Tag Archives: Prayer

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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How to Pray within Depression (Part 10 of a Series – ‘Prayer: What Difference Does It Make?’)

Today’s message summary of September 17, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

 

Job 7:1-21

Isnt each person consigned to forced labor on earth?

Are not his days like those of a hired worker?

Like a slave he longs for shade;

like a hired worker he waits for his pay.

So I have been made to inherit months of futility,

and troubled nights have been assigned to me.

When I lie down I think,

When will I get up?

But the evening drags on endlessly,

and I toss and turn until dawn.

My flesh is clothed with maggots and encrusted with dirt.

My skin forms scabs and then oozes.

My days pass more swiftly than a weavers shuttle;

they come to an end without hope.

Remember that my life is but a breath.

My eye will never again see anything good.

The eye of anyone who looks on me

will no longer see me.

Your eyes will look for me, but I will be gone.

As a cloud fades away and vanishes,

so the one who goes down to Sheol will never rise again.

He will never return to his house;

his hometown will no longer remember him.

Therefore I will not restrain my mouth.

I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;

I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.

Am I the sea or a sea monster,

that you keep me under guard?

When I say, My bed will comfort me,

and my couch will ease my complaint,

then you frighten me with dreams,

and terrify me with visions,

so that I prefer strangling

death rather than life in this body.

I give up! I will not live forever.

Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.

What is a mere human, that you think so highly of him

and pay so much attention to him?

You inspect him every morning,

and put him to the test every moment.

Will you ever look away from me,

or leave me alone long enough to swallow?

If I have sinned, what have I done to you,

Watcher of humanity?

Why have you made me your target,

so that I have become a burden to you?

Why not forgive my sin

and pardon my iniquity?

For soon I will lie down in the grave.

You will eagerly seek me, but I will be gone.

The book of Job is an autobiography of Job’s life.  It is a personal account of his life when he faced hardship and adversity.  He faced such adversity that none of us would be prepared to face.  He lost his seven sons and three daughters and suffered a severe financial crisis.  His wife, after these losses, was bitter and angry, as well.

As much as some would like to believe that life here today is prosperous, it is not the best life you can experience.  What we experience here today is rooted in a fallen world.

Some day, we may face hardship and difficulty.  Finances, marriage, and even the death of a child.  That is what Job experienced all at once.

Tragedy can hit someone, and it can strike to the core.  It is important to understand that it is OK to feel embittered.  Those emotions, however, are not to dictate how we respond or act.  Job is the example of this:

Job never cursed God.  He was bitter and in great anguish.  He had suffered great loss.  He felt that he was an innocent man that was suffering for no reason.  He was indeed angry with Him, and wanted answers from Him as to what was going on.

Depression and Despair (Job 7:1-16)

When we review these verses, I want to you see and hear Job’s heart.

Job’s suffering had continued throughout those days because of life in a fallen, sin-cursed world.  After the fall of man, that is when suffering started.  Having to work is the result of being in a fallen world.

Job also notes that he has chronic pain (v. 5).  Pain, in itself, is suffering.  In addition to his stress, his physical pain attributed to his depression.  In Job 2:8, he was scraping the scabs off of himself with a piece of broken pottery.  He may have contemplated suicide.  He had cursed the day that he was born because he was in such distress.

The emotions here are a lesson for us.  How you come through the suffering is important.  You are not to respond with bitterness or anger, but look to Jesus Christ for comfort in the midst of your depression.  As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to understand that He is the one who guides you through your depression.  He does not want you to consider suicide as an option.  It is by God’s grace that you can pull through

The Heart of God (Job 1:17-19)

God’s heart is set upon you in spite of how you are feeling.  God does not look away from us even though you may want him to do so (as Job did).  God allowed Job to face the crises as He knew how he would respond.

