Tag Archives: shepherd

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

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

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

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

1 Kings 19:9-18

He entered a cave there and spent the night.

Elijahs Encounter with the Lord

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 10:2-5

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

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

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

Colossians 3:15-16

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

Ephesians 5:18-21

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

speaking to one another

in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,

singing and making music

from your heart to the Lord,

giving thanks always for everything

to God the Father

in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

submitting to one another

in the fear of Christ.

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 12:6-9

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

Notice how God communicated to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:

1 Kings 19:11-12

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

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

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

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

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


The Gift of Christ for Christmas

Today’s message summary from Pastor Gus Brown:
Many of us will wake up Christmas morning in anticipation of what we will find as gifts under the Christmas tree, but consider that we already have a wonderful gift that we have in Jesus Christ!At the time of Christ’s birth, there was not much stated about it publicly…note that it was a message of good news that was carried forth by the angels.Matthew 1:18-21

18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.

20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

The angels proclaimed the message but even they did not have a complete understanding of what God was doing.

Hebrews 2:6-7
6 But one has somewhere testified:

What is man that You remember him,
or the son of man that You care for him?
7 You made him lower than the angels
for a short time;
You crowned him with glory and honor.

The angels asked of God why He cared so much for them:

Psalm 144:3
Lord, what is man, that You care for him,
the son of man, that You think of him?

The angels understood the power of God and how he could eliminate those who did not regard who He was.

1 Peter 1:12
It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you. These things have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Angels desire to look into these things.

Why is it that the angels wondered about these things and yet we, human beings, are less concerned about God, His presence, and His second coming?
If the angels were questioning how God gave favor to man, why don’t we? Note that angels were not redeemed or any means of salvation. They saw evidence of God working in the lives of people, and yet, after 400 years of silence, God used the angels to bring forth His message. Perhaps the angels were busy doing this because man had forgotten the God that they were to serve because we were occupied with other things.

Matthew 2:1-6
2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

3 When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 So he assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Messiah would be born.

5 “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they told him, “because this is what was written by the prophet:

6 And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the leaders of Judah:
because out of you will come a leader
who will shepherd My people Israel.”

Note that Herod was not a Jew. The religious people were not the ones initiating the search for the Christ child. Herod was the one who called for information about the Messiah. He asked if this child was the “King of the Jews.” The three wise men were also not Jews. They came from different lands to seek Jesus. The ones that had the information were apparently not seeking Him.

Note that we have the information available to us as believers in Christ. Do we believe the information in Scripture about Christ’s presence and act upon it?

Micah 5:2
Bethlehem Ephrathah,
you are small among the clans of Judah;
One will come from you
to be ruler over Israel for Me.
His origin is from antiquity,
from eternity.

The birth of Jesus caused some men to seek Him out, while others were troubled by it (Matthew 2:3). Many religious people had the knowledge but were not even looking or acting upon it (Matthew 2:4-5) and were even fighting amongst themselves. The priests saw the same information over and over and yet did not seem to believe what they already knew. They were not looking for the sign that The Lord gave to them in Isaiah 7:14:

Isaiah 7:14
Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.

The birth of Christ was not hidden from us. Isaiah 7:14 was a sign of what would come. Are we conscious of when God is speaking to us? Some of us spend more time trying to disprove Jesus’ existence instead of choosing to believe in Him.

The angels were providing the messages. They can’t see the future, though.

Luke 1:10-17
10 At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear. 13 But the angel said to him:

Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you will name him John.
14 There will be joy and delight for you,
and many will rejoice at his birth.
15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord
and will never drink wine or beer.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit
while still in his mother’s womb.
16 He will turn many of the sons of Israel
to the Lord their God.
17 And he will go before Him
in the spirit and power of Elijah,
to turn the hearts of fathers
to their children,
and the disobedient
to the understanding of the righteous,
to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.

