Tag Archives: faith

Jesus is in Our Midst

Today’s message summary of June 11, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

It is important to note that God is the one who empowers and strengthens us.  He is in our midst with even only two of us let alone a small group (Matthew 18:20).

Jesus is in our midst, and with that realization, all fear disappears.  We want to see Him and hear from Him as we recognize His presence.

Believers gather together in the name of Jesus.  He promises that He never leaves us or forsakes us, and it is a promise for us now and in the future.

There has to be a reason for His presence.  He promises that He will be with those who desire to seek Him.  We may not physically see Him, but we believe He is present because of faith.

Jesus informed His disciples that He would not be with them much longer, but told them that He would always be with them to the end of the age.

He wants us to know that the prayer and actions of two people is more powerful than that of a thousand people, and He tells us that He is with us.

Matthew 18:20

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

Genesis 4:26

A son was born to Seth also, and he named him Enosh.  At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.

The heart of the believer has to come to a place to acknowledge His presence, and determine if he or she is in accord with God’s will.  If God is in the midst of what you are doing, He is going to speak to you, affirm you, guide you, and even correct you.

Among two people, you can have cooperation, but you can also have conflict and even destruction.  Even a small group can have trouble in accomplishing God’s will if there are differences within the group.

Malachi 3:16-18

At the time those who feared the Lord spoke to one another. The Lord took notice and listened. So a book of remembrance was written before him for those who feared the Lord and had high regard for his name. “They will be mine,” says the Lord of Armies, “my own possession on the day I am preparing. I will have compassion on them as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. So you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

Those who fear the Lord talk with each other. If the conversation look who is in the midst making corrections.

James 1:5

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask Godwho gives to all generously and ungrudginglyand it will be given to him.

With God in our midst, He will speak to us, and we need to train ourselves to listen to Him.

Wisdom is needed.  God is in the conversation.

Guidance is needed.  Jesus is there.

Understanding is needed.  Jesus is there.

1 Corinthians 14:33

…since God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

God is in the midst to bring about order and not to create disorder.  He provides guidance for order and proper function.

Proverbs 16:9

A person’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.

Planning is necessary, but God is the one who must affirm the plans.  We are to be sensitive to His wisdom and guidance through the process, including making changes when and where they should be made.  As we listen to Him and remain focused upon Him, He will make us shine in the process.

Psalm 37:33

The Lord will not leave him in the power of the wicked one or allow him to be condemned when he is judged.

Think of what Jesus means to you in your life.

The name of Jesus is a name of power and authority.  He is the one who will clean up your life and order your steps.

The name of Jesus represents the Godhead.  In that name, the fullness of the Godhead (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is present.  They are all present and all of them are there when we call upon His name.  He is there to protect you…His investment.

Colossians 1:9

For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.

Micah 5:4-5

He will stand and shepherd them in the strength of the Lord, in the majestic name of the Lord his God. They will live securely, for them his greatness will extend to the ends of the earth. He will be their peace. When Assyria invades our land, when it marches against our fortresses, we will raise against it seven shepherds, even eight leaders of men.

1 Peter 5:4

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

A group of servants within a church or organization may call a meeting, but it should be the desire of the group to have access to God.

We are to desire God’s presence, to hear His voice, and to receive His guidance. We want His favor and His peace.

No one gets to God’s presence without Jesus; therefore, we gather together in the name of Jesus.

Romans 5:1-2

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

John 14:6-7

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

When we come together, Jesus is with us, whether it is two people or a hundred people.

We can do whatever God has purposed for us to do (no matter the number of people).

Nehemiah learned this very lesson.  He succeeded in spite of a small group and opposition.

Faith says Jesus is with us, even though we don’t physically see Him.

He has promised to be with us.

He reveals that He is with us.

John 20:19-23

When it was evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Having said this, he showed them his hands and his side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Jesus is in the midst of us.  He is there, and we have to trust in it.  The promise to believers in Jesus Christ is that when you meet, He is there.

