Tag Archives: scriptures

Why Should Christians Care About the Church?

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

The church gets criticized in many different ways.  People who attend will often say that it can be boring.  Please understand that, when you love someone, it is not boring.

Other criticisms include that the church is old-fashioned or not modern enough.  Note that the world who never go to church will offer their own critiques of church that people who do attend church will agree with.  Church is not just for Christians–it is for anyone who desires to know more about Jesus Christ.

The church experience should be one where Christians really love the church.

Ephesians 5:23

…for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church. He is the Savior of the body.

One of the biggest issues about loving the church is missing the fact that Jesus Christ is the head of the church.  We serve a sovereign God.  We have to believe it along with simply stating it.

Ephesians 1:22

And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church.

Colossians 1:18

He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything.

You are to love the church because Jesus Christ leads it.  It is a place to come to learn and grow, and yes, to be sharpened.

Ephesians 5:25-27

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ love the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless.

The church’s purpose is to help the people of God holy.  It is done through the work of the Holy Spirit, and He is the Teacher within the church about holiness.

If the church does not get involved with you, the relationship between you and the church is only superficial.  Your participation in church allows you to hear the wisdom of others through God’s guidance.

Ephesians 5:29-30

For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of His body.

Another reason to love the church is that Jesus Christ and the church are one.

Ephesians 5:32

This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church.

The church is the bride of Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:2

For I am jealous over you with a godly jealously, because I have promised you in marriage to one husband–to present a pure virgin to Christ.

The church is like Eve–Adam’s bride.  Eve came out of Adam (Genesis 2:22).

Romans 11:36

For from Him and through Him

and to Him are all things.

To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

John 6:44

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.

2 Corinthians 11:3

But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be seduced from a complete and pure devotion to Christ.

When it comes to The Trinity, we have to learn to dance with God.  The Church was designed by God to be a dance studio to teach us to stay in step with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Father.  We are dancing with all three.

Dancing and relating to Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father is no simple thing.  No one gets the hang of it quickly or permanently.  Why?  Because there is always a new step you have to learn and another turn added within the dance.  With all of this, you still will have to follow His leading.

It seems difficult, if not impossible, but the Holy Spirit is a great teacher.

John 14:17

He is the Spirit of truth.  The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you.

Without God, it seems wrong, or even foolish, and even sometimes downright stupid to dance with Jesus.  But you know better because you know Him and trust in Him.

Do you really know the Holy Spirit and understanding His voice?  His presence?

The church carries us through the pain and darkness of our lives.  It is there to be the light when there is no light.  It is there to provide encouragement.  It is there for us until we learn to dance smoothly with Jesus, and become actively involved in church life.

Once you become more active in church life, then you really will begin to grow.  Not just within the four walls of the building, but when you are living for Christ everywhere you go.

The church is a partial fulfillment of the kingdom of God here on earth.  It serves as a primary agent of the kingdom.

Colossians 1:13

He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.

It is in the church the inward disciplines with outward expressions of spiritual maturity take place.  The church is where you learn to be sharpened.

Acts 17:11

The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Proverbs 27:17

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.

We begin to grow in the church:

Because one is able to excise the fruit of the Spirit.  It does not mean one is mature, but it is a lifelong process.

Galatians 5:22-23a

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control.

True transformation determines our growth, but our desire is to look more like Jesus Christ in our everyday actions.


The Church’s Benefit is Truth About Life

Today’s message summary from Pastor Gus Brown:
Church attendance is dwindling throughout America today. The conclusion is that more people believe that the church is less relevant today. In reality, the church actually brings relevance to our lives. When we enter the house of God, it’s purpose is to give us understanding. We learn from the church that the way of the world is vastly different from what we learn in church. It is about not leaning on one’s own way of understanding but on what God states about leaning on His guidance and direction (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Newsweek ran an article about “A World Without Fathers: The Struggle to Save the Black Family” back in 1993. Twenty years later, the state of the Black Family remains in peril and is arguably getting worse.
Statistically, less than 50 percent of black men in high school actually graduate. There has been little to no improvement in the plight of children coming out of high school, in spite of the money that has been spent on education.There is a clear change in society when it comes to marriage. Many people choose living together as an alternative in order to “test out” the relationship.
Americans are creating their own religions by blending their beliefs with what others may believe. They are using the mix-and-match approach in order to conform to what works best for them. The question for this is ‘Are these blended religions in conformity with who God really is?’