The angel spoke to Zechariah that the person to prepare for Jesus through Elizabeth would be John. Elizabeth was well beyond child-bearing years, but this was to be a testimony to others.

Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 30 Then the angel told her:

Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
31 Now listen:
You will conceive and give birth to a son,
and you will call His name Jesus.
32 He will be great
and will be called the Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give Him
the throne of His father David.
33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,
and His kingdom will have no end.
34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?”

35 The angel replied to her:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore, the holy One to be born
will be called the Son of God.
36 And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

38 “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.

Do you see how God is working in this matter? The people that were chosen were all to provide the testimony of Jesus Christ as Savior. Joseph’s role was very important, too:

Matthew 1:18-24
18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.

20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23 See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a son,
and they will name Him Immanuel,
which is translated “God is with us.”

24 When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus.

Finally, the angels provided a message to the shepherds.

Luke 2:8-20
8 In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people He favors!
15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. 17 After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.

We need to keep in mind that God had been silent for quite some time before this moment because the people were enemies of God. They were not paying attention to Him or regarding His presence. It is to the wonderment of the angels that God paid so much attention to His creation, yet they were rejoicing over what God had done.

The message had been passed on from the angels to the people. The shepherds proclaimed the message and praised God while doing so, and the people who heard it were amazed! The people are proclaiming the gospel message to everyone who hears it to this day.

God will show Himself to you if you truly want to see Him. He will make Himself known to you if you truly want to know Him. God wants each of us to know that Jesus Christ is your Savior and He is ready to make Himself known to you. All it takes is believing that He is your Lord and Savior with all of your heart.

There’s no pastor that can save you. There’s no deacon or elder that can save you. There’s no church denomination that can save you. There’s only one name under heaven and earth that can save you…Jesus Christ (John 3:16-17, 14:6). You can come to Jesus Christ just as you are, but you will not stay as you are.

This Christmas, do not allow yourself to be troubled or uncaring about Jesus Christ and the gospel of His saving message. If there is any time that we need to be telling the truth about Christ, this is the time. Leave the results to Him.

Serving in Ministry According To God’s Will

When a person declares that he or she is “called to ministry,” the question that should also be asked is “are you where God wants you to be?” It is important for each of us to be where God has truly called us. While it is fine to declare that you are called for ministry, it is very important to make sure that you hear what God is saying to you as to what your role in ministry really is. Service in ministry is finding your niche within God’s will for you in that ministry. For example, a person who regularly attended church only to now be limited in his or her ability to get to church because of physical ailments may see their role in service evolve to be a prayer warrior for the other members of the church. Even in our limitations, there are still opportunities for ministry if we are keenly listening to His direction.

In Christianity, it is not about what one person wants to do in service, but instead what God would have one to do for Him in service for Him.
For every high priest taken from men is appointed in services to God for the people, to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. Because of this, he must make a sin offering for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor on himself; instead, a person is called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, the Messiah did not exalt Himself to become a high priest, but the One who said to Him, ‘You are My Son; today I have become Your Father, also said in another passage, You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek‘” (Hebrews 5:1-6). While we may contemplate how we perform our ministry for God, He makes it clear that those who serve Him are appointed in ministry, and that God directs how the ministry moves forward according to His plan and for His purpose. As an example, the leader of a church ministry, the pastor, is a person that is selected by a group of people through the leading of God’s people. The title of pastor is derived from the Greek translation for “shepherd.” No one should appoint himself or herself to be a pastor as a “call” into ministry. The appointment of a pastor is to follow the course of God’s will through a group of people who are obedient to God and His Word. In the body of Christ, we are to all function within the church as a unit. While some are sincere about their service, others will preach for the purpose of a obtaining a title and maintaining a position or status. “Some, to be sure, preach Christ out of envy and strife, but others out of good will. These do so out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely, seeking to cause me trouble in my imprisonment” (Philippians 1:15-17).

