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Your Declaration

Today’s message summary of January 1, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

God is the One who delivers us from year to year. He is worthy of our praise throughout the year, and we want to continue to do so through to the end of this year.

God wants you to receive something from Him, but He also wants you to give something, as well.

He can, and will, give you knowledge and wisdom. In return, He desires for you to live more like Jesus.

Statements, or declarations, give you a specific purpose.  As an example, The Declaration of Independence declared that “all men are created equal,” and the United States Constitution was born out of this declaration.

Scripture also has a number of declarations that are intended to challenge the reader.  It is important for the reader to take note of them in order to truly live in such a way that is to be more like Jesus Christ.

Look at this declaration that David makes, and then look at what follows his statement.

Psalm 18:1-3

I love You, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my mountain where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I was saved from my enemies.

 

David reflects the love of God and notes the value of the relationship with God that reflect His different qualities and character.

Proverbs 12:18

There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

 

Proverbs 18:21

Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

 

It is important for you to believe that your words have a value to yourself and before others.

If you use the words, “I love you, Lord,” do you mean them?

Loving the Lord reveals God’s other attributes:

  1. My Strength
  2. My Rock (building on a solid foundation)
  3. My Fortress
  4. My Deliverer
  5. My God is my rock in whom I take refuge.
  6. My Shield
  7. My Salvation
  8. My Stronghold (KJV uses the word “Tower”)

When you lose sight of the Lord, you lose His value–His real significance in your life and all that He is to you and all that He can do for you.

Your declaration reminds you of all that Jesus is to you–His real meaning to you in your life.

There is a value in coming to church every Sunday in that it is a reminder as to who we are to serve every day.  We are not to forget who we serve and who we live for.  W. H. Brewster said, “Some things you can’t say, but you can sing.”

We also need to recognize that we make choices that we must reckon with.  We can cry and moan over them, or we can get up and go back to living!  Sometimes the situations that we are in occur well after we make the decision to put aside the Lord and not follow Him.

Psalm 137:1-6

By the rivers of Babylon–there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. There we hung up our lyres on the poplar trees, for our captors there asked us for songs, and our tormentors, for rejoicing: “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.” How can we sing the Lord’s song on foreign soil? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem as my greatest joy!

 

Don’t allow your personal feelings to determine how or when you should praise the Lord. Even in the worst moments, God wants you to have the desire to sing the praises of God.  People need to hear your voice to hear His message of hope, joy, peace and encouragement.

We, as believers, are strangers and pilgrims in this land.  We are aliens in this world.  That should not stop you from singing, preaching or telling others about Jesus.

As God has given you life for this new year, then he has a purpose for you through this year.  We are called to serve Him.

1 Peter 2:11-12

Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation.

 

No one can steal your joy of the Lord.  No circumstances can remove your joy of the Lord if you choose to rejoice in Him.

The Lord will honor your faithfulness to your declaration. He keeps His promises to us.

Psalm 132:10-14

Because of Your servant David, do not reject Your anointed one. The Lord swore an oath to David, a promise He will not abandon: “I will set one of your descendants on your throne. If your sons keep My covenant and My decrees that I will teach them, their sons will also sit on your throne forever. For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His home: “This is My resting place forever; I will make My home here because I have desired it.”

 

Revelation 21:10-11

He then carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, arrayed with God’s glory. Her radiance was like a very precious stone, like a jasper stone, bright as crystal.

 

Remember your relationship with your Lord and Savior and give Him honor and praise in the New Year.

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The Myopic Believer

Today’s message summary from Melvin Gaines:

When it comes to eyesight, your ability to see changes as you get older.  For example, objects close up are clear, while objects far away can be very blurry.  This is nearsightedness.  Myopia is the clinical term for nearsightedness, which means you can’t see far away.

How does this pertain to a person who is a believer?  It has to do with your faith.  There is only faith in what is seen, but what about faith when things are unseen or unknown?

What is faith?

Hebrews 11:1-2

1 Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. 2 For our ancestors won God’s approval by it.

 

Our entire relationship in Jesus Christ is based upon faith…believing in the promises of God for salvation and eternal life. Without faith, we cannot experience any security in where we are today and where we will go when we leave here.  If you choose to live for the moment and fail to see the importance of what will come in the future, you are not relying on any hope or promises that Jesus offers.  Think about this as you live your life.  If you are living a life where there is a lack of confidence in where you stand, it has an effect on how you are living and how others see you.

