Tag Archives: learn

Salvation and the Church: The Apostles Were a Mixed Up Group

Today’s message summary of November 12, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

Church is a place where we learn how to live for Jesus Christ.  It counters how people have learned to live according to the world’s standards.

A person will truly change not just because someone tells him to change.  The true change will come with the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit in that person’s life.

In understanding the word “apostle,” one first has to note that the word was never found in the Old Testament.  It was only presented when Jesus used the word.  It was a word used at sea concerning the ships that first went out.  The ships were “sent out” before the rest of the fleet.  Jesus applied this term to people.  If you take the example of the apostles, Jesus sent them out before the church even comes into existence.  He sent them out beforehand with a message.

Of the people that Jesus chose to be apostles, they were a mixed up group of people!

All but one of the disciples were from Galilee, which turned out to be a hotbed of activity and rebellion against the Romans.  Nazareth was within Galilee, where it was spoken, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46a)

There was a controversy with Jewish authority (a religious group).  Jesus was concerned about what was being taught within these groups.

The apostles witnessed miracles–things that no other person could do.  They may not have completely understood what they were seeing, but yet they witnessed them.  The miracles said something about Jesus, and that He was different from everyone else.

The apostles received private instruction–it was time alone with Jesus.

The apostles witnessed His resurrection.  They saw Him in His new body.

They were able to see things that no one else had seen.  In all of this, they could not even begin to explain all that they had witnessed to others.

Remember that Jesus was involved in two major ministries at that time (in the same way that today’s church is involved with these ministries today):

  1. Calling and training the twelve. (While there was emphasis on the twelve, there was other teaching and instruction that was taking place.)
  2. Healing and teaching in the community. (Jesus spoke to crowds of people and provided valuable wisdom and knowledge.)

The condition of our very society should be a flashpoint as to how the church is to respond, as the church is indeed the light for a dark world.

The church is to train people within its walls to be able to go out and execute Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), and that is to make disciples of other people–to win people to Jesus Christ and to bolster up and encourage other believers.

The apostles become Jesus’ traveling companions.

The disciples are those who receive Jesus’ teaching and even the direction of the apostles.

The community receives the teachings, and members of the community also go out in an effort to reach others.

Luke 10:1, 17

After this, the Lord appointed 70 others, and He sent them ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place where He Himself was about to go.

The Seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name.”

The apostles were godly men who showed their sincerity by following Jesus; yet at the time of their calling, they were ignorant, narrow-minded, superstitious, and full of Jewish prejudices and misconceptions.

And yet, God calls these men.  They soon learn that Jesus taught them differently from what they had heard in the past.  Even though they were considered godly men, it was Jesus’ words that gave them the ability to look at their own hearts and minds.

The apostles were aware of their own Jewish traditions, but lacked understanding as to their true meaning and application.  They also had prejudice (Jews verses Gentiles, Samaritans) and superstition (ghosts).  This is a lot like many of us today.  Many people have ongoing misconceptions about what the church represents.

The apostles has much to unlearn of what was bad.

They had much to learn of what was good.

There were old beliefs that were incorrect that needed to be challenged in order to make room for new beliefs to be recognized and understood.

The greater number of disciples (70) were occasional followers.  The (12) apostles would be with Him most of the time.  They would become His traveling companions and His real ministry companions.  He was teaching them in order to be able to send them into the world.

Mark 3:13-15

Then He went up the mountain and summoned those He wanted, and they came to Him.  He also appointed 12He also named them apostlesto be with Him, to send them out to preach, and to have authority to drive out demons.

Matthew 13:36

Then He dismissed the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached Him and said, “Explain the parable of the weeds in the field to us.”

Matthew 6:5

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by the people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!”

Luke 11:1

He was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples.”

Godly men need to learn how to pray.

Matthew 5:1-2

When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.  Then He began to teach them…

Jesus is still teaching today if you find the time to be with Him.

Are you willing to learn?  Ask Him to teach you.

Do you desire to know more?  Ask Him for more.

