Tag Archives: service

The Church and its Priesthood (Part 6)

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

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

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

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

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

Exodus 17:7

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

Psalm 95:7b-9

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 33:8-11

He said about Levi:

Your Thummim and Urim belong to your faithful one;

you tested him at Massah

and contended with him at the Waters of Meribah.

He said about his father and mother,

I do not regard them.

He disregarded his brothers

and didnt acknowledge his sons,

for they kept your word

and maintained your covenant.

They will teach your ordinances to Jacob

and your instruction to Israel;

they will set incense before you

and whole burnt offerings on your altar.

Lord, bless his possessions,

and accept the work of his hands.

Break the back of his adversaries and enemies,

so that they cannot rise again.

 

Hebrews 3:7-10a

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

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

Romans 2:17-29

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

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

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

Additional characteristics of the character of a priest:

Ezra 7:5-28

Abishuas son, Phinehass son,

Eleazars son, the chief priest Aarons son

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

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

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

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

Greetings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Church and its Priesthood (Part 5)

A message summary of September 10, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

If you are saved, you are a priest of Jesus Christ.  You function in exactly that way.  A priest is one who stands ready to serve God.

We left off last week in Ezekiel discussing where there may be shortcomings or failures of the priest.  For our purposes, sin does not prevent a person to serve Him.  God may ask one to do something, and the person responds.

It is important to note that, depending upon the sin, there are certain things that cannot be undone.  Some of us will fall, and there will be a scar or a mark, and it can’t be repaired.  A believer should always be cautious about the sin that is allowed into one’s life.  Satan can render a believer useless if sin takes over.

Ezekiel 44:10-14

Surely the Levites who wandered away from Me when Israel went astray, and who strayed from Me after their idols, will bear the consequences of their sin. Yet they will occupy My sanctuary, serving as guards at the temple gates and ministering at the temple. They will slaughter the burnt offerings and other sacrifices for the people and will stand before them to serve them. Because they ministered to the house of Israel before their idols and became a sinful stumbling block to them, therefore I swore an oath against them”–this is the declaration of the Lord God–“that they would bear the consequences of their sin. They must not approach Me to serve Me as priests or come near any of My holy things or the most holy things. They will bear their disgrace and the consequences of the detestable acts they committed. Yet I will make them responsible for the duties of the temple–for all its work and everything done in it.

The prayer of a believer should be the desire to be used as a vessel for the Lord in service, but there are rights and privileges that are forfeited as a consequence or consequences of the sin.  It doesn’t mean that the person is not forgiven of their sin, but it does mean that there should be a reckoning of any detestable practice before God.

Christians are to be the salt of the earth.  In order to be this salt, it requires action, and in some cases, correction of those who need it.  A priest of God has to be trained to be an effective priest–an ambassador for Jesus Christ.  We need to understand that we are consecrated and being made holy before Him and before others.  The priests, who are also teachers, are charged to give instruction of God’s Word and encourage others to follow His teaching.

Those who are prepared to serve God with the desire to remain faithful and obedient will be affirmed with God’s presence in their service.

Ezekiel 44:15-16

“But the Levitical priests descended from Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the Israelites went astray from Me, will approach Me to serve Me. They will stand before Me fat and blood.” This is the declaration of the Lord God. “They are the ones who may enter My sanctuary and draw near to My table to serve Me. They will keep My mandate.”

Remember that the pastor of a church is nothing more than a priest and a servant.  Pastors are human, as well, and also are to continue to render their service to Jesus Christ as they grow in Him.  The priest is to live in reverence of Jesus Christ.

Being a priest, a teacher, is not a small thing.  It’s a very important thing.

James 3:1-2

Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment, for we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is able to control his whole body.

Romans 2:21a

…you then, who teach another, don’t you teach yourself?

The bible doesn’t say, for example, that you can’t drink alcohol. (That is a choice for the individual.)  The bible does, however, discourage drunkenness.

