Tag Archives: ministry

What Do You Come to Church For?

Today’s message summary of May 28, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

Why do people go to church?  Is it a possession that one holds onto?  Ultimately, every person needs to understand what the real purpose of church is.  We can lose our love for the Lord while being involved with church for a number of other reasons.  Somewhere, the church of Ephesus lost its first love…the love of Jesus Christ.

When one comes to church, one should be coming to see, hear and receive.

When you see what God is doing in the lives of His people, you can rejoice!

When you come to hear God’s Word, you come with the understanding that He teaches and also corrects you.  (Some will not come because they do not want to be corrected.)  God wants you to know that you are on a journey with Him, and His teaching will help you along as you go.

God wants you to receive Him.  He desires to catch your attention and hold it with the desire to hear Him speak to you and guide you.

You should want to see what God is doing…not only in your life, but in the bigger picture.  While there is often a focus on numbers in the church, God has done many great things with just a small number of people.

Church is not a place for gossip.  That is the wrong reason to attend a church.  The words reflected upon should be His words.

You should want to hear from God about the matters concerning you and your life, but also what He expects of you.

You should want to receive from God.  He wants you to receive His power, strength and faith (confidence) to do what He is asking of you.

There is a reason to come to church.  God desires to see you continue to grow within the church in these areas.  He wants you to have faith and the ability to step out when things are unknown or unclear.  That is where we see God’s greatest work and accomplishments.

People may argue that John the Baptist did not have a church, but John did indeed have a ministry, even if it was out in the wilderness.

Matthew 11:7-10

As these men went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes?  Look, those who wear soft clothes are in kings’ palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and far more than a prophet. This is the one it is written about:  Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You; he will prepare Your way before You.

The wilderness, where John’s “church” was located, was far from town, or what many would consider to be the comfort of home.  Your going to church should be like going to a place where God’s word teaches and convicts you to a place where you learn, grow and develop a desire to fellowship with Jesus Christ.

Church should be a place of solitary for you.  The primary focus should be on Jesus Christ.  It should be free from restraints.  It fulfills a desire of quietness in your spirit.  Church can be your desert place (the wilderness), where you are alone with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Church is to be a place of education–teaching needs to be taking place, and effective teaching does take some time.

Your mind, within the church, is to be separated from everything in life and focused on what God is saying, understanding what you are hearing, and what you are receiving from God.  What you receive is what you are going to leave with.

If you’re always in a rush, you won’t be able to hear God speak to you the way He desires to.  Church is the place where you can slow yourself down and put aside those things that can distract you from Him.

A reed could grow twelve feet tall and be paper thin, and when the wind blows, it just lays down.  It goes with the wind.

The wind, represented here by religion and government, could have caused John to be indecisive or to be shaken.  To waver or to show doubt can cause one to be unsteady.

The religion was the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

The government was King Herod and his sinful life.

John stands against these two powerful forces.

Note that the gospel of Jesus Christ must be upheld within the church setting.  It’s not enough just to call yourself a Christian.   It is about living as God calls you to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Complaints about the church:

  1. It’s not relevant.

John was relevant according to his message.

  1. It lasts too long.

How long do you sit through a movie?

  1. Church is boring.

Is it boring because it is not what you want it to be?

  1. I don’t like the way church is being run.

It’s your place to determine how church is being run.

  1. It’s the same routine each Sunday.

It is all in your approach to being educated in the Word.  It is more important to see Christ in your life,                  and understand that He never changes.

 

Psalm 122:1

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

 

Psalm 73:16-25

When I tried to understand all this,

it seemed hopeless

until I entered Gods sanctuary.

Then I understood their destiny.

Indeed, You put them in slippery places;

You make them fall into ruin.

How suddenly they become a desolation!

They come to an end, swept away by terrors.

Like one waking from a dream,

Lord, when arising, You will despise their image.

When I became embittered

and my innermost being was wounded,

I was stupid and didnt understand;

I was an unthinking animal toward You.

Yet I am always with You;

You hold my right hand.

You guide me with Your counsel,

and afterward You will take me up in glory.

Who do I have in heaven but You?

And I desire nothing on earth but You.

 

The church should be providing information to you about how to live life in these perilous times.

We go to church to hear the message that God has to give to us.