It is difficult for us to understand how God allows this type of suffering to take place in our lives.  We don’t see the total picture–we only see what is right in front of us.  The best way to address this is to look at the person of Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 2:16-18

For it is clear that he does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abrahams offspring.  Therefore, he had to be like his brothers and sisters in every way, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in matters pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. For since he himself has suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

Christ is the perfect illustration of the One who suffered for no reason.  Do not think, for one moment, that Christ did not experience depression.

Luke 22:39-46

He went out and made his way as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.  When he reached the place, he told them, Pray that you may not fall into temptation.  Then he withdrew from them about a stones throw, knelt down, and began to pray, Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from menevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.

Then an angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him.  Being in anguish, he prayed more fervently, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.  When he got up from prayer and came to the disciples, he found them sleeping, exhausted from their grief.  Why are you sleeping? he asked them. Get up and pray, so that you wont fall into temptation.

This was the most depressing moment in that Christ was asking God not to have to suffer.  He was going through a great deal of anxiety as He was facing God’s wrath for our sins, yet He remained obedient to the Father.  The act of Christ’s knowledge that He would suffer on the cross was depressing, and yet he prayed over this to the Father.

In addition to prayer, a person who is suffering with depression should share with others.  If someone is struggling, be sure to get involved with their life out of concern and care.  This is how the church should respond.

Praying Through Depression (Job 7:17-21)

Job wanted God to leave him alone, and God said no.  Job also acknowledged that he was depressed, and was prayerful for a glimmer of hope.

When in a state of depression, it takes fervent prayer and meditation to get through the experience.  God promises His presence in the midst of your struggles.


Prayers for Wisdom (Part 9 of the Series – ‘Prayer: What Difference Does It Make?’)

Today’s message summary of August 20, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

Today, we will discuss what it is to pray for wisdom.

James 1:5

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.

James was speaking to Jewish Christians who were spread throughout the Roman Empire.  These Christians were experiencing various trials.  It was written sometime between 40-50 A.D.  At that time there was a restriction of travel by Christians to Alexandria by the emperor Claudius in 40 A.D.  Another James, who led the church, was murdered around 44 A.D by King Herod.  There was a famine in Jerusalem around 46 A.D., which caused a severe shortage of food.  These Christians faced political trials, persecution and anxiety.

James was writing to these Christians who faced trials, and there are trials that many believers experience today.  He reminded the believers that they were to look to God in the midst of these and other trials in order to obtain God’s wisdom.

We will look at these four aspects of wisdom:

  • The Invitation of Wisdom
  • The Explanation of Wisdom
  • The Application of Wisdom
  • The Gift of Wisdom

Before James 1:5, the verses that precede it set the tone for the seeking of God’s wisdom:

James 1:2-4

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

James is speaking to new believers who desire to use self-control in the midst of difficulty.  It challenges believers to ask God for wisdom in those areas where one is struggling. We are invited to seek after His wisdom.

The Invitation of Wisdom

Proverbs 2:1-10

My son, if you accept my words

and store up my commands within you,

listening closely to wisdom

and directing your heart to understanding;

furthermore, if you call out to insight

and lift your voice to understanding,

if you seek it like silver

and search for it like hidden treasure,

then you will understand the fear of the Lord

and discover the knowledge of God.

For the Lord gives wisdom;

from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

He stores up success for the upright;

He is a shield for those who live with integrity

so that he may guard the paths of justice

and protect the way of his faithful followers.

Then you will understand righteousness, justice,

and integrityevery good path.

For wisdom will enter your heart,

and knowledge will delight you.

 

The Explanation of Wisdom

Wisdom is not just intellectual knowledge.  There are many intellectuals in this world that still lack wisdom.  They may have high IQs and great knowledge, but when it comes down to wisdom, it means that there has to be a rational thought.

We should not be surprised when we hear things that are foolish that come from these intellectuals.  One of the most foolish things that a person can do is to fail to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Wisdom is the by-product of God’s attributes and His laws.  Wisdom reveals the very nature of God, and by seeking after Him, He will reveal it to you.  The personification of wisdom is Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 8:1-21

Doesnt wisdom call out?