If you are teaching others about the truth, are you implementing that same way of living for yourself?

People need good, sound teaching in order to seek God in the proper way and to keep them from going astray.

The priest will be receiving instruction from none other than the Holy Spirit.

2 Chronicles 15:3-7

For many years Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without instruction, but when they turned to the Lord God of Israel in their distress and sought Him, He was found by them. In those times there was no peace for those who went about their daily activities because the residents of the lands had many conflicts. Nation was crushed by nation and city by city, for God troubled them with every possible distress. But as for you, be strong; don’t be discouraged, for your work has a reward.

Malachi 2:1-2, 7-9

“Therefore, this decree is for you priests: If you don’t listen, and if you don’t take it to heart to honor My name,” says Yahweh of Hosts, “I will send a curse among you, and I will curse your blessings. In fact, I have already begun to curse them because you are not taking it to heart.

For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts. You, on the other hand, have turned from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have violated the covenant of Levi,” says the Lord of Hosts. So I in turn have made you despised and humiliated before all the people because you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in your instruction.”

The Word of God has a positive effect and changes the lives of those who believe.  A priest must be willing to hear God and follow His direction.  Those who do this will be able to demonstrate how to “fight the good fight.”

1 Timothy 6:12

Fight the good fight of faith, take hold of eternal life that you were called to and have made a good confession about in the presence of many witnesses.


The Church and Its Priesthood

Today’s message summary of August 6, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

The church is a place of assembly where God calls His people together for a common goal and purpose.

The church is not just the pastor, elders or deacons are doing all of the work.  It is a mindset that prevails where the people come together as a group under the power of the Holy Spirit.  Everyone comes together in this way in order to have a greater impact within the community.

The church is critical for the survival of many people.  In nations where people and children are starving, the church steps forward to help those who are in need.  It is the benevolence of the people within the church, led by Jesus Christ, that helps to take care of “His sheep.”

The church is on a decline not because of witness but because many are failing to live in a Christlike manner.  God does not live to serve us–we live to serve Him.

It is important to remember that Jesus Christ is sufficient for us.  All he requires of us is to have faith in Him.  He prevails for us and we will not be defeated as we trust in Him.

Matthew 16:18

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.

How many of you believe that God’s church is going to prevail?  Jesus Christ has already prevailed and won the battle, but that doesn’t mean that you relax from participation in the church.  You are to keep after it in spite of the opposition that Satan will put in front of you.

Oswald Sanders says, “the overriding need of the church is to discharge its obligation to raising up generations for leadership that is authoritative, spiritual and sacrificial.”

The church must prevail.  The world cannot defeat the church.

1 Peter 2:1-5

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that you may grow up into your salvation, if you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stonerejected by people but chosen and honored by Godyou yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

We are like living stones that are being built into a spiritual house.  Our sacrifice is in our work for Him.  We don’t sacrifice because we don’t know Jesus Christ, but we do it because we do know Him, and desire to serve Him.

Our present church struggles with the equipping and training of younger people in order that they can get ready to serve.

The church has a challenge also in how often it can teach or instruct our youth in comparison to what the world teaches them.  Only God can be the one to prevail over this situation.  Collectively, we will prevail as we trust in Him.

Matthew 16:19

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.

The word “key” stands for knowledge.  The keys of the kingdom are truth. Scribes, or teachers of the Word of God would wear a key on his belt to symbolize the truth that he held (truth of the gospel).

The church is meant for all people to come and worship.  The church needs to mirror the population of the surrounding community.

Matthew 9:10-13

While He was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when He heard this, He said, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Walt Disney had a vision about EPCOT before it was created.  EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.  He had a vision for this when he purchased the land for what is now Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  He purchased 47 square miles of Florida wilderness to build it.

Others believed that Walt’s vision was such a fantasy that it could not possibly be realized.  There were company managers that went behind his back and referred to his dream as “Waltopia.”  The word “utopia” is a Greek word that means “no place.”