 

Matthew 3:1-6

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Wilderness of Judea and saying, Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near! For he is the one spoken of through the prophet Isaiah, who said:

A voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

Prepare the way for the Lord;

make His paths straight! 

John himself had a camel-hair garment with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the vicinity of the Jordan were flocking to him, and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.

 

Romans 10:14-17

But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!  But all did not obey the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message?  So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.


Today’s Society Seeks Protection from Jesus (Part 2)

Today’s message summary of May 7, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

What you say in public can sometimes bring about trouble.  Our society often tries to relegate what is being said (even from the church pulpit) because of how people may respond.

Matthew 14:3-4

For Herod had arrested John, chained him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, since John had been telling him, “It’s not lawful for you to have her!”

John was speaking publicly about Herod and Herodias’ relationship.

It is not unheard of that people today have filed suit for emotional damages over what someone has had to say.  It is today’s societal norm.

Karl Marx once noted that “religion negates all that is dignified in a human being by rendering them like a slave, and more amenable to accept the status quo.

Have we come to a place in today’s society that we accept what is deemed to be the status quo?  Society and government says that we are to accept the status quo.

Jesus informs us that we need to count the cost when we go into ministry.  John the Baptist did not accept the status quo.  He pointed out that Herod and Herodias’ relationship was unlawful before God.

The rule today is that what is popular in society should be acceptable to everyone.

Have we reached a point where there is no room for the teaching of Jesus Christ?  It is hardly a popular view in today’s society.

John 8:36-37

Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free. I know you are descendants of Abraham, but you are trying to kill Me because My word is not welcome among you.

Matthew 11:12

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been suffering violence, and the violent have been seizing it by force.

Before Martin Luther, the church was very involved with government.  They were considered one and the same.  The pope had to recognize the king in a kingdom.  In many of today’s Arab countries, the government and the religious group are essentially the same entity.

Modern proponents of the separation of church and state, on the religious side, will fall back on Luther’s doctrine of two kingdoms.  This marked the beginning of the modern concept of the separation of church and state.

Anabaptists took this a step further. They were in agreement with Luther that there were two kingdoms.  They agreed that the two should be separate.  They held that no baptized member of the church should vote, serve in the military, nor hold a public office.  Why?  They were part of God’s kingdom, and the government was the other kingdom.

Ultimately, we don’t need this separation from society.  There is a huge need for believers to be actively involved in the political field.

In the life of the believer, there are two authorities:

First, there is one representing claims made by government.  You can challenge views and prevail or not, or bring about change.

Secondly, God is the one who represents the church.  While the church has authority, God has the highest authority (God’s Word).

Acts 4:19-20, 5:29, 16:4-5

Peter and John answered them, “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God; you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than people.

As they traveled through the towns, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem for the people to observe.  So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Romans 13:1-3

Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God.  So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval.

Churches have found themselves in court. Property, persons hired for employment, church discipline and employees who follow Jesus Christ have been affected in their own workplace.

The kingdom of God is being advanced by force because of the opposition that it faces.  Scripture reminds us of the “good fight” and of the need for “the armor of God.”

Matthew 11:2-6

Now when John heard in prison what the Christ was doing, he sent a message through his disciples and asked him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see. The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news, and blessed is the one who isn’t offended by me.”

Matthew 10:22

You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

The verse in Matthew 11:12 about the forceful advance of the kingdom (suffering of violence) notes the ongoing struggle of those who are following Jesus Christ:

  • You, yourself, are grabbing hold of the truth, or to the kingdom
  • You are pulling at it
  • You do so vigorously and energetically–pushing towards the kingdom

Anything that you desire will often require some effort.  You will really have to work at it.  When John the Baptist preached, this is when the real fight ensued between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of the world.

Luke 16:16-17

“The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is urgently invited to enter it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter in the law to drop out.”

Are you really running after God and His kingdom? While today’s society will tell you it is not worth your time, press ahead and go after Him.  When you serve Him, He will give you the energy that you need in order to be successful.


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.


Team FOCUS: Serving in the Body of Christ

Today’s message of March 5, 2017 from Melvin Gaines:

I was planning my monthly meeting the other day at my job with my team of collectors and assistants, and I stumbled on something to use within the meeting that I thought was quite meaningful.