Look at these men who Jesus selected (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16)

  • Peter and Andrew were brothers (John 1:40-41; Matthew 4:18)
  • James and John were brothers who left their father (Matthew 4:21)
  • Matthew was a government tax collector
  • Thaddeus was known by three different names, including Jude
  • ..a zealot…a killer and hater of Romans
  • Judas was a deceiver and a thief
  • James, son of Alpheus, brother of Matthew
  • ..one who learns, spoke Greek
  • ..also known as Nathanael; was skeptical (John 1:45-49)
  • ..a doubter; was unsure (John 20:27)

Some of the brothers were bidding for a position within their role as apostles (who sits on the right hand of God or the left).  This mixed up group of people had to learn from Jesus what was really important.

John 13:34-35

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.  By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 8:31-32

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples.  You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus can take anyone, regardless of their past, and transform a person to become a faithful servant of God.  Jesus just wants you to come.

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Church and Salvation: Reaching Outward

Today’s message summary of October 8, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

Church and salvation goes with evangelism, which is reaching out to other people.  It is to be understood, then, that one who wants to evangelize must be willing to “go.”

You will only practice what you truly believe.  If you don’t believe that there is a world of people who are lost, you won’t go out and speak with them about the gospel.

If we, as a church, are to be taken seriously of our desire to reach people for Jesus, it must begin by being believable first to ourselves, and then to others.  Next, we must ask how successful have we been in teaching the Bible to adults in such a way that they believe the Word of God to be true–to the extent that it influences behavior.

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.

Matthew 28:19-20

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The Lord told us not to “go” and save people, but to go and teach others.  You are taking a journey.  In the journey, you will discover what God is doing for you.  In the going, the teaching will make disciples of other.  The teaching is beneficial for the teacher, as well, in being a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Being a disciple is like being an apprentice.  All apprentices have to have a master teacher.  All learning takes place upon receiving instruction from the one who is leading you.

You have to be willing to “go.”  There’s no specific direction that you are being given, but you at least need to go and step out into areas where you have never been before.  Either way, you can’t be obedient to God by just “staying put” (John 20:19, 26).

You are, as a servant of Christ, both a priest and a teacher.  You are being equipped by the Holy Spirit to learn and be able to serve Him in these ways.

A new believer in Jesus Christ must prepare to serve Him.  He is not ready to teach immediately.  He has to learn what it is to serve and minister to others.  Over time, he can share his experiences with others in giving instruction.

Mark 16:14-17

Later, He appeared to the Eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table. He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who saw Him after He had been resurrected. Then He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Acts 1:3-5

After He had suffered, He also presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While He was together with them, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “This,” He said, “is what you heard from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

You can’t do anything in the flesh that will bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ, but when you go in the power of the Holy Spirit and speak the gospel, the name of Christ will be proclaimed, and that is whether the hearers of the Word choose to respond or not.

The “go” indicates a willingness to go.

John 3:17

For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

Luke 5:27-32

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So, leaving everything behind, he got up and began to follow Him. Then Levi hosted a grand banquet for Him at his house. Now there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others who were guests with them. But the Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to His disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus replied to them, “The healthy don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

In His going, Jesus met Matthew.

  • He went out and saw a tax collector (see the tense of the word “went” from “go”).
  • Matthew saw Jesus as being observant–giving careful attention.
  • Levi had a banquet for Jesus and invited his friends (Jesus’ disciples were also there. They were learning by observing Jesus’ behavior).
  • The Pharisees saw them as sinners.
  • Jesus is not blind or ignorant of their lives. He knew the depravity of their lives (immoral people).

What did Jesus do?

  • He loved and welcomed them into His life.
  • He offered them a refuge–a safe place.
  • Jesus is going after the real person–the one that was hidden behind the tax collector and sinner (the word used by the Pharisees).
  • Jesus is going after that person who is fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God (Psalm 139:14).

The people of the church are to look at people in this same way.  To see people in the world, beneath their facades and protection, and help them to see Jesus Christ.

How many of you are studying the needs of your community?  You want to understand the community’s basic human needs, and how the details of their lives correlate into their lifestyle.

To serve, we must open our eyes to the people around us and know their needs. Think about what is important to them and how might the message of Jesus intersect with their needs.

Our community is a target for service.