  • All authority and power is in His name (Matthew 28:18).
  • Every knee shall bow to His name (Philippians 2:10).
  • He has a claim to ownership of everything within the meeting (His Lordship).

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Dont you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.

Philippians 2:13

For it is God who is working in you both according to his good purpose.


Judas and His Heart

Today’s message summary of April 2, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

What was it that caused Judas to lose his heart for Jesus?

It is possible that Judas was originally drawn to Jesus because of his view of Him as the Jewish Messiah–believing in Him to be as such–and expecting Him to be successful as Judas would share in the victory of the Messiah?  In other words, he likely had the wrong view of Jesus.

John 6:15

Therefore, when Jesus knew that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.

This passage was disappointing to Judas because he was relying upon Jesus’ success in order for him to be able to realize his own ambition to be someone.

His second disappointment was when the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus for a sign.  The sign would seal Jesus’ claim as the true Messiah.  When Jesus was challenged, He did nothing to substantiate His claim to be the Messiah.

Matthew 16:1-4

The Pharisees and Sadducees approached, and as a test, asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them: “When evening comes you say, ‘It will be good weather because the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy because the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to read the appearance of the sky, but you can’t read the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then He left them and went away.

Luke 11:16

And others, as a test, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven.

Mark 8:11-12

The Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, demanding of Him a sign from heaven to test Him. But sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, “Why does this generation demand a sign? I assure you: No sign will be given to this generation!

Judas had struggles about who Jesus was throughout the period of ministry as he expected that Jesus would emerge as the Messiah, but it didn’t happen in the way that he expected that it would.  Jesus would not show a sign from Himself or from heaven.  Note that the Pharisees and Sadducees had already observed Jesus healing others, but that wasn’t sufficient for them.  They wanted to see a sign from heaven.

Are there any similarities in this view by Judas and how you may also have the same struggles with knowing Jesus?  It is not about merely knowing Jesus based upon what someone tells you, but rather that you get to know who Jesus is for yourself.  You have to develop a relationship with Him to get to know who he really is.

When Jesus backed away, Judas became more disenchanted with who Jesus was.

I also believe that today there are many people in Christian circles are also disenchanted with what they see today.

The challenge for everyone is to believe in Jesus Christ and be obedient to Him.  Judas lacked the ability to have faith and love in Jesus Christ.

How many of us are willing to dig deeply into His Word and to live in faith for Him in obedience.

Judas became more and more disenchanted in his heart.  His confidence in Jesus may have been adversely affected when John the Baptist was beheaded (Mark 6:24).  Jesus would not meet the public challenges of the Pharisees.

Two things that Jesus lacked:  faith and love.

He lacked the faith to believe what he had been taught and what he had already experienced with Jesus.

He lacked a love for the person of Jesus through the relationship that had been established for over two years.

At some point, Judas began to see Jesus differently than the other apostles saw Him.

1 John 2:19

They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.

With this, Jesus could only watch and see what Judas would do.

Part of our struggle with Judas was that he was born to be the traitor that he was.  If that was the case, Judas had no choice to do what he did.

If Judas was chosen merely to be a traitor, this would make God responsible for the betrayal.  If God is responsible for the betrayal, then Judas’ act would exonerate him from all blame.

From God’s point of view:  Because He is God, He knows all things.  Even the heart of each person, and the very intent of the hearts of each one.

John 2:24-25

Jesus, however, would not entrust Himself to them, since He knew them all and because He did not need anyone to testify about man; for He knew Himself what was in man.

Judas was given every opportunity to be true to Jesus in the same way as the other apostles.  Was he not empowered, along with the other apostles, to teach, heal and cast out demons? (Mark 3:14-17, 19)

Judas was chosen to learn and act for Jesus, but he chose to act for himself—a different way of living:

  • A life of a thief (John 12:4-6).
  • A person who was going to gain for himself (Matthew 26:14-16). (Satan had not entered into Judas at this time.)
  • The love of money was real in Judas’ heart (1 Timothy 6:16).