To give a quick review, I now have a team of ten people, eight collectors and two admins, that report to me.  Part of my responsibility is to rally the troops and encourage them to work well as individuals, and also to work as a team for a common goal.  This is important because each of us are evaluated every year with team performance goals, and they have a significant impact as to our overall departmental productivity.

I came up with a way to define our collections group with a name, and I called it “Team FOCUS,” with the word “focus” featured in all capital letters.  If you know anything about company meetings, some of the people in the meeting are sincerely looking at you and listening, and some are looking down at the table, and some may even be doodling on their legal pad; nevertheless, the phrase “Team FOCUS” seemed to be well received.  I reminded everyone that, as a team member, each person is to focus on what tasks need to be done and to assist the other team members in order to achieve their goals for the year.

As I was planning this out, it occurred to me that there is application for this same type of focus within the church, and on an even grander scale, the body of Christ.  As Jesus calls upon His people to reflect His IMAGE in a Christlike manner, we are also to support each other and live amongst one another in peace, and often that means working well together as a team for a common goal.  In this effort, the most important goal is that Jesus Christ is glorified.

In other words, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ need to be humble before Him and live in obedience, and also be humble in the effort of working with other people within the body of Christ.

Oh, if it was all that simple to do.

The reality is that some of us just don’t play well with others.  Many of you certainly remember growing up with a group of friends that you enjoyed hanging out with, while there were others you tried to avoid because they either made fun of you or just didn’t like you.  That may be kids stuff, but adults seem to have refined this approach to become a special talent.

Look, we all have our favorites…our favorite people to hang around. But Christ calls us to do more than just hang out with our favorite people.  We are challenged to do more…go further.  It is another way that He sanctifies us within our relationship with Him.  The one who seeks Jesus Christ will find himself stretched and molded into someone that he never thought could happen, and that it would be a great thing!  God wants to bring you to a place where you are willing to do even more for Him as you step out in faith.

Note that this discussion is about working well within the body of Christ. Let’s be honest. If you can’t play well with others within the body, how in the world will you ever be the best you can be in discipling others in the body and in reaching people for Jesus Christ who are not saved?

And isn’t that exactly what this thing about discipleship is all about?  You can’t pick and choose your favorite people for this stuff.  If Christ sends someone into your path, are you willing to walk the path with that person, or will you back down and take another road?  Some will trust in Christ’s direction, while others will move in a different direction.  I challenge you to consider that following God’s direction is a much more meaningful path to take.

In order to be successful in Christ, you need to resist your own desires in the flesh and be humble, teachable and trainable in His ways.

Romans 12:1-2 HCSB

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. 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.

Jesus Christ is looking for the ones who are willing to remain faithful and obedient to Him, and He responds, in kind, with the guidance that you will need to maintain the focus that we are to have in our service for Him.

Proverbs 3:1-6 HCSB

My son, don’t forget my teaching,

but let your heart keep my commands;

for they will bring you

many days, a full life, and well-being.

Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you.

Tie them around your neck;

write them on the tablet of your heart.

Then you will find favor and high regard

in the sight of God and man.

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.

In order to execute effectively this team FOCUS, we need to bring our own talents to the table.  God gives each of us a measure of talents and abilities that are available to support and edify each other within the body of Jesus Christ.  Each of us, in addition to these talents, brings a very unique trait…your own personality!  Of the ten different people who report to me at work, I believe I have seven or eight different personalities within the group!  Most of them work very hard…some harder than others, but ultimately at acceptable levels, and each person injects his or her personality into what they bring to the workplace.  God created you to be who you are, of course, and to share who you are within the body of Christ with your own uniqueness!

These individual traits make up your FOCUS within the team effort:

The “F” stands for fair-mindedness.

If you look up fair-minded in the American Heritage Dictionary, it is defined as “just and impartial; not prejudiced.” Your approach is to always project honesty and impartiality in everything that you take on.  When it comes to working with a group or a team, this can be easier said than done.  It can be easy to play favorites, be judgmental, or pick people to work with or witness to that seem friendly.  Christ calls for his people to have integrity and not only work with those who may not stand out as appealing, but also reach out to those who may even respond with hostility.  The key is to be responsive to the Holy Spirit in our movement throughout the body of Christ.

2 Timothy 2:15

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Proverbs 28:6 ESV

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.