These views are all the result of the world’s influence on man’s way of thinking. Some have even proposed that God Himself does not exist. The church brings insight as to what is really the truth about life and provides direction in every daily situation and circumstance.

God’s truth gives understanding to life. Life without God’s truth is nothing less than living life in a state of confusion–it is a life of disorder, embarrassment and failure. The church is a benefit for us because it is the only place we will receive truth that is directly from God concerning all of life that is correct.

The church teaches and insists upon those who claim that they are saved to trust in His Word–the Holy Bible. You cannot say that you do not believe in the Bible and also refer to yourself as a believer in Jesus Christ. It is a standard that is without compromise.

The church instructs that not one word of God’s Word will fade away. Why?

Numbers 23:19
God is not a man who lies,
or a son of man who changes His mind.
Does He speak and not act,
or promise and not fulfill?

In the church, we learn that God is not a man (John 4:24).

John 4:24
God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

God does not lie–He speaks the truth, and His Word will not change.

2 Thessalonians 2:9-12
9 The coming of the lawless one is based on Satan’s working, with all kinds of false miracles, signs, and wonders, 10 and with every unrighteous deception among those who are perishing. They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth in order to be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a strong delusion so that they will believe what is false, 12 so that all will be condemned —those who did not believe the truth but enjoyed unrighteousness.

1 Timothy 4:1-3
1 Now the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, 2 through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared. 3 They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods that God created to be received with gratitude by those who believe and know the truth.

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

Romans 3:4
…Absolutely not! God must be true, even if everyone is a liar, as it is written:

That You may be justified in Your words
and triumph when You judge.

Psalm 119:89-91
ל 89 Lord, Your word is forever;
it is firmly fixed in heaven.
90 Your faithfulness is for all generations;
You established the earth, and it stands firm.
91 They stand today in accordance with Your judgments,
for all things are Your servants.

Matthew 5:18
For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is inspired by God[a] and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The truth about life comes through the church and God’s Word through Jesus Christ.

John 14:6
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

John 8:32
You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

God’s people are being prepared for service and work within His church and for His ministry. The church is the body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11
And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers…

Colossians 1:24
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for His body, that is, the church.

God does not change His mind; as a result, the church believes the words of God, stands on it, and acts upon it. We need His Word to renew our minds, to keep us and help us to endure the afflictions that come from the enemy. He is our Comforter. He has a standard that is far above that of the world that we live in. He wants us to seek His kingdom in the way that we live.

Isaiah 55:8
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.

God’s Word declares sin and the nature of the sinner.

Psalm 73:18-19
18 Indeed, You put them in slippery places;
You make them fall into ruin.
19 How suddenly they become a desolation!
They come to an end, swept away by terrors.

The believer in Jesus Christ who responds to Him and His Word will receive blessings from Him.

John 1:17
…for the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

God’s Word provides teaching and valuable instruction for dealing with the issues of life. It also provides clear information on how to worship Him and how to remain in righteous living.

The church carries out God’s plan. It is not a new plan–it was His plan from the beginning.

Genesis 1:28
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”

Matthew 28:18-20
18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

“Subduing the land” requires work. It means to conquer or bring into subjection. It is to overcome by way of persuasion or training. We all are to work with a clean conscience in how we live, and that is how God reaches us as He ministers to us while we minister to others. His truth calls us to work for His kingdom.