After his death in 1966, his successors didn’t know how to proceed with EPCOT.  Company executives who lacked Walt’s ability to see beyond proven formulas retreated to a more conventional concept. The new president of Disney said EPCOT was now being reconsidered from the point of view of economics, operations, technology and market potential…not one’s imagination.

Note the reference to economics here.  What is the first thing that often comes up in the church? Economics!  Money!  What we need to consider here is what God wants to accomplish.  Money is a vehicle, for sure, but God determines the success of the endeavor.

Operations:  God desires for His church to move forward.  He does not want it to stand still.

Walt’s plan actually also included churches within its community where people actually would live and be there for several days…and also worship in the church while they were there!

You never want to stop using the imagination that God is giving you.  Walt’s vision for Disney World and EPCOT is the same type of vision that we should also have for the church.

“Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model.” 

–Vincent Van Gogh

A church model is just that–a model.  It still must conform to the community around it, but keep in mind that God also may take you further than where you are.

The church is an assembly of a priesthood of believers.

1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Your purpose, in this royal priesthood, is to declare the praises of Him and to stand and be ready for service–to meet His call and His desire to you to live for Him.  You belong to God and your purpose is to praise Him wherever you go!

The church has a purpose, as well.

Colossians 1:24-29

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christs afflictions for his body, that is, the church. I have become its servant, according to Gods commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with his strength that works powerfully in me.

We are to act like Jesus.

Romans 8:29

For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.

Church is to have a cultural influence.

Church helps to transform people through its teaching.

Church holds to the practice of the values of Jesus Christ.


Why Should Christians Care About the Church? (Part 2 of a Series)

Today’s message summary of July 23, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

Many people think that they have no need of church.  We will explore why we do need it, and why.

The church has transitioned to such a degree where church, here in America, is more of an enterprise.  It is bigger than any corporation or business.  It is not organized as a business would be, but it functions in a similar way.  The product is in high demand, and it is only available through the church.  It is guaranteed for life.

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 Corinthians 12:27-28

Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, various kinds of tongues.

The Holy Spirit is the distributor of information, and the head of it is Jesus Christ.  The priests that go forth on behalf of the church are its members—the body of Christ.  There is no company that exists that can do for you what the church does.

The church teaches how to live a spiritual life that emulates Jesus Christ.  In living such a life, you will see how that means living a sacrificial life for Him.

The church stands on its own.  It stands on the strength of the One who is its head—Jesus Christ.  It stands on its own without government existence.  The church is to raise up leaders that will provide societal leadership.  It provides godly people who can serve in government and society, and that will continue to honor the Lord Jesus Christ.  It provides guidance for generation after generation.

The church is strongest when the entire family is in the church hearing the message and worshiping together.

In the church, we have priests (servants) who lead the people.  They are a group of people that are chosen by God.  They stand with the mindset that is ready to serve God.

Exodus 19:5-6

Now if you will carefully listen to me and keep my covenant, you will be my own possession out of all the peoples, although the whole earth is mine, and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation. These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.

The church is a congregation of priests ready to serve the Lord.  As a follower of Jesus Christ, God has chosen you to represent Him and serve Him.  You are His treasured possession!

Isaiah 61:6a

But you will be called the Lords priests;

they will speak of you as ministers of our God.

God will always provide the finances for His program.  If He wills it, He will fund it.  He knows what it takes to do His work.  God never assigns us to do anything in and of your own strength.  He does not want to open up the occasion where anyone can take the credit for it other than Himself.

1 Peter 2:9-10

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The church moves in response to God’s voice speaking to the people, and the people’s actions are those of submissive hearts.

Romans 10:9-10

If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.

If you are saved and serve in the church, Jesus Christ is the High Priest that leads you.  It is important for you to stay busy at what God has called you to do in ministry.  Remain faithful where God has called you to be, and work at it.  The High Priest, Jesus Christ, remains on the throne and He meets the needs of the church.