Without faith, every believer reverts to a place that is most familiar—the flesh.  In the flesh, you can’t see what is in the distance.  You can only see what is in front of you.  It is the opposite of having faith.  In the flesh, we are myopic.

Symptoms of myopia in a believer:

 

1. Hidden or spoiled fruits (of the Spirit)

Galatians 5:19-25 (HCSB)

19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.

 

Your flesh will prevent the Spirit from operating in your life.

Your flesh will hide the fruits of the Spirit.

Your flesh will spoil your fruits.

 

2. Short on faithing and long on complaining

1 Peter 4:8-10 (HCSB)

8 Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.

 

3. Missed blessings mean missed opportunities

Deuteronomy 28:1-10 (HCSB)

Blessings for Obedience

1 “Now if you faithfully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all His commands I am giving you today, the Lord your God will put you far above all the nations of the earth. 2 All these blessings will come and overtake you, because you obey the Lord your God: 

3 You will be blessed in the city

and blessed in the country.

4 Your descendants will be blessed,

and your land’s produce,

and the offspring of your livestock,

including the young of your herds

and the newborn of your flocks.

5 Your basket and kneading bowl will be blessed.

6 You will be blessed when you come in

and blessed when you go out.

7 “The Lord will cause the enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you. They will march out against you from one direction but flee from you in seven directions. 8 The Lord will grant you a blessing on your storehouses and on everything you do; He will bless you in the land the Lord your God is giving you. 9 The Lord will establish you as His holy people, as He swore to you, if you obey the commands of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. 10 Then all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by Yahweh’s name, and they will stand in awe of you.

 

Deuteronomy 28:65-67

65 You will find no peace among those nations, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and a despondent spirit. 66 Your life will hang in doubt before you. You will be in dread night and day, never certain of survival. 67 In the morning you will say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and in the evening you will say, ‘If only it were morning!’—because of the dread you will have in your heart and because of what you will see.

 

Here’s the problem—if these are your attributes—hidden or spoiled fruits, complaining, and unappreciative—what do other people see in you where they can be encouraged?

A believer’s actions must be evident to others in ways that are deemed to be Christlike.  Anything less is inadequate as a believer.  This myopic behavior, left untreated, can be disastrous in the long term.

God is aware of this condition and its treatment.  It’s up to the person to opt for a prescription, which begins with a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.  He wants you to have more as a believer than plain old fire insurance.

Escape through fire…

1 Corinthians 3:14-16 (HCSB)

14 If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.

16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?

 

But don’t think you get a pass even in this area…God knows your heart and will call you out if you haven’t been honest with yourself…

Ezekiel 15:6-8 (HCSB)

6 “Therefore, this is what the Lord God says: Like the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire as fuel, so I will give up the residents of Jerusalem. 7 I will turn against them. They may have escaped from the fire, but it will still consume them. And you will know that I am Yahweh when I turn against them. 8 I will make the land desolate because they have acted unfaithfully.” This is the declaration of the Lord God.

 

Your prescription for myopia as a believer:

Work on your IMAGE

Investigate – not just read the Bible, but investigate the contents of it–study and learn His Word.

Meditate – not just prayer, but meditate on the Word day and night. Discover how God is speaking to you.

Apply – Taking God’s Word and applying it to your life on a daily basis.  Knowing the Word is not enough–applying it means much more.

Grow – Learning to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ each day and grow in your knowledge of Him.

Endure – To endure is to be able to effectively withstand any opposition that you face; especially the opposition of the enemy.

 

Ephesians 6:13-18 (HCSB)

13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore,

with truth like a belt around your waist,

righteousness like armor on your chest,

15 and your feet sandaled with readiness

for the gospel of peace.

16 In every situation take the shield of faith,

and with it you will be able to extinguish

all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

17 Take the helmet of salvation,

and the sword of the Spirit,

which is God’s word.

18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.