Doesnt understanding make her voice heard?

At the heights overlooking the road,

at the crossroads, she takes her stand.

Beside the gates leading into the city,

at the main entrance, she cries out:

People, I call out to you;

my cry is to the children of Adam.

Learn to be shrewd, you who are inexperienced;

develop common sense, you who are foolish.

Listen, for I speak of noble things,

and what my lips say is right.

For my mouth tells the truth,

and wickedness is detestable to my lips.

All the words from my mouth are righteous;

none of them are deceptive or perverse.

All of them are clear to the perceptive,

and right to those who discover knowledge.

Accept my instruction instead of silver,

and knowledge rather than pure gold.

For wisdom is better than jewels,

and nothing desirable can equal it.

I, wisdom, share a home with shrewdness

and have knowledge and discretion.

To fear the Lord is to hate evil.

I hate arrogant pride, evil conduct,

and perverse speech.

I possess good advice and sound wisdom;

I have understanding and strength.

It is by me that kings reign

and rulers enact just law;

by me, princes lead,

as do nobles and all righteous judges.

I love those who love me,

and those who search for me find me.

With me are riches and honor,

lasting wealth and righteousness.

My fruit is better than solid gold,

and my harvest than pure silver.

I walk in the ways of righteousness,

along the paths of justice,

giving wealth as an inheritance to those who love me,

and filling their treasuries.

 

Note what verse 17 in Proverbs 8 about wisdom:

Proverbs 8:17

I love those who love me, and those who search for me find me.

John 14:21

The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.

 

The Application of Wisdom

How do we apply this wisdom?  It starts with asking God.  It is wise to seek wisdom from those who are following Christ, and not from those who are not following Him.  Applying wisdom is acknowledging the authority that God has in your life.

Proverbs 3:5-7

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not rely on your own understanding;

in all your ways know him,

and he will make your paths straight.

Dont be wise in your own eyes;

fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

Whenever you choose not to ask for wisdom from God, it shows a lack of fear or reverence for Him.

We apply wisdom about asking God within a situation we are going through, and we seek after His presence.  We are to seek His Word and listen for His voice.

 

The Gift of Wisdom

God will give it to you and not hold anything back.

God grants wisdom without any regret.  He desires to give it to you and to help you understand what is going on.

Wisdom is a gift that helps you and also challenges you to remain faithful through the process.  His wisdom will help you in faith.

James 1:6-8

But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways.

God desires to give us wisdom.  He desires to give us wisdom in prayer.  Meditate on His Word.  Recite it to yourself within your prayer.  He will answer and give you what you need.


Unanswered Prayer (Part 8 of a Series – ‘Prayer: What Difference Does It Make?’)

Today’s message summary of July 16, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

Prayer is very, very important.  As we continue this series, we will ponder how God answers some prayers and does not answer others.

The reason that many Christians are seeking the Lord is because they are experiencing some sort of affliction.  Some are experiencing cancer, and the diagnosis for recovery is slim.

Seeing those who experience this situation remind us that life is short, and also the reality that God may not answer their prayers for complete healing.  We wrestle with a level of uncertainty in our Christian life, and we can find that many of these prayers may never be answered in our lifetime.

Zechariah 7:13

Just as he had called, and they would not listen, so when they called, I would not listen, says the Lord of Armies.

Why does God allow prayers to go unanswered while others are indeed answered?

  1. Because of sinfulness
  2. Because of faithlessness
  3. Love of worldly pleasure
  4. The sovereignty of God

Unanswered prayers may be the result of sinfulness. He will not listen to those whose hearts are not truly looking to Him; however, God does hear the prayers of sinners who sincerely turn to Him.  He will hear and acknowledge anyone who desires to have a relationship with Him.

Micah 3:1-4

Then I said, Now listen, leaders of Jacob,

you rulers of the house of Israel.