Many people in the church are willingly serving Jesus Christ, but there are still those in the church that largely serve themselves.  A lot of people who attend church do not know the Lord.  They’re not there to serve.

Hebrews 7:24

But because He remains forever, He holds His priesthood permanently.

Psalm 110:4

The Lord has shown an oath and will not take it back: “Forever, You are a priest like Mechizedek.”

It is the work of God that has to take place in a man’s heart.

1 Peter 2:4-5

As you come to him, a living stonerejected by people but chosen and honored by Godyou yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

God had chosen the Levites to serve as priests before Him and the Israelites.  Those who were born as Levites were not yet able to serve until they turned age 25.  Until that time, they had to undergo training within the temple.  They had to learn about service before they could serve.

Romans 12:1-2

Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

We are challenged to represent God with holy hearts and a holy mind.  He expects us to live in such a manner as we serve Him.  Your work for Him is your sacrifice unto Him.

Philippians 1:6

I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

When the priesthood is healthy, the church is healthy.  The healthy priesthood has one agenda, and that is to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

Joshua 7:7-8

Oh, Lord God, Joshua said, why did you ever bring these people across the Jordan to hand us over to the Amorites for our destruction? If only we had been content to remain on the other side of the Jordan! What can I say, Lord, now that Israel has turned its back and run from its enemies?

Joshua was praying about the sins of the nation of Israel.  Keep in mind that there will be sin within the midst of the body of Christ, and He will challenge the church to pray.  The sin revealed hurts others and is a distraction to God’s agenda.  He calls for His believers to seek Him in all things and pray about those situations that hinder the work of Christ.

The churches are not all the same, but all believers have different gifts that they are endowed with, and they have their role; for example, in the book of Acts, Dorcas and Lydia lived out their own roles that they fulfilled in their own ministries.

As a priest of God, you have direct access to Him.

Each priest is in charge of his own temple.  He or she is responsible for how to take care of one’s own body.

Today’s priest does not need to offer sacrifices as they did in the Old Testament.  He chose you to serve for Him.

Deuteronomy 7:6

For you are a holy people belonging to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be his own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth.

John 15:16

You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.

God honors and glorifies His own name.  Believers need to stand up and represent Him with the appropriate service.  Our actions will glorify Him and reflect His goodness as a testimony to others.


Doing the Work of The Lord

Today’s message summary of June 4, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

If your focus is on the work of God, it will change you.  God should come first in your life.

If there is a lack of focus, there will be a hole in your life that cannot be filled by material things.

You can be confused over those things that you deem to be priorities.

Over time, God’s work can get lost within the course of life.  You can get so busy living and lose track of what is most important; yet, God has a plan for you each and every day.

The word of God is the most important part of your life.

Haggai 1:1-11

In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 

The Lord of Hosts says this: These people say: The time has not come for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.

The word of the Lord came through Haggai the prophet: Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, the Lord of Hosts says this: Think carefully about your ways:

You have planted much

but harvested little.

You eat

but never have enough to be satisfied.

You drink

but never have enough to become drunk.

You put on clothes

but never have enough to get warm.

The wage earner puts his wages

into a bag with a hole in it.

The Lord of Hosts says this: Think carefully about your ways. Go up into the hills, bring down lumber, and build the house. Then I will be pleased with it and be glorified, says the Lord. You expected much, but then it amounted to little. When you brought the harvest to your house, I ruined it. Why? This is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts. Because My house still lies in ruins, while each of you is busy with his own house.

So on your account,

the skies have withheld the dew

and the land its crops.

I have summoned a drought

on the fields and the hills,

on the grain, new wine, olive oil,

and whatever the ground yields,

on man and beast,

and on all that your hands produce.

 

Haggai’s words to the people of Judah was a revealing of their weakness toward the work of God.

  • Carelessness about the matters of God
  • Their sincerity concerning the things of God is small
  • Their leisure time was more important than God’s work
  • Their personal comfort was more important

Ezra 5:1-2

But when the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak began to rebuild God’s house in Jerusalem. The prophets of God were with them, helping them.