While service for the Lord may always come from the best motivation of its participants or the best of intentions, God will find a way to make it all work for His glory. “What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed. And in this I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18). “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

There is a clear ministry role that is present for all who are involved in God’s work. It is not what the pastor says you should or should not be involved with in ministry, but instead what the Holy Spirit gives to you in defining your role.

Christians should always remember that what matters before God is not the service in a particular ministry role, but rather the efficacy (how effective) of an individual’s service in that role that God has called for that individual to do. Ministry should not be viewed as a sacrifice in that God will be pleased with your service; instead, He wants us to be obedient to His word in our ministry. “Then Samuel said: Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).

The Bible declares men and women to be equal in God’s sight. “So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female” (Genesis 1:27). “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Even as men and women are equal in God’s sight, He has shown Himself, according to scripture, to be a God of order. He operates according to His will as to how he has deemed His people to perform in different roles of service. Consider that God, the Father, has a role, just as Jesus Christ has a role, and the Holy Spirit has His role. God made archangels, cherubim, and seraphim, and angels, and each has their individual roles within God’s kingdom. As far as the church is concerned, Jesus Christ, is the head of the church, then comes man, and then a woman within the body of Christ. He is a God of order, and that plays a role as to how He has appointed a select group of men, those who are part of His chosen people, to leadership in ministry (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). This, in no way, shape or form, takes away from the importance of women in the body of Christ or their role in ministry. Every man born on earth, first and foremost, except for Adam, came through a woman (of course). There are many instances within scripture, and within today’s ministry, where prayerful women have provided a tremendous role in areas of support and instruction, but it is important to remember that the order of God’s standard for ministry must be followed and not be excused because of the perception that His Word is no longer applicable or outdated.

In His order and according to His will, God built his ministry team. Throughout the Old Testament, men are prominently mentioned as being prepared for leadership roles in ministry. For example, God noted the birth of Levi, the father of a tribe of Israel, the Levites. “Leah’s sons were Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun” (Genesis 35:23). “She (Leah) conceived again, gave birth to a son, and said, ‘At last, my husband will become attached to me because I have borne him three sons.’ Therefore he was named Levi” (Genesis 29:34).
Levi, in Exodus 6:16, has three sons, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, who all migrated to Egypt. Levi is noted to be the great-grandfather of Moses, Aaron and their sister, Miriam. God selected Aaron and his sons to serve Him as priests (Exodus 28:1-4). He did not select all of the Levites, or sons of Levi initially. That did not occur until later, according to Numbers 3:5-10. “The Lord spoke to Moses: ‘Bring the tribe of Levi near and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him.‘ (Numbers 3:5). Moses remained God’s prophet through these declarations of Aaron’s role and the other Levites. The point of all of this is to show that just because one was born as a Levite did not mean that they were to declare themselves as priests or as having any special authority outside of what God had intended. Note that God also made apparent in His dealing with His people the order and structure of His assignments. While there were other priests and goddesses in other cultures, God was making it clear that this was the structure of His appointed people. “The Levites belong to Me” (Numbers 3:11b). All of the Levite males accounted for 22,000 males (Numbers 3:39). All throughout Scripture, there were still women involved in this and other tribes of Israel, but it was the men that had the responsibilities of service within those tribes. Other groups within the tribes had specific responsibilities (Numbers 4:1-33). All of these responsibilities were chosen according to God’s order.

The role of men in service for God’s chosen people, was intended by God and is in accordance to His purpose. This also applies today to those who are participants within the body of Christ. While it is difficult for some people to accept this information as noted by scripture, man’s way of interpreting what a person’s role or limitations are within ministry has often differed from God’s standard, or even His intent. Just because one may declare and believe that he or she is doing what they are called to do does not necessarily mean that scripture supports it or that God is in agreement. After all is said and done, God will do what is necessary to ultimately bring Himself glory and honor, but He desires for all of us, both men and women, to be obedient to His Word, and that all participants in ministry follow the structure and order of God’s will, as evidenced in His Word.