Arent you supposed to know what is just?

You hate good and love evil.

You tear off peoples skin

and strip their flesh from their bones.

You eat the flesh of my people

after you strip their skin from them

and break their bones.

You chop them up

like flesh for the cooking pot,

like meat in a cauldron.

Then they will cry out to the Lord,

but he will not answer them.

He will hide his face from them at that time

because of the crimes they have committed.

 

Romans 1:24

Therefore God delivered them over in the desires of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves.

 

A person who sins is disrupting the communication between himself and God.  Sin hinders prayers.

Saul is an example of this.  His disobedience was sinful and he forfeited his kingship over the people (1 Samuel 15:12-29).

 

1 Samuel 28:3-19

By this time Samuel had died, all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his city, and Saul had removed the mediums and spiritists from the land. The Philistines gathered and camped at Shunem. So Saul gathered all Israel, and they camped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the Philistine camp, he was afraid and his heart pounded. He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him in dreams or by the Urim or by the prophets. Saul then said to his servants, Find me a woman who is a medium, so I can go and consult her.

 His servants replied, There is a woman at En-dor who is a medium.

Saul disguised himself by putting on different clothes and set out with two of his men. They came to the woman at night, and Saul said, Consult a spirit for me. Bring up for me the one I tell you.

But the woman said to him, You surely know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why are you setting a trap for me to get me killed?

Then Saul swore to her by the Lord: As surely as the Lord lives, no punishment will come to you from this.

Who is it that you want me to bring up for you? the woman asked. 

Bring up Samuel for me, he answered.

When the woman saw Samuel, she screamed, and then she asked Saul, Why did you deceive me? You are Saul!

But the king said to her, Dont be afraid. What do you see?

I see a spirit form coming up out of the earth, the woman answered.

Then Saul asked her, What does he look like?

An old man is coming up, she replied. Hes wearing a robe. Then Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he knelt low with his face to the ground and paid homage.

Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up? Samuel asked Saul.

Im in serious trouble, replied Saul. The Philistines are fighting against me and God has turned away from me. He doesnt answer me anymore, either through the prophets or in dreams. So Ive called on you to tell me what I should do.

Samuel answered, Since the Lord has turned away from you and has become your enemy, why are you asking me? The Lord has done exactly what he said through me: The Lord has torn the kingship out of your hand and given it to your neighbor David. You did not obey the Lord and did not carry out his burning anger against Amalek; therefore the Lord has done this to you today. The Lord will also hand Israel over to the Philistines along with you. Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me, and the Lord will hand Israels army over to the Philistines.

Saul’s disobedience continued by consulting a medium—the very people that he had removed—because he knew the Lord had turned from him.

Leviticus 20:6-8

Whoever turns to mediums or spiritists and prostitutes himself with them, I will turn against that person and cut him off from his people. Consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sets you apart.

Will God answer our prayers if we habitually sin against Him?

He will respond to the ones who confess sin and seek Him in prayer.  We seek after Him in order to prevent our prayers from being hindered.

Jonah 3:5-10

Then the people of Nineveh believed God. They proclaimed a fast and dressed in sackclothfrom the greatest of them to the least.

When word reached the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne, took off his royal robe, put on sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he issued a decree in Nineveh:

By order of the king and his nobles: No person or animal, herd or flock, is to taste anything at all. They must not eat or drink water. Furthermore, both people and animals must be covered with sackcloth, and everyone must call out earnestly to God. Each must turn from his evil ways and from his wrongdoing. Who knows? God may turn and relent; he may turn from his burning anger so that we will not perish.

God saw their actionsthat they had turned from their evil waysso God relented from the disaster he had threatened them with. And he did not do it.

James 5:15-16

The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; 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 prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.

1 Peter 3:7

Husbands, in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker partner, showing them honor as coheirs of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

Prayers are unanswered at times due to a lack of faith (faithlessness).

Hebrews 11:6

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

James 1:6-8

But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways.

