THE UNCOMPROMISINGLY RIGHTEOUS SHALL FLOURISH

For You, O Lord, have made me glad by Your works; at the deeds of Your hands I joyfully sing. How great are Your doings O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep. A man in his rude and uncultivated state knows not, neither does a [self-confident] fool understand this: That though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to be destroyed forever.

But You, O Lord, are on high forever. For behold Your adversaries, O Lord, for behold Your enemies shall perish; all the evildoers shall be scattered. But my horn (emblem of excessive strength and stately grace) You have exalted like that of a wild ox; I am anointed with fresh oil. My eye looks upon those who lie in wait for me; my ears hear the evildoers that rise up against me.

The [uncompromisingly] righteous will flourish like the palm tree, [be long-lived, stately, upright, useful, and fruitful]; they shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon [majestic, stable, durable and incorruptible]. Planted in the house of the LORD, they shall flourish in the courts of our God. Growing in grace, they shall still bring forth fruit in old age: they shall be full of sap [of spiritual vitality] and [rich in the] verdure [of trust, love, and contentment].  [They are living memorials] to show that the Lord is upright and faithful to His promises; He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. Psalms 92:4-15 Amplified Version

There are people who try to fight against God, but they will never succeed. Everyone who opposes God, opposes them selves and are eventually and inevitably, destroyed. Those who bow their knee before the Lord and who submit their lives into His hands are made righteous and therefore they have a reason to joyfully praise Him. This psalm is not just talking about righteous people, but about uncompromisingly righteous people.

Those people who are uncompromisingly righteous, live their lives by this principle, “God’s will – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else!” They have made the choice to give all to the Lord, holding nothing back. When you are uncompromisingly righteous, you are on God’s side and He is on your side. When God is on your side, His enemies have no hope of defeating or destroying you! Even though they plot against you and even though they lie in wait to ambush you, you will be aware of their intentions and be able to avoid the trap they lay for you.

When we are uncompromisingly righteous, not only is the Lord the One who delivers us from the attack of the enemy when it comes, but He is also able to show us their plan beforehand, giving us the opportunity to avoid the attack altogether if we obey Him. Verse 11 (NKJV) says, “My eye also has seen my desire on my enemies; My ears hear my desire on the wicked Who rise up against me.”

The Lord exalts the horn of the uncompromisingly righteous. The horn is a symbol for strength and for positions of prominence and security. The uncompromisingly righteous will be promoted into positions of honor and they will experience the gracious favor of the Lord. They are anointed with fresh oil. They don’t get burned out or worn out, because they allow the anointing of the Holy Spirit to continually refresh them. The uncompromisingly righteous are prosperous and fruitful. They live long, productive lives. They are well respected. They cannot be removed from their place, neither can they be swayed or corrupted.

The uncompromisingly righteous are firmly established in their faith and their commitment to the Lord. Nothing can remove them from their place in the presence of the Lord. Nothing can turn their heart away from God. Their heart is fixed. They just grow stronger and stronger in the Lord. They continue to bring forth fruit, even in old age. They get better, not worse, as they age. They remain spiritually strong, experiencing an abundance of trust, love and contentment in their lives and their relationships.

The Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is our Rock – immovable and unchangeable. There is no unrighteousness in Him at all. The uncompromisingly righteous are living memorials, demonstrating to all that the Lord God is upright and that He faithfully keeps His promises.

PRIDE – THE ENEMY FROM WITHIN

“From the Heart” teaching by Drs. Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne.

Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.  Psalms 36:11 NKJV

In life, we are faced with two kinds of enemies – those from within and those from without. Pride comes from within and the wicked man comes from without. The way that this particular verse of scripture is rendered in certain other translations of the Bible, is to the effect that the foot of pride – or arrogance – belongs to another person coming from without. However, pride and arrogance will seek to claim your life whether coming from the inside or the outside – whether it is in your heart or your enemy’s heart. Most of the time – the outside influences are less potent against us than inside influences. Because God has promised to protect us from without – and He always does a good job – but we are responsible to guard our own heart and unfortunately we don’t always do such a good job.

And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”  Mark 7:20-23 NKJV

Pride is an evil thing that comes from the heart of man, defiling him.  It is as evil, in God’s eyes, as any other sin that man can commit. Proverbs 16:5 says, “Everyone proud in heart is anabomination to the LORD.” Proverbs 6:16-17 says, that of the seven things that are anabomination to the LORD and that He hates, one of them is a proud look. Psalms 101:5 says, “The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, Him I will not endure.”  Proverbs 28:25-26 says, “He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the LORD will be prospered. He whotrusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.”