The prescription for a myopic believer begins with a better relationship with the One who saved you in the beginning–Jesus Christ. He helps you in the power of the Holy Spirit in how to live life after salvation.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines


A Study of Psalm 91

The following is the text of a sermon presented by Melvin Gaines at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church on August 5, 2007:

I was leaving work Friday evening and had just finished walking to my car when a gentleman who was dressed in slightly dirty clothing approached me. He was headed for a shelter up the street to take a shower and he asked for some money to get himself a meal for the evening. I told him that I was sorry but I could only spare two dollars, but that was enough to get himself a couple of burgers on the dollar menu at McDonald’s.  He said thank you, and he went on to explain his present circumstances.  He said that he was here looking for work and that he had been through a great deal of difficulty over the last few days.  He had no money and was looking for his wife who was somewhere in the area, but they lost track of each other and she was missing. She had just gotten out of prison within the last week or so, and she had tried to steal some wine from a grocery store in East Cleveland, and she also deliberately tried to get arrested right in front of some police by violating an open container law.  The gentleman went on to say that he was starting to smell and needed to get a shower, thanked me for my generosity, and then he continued on to speak with more information about his own circumstances. He said that he has run into a lot of people here that have called him all kinds of names and treated him poorly. He said he was called a crack head and a dope addict, but he seemed to not mind very much about this because he felt as though he still had protection from the Lord.  He said this because he had a verse he was claiming in the midst of all of his troubles and difficulties, and that verse was Psalm 91. He then finished up stating again that he had to go because he really needed a shower.  I told him that he would be in good hands if he remains focused on Jesus.  He said thanks again, and I asked him if he had a bible.  He said that his wife had it with her in her purse.  I gave him a bible and told him to take it so that he could once again focus on the Word and Psalm 91.  He had a wonderful smile of gratitude on his face as he left and expressed joy in the midst of sadness.

I do not know the gentleman’s name, and I doubt that we will ever cross paths again, but he mentioned Psalm 91 as being the verse that he was clinging to at this time in the midst of his difficulty.  He was very clear in his communication to me that he was going through an extreme difficulty, and yet he still managed to smile.  How can a person manage to smile when there is nothing but bad news and trouble all around?  The gentleman had problems that he spoke openly about…his wife was missing…and may have even created problems on his own, but when all was said and done, he seemed to understand that life was not centered around his own circumstances, but on the One that was greater than himself, his enemies, and his problems.

Let’s examine Psalm 91 in greater detail, and we can learn some truths that relate to where faith really matters.  We will look specifically at verses 1 and 2, and then later examine His promises to those that show true faith in Him.

Psalm 91:1-2      

The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

This psalm begins with a statement of who God is.  He is the God who is all-powerful and is our protection, that is, if we choose to live under His care and protection.  What is protection?  It is a covering.  It is shelter.  An umbrella has great symbolism in demonstrating this truth.  We know what an umbrella can do, but in order for it to be effective, we have to open it, and not just open it, but stand under it or walk beneath it for protection from the rain or the hot sun.  It requires a simple act of opening it and then holding it over our heads.  In the same way, God is our protection, but we have to do a very simple thing in order to realize His protection…we have to make a decision to come under it.  We have to submit to Him and to His will.  In order to be protected by Him, we have to see the need for His protection and then take refuge in it.  Look at Isaiah 25:4-5 to describe how God is like the ultimate umbrella of protection:

Isaiah 25:4-5

For You have been a stronghold for the poor, a stronghold for the humble person in his distress, a refuge from the rain, a shade from the heat. When the breath of the violent is like rain against a wall, like heat in a dry land, You subdue the uproar of barbarians.  As the shade of a cloud cools the heat of the day, so He stills the song of the violent.

Going back to Psalm 91, verse 2, the key word used to connect the protection of God is the word “trust”.

The word trust is an action word that requires movement…taking a position.  It is a word that is claimed when making a decision as an act of faith.  This has everything to do with putting on the full armor of God that we have studied in Ephesians 6:10-19.  When we put on the full armor of God, we are relying upon His strength, His energy, and His protection to withstand the enemy, the Devil.  We have faith that His protection is sufficient for us, and when we realize His covering, we rejoice in it.  We are able to, as stated in verse 1, “rest in the shadow of the Almighty”.  When you are running for cover when you are trying to get out of a hard rain, what is the feeling that you experience once you reach shelter?  You feel a sense of relief, of course.  We can rejoice when we feel rest in His shadow and relief in His covering.

To rejoice is a mindset of faith.  The joy in your life is the distinction that others see when you are in the midst of God’s covering and protection.  This is not about how God blesses you or shows you favor, for the one that is going through a hard time yet still able to find rest in Jesus is experiencing anything but favorable circumstances.  To rejoice is indeed a choice, but it is a choice that is made with the conclusion that God is greater than any and all of our circumstances.  Look at 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22         

Rejoice always!

Pray constantly.

Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Don’t stifle the Spirit.

Don’t despise prophecies, but test all things.