Colossians 3:23-24 HCSB

Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.

The “O” stands for organization.

While organization is often a guideline for business professionals, it is helpful for believers to carry out their service for Jesus Christ, both as individuals and within a group, in a formal, deliberate manner.  I’m all for spontaneity and being ready to move when the Spirit tells you to move, but having a plan for your life and striving to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ requires having a daily schedule of bible reading and prayer.  The events of life will require some degree of flexibility, and plans will most definitely change, but your Christlike life of planning and organization provides you with a baseline and guideline for effective ministry.

Proverbs 16:3 ESV

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

In order for you to experience success in the Lord, you will also need to live for Christ in the body with consistency.

The “C” stands for consistency.

Your life in Jesus Christ every day will have its opportunities.  There will be victories, and you will also experience setbacks.  There will be praises to God from His blessings along with prayers to Him for mercy and comfort.  A consistent life in Christ, in His service, is a persistent life of faith, forgiveness, repentance and reverence.  In your consistent approach of looking to Jesus, the Holy Spirit provides wisdom, knowledge and understanding as He sanctifies you with His presence.  You will experience greater successes when you stay the course and remain consistently faithful in Jesus Christ.  Your desire to live for Christ will be acknowledged with blessings and testimonies that will glorify Him.

1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

The “U” stands for unity…being unified in your efforts.

Work within the body of Christ is the epitome of effective teamwork, especially when the members give a testimony that gives God the glory.  It is not about just the efforts of the individual.  It is about your service for the team, the group, the church.  It is for the testimony of God at work within you and the group.  Jesus is the reason why you do what you are doing.

Philippians 2:1-4 HCSB

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

1 Peter 3:8 ESV

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

The “S” stands for skilled.

You bring your skills that you have acquired over a lifetime, even perhaps as an expert in whatever field you are in, and they lend to a very good end-product with your contributions.  Your God-given talents and gifts, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are provided for you to be successful in your ministry of Jesus Christ.  God wants people to serve Him in wisdom and knowledge with His talents and gifts to reach the lost with the gospel of Christ.

Romans 12:3-8

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts:

If prophecy,

use it according to the standard of one’s faith;

if service, in service;

if teaching, in teaching;

if exhorting, in exhortation;

giving, with generosity;

leading, with diligence;

showing mercy, with cheerfulness.

Of course, this is far from an all inclusive list of gifts.  There are many examples of people in the Bible who have different professions or trades, and God will use all of these things to accomplish His glory and His purpose.  He wants you to use your skills in ministry in order to reach people for Jesus Christ.

Matthew 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.

“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.

Your FOCUS today is to be a better team member in service for Jesus Christ.  It begins with your desire to do more in Jesus Christ and to be open to many exciting opportunities as you work within the body of Christ to reach the lost.

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines


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

Today’s message summary of January 15, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

Last Sunday, we discussed the relationship of fasting and prayer, and the sin of gluttony.  We will continue this week with discussion of:

  1. Intercessory Prayer
  2. Prayer of Suffering
  3. Prayer of Healing

There have been many recent news events that have occurred where we, as believers, should respond with intercessory prayer.  It is one way for us to take action on behalf of others as we are interceding and petitioning God for a response.

Intercessory prayer is a priestly ministry.

1 Peter 2:5, 9

you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,

a holy nation, a people for His possession,

so that you may proclaim the praises

of the One who called you out of darkness

into His marvelous light.

 

Intercessory prayer is a prayer of mediation on behalf of others.  This principle is a way of “standing in the gap” for others who are hurting or in need of relief.

Ezekiel 22:30-31

I searched for a man among them who would repair the wall and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land so that I might not destroy it, but I found no one. So I have poured out My indignation on them and consumed them with the fire of My fury. I have brought their actions down on their own heads. This is the declaration of the Lord God.

 

God calls for His people to stand in the gap in the hope of averting any disaster upon those who need prayer.  In the event of a calamity, intercessory prayer also has an impact upon those who remain after a tragedy.

Exodus 17:8-13

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, When Pharaoh tells you, Perform a miracle, tell Aaron, Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh. It will become a serpent.’” So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord had commanded. Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a serpent. But then Pharaoh called the wise men and sorcerersthe magicians of Egypt, and they also did the same thing by their occult practices. Each one threw down his staff, and it became a serpent. But Aarons staff swallowed their staffs. However, Pharaohs heart hardened, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

 

1 Timothy 2:8 (ESV)

I desire then that in every place the men should pray lifting up holy hands.