Judas did not speak with the motivation of the perfume being sold to help the poor (John 12:4-6).  He spoke only in selfish terms here.  This was another indicator of a series of bad decisions that he made.

Satan entered into Judas at the Last Supper (John 13:27).

John 13:27

After Judas ate the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Therefore Jesus told him, “What you’re doing, do quickly.”

Betrayal can come in many different forms.

1 Timothy 6:9-10

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

Judas reveals one can be knowledgeable of Jesus, associate with other believers, be in the church, and be in service for Jesus, but NOT have Jesus in their heart and Lord and Savior.


Your IMAGE, A PACT and Finding Your PASSION

Today’s message of January 29, 2017 from Melvin Gaines:

We have been spending time over the past few months in Sunday school studying the act of discipleship.  Discipleship involves the ability to communicate the gospel effectively to those who desire to learn more about a relationship with Jesus Christ, and also to be able to come alongside those who are believers in Jesus with encouragement, instruction and accountability.  Both of these actions are Spirit-driven through both your desire to serve Jesus and through the enabling and guiding power of the Holy Spirit.

Your ability to serve requires preparation, including preparatory study, and this involves the practice of living daily in God’s IMAGE.

Genesis 1:26-27 HCSB

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”

So God created man in His own image;

He created him in the image of God;

He created them male and female.

Being created in the likeness of God is a big deal! We are the highest honor of His creation, and we were created to be in the family of Jesus Christ, who is also in the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4):

Hebrews 1:1-3 HCSB

Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

With this in mind, living in His IMAGE is a great responsibility! To live in His IMAGE is to live in a Christlike manner according to His will, His purpose and His glory!

Romans 12:2 HCSB

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

1 Peter 2:15 ESV

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Romans 8:28-29 HCSB

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.

Galatians 3:26 ESV

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

The word “IMAGE” is an acronym of the characteristics of a believer of Jesus Christ living a Christlike existence:

  • The letter “I” is to investigate Scripture, which is more than just reading the bible. It’s digging deep into the Word.
  • The letter “M” is to meditate on His Word in prayer.
  • The letter “A” is to act on His word in consistency and with obedience.
  • The letter “G” is to grow in your faith and mature as the Holy Spirit continues to impart wisdom and knowledge along with your life experiences.
  • The letter “E” is to endure life’s moments and shine before others to glorify God.

Another aspect of growing as an effective disciple for Jesus Christ incorporates this past year’s introduction of effective decision-making as a believer.  It involves making a PACT with Jesus Christ.  It is a commitment to make the best life choices in obedience to honor God and cherish His Word.

The word “PACT” is an acronym for how to be an effective decision-maker as you live for Jesus Christ:

  • The letter “P” is for prayer (Philippians 4:6-7).
  • The letter “A” is to ask God for wisdom within your decision-making (Matthew 7:7-8).
  • The letter “C” is to consult others who can offer their own good advice or wisdom to you before you make decisions. God puts people in your life for this very purpose.
  • The letter “T” is to trust in Jesus to provide you with the best advice as you make your decisions.

Making the right decisions in life will help you to remain consistently obedient to Jesus Christ, and in this process, the Spirit will help you to conform to living as Jesus desires for you to live.  It helps you to go beyond what only the world, or even the flesh, offers.

Matthew 5:43-48 HCSB

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

These principles are all reinforced with Scripture, and the effort of preparation makes for better practitioners as servants of Jesus Christ.  He provides us with the Holy Spirit to give us the energy and effort that we need to be successful.