Hold on to what is good.

Stay away from every form of evil.

These verses are some of the easiest that you could ever begin to memorize, and yet carrying out the action of these verses is very difficult for a person who cannot get beyond their circumstances.  You will not be able to rejoice or pray if you are not looking to the Lord for comfort.  The greatest obstacle to putting on the full armor of God and coming under His protection is to in some way, shape or form have total focus on yourself.  Self-focus is the greatest hindrance, and Satan’s greatest ally, to following Christ and to remain in the faith.  You will not accomplish the message of these verses without faith in Jesus, who is our rest, refuge and protection beyond our circumstances.

In Psalm 91 there is an important “if-then” statement that is better than a guarantee because the Lord is faithful in His promises.  The first statement is about faith in the Lord as a refuge and what He does for us in return:

Psalm 91:9-12    

Because you have made the LORD—my refuge, the Most High—your dwelling place, no harm will come to you; no plague will come near your tent.

For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.  They will support you with their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.  You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the young lion and the serpent.

Do you believe in angels?  Angels are real.  Angels are God’s servants that are moved and dispatched about the earth to assist in your covering and protection.  The angels are God’s agents of protection for you.  They are there to assist you because you take the step to have faith that the Lord does indeed protect you.  We need His protection because Satan knows these very words in Psalm 91:12 and tried to use them in the tempting of Jesus (see Luke 4:9-12).

What does this mean as far as our act of faith in the Lord?  My interpretation of this is that if Satan himself is quoting Scripture, doesn’t it make sense that we are as prepared as we can be with the knowledge of God’s Word?  What is one of the components of having the full armor of God?  Look at Ephesians 6:17 (Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word).  Ephesians 6:10-11 is what I call a battle cry, which begins with encouragement in its statement that the Lord is strong, much the same way that Psalm 91:1 declares His strength.  Verse 11, however, implores us to put on His armor to withstand the tactics of Satan.  How did Jesus respond to Satan’s temptation?  With Scripture, of course!  How are we to defeat Satan?  With God’s protection fortified by Scripture.  In order to have Scripture as a resource, you have to take the time to read and study God’s Word!  Don’t expect to be consistent and successful in your practice of faith if you remain anemic and weak in your knowledge of God’s Word!

Psalm 91:14-16 summarizes the faithful believer’s reward for following Jesus Christ and trusting in His protection:

Psalm 91:14-16

Because he is lovingly devoted to Me, I will deliver him; I will exalt him because he knows My name.  When he calls out to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble.  I will rescue him and give him honor.  I will satisfy him with a long life and show him My salvation.

God promises that our trust and faith in His protection goes beyond our circumstances and that He will remain with us through our difficulties.  His promise of salvation is referenced by Peter in Acts 4:12, where he states “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”  Peter referred to Jesus Christ, which is the Cornerstone of our faith.  The cornerstone of a building has an important function in that it is strong and provides support for the structure.  The structure of our faith remains strong when we rely upon Jesus.  Our strength in overcoming adversity is our trust and faith in Jesus.

Jesus keeps all of His promises, but we will never reach our fullest potential when we are inconsistent in our faith.  How much more can we do in our own attitudes about our expression of Christ in our lives when we look at someone like the gentleman who had two dollars and a Bible, and yet he could still smile in the midst of his tears?  It is not about how much we have, but it is about much we can have with Jesus in our lives.  He is our refuge, our strength, our protection, and our salvation.

Thank you, Jesus.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.


Sunday School Today: The Importance of Faith

The shield of faith is a vital part of the Christian’s armor. You are to put on the “full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11), because the Christian life is to be in warfare and spiritual conflict. As Paul names the different parts of the Christian armor, he refers to the shield as being a necessity. “In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). See also Romans 8:37.

The importance of faith is seen in that:
1. You cannot be saved without faith (John 3:36)
2. You cannot live victoriously over the world without faith (1 John 5:4).
3. You cannot please God without faith. “Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
4. You cannot pray without faith (James 1:6).
5. Without faith, you cannot have peace with God. “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
6. You cannot have joy without faith (1 Peter 1:8).
7. You are justified by faith and not by works (Galatians 2:16).
8. You are to live by faith (Galatians 2:20).
9. You are made righteous by faith (Romans 10:1-4).
10. Christ dwells in your heart by faith (Ephesians 3:17).
11. The Holy Spirit is received by faith (Galatians 3:2).
12. “But whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith, and everything that is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).