 

In this effort, even though it is tiring, we are not to stop praying.

Romans 8:26-27, 34

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And he who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.

 

Hebrews 8:4-6

Now if He were on earth, He wouldnt be a priest, since there are those offering the gifts prescribed by the law. These serve as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was warned when he was about to complete the tabernacle. For God said, Be careful that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown to you on the mountain. But Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry, and to that degree He is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been legally enacted on better promises.

 

Intercessory prayer is something that we should be doing.

The Prayer of Suffering

The prayer of suffering is a prayer of relief, in the midst of a trial, for relief within the trial.

In your suffering, would you stop praying if you thought it wasn’t working, or would you continue in the hope that God would provide relief?  The challenge of this prayer within these circumstances is that while you are unaware of the timing, you are aware that God does hear your prayer.  God provides the perfect example of Jesus Christ as to how to respond within this prayer.

1 Peter 3:13-16

And who will harm you if you are deeply committed to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.

 

Hebrews 5:7

During His earthly life, He offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence.

 

If you are praying in the midst of your suffering, God will answer you.

Each of these postures of prayer lead to:

The Gift of Healing

Isaiah 53:4-5

Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses,

and He carried our pains;

but we in turn regarded Him stricken,

struck down by God, and afflicted.

But He was pierced because of our transgressions,

crushed because of our iniquities;

punishment for our peace was on Him,

and we are healed by His wounds.

 

Are you praying for someone’s healing?  Are you standing by watching others in need?

James 5:13-16

Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord.  The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will restore him to health; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.


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


Teamwork

Today’s message summary of January 31, 2016 from Pastor Gus Brown:

Scripture tells us that Jesus was on a mountain as He looked over Jerusalem–and He wept.  He wept because He did not like what He saw.

When you look at the city of Akron, what do you see? Sometimes we see that things aren’t very good, but we also need to pay attention to those things that are good. Good things are happening, and sometimes they are overlooked.

We have a hand in the good things that are taking place here. It is good to recognize that things are positive in the community, but it is up to us to be involved. It takes many hands to accomplish this. We all have to be willing to help. Many hands make up a team.

One of our elders, Ken, has been involved with a neighborhood football team, the Titans. In his community involvement, all of us are involved.

We are planters. We are teachers.

A football team has to be successful on the field. Someone has to carry the ball. Others have to block. There has to be cooperation on the team.

In the life of a Christian, there has to be teamwork, as well. Some will run with the ball while others will block. Everyone must use their talents to accomplish the goal of proclaiming the gospel. The team’s success of reaching people for Jesus Christ is most important.

A coach for a team is a lot like a pastor. Both are coaching, but just on different fields. A team works well both on the field and off the field, as well. God gives those individuals who are working with our young people the gift of patience. It is important to have a very important part of a young person’s life in order to create a positive influence.

Let’s look at a few words:

Team – A group of people working together.

Community – People living in a particular district for a common good. It is a team of people who are working to make it better.

Church – A group of people who worship together for the good of one another (public worship).

For one to be able to participate in any community event is a divine gift from God.

Acts 17:28

For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

What comes out of a person’s life is left up to him.

A team will practice in good weather or bad weather, such as wind, rain and cold. It’s a choice that, at times, has to be made to desire to get better as a team.

Matthew 12:35

A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil.

What do you choose–good or evil?

Ministry – It comes from the Greek word meaning to serve.

The word “ministry” has somehow been misused and is only defined within the arena of the church. Ministry has become a clerical/church word that most people never apply to themselves. It seems too grand for ordinary people. Ministry is a professional word.

All that is needed is people who are willing to give of themselves.  People who are willing to serve in the community.

When people serve they teach.

1. They teach attitude. There is an attitude of a winner and a loser. In life, we win some and we lose some.

2. When you serve you teach people to shine. You teach them to do their best, and then live with the results.

3. When you serve, you teach others about failure. We are not going to win all of the time, we live in our failure. We live through it while we are preparing for the next game.

4. While serving others, you give them purpose and meaning in life. They are important.