The word “target,” according to Webster’s Dictionary, refers to one or a group who are to be changed or influenced by action or an event; therefore, we target our community to manage the perception of a person or group (1 Corinthians 9:20-22).  Paul is saying that all people will not see things in the same manner.  We, as a church, are the ones who change first, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in order to bring about change.


The Church and its Priesthood (Part 6)

Today’s message summary of September 24, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

What is it to be a saint of God?  A saint is one who is consecrated to do the work of God.  It is to be an adopted son or daughter of God.  This, along with the title of being a priest of God, are all descriptive of people who are followers of Christ.  These are all names, but each one of them means something.  As a saint, you are to live in holiness.  As an ambassador, you are to proclaim Christ wherever you go.  You should know the reason and the purpose behind these names.  As a priest, you are a servant of God.  You are part of a royal priesthood before God in your service to Him.  With this representation comes responsibility.

You are someone that God chose to represent Him and to live for Him.  God is not here to serve us; instead, we are to serve Him.

The Levite, in service for God, had to make sacrifices in order to serve Him appropriately.  God has to be first in your life.  In order to be a priest, there cannot be anything that gets in the way of your dedicated service for Him.

In picking up where we left off before, we were discussing the importance of sound teaching.  Teachers are important.  We need to be mindful of the fact that Satan also teaches, as well.  He teaches others those things that are contrary to the ways of God.  He desires to get people off course in the service of God.  He will divide people and cause derision.

Exodus 17:7

He named the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites complained, and because they tested the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us or not?

Psalm 95:7b-9

Today, if you hear his voice: Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in the wilderness where your fathers tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did.

The word of God is more important than any family relationship, and it may even divide family members.  When you want to draw near to Christ, someone may try to pull you away from Him.

The focus must be to remain of God, His covenant and to serve His people, just as the Levites were to do.

Deuteronomy 33:8-11

He said about Levi:

Your Thummim and Urim belong to your faithful one;

you tested him at Massah

and contended with him at the Waters of Meribah.

He said about his father and mother,

I do not regard them.

He disregarded his brothers

and didnt acknowledge his sons,

for they kept your word

and maintained your covenant.

They will teach your ordinances to Jacob

and your instruction to Israel;

they will set incense before you

and whole burnt offerings on your altar.

Lord, bless his possessions,

and accept the work of his hands.

Break the back of his adversaries and enemies,

so that they cannot rise again.

 

Hebrews 3:7-10a

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works for 40 years.

The character of a priest of God is something that requires time and building of one’s character.  Teachers must instill the principles to build the person up.  The teacher must take their role very seriously.  He is to teach God’s precepts and standards, and not his own way of thinking.

Romans 2:17-29

Now if you call yourself a Jew, and rely on the law, and boast in God, and know his will, and approve the things that are superior, being instructed from the law, and if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light to those in darkness, an instructor of the ignorant, a teacher of the immature, having the embodiment of knowledge and truth in the lawyou then, who teach another, dont you teach yourself? You who preach, You must not steal”—do you steal? You who say, You must not commit adultery”—do you commit adultery? You who detest idols, do you rob their temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?  For, as it is written: The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.

Circumcision benefits you if you observe the law, but if you are a lawbreaker, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.  So if an uncircumcised man keeps the laws requirements, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?  A man who is physically uncircumcised, but who keeps the law, will judge you who are a lawbreaker in spite of having the letter of the law and circumcision.  For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and true circumcision is not something visible in the flesh.  On the contrary, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heartby the Spirit, not the letter. That persons praise is not from people but from God.

In order to be an effective teacher, the student must have the desire to learn.

Additional characteristics of the character of a priest:

Ezra 7:5-28

Abishuas son, Phinehass son,

Eleazars son, the chief priest Aarons son

came up from Babylon. He was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he requested because the hand of the Lord his God was on him.  Some of the Israelites, priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, and temple servants accompanied him to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes.

Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, during the seventh year of the king. He began the journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month and arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month since the gracious hand of his God was on him.  Now Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the Lord, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel.

This is the text of the letter King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest and scribe, an expert in matters of the Lords commands and statutes for Israel:

Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, an expert in the law of the God of the heavens:

Greetings.