Your preparation is very, very important in the process of growth and development in your relationship with Jesus Christ.  In the same way that an athlete has to undergo training in order to participate at a high level in a sport, and just as we need to have a healthy diet and exercise to take care of our own bodies, we must prepare to serve Christ in order to be at our best.  But there is also another important reason why we prepare to be effective practitioners of discipleship…the ongoing preparation should also provide you with a greater insight into the character of God and an even greater desire, as you learn more about Him, to serve Him in everything that you do.

Philippians 4:13 NKJV

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Serving Jesus Christ is not a hobby.  It is a full-time endeavor.

Serving Jesus Christ is a fulfillment of your participation in His Great Commission.

Serving Jesus Christ is an expression of your love for Him and your desire to bring everything you learn about Him into everything that you do.

Your preparation of participation in ministry for Christ should be an ongoing process that reveals to you how you are capable of serving Him.  There is much to learn about Him, and you will find that there is much to learn about yourself, too.  As you get to know more about Jesus Christ, the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit molds and shapes you into a better “you” in Christ.  It is as this occurs that you get to know more of who you really are in Christ.  This is much better than who you are in the flesh, or who you thought you were before and ever after you accepted Christ as your personal Savior.  It is the Spirit’s sanctifying power that reveals His wisdom and knowledge about yourself and who you are in Christ.

Until you learn who you are in Jesus Christ, you will always be searching for something.  But once you learn who you are, you will find your purpose in Jesus Christ.  You will be compelled to live openly and actively for Christ.  You will find your passion in Jesus Christ.

For those listening that are still uncertain about all of this devotion over Jesus Christ, it is important for you to know and understand that Jesus Christ lived on this earth and gave His life for you.  He paid the ultimate price to sacrifice Himself because He loved you.  He demonstrated, through His death on the cross, that He loves you.  He showed that He is passionate about you.

John 3:16-17 ESV

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

So what this is all about is how you, in learning more about Jesus Christ, recognize the passion of living for Jesus Christ that He has for you.

Galatians 2:20 ESV

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, which is your spiritual worship.

What are you passionate about?  What do you really, really care about?

If you are seeking Jesus Christ, you will eventually learn what you are passionate about. You will find that there are things that you like to do, and things that you like to do more than other things, but following Christ will reveal your passion for Christ.

Your passion is rooted by your gifts.  Your gifts consist of your God-given gifted talents and your spiritual gifts if you have declared Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Let’s be clear about something here…you can have all kinds of God-given talent and even spiritual gifts and still not realize your passion.  You have to use these talents and gifts with the understanding that God has given them to you, and that you want to serve Him with all of your heart and soul.  Only then will you get this passion thing down pat.

Without this passion, you’re not really living your life in the way that God would like to see you live it.  Sure, you’re doing more than existing, but not much more than that.  There are people that you love and care for, help and give of yourself, and you can even go your entire life in church serving others; however, you can still be unsatisfied with the direction of your life.  Ask yourself this question:  How can I live the abundant life that God promises for me?

John 10:10 HCSB

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.

You can live the abundant life with passion by “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

You can live the abundant life with passion by “presenting yourself as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).

You can live the abundant life of passion by humbling yourself before God and allowing yourself to be teachable.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 ESV

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

If you make the effort to seek God, He will affirm your efforts.  Sometimes the blessings come when you take the steps to live for Him.

Living in His IMAGE, making a PACT with Jesus, and discovering passion as you live out your life purpose.  There can be nothing more fulfilling than when you learn your passion as you live for Jesus Christ.

In this new year, make it a personal commitment to discover your passion.  Jesus Christ wants to see you live the abundant life!

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines


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


A Ministry of Presence

A message of November 20, 2016 from Melvin Gaines:

My journey to grow further in my personal relationship in Jesus Christ began in earnest just over three years ago when I searched for colleges in pursuit of a Master’s Degree. Once I discovered what I believe is my purpose in the kingdom for Jesus Christ, it has been my desire to pursue what I believed would be the best course for my life.