To make disciples calls for work. Our work is for Jesus Christ and its purpose is to reach others. It is all about all of us coming under God’s authority.

Mother’s Day: God’s Message of True Beauty

Happy Mother’s Day!

Today’s message text for Mother’s Day as presented by Lynn Gaines: 

When Pastor Gus asked me to speak for the Mother’s day service, I thought he meant a supplemental reading—then he said no—he meant the main message!  So I regrouped and asked the Lord what He wanted me to talk about, and He gave me this topic: “What is True Beauty?” …so here it goes…

The Webster’s (Dictionary) definition of beauty is:

  • A combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.
  • A combination of qualities that pleases the intellect or moral sense.

The definition of beautiful is:

  • Pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically
  • Of a very high standard; excellent.

Type in a Google search for “beautiful women” and a flood of images come up – women with unusual eyes, long hair (with a random shot of Halle Berry’s pixie cut tossed in), Angelina Jolie pouty lips and pleasing curves.  What’s interesting to me is that as I look around, most women I see don’t fit that definition!  I know a lot of women that I consider beautiful, but they don’t necessarily fit the world’s description… in fact when I think of beautiful women, some physical attributes come to mind, but usually for me it’s other “unseen” things that come to mind when I think of the word beautiful. For example, my mom is physically attractive but it’s her calmness, her elegance, her love and support of others that make her beautiful to me.

We see a lot today about how the world defines “beautiful people”–perfect hair, teeth, and skin (sometimes accompanied by large homes and a jet setting life)–but is that all there is to beauty?

What happens if you don’t fit the stereotype does that mean you’re ugly?

All of us as women are bombarded with constant imagery that only a few can live up to. From Toddlers in Tiaras to the Bachelorette to the Miss America pageants, we are constantly being inundated with all these images of what the media deems “beautiful”. The average American woman is a size 12-14 yet when we are shown supposedly “beautiful women,” they are usually a size 0-4–so is everyone else less beautiful? (Man, I sure hope not…)

There are reports now where girls as young as 12 are getting cosmetic surgery done, not because it’s necessary, but because they want a certain feature to look a certain way. In “Real Girls, Real Pressure: A National Report on the State of Self-Esteem,” a survey of more than 1,000 girls in the United States showed that 70 percent of girls ages 8 to 17 believed that they “are not good enough” or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school, relationships with friends and family members and they are looking to plastic surgery to give them a mental boost and the confidence that they are beautiful.

When someone says,  “She is beautiful”, what is the first thing you think of? -what is on the outside or the inside? Sadly, in our culture today, one’s mind usually goes to the outside.

Magazines, TV, and books have all hijacked the definition of what beauty means and they are using it to promote a better bottom line for their products- buy this dress/perfume/hairstyle/book and voila, instant beauty!!  But I contend that there is more to beauty than what you see and it’s more than money can buy…

More encouraging, another study done by the Dove Campaign found that:

  • 77 percent of women strongly agree that beauty can be achieved through attitude, spirit, and other attributes that have nothing to do with physical appearance.
  • 89 percent strongly agree that a woman can be beautiful at any age.
  • 85 percent state that every woman has something about her that is beautiful.

The study also found that two-thirds of women strongly agree that physical attractiveness is about how one looks, whereas beauty includes much more of whom a person is. Women rate happiness, confidence, dignity, and humor as powerful components of beauty, along with the more traditional attributes of physical appearance, body weight and shape, and even a sense of style.

But the question still remains, what is true beauty? Well I believe that to find the best answer, we have to go to the Creator – So I investigated the scriptures to see what it said about beauty and interestingly enough, there was not a thing about pouty lips or an hourglass figure–Scripture lets you know that those things will go away (by the way, if you don’t believe this, you will).

It’s a woman’s reverence for God—how she carries herself because she knows the Lord—it’s THAT quality that makes her beautiful.  Physical beauty is fleeting, but true beauty (virtue) is timeless.