I issue a decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including their priests and Levites, who want to go to Jerusalem, may go with you.  You are sent by the king and his seven counselors to evaluate Judah and Jerusalem according to the law of your God, which is in your possession.  You are also to bring the silver and gold the king and his counselors have willingly given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, and all the silver and gold you receive throughout the province of Babylon, together with the freewill offerings given by the people and the priests to the house of their God in Jerusalem.  Then you are to be diligent to buy with this money bulls, rams, and lambs, along with their grain and drink offerings, and offer them on the altar at the house of your God in Jerusalem.  You may do whatever seems best to you and your brothers with the rest of the silver and gold, according to the will of your God.  Deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the articles given to you for the service of the house of your God.  You may use the royal treasury[c] to pay for anything else needed for the house of your God.

I, King Artaxerxes, issue a decree to all the treasurers in the region west of the Euphrates River:

Whatever Ezra the priest, an expert in the law of the God of the heavens, asks of you must be provided in full, 22 up to 7,500 pounds of silver, 500 bushels of wheat, 550 gallons of wine, 550 gallons of oil, and salt without limit. Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven must be done diligently for the house of the God of the heavens, so that wrath will not fall on the realm of the king and his sons.  Be advised that you do not have authority to impose tribute, duty, and land tax on any priests, Levites, singers, doorkeepers, temple servants, or other servants of this house of God.

And you, Ezra, according to Gods wisdom that you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to judge all the people in the region west of the Euphrates who know the laws of your God and to teach anyone who does not know them.  Anyone who does not keep the law of your God and the law of the king, let the appropriate judgment be executed against him, whether death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who has put it into the kings mind to glorify the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, and who has shown favor to me before the king, his counselors, and all his powerful officers. So I took courage because I was strengthened by the hand of the Lord my God, and I gathered Israelite leaders to return with me.

When you are in the midst of doing God’s work, God will provide all that you have need of to accomplish what you need to do.

  1. Ezra was a teacher.
  2. Ezra devoted himself to study and observance.
  3. He devoted himself to teaching God’s decrees.

Note that he was doing all of this while he and his people were in captivity.  The king had granted everything that he had asked for.  He even saw that God’s hand was upon him.

A believer who is devoted to serving Christ will live it out before others.  A priest is driven and devoted to His Word and searches Him out in order to develop a close, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

With sound teaching, everything is put in its proper place as a priest who serves God and others.  You are always ready to do what God has called you to do.


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.


Your Spiritual Journey

Today’s message summary of December 13, 2015 from Melvin Gaines:

In recent months, I have come up with a phrase to describe my life today: “Every day is an adventure.”

Every day has its challenges. Some of them are expected, while some are new and require flexibility. If you had plans that day, they can and will change at a moment’s notice.  There’s no reason to get ahead of yourself beyond those moments, because each one requires your full attention.

Matthew 6:34 HCSB

Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Every day may indeed be an adventure, but each day, one after another, week after week, month after month and year after year—is a journey.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, your relationship with Jesus Christ makes your journey a spiritual journey.

I would like to provide you with an overview of my own spiritual journey with the hope that it will help you to look at where you are in your life journey with Jesus Christ. What I desire for you to see is how this journey, over time, is not so much better because life gets easier—it won’t get easier—but it will get better because your life in Christ will get richer with your personal growth in wisdom and knowledge because of the Spirit’s involvement in everything you do.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The more that you know about the past, the better you are prepared for the future.”

In examination of my spiritual journey, Roosevelt was absolutely on-target. I had to learn more about who I was as a person in order to come to the realization that I needed to choose Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. From there, I recognized the necessity to make a series of progressions over time to bring me to this point of my journey.

My past as a non-believer was not filled with church experiences; in fact, I seldom went to church. I was only exposed to church on random Easter Sundays, and ironically, those visits involved hearing my grandfather, Rev. Ernest W. Stevens, Sr., preach as a guest speaker at Lee Road Baptist Church or some other church on the east side of Cleveland. I was never involved with church at Christmas time. My parents, at that time, were not believers in Jesus Christ, and there was one King James Version bible in the house that collected dust on a side table.