I was thrilled to share my thoughts with my lovely wife three years ago. She admittedly looked at me with concern about this pursuit. She knew what such a commitment meant, and that there would be moments where I would be in seclusion. It would be tough for me, and sometimes it would be tough for the both of us. The schedule meant that I would be giving up Saturdays for many weeks, and two of our annual vacations in February involved me writing papers for classes. After it was all done this year, I was very, very happy to finish. I never doubted that I would finish, but I also note that it was just the beginning for me.

Once you make a commitment to some sort of ministry, you make a commitment to live your life in service for Jesus Christ. This commitment to Christ is a serious, life-changing step, and when you know what that means, you go after it with gusto.

My next life-growth step involves my study for a unit of clinical pastoral education, which is basically learning how to become a chaplain. There is a lot that I am learning about the profession, and in turn, there is a lot that I am learning about myself. It is not a coincidence, by the way, that we are studying personal spiritual growth in Sunday school each week. Once you learn your purpose, the Holy Spirit will enable you and also pave the way for you to be the best person that you can be in service for Jesus Christ.

In order to be the best person you can be for Jesus Christ, there are some things that are understood for the dedicated believer…faith and trust in Christ, obedience to His Word, and dedication to live a consistent life for Him.

  • Faith and trust

Hebrews 11:6 HCSB

Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 HCSB

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.

  • Obedience

Joshua 1:8-9 ESV

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13 HCSB

When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity.

  • A life of consistency

1 Corinthians 15:58 HCSB

Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Galatians 6:9 HCSB

So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.

Being the best person for Jesus Christ means looking at these verses and all of Scripture to learn what it is to be a model citizen.  It is your active ministry within both the body of Christ and in your daily travels as a light for Jesus Christ in the world.

Our focus today is on ministry and the development of relationships.  Discipleship, or one-on-one instruction, mentoring and accountability has a starting point, and it involves making and building relationships with others.

You can’t develop a relationship with someone by merely sending a friend request on Facebook.  You can’t do it by using Snap or taking selfies on Instagram.  A real relationship starts and continues with a physical presence—one-on-one.  It is what we will refer to today as a ministry of presence.

Consider how a person, such as a shut-in, or a person who doesn’t receive a lot of company, feels when someone comes by to see how things are going.  It shows your care and concern for a person just by showing up.  Ministry begins when you step out of your zone and reach out to others.  Look at how much you appreciate God’s presence in your life:

Psalm 16:11 ESV

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

In a ministry of presence, there are five “BE” statements that apply in relationship development:

  1. Be approachable

Approachability is important in that it defines you as a distinct child of God and as a light in the world.

Matthew 5:14-16 HCSB

“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

  1. Be available

Showing yourself as available means that there is nothing that is hindering a visit or your conversation.  You show yourself as genuine when you give your undivided attention to the person.

Jesus wants you to be available to minister to others.  It has nothing to do with your timing or your convenience.  You may live in the Eastern time zone and set your watch accordingly, but effective ministry is calibrated on God’s timing.

Isaiah 6:8 KJV

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

  1. Be patient

This follows being available. There are times when a person that is sharing with you needs to share to get something out or get it off of their chest. There may be a buildup of anger or frustration that needs to come out, and it may take some time.  When you are ministering to someone, it would be rude to put the other person on a time limit or give signals that they are running out of time.  When these moments occur, please consider how patient the Lord has been with you.

Ephesians 4:1-3 HCSB

Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.

James 1:19 ESV

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

  1. Be loving

If you look around, it’s hard at times to find love in the world. If it is so hard for us to see it, then it is up to us to provide it.  Be loving to those who you minister to.

Matthew 22:36-40 ESV

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

1 Corinthians 13:4a

Love is patient and kind.

  1. Just be

This is in line with your act of love.  A ministry of presence means that you should “just be.”  Sometimes the best thing that you can do in ministry is to just listen…just listen to what the other person is saying.  Hearts may be broken and hurts may need to be expressed.  Your words, in response, may be unnecessary or inadequate depending upon the moment.  Being a presence involves care, comfort, and helping someone to see that he or she is not alone.  Just be who you are.