When you see and hear that God is at work, it places an expectation from Him upon your life.  As you remain obedient to Him, He will affirm your efforts and even provide the support that you need in service to Him.

Ezra 6:14

So the Jewish elders continued successfully with the building under the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo. They finished the building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia.

Ezra 7:5-6

Abishuas son, Phinehass son,

Eleazars son, Aaron the chief priests son

came up from Babylon. He was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which Yahweh, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he requested because the hand of Yahweh his God was on him.

 

The workforce was made up of everyone who had returned from exile.  Even though the people were afraid of the local residents, they still rebuilt the altar at its original site (Ezra 3:3).

The people overcame their fear in order to obey God.

Haggai points out the weakness of God’s people and what causes them to be distracted.  What are the distractions in your life that prevent you from serving and honoring God?

Haggai 1:2

“The Lord of Hosts says this: These people say: The time has not come for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.”

  • You can see it, but you won’t do the work
  • You can hear about it, but will not do the work.
  • You can receive from God the ability to do what is needed, but still choose not to do it.

 

The conflict here is your comfort versus God’s comfort (Haggai 1:3).

When is the right time to do God’s will and be obedient to Him?  The right time is when you see it, hear about it, and have received from God the ability to do it.

Deuteronomy 6:10-12

When the Lord your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He would give youa land with large and beautiful cities that you did not build, houses full of every good thing that you did not fill them with, wells dug that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves that you did not plantand when you eat and are satisfied, be careful not to forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.

Haggai 1:5, 7

Now, the Lord of Hosts says this: “Think carefully about your ways.”

You need to give consideration as to your ways in life.  You need to go over how you make your decisions and reflect deeply upon how you are spending your time.  He wants you to be thoughtful as to your ways.

God challenges you with your way of thinking here.  Before God asks you to do something, you need to consider how you are going to respond to Him.  He may give you something that will pull you out of your comfort zone.

God will enable you to do many things in your life if you simply remain obedient to His will.  Take pleasure in it, you please Him and honor Him, and God will honor you.

Are you taking care of God’s business?  It remains as a priority in the life of a believer in Jesus Christ.

Haggai gave words of encouragement only after the people were willing to obey.

Haggai 1:12-14

Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the entire remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the words of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. So the people feared the Lord.

Haggai, the Lords messenger, delivered the Lords message to the people, I am with you”—this is the Lords declaration.

The Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, the spirit of the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. They began work on the house of Yahweh of Hosts, their God.

Once the people began to fear the Lord, their own fear to proceed had subsided.  The people had to see God for themselves.

God’s message is “I am with you.”

Romans 8:31

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

Haggai 2:3

Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Doesn’t it seem like nothing to you? Even so, be strong, Zerubbabel–this is the Lord’s declaration. “Be strong, Joshua son of Jehozadak, high priest.  Be strong, all you people of the land”this is the Lord’s declaration. “Work! For I am with you”the declaration of the Lord of Hosts.

To build the temple was going to require strength. God’s encouragement was to say “be strong” three times.

When the Spirit of God is with you, there is no need for fear.  He will enable you to complete the task at hand.


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.


Remembering History (Family Series cont’d)

Today’s message summary of February 26, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

A true measure of a person is how one stands during the time of a crisis.  Will people stand for the Lord, or not?

History is important to remember and understand.  What we experience in our past will help in dealing with future events.  It is important to look upon where you came from, but even important to see God’s fingerprints throughout your life and how He has kept you.  You should be able to see where God has moved in your life.

Proverbs 23:10

Don’t move an ancient boundary marker, and don’t encroach on the fields of the fatherless.

 

There are markers throughout life that need to remain in place as reminders as to who God was at that time and to see His work.

Young children would ask mothers, fathers and grandparents, “Why is there segregation?” “Why is their racial discrimination?”  Sometimes, because a child was too young to understands, the answer would be, “That’s the way it is!” and to avoid trouble or not get in the way.