When I graduated from high school, my first job was work at my uncles’ florist shop in East Cleveland. Of the two uncles, Tyrone was a believer who spoke about the need to accept Christ, and Larry talked about the Lord but was not really following Him. Over the summer, I worked at the shop seven days a week, and I was exposed to a new, entirely different lifestyle. I delivered floral arrangements and took orders over the phone and in-person. A significant experience was dealing with families who had just lost a loved one and orders for bereavement flowers. I also became introspective about the delivery of flowers to funeral homes, where I had to place the flowers on and around the casket of the person. These events are fresh in my mind. In witnessing the aftermath of the death of others, including those of infants who had died prematurely, it made me think more about life and what I had to look forward to.

I listened to the testimonies of my saved uncle and a fellow employee, a young woman named Renee. She mentioned to me that her life was different at that time because of her relationship with the Lord. She used to listen to gospel music and would even sing a few lyrics out loud. She was, and is today, an amazing singer. She also witnessed to my uncle Larry about the Lord. I knew deep down that he liked Renee for her appearance, but she was always a true professional. I respected her approach to life very much, and was a little envious of her contentment. I was anything but content. I was still living at home and I had already bombed out of college. My parents were fighting on a regular basis and were headed for a divorce. Work at the flower shop did not pay a lot, and I had to learn more about money management because I had purchased a new car that I could barely afford.

My past was telling me that my life, at that time, was on the road to nowhere, and it was fast approaching.

I had taken other jobs in order to try to determine what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and I circled back to working at the flower shop. In 1986, as the flower shop days were ending, I was invited to a church on the west side of Cleveland—Second Calvary Missionary Baptist Church. Rev. Roland H. Crowder was the pastor that delivered about two or three Sunday messages where I had decided that enough was enough. I knew that I didn’t have any solutions on my own for where my life was going, but I knew that I needed Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. That June, I went forward and I got baptized two weeks later before some of my friends that I had invited to church. I was 26 years old, and I was baptized with a group of 8 and 9 year olds. Imagine the sight of that!

With a new beginning in Jesus Christ comes a new template of how to live. I knew that Christ was present, but I was still learning about the presence of the Holy Spirit and what all of it really meant to me. I knew where I was, but I could now see that there was more to life than my own personal experiences. God had to teach me that life is more about serving Him than my own needs or desires.

A. B. Simpson, the founder of the Christian & Missionary Alliance, writes about his own moral dilemma in his book, My Own Story, where at age 14, he willfully disobeyed his parents in spite of his own desire to pursue ministry for the sake of fulfilling his own desires. Simpson does not go into detail about what those things were except that they were things that people who aspire for ministry should not do. When his parents found out about it, his mother went off on him!

“It was the day of judgment for me…my mother wringing her hands and pouring out the vials of her wrath while I sat confounded and crushed. …That tragedy settled the question of the ministry. Soon after I…decided to give up these side issues and prepare myself…to be a minister of the Gospel.”

Everyone has a history to reckon with. At the moment that a person comes to Jesus Christ, that history is part of who the person is, but those periods of history become a part of one’s learning experience. A. B. Simpson learned about what it means to be fully devoted to a life with Jesus Christ. Thankfully, from the moment of our conversion to Jesus Christ, the transformation of our hearts and minds begins:

Romans 12:1-2 ESV

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

I made a lot of mistakes, and I still do. My history before I became a believer in Christ consisted of looking to the world for answers to questions and problems. Following the world meant living a sinful lifestyle. After all is said and done, I took very bad advice. I am grateful that God has been merciful to me and has allowed me to learn from my mistakes with minimal consequences.

Lamentations 3:22-23 HCSB

Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish,

for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!

Even though sin is part of our fleshly nature, we learn over time that our Holy Spirit gives us the ability to resist the temptations that lead to sinful behavior. We have power in the Spirit to live a life that honors Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Early in my new life as a believer, God was gradually revealing to me what my talents and gifts were to use in my new faith. I liked art and English as a youth, and while I wasn’t a big reader, I did like to write. I also grew in my verbal communication skills with my career in Collections and as a supervisor. At my first church, I was a greeter, and then soon after that I was selected to teach Sunday school to the teens. My first class subject was the books of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus. God knew that the best way to study His Word was to make me a teacher! It was humbling and yet it launched me to where I am today as an adult Sunday school teacher. I would not be able to do any of these things without the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 HCSB

Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person.