Moms, Grandmas, Grandpas, Dads, Uncles, Aunts—begin to affirm your daughters, nieces and granddaughters, the young women in your lives.  Tell them they are beautiful—not because of how they look but how they carry themselves as God’s creation.  (A side note to Fathers—it is the important men in a young woman’s life that inform her of what other men see as beautiful and if they don’t get the correct message from the good men in their lives, they will get an incorrect message from men in the world.)

Now, this is in no way meant to be an exhaustive list, but I want to look at 5 Scriptures that will give us a better idea of what God looks for in the “Beautiful” person:

Psalm 139:14

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

In Genesis 1:27 it says So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

So if we are created in His image, we can concluded that we are as beautiful as God is – and God makes no mistakes and He makes no junk!  Just like the snowflakes that He creates, no two people are alike either, but all are equally beautiful.  The Psalmist says he is fearfully and wonderfully made and that God’s works are wonderful–now, does that sound like the measuring stick for true beauty is based on physical attributes?

Consider this next scripture:

1 Samuel 16:7

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Again, it seems that our natural inclination as people is to look on the outward appearance and once again God stresses that He has a totally different point of view–He looks at the heart.

Now he says in Jeremiah 17:9 the heart is desperately wicked but He also says in Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. So there is hope for our wicked hearts, hope that they can truly be beautiful–that will happen as we submit them to a loving Father and let Him transform them.

Here’s a verse you may have heard a lot in reference to a woman’s beauty—

Proverbs 31:30

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

This verse is telling us that although physical beauty fades with age, it’s the beauty that come from being in awe of God that will really impress Him, that reverence for God that is true beauty to Him – and He is the only judge that truly matters. It’s comforting to know that we can become more beautiful to God simply by showing reverence for Him–or, to put it another way, it’s our love for Him that makes us more beautiful to Him. And His opinion is the one that counts.

1 Peter 3:3-4 says:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 

Now before anyone goes too far in his or her thinking, this not a call to a legalistic dress code (although I am a champion for modesty) and this does NOT mean go around in a sack, with no make-up on and try to be as plain as possible.  It’s not wrong to make the most of what you have, but it is dangerous to rely on that alone to be the barometer for your beauty, because ladies and gentleman if you hadn’t noticed, things change–and not always for the better (!).  I don’t know about you, but I know there is more of me to love these days.

To give you the context of Peter’s remarks, in the culture of that day, some of the Egyptian women were spending hours and hours working on their hair, makeup, and finding the perfect outfit (sounds a lot like today actually–some things never change…) and Peter was exhorting the Christian woman to realize that true beauty was more about how she carried herself and where her focus was (on the Lord) rather than “who” she was wearing.

Finally 1 Timothy 4:8 says:

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

Now there is nothing wrong with physical training–it is, in fact, a good thing. In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul reminds us that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  It is good to keep our “temples” together so we can better serve the Lord.  However, today we are sometimes overly fascinated with comparing ourselves to others and who’s got the most perfect body and getting our bodies to look “perfect” when a better use of some of our time might be spent on “spiritual” exercises (actually much easier on the back, and more beneficial).

Some folks who would never skip a weekly visit to the gym, will go weeks without lifting up their bibles and impress their hearts with the Word of God… no matter how perfect your physical body is (or isn’t)—the criteria for being “fit for heaven” is knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior (thank Goodness), the criteria for beauty is a spirit that is in awe of God.

So I want to leave you with these thoughts:

Ladies–recognize that true beauty is defined not by the world and man but by God and that TRUE beauty is an “inner” thing, not just an appearance thing.

Work with what God gave you physically, take care of God’s temple and focus your energy not on perfect physical features but a spirit that reveres God.  Now that’s beautiful!

Thank you!

Copyright © Lynn Gaines. All rights reserved.

Lynn is a Senior Designer/Illustrator with American Greetings Corporation.