When you trust in yourself you are proud and you are foolish. The Lord will not tolerate pride in your heart or in your look or in your actions. Pride is destructive. Pride will destroy your own life. Pride causes division between man and man – and man and God. Pride will separate you from the presence of God. The pride in your life will not allow God’s grace to reach you and without God’s grace, you are lost. If you wish to please God and preserve your soul, you must walk in humility.

The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; He who keeps his way preserves his soul. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.  Proverbs 16:17-19 NKJV

The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.  Proverbs 8:13 NKJV

If you have any fear or respect for God – you will deal with any prideful attitude that you have. You will treat pride like the sin that it is and you will humble your own heart before the Lord. You must lose your life – lay down your pride and your selfishness – to honor the Lord in your life.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  Matthew 16:24-26 NIV

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.  1 Peter 5:5-9  NKJV

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? But He gives moregrace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”  Thereforesubmit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.  James 4:4-10 NKJV

RELIGION OR RELATIONSHIP – PART 2

“From the Heart” teaching by Drs. Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne.

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  Luke 6:27-31 NIV

There is a big difference between having a religion and having a relationship with God. Religion is about what we can do and relationship is about God’s grace. Religion is about conforming on the outside with little or no regard for the condition of the heart, but when you have a relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ, it is your insides that He cares about and your heart that He asks for. When you are saved, the change first takes place on the inside and then on the outside. First, your spirit is born again. Second, you continue to change and grow as you renew your mind and soul to God’s word. There is a different, higher standard for God’s children than the children of the world, and it is the Holy Spirit that works in you to change you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even `sinners’ love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even `sinners’ do that.   34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even `sinners’ lend to `sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”  Luke 6:32-36 NIV

When Jesus lives big in our heart, we are kind and loving even to those who don’t love us, expecting nothing back from them. We are merciful, just as our Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”   Luke 6:37-38 NIV

Religious people, obsessed with the outward, tend to be overly judgmental of others. None of us are perfect and it is not that hard to find fault with each other. Thank God, He does not judge us according to our behavior alone, but He looks at our heart. God does not want to judge us, but He does want to forgive us. Religion does not want to forgive you, but it wants to make you conform to a set of rules.

He also told them this parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  Luke 6:39-42 NIV

When we just have religion, we have a tendency to judge others, whilst we do not judge ourselves. However, God wants us to judge our own heart and mind our own business. We need to let God take care of other people and we need to take care of ourselves. We must remember that every one of us will stand alone before God and give an account for our own life, our heart and our attitude. We need to show mercy if we want to receive mercy.

ANSWERED PRAYER – PRAY, BELIEVE, FORGIVE AND RECEIVE

“From the Heart” teaching by Drs. Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne.

The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].  James 5:16b AMP

When a righteous man prays a continued, earnest, heartfelt, prayer, there is a tremendous power that is released – a dynamic active power that effectively goes to work – producing the desired result. If you want your prayers to be answered, there are a few things that you must do to ensure the desired result – you must walk righteously before the Lord, you must pray sincerely and fervently and you must pray according to God’s will.

12 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. And when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it.   Mark 11:12-14 NKJV

Jesus spoke to the fig tree in the presence of His disciples. He cursed it and walked away.

20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.”   Mark 11:20-21 NKJV

The next morning, Jesus passed the fig tree without a second glance. The disciples on the other hand, noticed that it was dried up from the roots and they were shocked and surprised. Jesus was not surprised. Jesus did not even stop to see if anything had happened to the fig tree since He spoke to it. As far as He was concerned – He had spoken and He had faith in the fact that whatever He said came to pass. He had not one doubt about it at all. He did not have to look at the fig tree to see if His faith was working – as far as He was concerned if He spoke it, it was done!

11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.   Isaiah 55:11 NKJV

God’s Word always accomplishes what He pleases and prospers in the thing for which He sent it. God’s Word always comes to pass no matter what! Believe His Word, speak His Word, stand on His Word, and receive the fulfillment of His promise in your life.

22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will come to pass, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.  Mark 11:22-24 NKJV

  1. Before you pray – have faith in God. Believe that His Word is true.
  2. Believe your word – that what YOU say will come to pass.
  3. Speak to the mountain.
  4. Don’t doubt.
  5. When you pray – believe that you have received the answer right then. You are not waiting for it – you have it already.
  6. Continue to thank God for the answered prayer.