Your prayer life should consist of faith in Jesus Christ with the remembrance that anything that you ask for in His name and in accordance to His will, He will do it.

Prayers are not answered when they come from a worldly perspective.  God is not a genie that answers prayers just to give you possessions.  Are you praying out of selfishness?  Those that desire earthly things are more in love with the world than they are with Him.

1 John 2:15-17

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the worldthe lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in ones possessionsis not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.

James 4:3

You ask and dont receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Prayer should never be used in a wrongful manner.

Another reason that God will not answer prayers is because of His sovereignty.

Paul prayed for a healing for his affliction, but God responded by not healing him and reminding him that God’s grace was sufficient for him within his own weakness (2 Corinthians 12:6-10).

God reminds us as to what is really important, and that He ultimately, no matter how He responds to our prayers is worthy of our praise and honor through our worship.  God ultimately desires for us to have a close relationship with Him.  How he answers prayer ultimately has everything to do with this.

Isaiah 38:1-6

In those days Hezekiah became terminally ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, This is what the Lord says: Set your house in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover.’”

Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord. He said, Please, Lord, remember how I have walked before you faithfully and wholeheartedly, and have done what pleases you. And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: Go and tell Hezekiah, This is what the Lord God of your ancestor David says: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Look, I am going to add fifteen years to your life. And I will rescue you and this city from the grasp of the king of Assyria; I will defend this city.

Throughout Jesus’ prayer life, God responded to all of His prayers except for one.  Jesus, speaking from his humanity, asked for the father to remove the burden of going to the cross.  God did not answer the prayer.

Mark 14:34-42

He said to them, I am deeply grieved[a] to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.  He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will. Then he came and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, Simon, are you sleeping? Couldnt you stay awake one hour? Stay awake and pray so that you wont enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Once again he went away and prayed, saying the same thing. And again he came and found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open. They did not know what to say to him. Then he came a third time and said to them, Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The time has come. See, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up; lets go. See, my betrayer is near.

Was it possible for God to remove the cup?  Certainly it was; however, even Jesus recognized that there was a greater purpose in what was taking place.  It was according to God’s sovereign will for Jesus Christ to be sacrificed on the cross.  It was necessary for each one of us that Christ would take on the sins of the world for us.  He was destined to die in the manner that He did for us.

When you pray, please consider the intent of your prayers.  Pray with the desire to remove sin from your life and seek forgiveness.  Are you praying from a worldly perspective, or with the desire to seek a godly perspective?  When you pray, are you praying with faith?  Remain faithful to Him in your prayers, and trust that His sovereignty is for your overall good in your life and in the lives of those who you pray for.


Jesus is in Our Midst

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 18:20

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

Genesis 4:26

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

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

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

Malachi 3:16-18

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

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

James 1:5

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

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

Wisdom is needed.  God is in the conversation.

Guidance is needed.  Jesus is there.

Understanding is needed.  Jesus is there.

1 Corinthians 14:33

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

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

Proverbs 16:9

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

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

Psalm 37:33

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

Think of what Jesus means to you in your life.

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

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

Colossians 1:9

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

Micah 5:4-5

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

1 Peter 5:4

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

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

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

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

Romans 5:1-2

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

John 14:6-7

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

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

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

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

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

He has promised to be with us.

He reveals that He is with us.

John 20:19-23

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

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

Philippians 2:13

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


Prayer: What Difference Does It Make? (1 John 5:14) [Part 7 of a Series]

Today’s message summary of May 21, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

Today, we will discuss prayer but we also want to be able to learn how to listen to God in the midst of prayer.

Elijah went into hiding because he learned that his life was in danger because of his efforts to remove the idols of the day from the presence of Ahab and Jezebel.  There, the Lord spoke to him…

1 Kings 19:9-18

He entered a cave there and spent the night.

Elijahs Encounter with the Lord

Then the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, What are you doing here, Elijah?