Searching For Truth

Do you recall the last time that you were searching around for your car keys?  Was it just the other day that you were hunting around for your cell phone because you could not find where you had last put it down?  Maybe it was your wallet, where you keep your driver’s license.  Don’t leave home without it!  For those times you misplaced your glasses, you really struggled finding them because your eyesight is the reason you had to get glasses in the first place!

All of us have lost something that we need to find as soon as possible in order to be able to continue with our day, or even just feel better because what you thought was lost was not really lost at all.  The process of searching for something can be a very casual search, or a frantic search where you are flipping seat cushions and bed covers, or something in between.

While none of us looks forward to searching for a lost item, we should relish looking for those things that reveal truth in the midst of a very confusing world.  The search for truth can be relatively straightforward, for example, it occurs to you while you are looking for your keys that you left them in your coat pocket, and while your keys are not yet located, you know where to go to find them.  Some searches for truth for some of us are not as simple.  There are still others where the search for truth is hampered by constraints of the world.  Their search is one of futility because they do not know where to go or which way to turn next.  The search process is now fraught with disappointment and despair.  The search for truth can be as simple as the search when you absolutely know where to look, or it can be utterly mystifying and confusing.

A search requires effort on your part.  Searching for truth requires effort, as well.  Jesus certainly knew that there would be many people today seeking the truth about Him or the truth about salvation and what it means to trust in Him as your personal Savior.  With all of this, He provides us with some guidelines as we search for truth in this world.  Let’s “search” the Scriptures in seeking his advice.

Matthew 7:7-8

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

The search for truth has some basic components that are within the search process.  The first of these is relatively straightforward…to ask for information.  We must be prepared to ask questions in order to receive answers that will guide us into truth.  In the process of asking questions, we should always challenge ourselves to make sure that we are in the proper learning environment.  All of us would agree that we would want the best possible environment for our children when it comes to education.  We would not want to settle for anything less than a quality education for them.  If that is the case, then why would you settle for a church that is short on teaching ability and that does not provide that same quality for you?  You make the distinction and determination that you are in the best learning environment in church by asking questions.  Once you hear the answers, now you can note them and test their veracity as you are challenged to do according to God’s Word:

Acts 17:10-12

As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea. On arrival, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Consequently, many of them believed, including a number of the prominent Greek women as well as men.

Asking questions during bible studies or Sunday school classes will most certainly confirm, with the proper scriptural fact checking, whether or not you are in the proper environment for seeking God’s truth in His Word.  The Spirit guides us into truth if we are paying attention to Him.  Jesus promises that when we ask, we will receive the answers that we need through the Spirit.

John 16:13

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

Jesus also advises us to seek what we are looking for, and there will come a point where what we are looking for will be found.  Notice that Jesus does not immediately proclaim that you are to seek Him directly, but what you will find is that the more you actually search through the Scriptures, the likelihood is that you will come to the same conclusion:

John 5:39

You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me.

This verse points to the fact that while you may be studying scripture and asking questions, it is important to note that you could be looking directly at Jesus Christ and missing the important message that He is trying to communicate.  Matthew Henry’s commentary of this verse is that even though the Jews were scholars and believed that they had everything they needed because they had God’s Word in their hands, they still neglected God’s true message and had lost their love for God.  Many may believe they are very religious, and yet they sadly do not love or even know Jesus in a relational way.

It is important to not only seek, but to keep seeking—to continue to look for the truth.  It may take several attempts before you make the discovery, but the key to all of this is persistence.  Persistence requires a desire to get to a place in your search where you are completely satisfied with the results.  In order to get to that point, you must keep seeking…keep looking for answers.  The answers come from Scripture, and as we seek the truth, we should have the desire to seek it even more.