My growth as a believer continued as I developed my communication skills. I was able to finish my undergraduate degree in Business and Organizational Communication at the University of Akron (Go Zips!) in 2002, and it was not long after that when Pastor Gus gave me opportunities to speak from the pulpit. The first couple of times out were a little rough, but I managed to make progress and learn about the preparation and delivery process over time. I learned that while speaking from the pulpit is quite an honor, I was reminded that it is a privilege and that my approach should always be one with prayerful humility.

James 4:6 HCSB

But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says:

God resists the proud,

but gives grace to the humble.

A. B. Simpson was humble in his service. He was willing to sacrifice his time, and even his own personal stature for the sake of reaching people for Christ. His missionaries, educators and staff were all committed to their areas of service because he set the tone for the ministry. He prayed fervently and provided vision, determination and commitment to everything that he was involved in. His example is what I strive to demonstrate to those that I serve in my church and in my workplace. The desire is to honor Jesus Christ, and not myself.

Colossians 3:16-17 HCSB

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.

In the midst of all of this, my flesh provides constant reminders of my history before Christ. I know that God’s power through the Holy Spirit is ever-present, but the allure of the things that support the flesh make things like “giving up” or “taking a break from Jesus” more appealing. This is where history can no longer determine the appropriate steps for me. I need to treat history for what it is, and remember that as I repent from my sinful past, God no longer remembers those sins. I am also thankful that Jesus took care of all of my sins once and for all.

Hebrews 10:16-18 HCSB

This is the covenant I will make with them

after those days, says the Lord:

I will put My laws on their hearts

and write them on their minds,

He adds:

I will never again remember

their sins and their lawless acts.

Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.

It’s been just under thirty years for me as a believer in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I have grown in my faith and my ability to serve, but it was not until recently where I was very confident that I was in the place that God would have me to be. My next steps involve looking into serving as a chaplain or pursuing ordination with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. I’m sincerely open to what God has in store for me, and I readily acknowledge that, even after I obtain my Master’s degree, I still have a lot to learn as I exercise my faith.

Philippians 2:12-13 HCSB

So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.

As a Sunday school teacher, it is prudent for me to continue to practice what I teach—ongoing reading and meditation of the Scriptures and living a life of fullness in Christ wherever I may be.

Your spiritual journey in Jesus Christ, from today forward, continues.

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines


Change: Learning to Take the Garbage Out

Pastor Gus Brown’s message summary for Sunday, October 19, 2014:

Change is always a very difficult thing, but in some situations, change is necessary.  In those situations, we need to be able to take some of the garbage out of our lives.

When it comes to change, it may often involve surrendering something.  There is an adjustment period to the newness within change.  We need to be able to get accustomed to it.  When you accept Jesus Christ, there will be a lot of change.  He wants to work within us, for we are His workmanship.

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.

 

Ephesians 2:10

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.

 

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.

Two things to consider about change:  Either you will change as a believer or you will grieve the Spirit, who wants you to change, or you will not change at all because you are unsaved.

 

Titus 3:5

He saved us—

not by works of righteousness that we had done,

but according to His mercy,

through the washing of regeneration

and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

 

Change is a renewal, a renovation–a complete change for the better.

Isaiah 1:18-20

18 “Come, let us discuss this,”

says the Lord.

“Though your sins are like scarlet,

they will be as white as snow;

though they are as red as crimson,

they will be like wool.

19 If you are willing and obedient,

you will eat the good things of the land.

20 But if you refuse and rebel,

you will be devoured by the sword.”

For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

 

Isaiah 5:20-21

20 Woe to those who call evil good

and good evil,

who substitute darkness for light

and light for darkness,

who substitute bitter for sweet

and sweet for bitter.

21 Woe to those who are wise in their own opinion

and clever in their own sight.

 

Jeremiah 23:14

Among the prophets of Jerusalem also

I saw a horrible thing:

They commit adultery and walk in lies.