He replied, I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts, but the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are looking for me to take my life.

Then He said, Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lords presence.

At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Suddenly, a voice came to him and said, What are you doing here, Elijah?

I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts, he replied, but the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and theyre looking for me to take my life.

Then the Lord said to him, Go and return by the way you came to the Wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive, you are to anoint Hazael as king over Aram.  You are to anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel and Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.  Then Jehu will put to death whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death whoever escapes the sword of Jehu.  But I will leave 7,000 in Israelevery knee that has not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.

There are many points here, but we will cover the following point relevant to listening to God when we pray:

Identifying God’s voice.  Many of us can recognize specific voices, such as a mother, brothers or sisters, or even children and parents, and that is because of your personal knowledge and exposure.  In contrast, we often can struggle hearing God’s voice.  Please note that God has never stopped speaking to his church.  Our struggle is the amount of time we spend trying to hear Him.  We face many distractions that keep us from hearing Him.  Consider that Elijah, a very devout man, was in a place where he had become frightful even though he was a man full of faith and had spoken to God on a regular basis.  You would not necessarily expect that he would struggle here as he did.

God asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?”  We can ask ourselves the same question.  Even when we are speaking to God, sometimes we cannot hear him because of how our fears can drown out the voice of God.

Can you identify the voice of God?  Are you able to decipher His voice over the voices of others?

John 10:2-5

The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  The doorkeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.  They will never follow a stranger; instead they will run away from him, because they dont recognize the voice of strangers.

The sheep know His voice.  If you know Jesus Christ, you can identify His voice.  It is often, however, that we, as His sheep, will willingly listen to strangers that lead us to sin.  Other voices that are contrary to God will try to drown out God’s voice.  We can often be easily distracted.  We need to be intentional in pursuing the very things that God directs us to in order to succeed.

We can hear the voice of God actually answering previously unanswered prayers.

Colossians 3:15-16

And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.  Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Ephesians 5:18-21

And dont get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit:

speaking to one another

in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,

singing and making music

from your heart to the Lord,

giving thanks always for everything

to God the Father

in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

submitting to one another

in the fear of Christ.

What is really in your heart?  Is it the Word of God or is it something else?  What permeates from you?  Is the Word of God something that comes naturally for you?

When you hear a voice of condemnation or one that promotes depression, it is not the voice of God.  We are to decipher those voices of the world versus those that come from God.

How do we know when God is communicating to us?  In biblical times, God did so in many different ways.  He can use these means even today.  He communicates to us through our friends or even our worldly co-workers.  In order to hear what He is saying, we must be attentive to this communication and live intentionally for Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 12:6-9

For if I want to boast, I will not be a fool, because I will be telling the truth. But I will spare you, so that no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me, especially because of the extraordinary revelations. Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christs power may reside in me.

Notice how God communicated to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:

1 Kings 19:11-12

Then He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.”

At that moment, the Lord passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper.

These are three supernatural and spontaneous events that occurred.  Notice that Elijah is trying to hear God’s voice through all of the noise but it was only when things were quiet and still was when he heard it.

It is important for each one of you, in our busyness, that we have to be still and focus on His voice.  It is in our quiet moments when we can hear Him best.

When we are praying to Him, what would it look like if we were silent?  What you will hopefully hear is your quiet conversation with Him and His response as you learn to read and meditate on His Word on a daily basis.


Prayer: What Difference Does it Make? (Part 6 of a Series)

Today’s message summary of March 19, 2017 from Assistant Pastor Travis Jackson:

1 Samuel 1:1-8

There was a man from Ramathaim-zophim in the hill country of Ephraim. His name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives, the first named Hannah and the second Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless. This man would go up from his town every year to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of Hosts at Shiloh, where Elis two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were the Lords priests.