Psalm 1:1-3

How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path of sinners, or join a group of mockers! 2 Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

The search for truth requires asking for information, seeking answers to your questions, and another act of persistence, knocking.  The act of knocking, specifically in Matthew 7 on a door, is to create a sound that brings attention to the one who is creating the noise.  To knock on the door is to alert someone on the other side that you wish to obtain entry to a place that you cannot readily access without the door being opened for you.  Logically, if you could open the door and enter the room, there is no need to knock.

Why the reference of knocking and the door will be opened?  This is also an example of persistence and also endurance.  The door being knocked on is considered to be an obstacle.  The obstacle can be perceived as a small thing, or it can be a very great trial.  Of the commentaries that you may review in looking at this verse, there are references to the combination of prayer to God, persistence, and endurance with the act of knocking on the door.  You continue to knock on the door until it is opened.  Let’s look at the parallel verse, which gives a more detailed example of this:

Luke 11:5-9

5 He also said to them: “Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything to offer him.’ 7 Then he will answer from inside and say, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I have gone to bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9 “So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

The opening of the door allows you to enter into a place of rest and security in the Lord.  An open door after persistent knocking brings on a sense of relief and satisfaction.  If you notice closely in the verse that the Lord promises that He will open the door…not that he might open it or could open it…He will open the door.  This is a promise that He gives to each of us who remain persistent in seeking Him, endure hardships to fellowship with Him, and look for ways to understand Him in the best way possible.

Notice that this is exactly what Jesus Christ wants you to do in your efforts to seek Him.  To keep asking questions, to keep seeking understanding, to continue to pray in earnest through your hardships until the time He responds to you.  Seeking the truth means that you are doing much more than just learning about Jesus Christ—you are learning that the actions of asking, seeking, and knocking mean that you are seeking a living Christ…the Messiah…the God who knows all about you while you are continually learning more about Him, learning how to love Him as He already loved you.

Romans 5:8

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!

John 3:16

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

1 John 4:9-10

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (sacrifice) for our sins.

Seeking truth is all about seeking Jesus.  We are to never cease from seeking Him, for the more we learn about Jesus Christ, the more wisdom, knowledge, and understanding that we will receive from Him through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Proverbs 9:10

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines.

Dreams and Visions For Change

God speaks to us through many ways. He is a living God who desires to speak to his people, and He does speak to us. Scripture has reflected that God uses dreams and visions to communicate with us and make His presence known to us. He makes Himself known to us when we have the desire to hear Him and listen to His voice.

In John Maxwell’s book, How Successful People Think, he shares that dreamers have an expanded way of seeing life and are more likely to achieve their dreams. God uses those people who dream “to bring a newness into our lives and even to his people, the church.” As God provides for us the ability to dream, he wants us to use “big-picture” thinking to see the world beyond your own way of thinking about the future.

God wants us to grow in our relationship with Him and does not want us to become satisfied or content in where we are. We are to continue to progress in our faith and in our trust as we grow in our service and ministry for God. He gives us the ability to see where we are and to dream, or aspire, to want more. “Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up: You understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3). God can, sometimes, bring us to the end of ourselves in order to create the desire to start something new or different in our life.

While we may have a dream and desire to change, it will never work if you ate unwilling to change. You must have a willingness to deal with your own attitude. Jerry Falwell (from Building Dynamic Faith) had hundreds of ministries because God placed on his heart the desire to dream big and trust the Lord in everything He provided for him. Even in this, dreams come with some responsibilities in where they come from:
1. Is it biblical in nature?
2. Who gets the credit? God or men?
3. Have you, as a person, grown enough to receive it?
4. Would God be glorified by others when they see the results?
5. Would it help or harm my continued growth in Christ?
6. Will lost people come to Christ?
7. Will the body of Christ be edified?

In the book God Still Speaks by Robert E. Webber, he noted that “there are numerous accounts in Scripture of God revealing Himself through visual means. God uses dreams and visions to introduce change in the individual’s life and His church. Although communication through dreams is sometime looked upon negatively, dreams do have a positive place in the biblical record” (refer to Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17-18).