A ministry of presence involves these five “BE” statements:

Be approachable.

Be available.

Be patient.

Be loving.

Just be.

This can be the jump start for your ministry.  Even if you don’t know all of the answers or you’re still learning in your own relationship with Jesus Christ, you can do all of these things as you learn more about serving Him in discipleship.  It means coming out of your comfort zone in faith, obedience and living with consistency for Jesus Christ.  You can do it.

Jesus Christ wants you to live and love others with a ministry of presence.

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines


Learning to Be Successful

A message of November 13, 2016 from Pastor Gus Brown:

Learning to be successful within a family unit is not something that automatically takes place or happens.  You have to plan on it and work at it.  It is more than just living for survival.  You need to have the determination to get back up when you fall down, and to continue to work at it.  Success in this area takes work.

Being successful requires two elements:  Obedience and Doing

Many of us know what to do when it comes to what is right; however, to choose to do the wrong thing is sin.

James 4:17

So it is a sin for the person who knows to do what is good and doesn’t do it.

 

James 2:22-23

You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected. So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.

 

James 4:4

Adulteresses! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.

 

Isaiah 28:10-13

For he says: “Law after law, law after law, line after line, line after line, a little here, a little there.” So He will speak to this people with stammering speech and in a foreign language. He had said to them: “This is the place of rest, let the weary rest; this is the place of repose.” But they would not listen. Then the word of the Lord came to them: “Law after law, law after law, line after line, a little here, a little there,” so they go stumbling backward, to be broken, trapped, and captured.

 

God’s Word is to have you grow and make progress, and if you choose not to, you are subject to falling backwards or being stuck.

Winning (success) does not come easy.  That’s why the Lord talks about endurance.  You need to endure hardships in order to experience victory.

God is looking more at your being (a follower of Christ, being in Christ) than your doing.

You can do things without being in Christ, but your being in Christ causes you to do things that matter for Christ.

John 15:1-5

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.

 

No one can bear fruits (of the Spirit) without Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:22-23).

There are three areas that need to be done to help build up a family:

  • Teach children to strive for knowledge.
  • Help the children understand their physical makeup (for the sake of awareness…”you are unique, and God made you the person that He wants you to me”). Out of this comes a high self-esteem.
  • Re-productivity of the child (sexuality)–when is it appropriate and how it is to be controlled.

It is better to grow healthy children into healthy adults than it is to repair adult men and women later in life.

The purpose is to build a family that will go through life undefeated.  Life is a boxing match, and you’re going to get knocked down.  It is all about getting back up.

When you get back up, it is important to get back into life with a purpose. If you lose your purpose, you lose your drive and momentum.

You have to care enough about yourself that you are the gatekeeper of your life.

Acts 4:13

When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.

 

The foundation for a successful family is one who looks at life from God’s point of view…not by one’s emotions or feelings.  Keeping your eyes on Jesus…

Hebrews 12:2

…keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.

 

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

 

A man, in his own ways, sees himself as right, but a wise person will evaluate how he sees himself with God’s Word, and the one following Christ will make the appropriate adjustments or corrections.

Psalm 119:59

I thought about my ways and turned my steps back to Your decrees.


Be Filled (Part 5) – A Spirit-Filled Church

Today’s message of August 21, 2016 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

If you consider church planting, there are several things that can be considered.  Some leadership teams in this effort focus on only outreach to the unsaved.  Another church model is the teaching model, which focuses on doctrine.  Another model is that of discipleship.  All of these are good, but a better church model as derived from the text in Acts Chapter 2, which would be the model for a Spirit-filled church.