They strengthen the hands of evildoers,

and none turns his back on evil.

They are all like Sodom to Me;

Jerusalem’s residents are like Gomorrah.

 

Ezekiel 16:49-50

49 Now this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, plenty of food, and comfortable security, but didn’t support the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before Me, so I removed them when I saw this.

 

A person must decide to allow God to change oneself.  Change must come through Him in order to bring one closer to the Lord.  Change comes by something influencing you other than yourself.  It can come from God or it can come from Satan; therefore, be aware of how you are influenced by this change.

If you are walking with the Lord, He is going to have an impact on you.  He will change you.  If you are living with God, He will change you.

Life is about adapting to God’s ways, and not God adapting to yourself.

Change is adjusting yourself to new situations or circumstances.  It can sometimes be difficult or painful, but it is still necessary in order to live for Jesus Christ.

God wants to change you to bring things into the proper perspective through the use of your skills and your good judgment.  He develops them for you in order for you to use them in a proper manner.

Change is for the purpose of:

  1. A change in your structure
  2. A change in your function
  3. A change in your identity

Identity: the condition or fact of being the same or exactly alike; sameness, oneness; united by identity or interests.  With this definition, how closely are you identifying with Jesus Christ?  Can people identify you with Him?

John 5:19

Then Jesus replied, “I assure you: The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way.

 

1 Peter 1:16

…for it is written, be holy, because I am holy.

 

In order to identify with Jesus Christ, change has to take place.

2 Peter 1:5-7

5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, 6 knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, 7 godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

 

Self-control is a distinct characteristic for a believer in Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:8-9

8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins.

 

The Christian life consists of a continuing, unending work of change.

James 1:2

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials.

 

When you choose to surrender a part of the old life over to the Lord, there will be a change because you have allowed Jesus to live there now instead of yourself.

Romans 6:6

For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin.

 

Ephesians 4:22

You took off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires.

 

Colossians 3:9

Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices.

 

God is not going to change Himself to please you.

James 1:17

Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.

 

Malachi 3:6

“Because I, Yahweh, have not changed, you descendants of Jacob have not been destroyed.

 

Psalm 102:24-27

24 I say: “My God, do not take me

in the middle of my life!

Your years continue through all generations.

25 Long ago You established the earth,

and the heavens are the work of Your hands.

26 They will perish, but You will endure;

all of them will wear out like clothing.

You will change them like a garment,

and they will pass away.

27 But You are the same,

and Your years will never end.

 

Hebrews 13:8

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

 

To change is to surrender your life to Christ.  Who has the power in your life?  Who are you saying “Lord, Lord” to?

Change is taking out the garbage in your life…it’s time to do it now.  Some garbage is not to be left in the house overnight.  It’s got to go now, or else.

Don’t give up on change because it is hard or difficult. (Satan will tell you and try to convince you that you can’t change.)  Don’t just put up with the smell of old garbage that needs to be put out.  God will enable you and give you the ability to stand and make the change necessary in your life.

Luke 1:37

For nothing will be impossible with God.”

 

Philippians 4:13

I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

 

Mark 9:23, 10:27

23 Then Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ Everything is possible to the one who believes.”

27 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God, because all things are possible with God.”

 

Genesis 12:1

Go out from your land,

your relatives,

and your father’s house

to the land that I will show you.

 

Genesis 37:26-28

26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What do we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay a hand on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh,” and they agreed. 28 When Midianite traders passed by, his brothers pulled Joseph out of the pit and sold him for 20 pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took Joseph to Egypt.

 

Change can be messy, dirty work.  It is far from enjoyable; yet, it is necessary in order to live for Jesus Christ.


There is Freedom in Truth

Today’s message summary from Pastor Gus Brown:

The choice of truth is freedom to live, or to live a lie and be in slavery. Truth really does free us, while lies are always about covering for one self.

In the contrast of truth, sin can bring destruction to us. People go through life seeing only the pictures invoked by our desires, and those desires override what is truth. Our push to satisfy our desires only bring about harmful consequences. It is a form of spiritual suicide. If you do not allow truth to exist in your life, you will miss out on the person that God created you to be. As God created each of us to have a plan for our lives, we will miss out on His plan for us if we insist in living our lives outside of truth.