After this I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old man will have dreams, and your young men will receive visions” (Joel 2:28).

God works throughout Scripture to bring about change in our personal life as well as the church by dreams, visions, and trances (for clarity, dreams are often referring to activity during sleep, while visions and trances occur when awake). These are ways God can use to communicate with us. This communication is one of many ways that God, when we are obedient to His Word and are in line with His will, can inspire us to have a significant impact on our lives and even in the lives of others. A great example of this is how God was able to impact Cornelius, a devout Gentile who still needed a relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior, and Peter, a Jew and a believer who still had more to learn about the unlimited gospel of Christ.

Cornelius, a Gentile, had a vision that God gave to him (Acts 10:3-8) that would give him the desire to be more than just a devout, God-fearing person. God gave him the vision that would impact him, and as a result, his entire household, to seek a relationship with Jesus Christ. He was told to seek Peter in Joppa. The next day, in Joppa, “Peter went up to pray on the housetop at about noon. Then he became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something he went into a visionary state” (Acts 10:9-10). Peter, a Jew, had to now have his attitude changed as to how he was to see Gentiles. Before this, Peter was taught to not associate with Gentiles. Even as believers, God is still teaching us and working with us (Philippians 1:6). In this vision, only Peter could see it, but he had to see how God sees all people, both Jews and Gentiles, are all the same in Christ. God wanted him to ponder the vision and think about it (Acts 10:17) as he was to finally meet Cornelius. The Spirit told him to not hesitate to greet the men even though they were Gentiles (Acts 10:19-20). Peter learned the lesson from his dealings with the men and realized that God was teaching him an important lesson in spite of the existing culture between Jews and Gentiles. “Peter said to them, ‘You know it’s forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner. But God has shown me that I must not call any person common or unclean. That’s why I came without any objection when I was sent for. So I ask, ‘Why did you send for me?’” (Acts 10:28-29). The Spirit was working within Peter to see how both Cornelius and Peter were to learn from the experience. Cornelius was prepared through God’s vision…”So we are all present before God, to hear everything you have been commanded by the Lord” (Acts 10:33b). “Then Peter began to speak: “In truth, I understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him” (Acts 10:34-35). Peter, in obedience to God, then proclaimed the truth of the gospel to all who were present, in spite of his surroundings. The message changed everyone who heard it, and the church was forever changed. “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also” (Acts 10:44-45). It all started with God’s communication to Peter and Cornelius, and in their obedience, to bring together a nation of people to build and encourage one another in Jesus Christ and for the body of Christ.

God is the one who communicates with us, trains us, and guides us into knowledge, wisdom, and truth. Our dreams and visions, when God-inspired, give us the ability to see God’s heart and His will in your life and in the lives of others.

Departing From the Faith

Our study today is in 1 Timothy, chapter 4. This text discusses individuals who turn away from the church and their faith in God. As we study this, we discover that those who are truly following Christ are not these people. True followers of Christ love Him and His Word with all of their hearts. People who depart from the church will have many reasons or excuses as to why they are not active in a church or in ministry. To love Christ and to live for Christ requires much more that just looking at people, situations and circumstances when interacting with others within the church. The message of the gospel and the teachings of Christ are of the utmost importance within the church. Everything else is secondary. The Word and the church are inseperable. This is difficult for some people to accept. Some people, in their own way of thinking, have difficulty with faith matters presented in Scripture. For example, the virgin birth of Christ, angels speaking to people, man (Peter) walking on water, or the resurrection of Christ (someone dead coming to life). The real issue is the ongoing development of your own faith and the understanding that God’s purpose in your life is for you to know the true value of His saving grace in your life. The obstacle to our obedience to the truth is Satan and those who are not following Christ. They try to prevent you from the greater understanding of Christ (Galatians 5:4-8; Galatians 1:7). It is ultimately the demonic influences that keep people out of Chirch and prevent us from knowing more about God and acquiring greater understanding. The bible does not directly address the reasons why people leave the church. It does address the influence that is far greater than just people making choices to go to church or to not go to church. The Holy Spirit brings us to Jesus and His church by faith. Satan and demonic influence wants to keep us away from Jesus, His church, and the faith. Paul, in 1 Timothy, declares that the Holy Spirit is making the declaration that some will depart from the faith (2 Peter 1:21). Peter was clear that he was not speaking on his own accord. The Spirit was speaking on its own accord and on its own authority (Deuteronomy 18:21-22; John 14:17). The Spirit of truth is speaking in 1 Timothy on what was taking place in the church at that time and as time progresses it will become even greater than in previous days. “Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared (1 Timothy 4:1-2).” Here, the word “faith” is not the same word as referenced in James 2:17. The word “faith” refers to the doctrine (teaching) of the church and Jesus Christ. People will make the choice to abandon the faith because they cannot or will not accept the true teaching. They are leaving the doctrine or teaching which forms the foundational basis on what a Christian believes. Scripture warns us to not be swept away in this manner. “Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God. But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception (Hebrews 3:12-13).”