Dr. Martin Luther King inspired many people to take a different view…to get in the way and even into trouble.  He encouraged people to get active for the cause of freedom, but there were also times when it was best to speak up.  He wanted people to believe that change was possible, even with the society of his time.  This is still true today.  Change is possible even with the difficulty that many experience today (drugs, murder and lack of education).

Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

 

In the midst of difficulty, we are to look for how God will act, and He reminds us to put the interests of others before yourself.

Life is not just about you.

It is OK to suffer as you recognize that you are becoming more like Jesus Christ.  God wants you to see Him in the midst of all of this.

If you really study Martin Luther King, you would see that his life was about those that he served.

In his life story, he certainly had his faults, but he also noted when he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior.  God will use a person who is much less than perfect to accomplish His will and for His glory.  He used King to proclaim a dream for others during his time that others could not see.

King entered Morehouse College at age 15.  One of his heroes was Mordecai Johnson, President of Howard University.  He would read his speeches and studied him.  This was how he learned about speech and how to speak.  He heard Dr. Johnson say, “In the midst of death, life persists.  In the midst of darkness, light persists.”

John 1:4-5

Life was in Him (Jesus Christ), and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.

 

From the words of Dr. Johnson came the inspiration for Dr. King as he prepared to enter the seminary.  He said, “We are going to change this nation.”

Young people, are you looking for ways to do better than your parents or grandparents ever did?  Are you looking to go to greater heights to overcome your family history?  What matters most is what you set out to accomplish.  What are your goals?  Study your own family history to avoid the pitfalls.  It is wise to choose the ones in your family, or even outside of your family, that will provide wise counsel.  When you want to learn, God will put someone in your path to help you.

When looking at life in the present, history shows us what needs to be changed in order to do well in the future.

Stephen’s speech is a history lesson (Acts 7).  We learn how Stephen demonstrates his measure of being a man who takes a stand for Jesus Christ.  He asks for an audience, which is made up of people who are both younger and older than he is (Acts 7:2).

First, he spoke about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who was the father of the twelve patriarchs (tribes).  He then spoke about Joseph, who was forgotten, and also Moses, Joshua, David and Solomon.  Stephen brings his audience to a place of recognizing their history and facing it.  The people were just like their ancestors–they resisted God.

Acts 7:51-53

You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit; as your ancestors did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They even killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it.

 

All cultures should be aware of their history…both the good and the bad things.

Paul shares his history as a Jew, and how he became a Pharisee (Philippians 3:4-8).

Paul also shares another history when he became an apostle (Galatians 1:11-18).

It is from these two experiences that make Paul the person that he was, and from this it is hoped that you can see that reviewing your own history is also helpful and provides perspective on the wonders of God in your own life.

History tells us that God had a hand on this country through very difficult and trying times.

God has given you a history.  God has given this country a history.  In both instances, there are things to be proud of, and some that bring shame and regret.  These things are still to be reckoned with and acknowledged in order to see how to avoid mistakes of the past and imitate those things that are good and proclaim God’s glory and presence.  We learn from our past to know how to live our future in Jesus Christ, and to please Him in your service.  God uses people who are visionaries to accomplish His will.

Like Stephen and Paul, if a person worries about personal safety and status, they will accomplish nothing.

Dr. King was an idealist and a visionary.  He transcended race, ethnicity, nationality and politics. He talked with those of little education as well as those with graduate degrees.  He walked with everyone. His faith in Jesus prevailed over fear and uncertainty, fatigue and depression.  He stood in the gap for our nation.

Ezekiel 22:30

I searched for a man among them who would repair the wall and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land so that I might not destroy it, but I found no one.

 

As far as this church, and its future, is concerned, it is much more than just a black church, or a mixed ethnicity church, or a church of people with different backgrounds.  It is a church of people who serve the Lord Jesus Christ.