a way that you are doing more than just surviving. You are to live as more than conquerors. To live any less is to be more of a victim than that of a conqueror. You can be a victim of sin or you can fight for the life that you have been given through the blood of Jesus.The plans that we make for our lives will require perseverance and dedication to accomplish them. Unless you don’t put plans in place for your life, you will have difficulty achieving them.Do you believe that you are trapped in the life that you are living? We must always remember that Satan is a thief and a deceiver.

2 Timothy 2:22-26
22 Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 But reject foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they breed quarrels. 24 The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, 25 instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth. 26 Then they may come to their senses and escape the Devil’s trap, having been captured by him to do his will.

Are you being entrapped and outwitted by the enemy?

2 Corinthians 2:10-11
10 If you forgive anyone, I do too. For what I have forgiven—if I have forgiven anything—it is for you in the presence of Christ. 11 I have done this so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. For we are not ignorant of his schemes.

People who are victims must learn to fight. We are not to live just to survive, but to fight and enjoy the victory that we already have.

Ephesians 6:12
For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5
3 For though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, 4 since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments 5 and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.

Do not sedate yourself with…

  • Lies claiming you are OK when you really aren’t OK. When you acknowledge the truth about yourself, you begin to grow in Christ.
  • False worldly counsel…especially those who rely on worldly wisdom rather than godly wisdom.
  • Music with the wrong message
  • False help from government authorities
  • Night clubs with wrong supports

1 Timothy 6:12
Fight the good fight for the faith;
take hold of eternal life
that you were called to
and have made a good confession about
in the presence of many witnesses.

To live unsuccessfully in Christ is a choice. You already have eternal life and are not of the world, but now take hold of what you already have–the victory in Christ–and live in such a way where it is evident to you and to others who see you. Take hold of eternal life.

John 10:10
A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

Remember that God calls you to a life of abundance and success once you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. You must possess the desire to win in order to realize that you are victorious.

1 Corinthians 9:22-27
22 To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. 23 Now I do all this because of the gospel, so I may become a partner in its benefits.

24 Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. 25 Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. 26 Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. 27 Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Run your race with the will to win. It takes a willingness to win. This will to win will help you move forward in life and the will to do what is right (Romans 7:16-25). Ultimately, you must possess the desire and the will to live the Christian life. We must not be fearful to the point where we cannot develop our relationship with Jesus Christ.

God gives us the ability to have everything we need to be successful in living for Christ.

Romans 8:32
He did not even spare His own Son
but offered Him up for us all;
how will He not also with Him grant us everything?

  • You work for it.
  • You learn to stretch for it.
  • You study for it.
  • You give up things for it.
  • You fight for it.

Success is not a given–it is planned out, but it also involves obedience to God’s Word.

Joshua 5:6-7
6 For the Israelites wandered in the wilderness 40 years until all the nation’s men of war who came out of Egypt had died off because they did not obey the LORD. So the LORD vowed never to let them see the land He had sworn to their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7 Joshua raised up their sons in their place; it was these he circumcised. They were still uncircumcised, since they had not been circumcised along the way.

Are you so busy living in your past that you are unable to live your future?

  • Nothing changes in your life unless you change
  • Your condition determines your conduct
  • Your thinking must change

To walk out of life’s prison demands living in obedience and responsibility.
Isaiah 43:18-19
18 “Do not remember the past events,
pay no attention to things of old.
19 Look, I am about to do something new;
even now it is coming. Do you not see it?
Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert.

1 John 5:1-5
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him. 2 This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands. 3 For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden, 4 because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. 5 And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?