The Bible proclaims that there is no one just in this world. Unless one is trained in righteousness through Jesus Christ, we are unable to live in obedience to God. You cannot assume that people who are older or more experienced in life are operating in truth.

Truth is having faith in God’s Word through Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 4:7-8
7 But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, 8 for

the training of the body has a limited benefit,
but godliness is beneficial in every way,
since it holds promise for the present life
and also for the life to come.

Remember the discussions in your life about broken mirrors, black cats and myths? Many people accept these things as truth. You need to look at life and train yourself of the difference between truth and error. The study and practice of truth has a dramatic effect on everything that you do.

The Holy Spirit is the trainer, teacher and mentor that helps to guide each of us, and this is why it is always important to yield to the Spirit in all things for the truth, and not according to how we see things.

People have to differentiate between the way things out to be and the way things really are (what is true versus what is false).

John 8:31-41
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. 32 You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 “We are descendants of Abraham,” they answered Him, “and we have never been enslaved to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will become free’?”

34 Jesus responded, “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever. 36 Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free. 37 I know you are descendants[c] of Abraham, but you are trying to kill Me because My word is not welcome among you. 38 I speak what I have seen in the presence of the Father; therefore, you do what you have heard from your father.”

39 “Our father is Abraham!” they replied.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” Jesus told them, “you would do what Abraham did. 40 But now you are trying to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do this! 41 You’re doing what your father does.”

“We weren’t born of sexual immorality,” they said. “We have one Father—God.”

Living in a lie forces one to live outside of truth. The first lie told in the passage above was the claim that the Jews were never slaves to anyone. At that very moment, they were slaves to the Roman government along with a history of slavery to the Canaanites, Philistines, Syrians, Chaldeans and Greeks. The second lie was the one that claimed that the only Father they had was God Himself. They, in fact, were not serving God at all…they were serving Satan–that was the voice that the people were listening to.

We are always learning and observing something. The question is whether or not it is good for us or helpful to us.

2 Timothy 3:7
…always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 4:1
Now the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons,

Everything that we do should stand the test of Scripture. The Holy Spirit is the true teacher. There are all kinds of things in the world that will teach its own truth, but we need to listen to what God is saying to us. You cannot make good decisions without the truth.

If you are really my disciple, you will know the truth (John 8:31).

Matthew 11:29
All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.

John 16:13
When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come.

Psalm 25:5
Guide me in Your truth and teach me,
for You are the God of my salvation;
I wait for You all day long.

God is willing to give instruction to sinners.

Psalm 25:8
The Lord is good and upright;
therefore He shows sinners the way.

We have to be willing to listen to truth.

Proverbs 1:29
If you respond to my warning,
then I will pour out my spirit on you
and teach you my words.

God’s commitment is to teach us truth. We must stand at the crossroads and make a decision to follow Jesus. The Spirit will guide us onto the right paths.

Jeremiah 6:16
This is what the Lord says:

Stand by the roadways and look.
Ask about the ancient paths:
Which is the way to what is good?
Then take it
and find rest for yourselves.
But they protested, “We won’t!”

Isaiah 35:8
A road will be there and a way;
it will be called the Holy Way.
The unclean will not travel on it,
but it will be for the one who walks the path.
Even the fool will not go astray.

Proverbs 3:5-6
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
6 think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.

Truth sets us free, and it sets us free from sin. We need to remember that sin is pleasurable to the flesh, but it is only for a season.

Psalm 119:45
I will walk freely in an open place
because I seek Your precepts.

Galatians 5:13
For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.

We are called to be free. Do not abuse the freedom.

1 Peter 2:16
As God’s slaves, live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a way to conceal evil.

Your pursuit of truth will lead to ongoing blessings in all that you do.

James 1:25
But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good works—this person will be blessed in what he does.

James 2:12
Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law of freedom.

Truth sets us apart from the world.

John 17:17
Sanctify them by the truth;
Your word is truth.

1 Corinthians 15:2
You are also saved by it (the Gospel), if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you—unless you believed for no purpose.