Please note that some, not all, people will depart from the faith. The church wil remain intact in spite of those who walk away. The people who choose to abandon the faith allow themselves to be deceived, and choose not to be a workman of the Word (1 Timothy 2:15). They allow themselves to be taught by false teachers (1 Timothy 4:1-2). It is not the church, but its people that allow themselves to be corrupted.

Unfortunately, the church has a history of false teaching. Thankfully, there is good teaching taking place at the same time. Scripture accurately points this out.

1. Sowing of the tares as well as sowing good seed (Matthew 13:24)
2. Seducing spirits (1 Timothy 4:1)
3. Truth and error at the same time
4. God and Satan were both in the Garden of Eden
5. Good and evil are present at the same time (Romans 7:21)
6. The Old Testament reveals both godly and false prophets occur concurrently

Jesus warns us in Matthew 24:4 not to be deceived. To be deceived is to be tricked, and all of us are capable of being deceived by Satan and false prophets, hence the warning (Matthew 24:11). Satan is out to deceive those who already believe in Christ. He can render believers useless because of his deception and disrupt believers even within the church membership (Acts 20:29-30).

Those that will hold to the truth:
1. They are grounded and rooted in the faith.
2. They are not caught up with every new teaching (Ephesians 4:14).
3. They hear the Word and understand it (Matthew 13:23).
4. They are not deceived about marriage and food (1 Timothy 4:3-4).

Who will you choose to believe? Will you be the one that seeks truth and sound biblical teaching? Always ask if the teaching is God’s truth. God’s Word is written and provided to us for our good and for our benefit. Challenge yourself by claiming God’s Word as truth and have the faith that He will work through you and within you. His Word is a living and active Word.

Sunday School Today: The Nature of God

God is a spirit (John 4:24). God does not have a body as we understand it. He is invisible to us; however, He has revealed Himself to us in a visible form in the person of Jesus Christ. In Christ, He came into the world with a body of flesh (John 1:14-18; Hebrews 1:3). “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation; because by Him everything was created, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:15-16).”

God is light. “Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5).”

God is love. “The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8).”

God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).

God hates. “Six things the Lord hates; in fact, seven are detestable to Him; arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers (Proverbs 6:16-19).”

God hears. The eyes of the Lord are open unto us, and His ears are open unto our prayers.

God is a person. Personal names are used in reference to Him (Exodus 3:14; Matthew 11:25). Personal characteristics are ascribed to Him, such as: (1) knowledge (Isaiah 55:9-10); (2) emotions (Genesis 6:6); (3) will (Joshua 3:10).

God is a unity. Scripture clearly teaches that there is one God (1 Timothy 2:5; John 10:30, 17:11), even though we know of God as the Father, the Son, and as the Spirit. The false teaching that there are many different gods is contrary to reason and to Scripture.