There are at least eight markers of a Spirit-filled church:

Preaching of the gospel
Devotion to God’s Word
Intentional fellowship
Prayer
Godly fear
Commonality
Corporate worship
Praising God

Acts 2:37-47 ESV

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them,“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The preaching of the gospel is the most important marker for any church plant or any church ministry.  A Spirit-filled church must go to the cross of Jesus Christ.  Everything rests upon the gospel.  A church that is not preaching the gospel is an apostate church.

Galatians 1:6-9 ESV

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
How do you identify the church that preaches the gospel?  By the preaching of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Martin Luther and John Calvin challenged the Catholic Church on the doctrine of faith and grace.  It is faith and grace that saves, and not works.  Jesus Christ is the mediator between God and man, and not the pope.  The reformers fought the Catholic Church with their very lives, because they deemed it to be paramount over everything.

Acts 2:16-25

16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
    before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus,[b] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
    for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;

The reformers noted what Peter was preaching, and that his audiences were cut to the heart by the Holy Spirit and needed to reckon with the judgment of God.  Only the power of the gospel can do this.

Five Solas:
Sola Scriptura (scripture alone)
Sola Fide (faith alone)
Sola Gratia (grace alone)
Sola Christus (Christ alone)
Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone)

The gospel not only convicts but helps people take personal responsibility by placing trust in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  Living a lifestyle of repentance is the result.

The gospel message is simple, and all that is required is belief by faith in Jesus Christ.

Being devoted to God’s Word (Acts 2:42)

The explicit meaning is for the desire of all who hear the gospel to study His Word.  The implicit meaning of v. 42 was the result of 3,000 people coming to know Jesus Christ.

The gospel is preached–people hear it and accept Christ–then make disciples within the group.

Acts 17:10-12

10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.

Psalm 119:1-7

1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
    who walk in the law of the Lord!
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
    who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
    but walk in his ways!
You have commanded your precepts
    to be kept diligently.
Oh that my ways may be steadfast
    in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame,
    having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
I will praise you with an upright heart,
    when I learn your righteous rules.

“There is no such thing as a Spirit-filled Christian who neglects the study of the Word of God.  There is no such thing as a Spirit-filled church that does not give itself continually and steadfastly to the study of sacred Scripture. The first sign of a Spirit-filled church is one in which the Spirit-filled people do not flee from Scripture and seek a substitute for it but are driven to it to have their spiritual lives rooted and grounded in the Word of God.”  –R C Sproul

Intentional fellowship uplifts the group of believers.  Church fellowship is good, but intentional fellowship is encouraged throughout the week.  It is necessary to encourage and admonish one another.

Prayer, the fourth marker of a Spirt-filled church, is very important.  We are to pray for one another.

Colossians 4:2-6

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Prayer reveals the ways in which the gospel can go forth through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Godly fear (Acts 2:43)

Acts 5:1-11

1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.
The word “awe” means “fear.”  The young church witnessed many miraculous things through the apostles, and they would revere God even more.  A church that is not fearing God is in a dangerous place.  There must be a reverence of God in order for people to remain obedient to Him.

Acts 5:12-13

12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.
The people understood what they had seen, and they had great reverence for God and His Word.

Commonality (v. 44)

The Word of God tells the Spirit-filled church to be of one mind and one accord.  The Holy Spirit showed the people what they were to do and did so accordingly.

This is important because (1) the church should be its own financial institution (not the government), and (2) it is to provide for the poor and less fortunate–their own members and members of the community.

Many who were widows and were poor and destitute, and it created the opportunity for a number of leaders within the church to serve those needed meals (one of these leaders over the food ministry in the early church was Stephen).

The opposite of commonality is that where there is separation:

Galatians 2:11-14

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Corporate worship (Acts 2:46-47)

Public worship is collectively being together in one place.  Paul planted a church and allowed leaders to be the governing board, and the process is repeated for every plant.  A multi-site church fulfills this requirement.

Praising God is an act of a Spirit-filled church

Acts 2:42

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.