Whenever Elkanah offered a sacrifice, he always gave portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to each of her sons and daughters. But he gave a double portion to Hannah, for he loved her even though the Lord had kept her from conceiving. Her rival would taunt her severely just to provoke her, because the Lord had kept Hannah from conceiving. Whenever she went up to the Lords house, her rival taunted her in this way every year. Hannah wept and would not eat. Hannah, why are you crying? her husband Elkanah asked. Why wont you eat? Why are you troubled? Am I not better to you than 10 sons?

In verse 10, it is noted that Hannah was depressed about her inability to conceive.  She was very upset and was praying to God that she would be remembered in her difficulty.

1 Samuel 1:9-11

Hannah got up after they ate and drank at Shiloh. Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the Lords tabernacle. Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the Lord and wept with many tears. Making a vow, she pleaded, Lord of Hosts, if You will take notice of Your servants affliction, remember and not forget me, and give Your servant a son, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and his hair will never be cut.

She was weeping in such a way as a woman who had lost her only child.  Her condition was one of deep despair.

The reality of infertility makes a woman feel inadequate or incomplete.  A woman’s desire is to bear children.  In Hannah’s time, women who remained barren felt worthless, and they typically would not receive an inheritance that would allow for care for themselves and family members.  A woman’s prestige was based upon her ability to produce offspring.

It should be noted that Hannah’s inability to bear children was allowed by God, and perhaps for the sole purpose that He wanted Hannah to draw closer to Him and to not dwell on her circumstances.

2 Corinthians 12:6-10

For if I want to boast, I will not be a fool, because I will be telling the truth. But I will spare you, so that no one can credit me with something beyond what he sees in me or hears from me, especially because of the extraordinary revelations. Therefore, so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger[a] of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christs power may reside in me. So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Hannah found her self-worth in God.  This is also a lesson for each of us.  We believe that the things that we do defines who we are.  All joy that we experience comes from Him, and it should remind us that we are to seek Him in everything.

When we pray to God, we are to pray with the understanding that our desires are to be rooted within a relationship with Him.  He wants us to grow more and more with Him.

In her prayer to God, we will focus on these three things:

  • Hannah’s vow to the Lord
  • Hannah asked for recognition
  • Hannah’s offering

Hannah made a vow with God not only with herself but also with her future child.  When she made this promise, it affected the course of her child’s life.  The vow was a Nazarite vow, where the person would separate and consecrate himself for service to God in the temple.  We find that Samuel would be serving the Lord diligently for his entire life.

Making a vow is not to be taken lightly, and is not recommended (Judges 11:29-40).

So, (Akron Alliance Fellowship) Church, when you are praying:

Matthew 5:37

But let your word yes be yes, and your no be no.[a] Anything more than this is from the evil one.

When Samuel was born, we know that Hannah followed her vow by keeping her commitment.  Her only child was committed to service.  Her desire to be a mother was fulfilled, but she released Samuel to serve the Lord.  This is the type of prayer that we are to focus on when it comes to our own service to Jesus Christ.

Hannah prayed to the Lord to be remembered by God as her servant (1 Samuel 1:11).  In Hannah, whose name means “grace,” you can understand her sincerity of prayer before the Lord.  Note that God heard her affliction, and we see that Hannah bore Samuel and many more children afterward (three sons and two daughters).

The lesson here is remaining prayerful.  God, in His sovereignty, does recognize your prayers, and it make take some time before He answers them.

Hannah’s offering was giving her son back to the Lord.  She offered her son as a way of serving the Lord in her desire to please God. Samuel was faithful in service and became a judge over Israel.

There is a parallel to her actions to Jesus’ prayer in John 17:

John 17:9-11

I pray for them.

I am not praying for the world

but for those You have given Me,

because they are Yours.

Everything I have is Yours,

and everything You have is Mine,

and I have been glorified in them.

I am no longer in the world,

but they are in the world,

and I am coming to You.

Holy Father,

protect them by Your name

that You have given Me,

so that they may be one as We are one.

 

Jesus asked God to keep and protect His servants.  The persons that Jesus would die on the cross for belonged to the Father.