God’s Word says that if you speak to your situation and command it to change and you do not doubt in your heart, but you believe that what you say will come to pass – then, and only then, will you have whatever you say.

25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”   Mark 11:25-26 NKJV

If you want all your prayers to be answered then, when you are praying, don’t forget to deal with your own attitude. You don’t want anything to stand in the way of your faith. Remember to forgive anyone who has offended you, so that God can also freely forgive you and answer your prayers.

A LOCAL CHURCH WITH A WORLDWIDE VISION

“From the Heart” teaching by Drs. Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne.

The River at Tampa Bay is a local church with a worldwide vision.

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.  Acts 1:8 KJV

The River is a place where we expect to see:

Anointed praise and worship

Anointed preaching and teaching

Signs and wonders following the Word

A place where the Father is glorified, Jesus is lifted up and the Holy Spirit is welcome to move

People coming to know God in a personal and intimate way

Believers growing in the things of God

People being stirred up to fulfill their callings

People being launched out of this place – going out to reach the world with the Gospel of peace and the power of God

Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: 6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.  Acts 6:2-7 KJV

Senior Pastors Rodney and Adonica Howard-Browne

We have pastoral teams and we also have volunteers in ministry of helps who work together with us to meet the needs of the members of The River at Tampa Bay.

Our pastoral and leadership teams:

Derrick and Lorna Howard-Browne

Dawn Schegar – Children

Dale and Lucy Van Volkenburg

Eric and Jennifer Gonyon

Victor and Diana Morales

Brian and Queenisha Hamilton-Grein – Youth

James and Frankie McCurdy

Jimmy and Becky Pearce

Jason and Hannah Gillick

Bernie and Angie Parker

Bill and Geni Doyle

We are committed to our River members – our pastoral team is willing and available for you – to pray with you and to help you find the answers you need from God’s Word. If you need an appointment with a pastor call 971-9999 between 9am & 5pm. After hours – if you have a true emergency call XXX-XXXX. For any other enquiries, please call the office during office hours

So let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the hope we cherish and confess and our acknowledgement of it, for He Who promised is reliable (sure) and faithful to His word. 24 And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, 25 Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.  Hebrews 10:23-25 AMP

If you are a River member:

Read your Bible

Worship the Lord daily

Come to church every week

Attend the Believer’s Classes

Pay tithes on your income

Be a part of any special meetings

TO THE ANGEL OF THE CHURCH IN PHILADELPHIA

“From the Heart” teaching by Drs. Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne.

“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars-I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.   Revelation 3:7-13 NIV

Philadelphia is the second city in Lydia – about twenty-eight miles southeast of Sardis – adjacent to a wine-growing region. Though not a large city, it was of commercial importance and was built on fine Roman roads. It is built on four hills (or one hill with four summits), picturesque, with a healthy climate and well supplied with trees. It suffered from frequent earthquakes and was rebuilt by Tiberius after the great earthquake of 17 A.D. For a time it was called “Neo-Caesarea” on its coins. Its coins bore the head of Bacchus (Dionysos), the chief deity, and the figure of a Bacchante. The population included Jews, Jewish Christians, and converts from paganism.

Of all the seven churches it had the longest duration of prosperity as a Christian city. Ramsay called Philadelphia “the Missionary City” because it promoted the spread of the Graeco-Roman civilization and then of Christianity, later offering stubborn resistance to the Turks from 1379-1390 A.D. It still exists as a Turkish town under the name of Allah Shehr – “City of God” or “High Town.” Apparently there are some 1,000 Christians there today.

In the mid-19th century, the missionaries Fisk and Parsons were informed by the Greek bishop that the town contained 3,000 houses, of which he assigned 250 to the Greeks, and the rest to the Turks. Apparently, there were five churches in the town, excluding twenty others which were too old or too small to be used. There are six mosques in the town, and one of these mosques is believed by the native Christians to have been the church in which the early Christians assembled, who are addressed in Revelation 3. There are not many ruins; but in one part there are four pillars, which are supposed to have been columns of a church. One solitary pillar has often been noticed, reminding us of the words of Jesus in Revelation 3:12, “Him that overcometh I will make a pillar in the temple of my God.”

Only Jesus has the authority to open and closed doors in your life.  Neither you nor anyone else has the authority to force a door open or closed in your life.  If Jesus opens a door for you, you can boldly go through it, because there is no man and no demon that can prevent you. So do not stand back when Jesus has opened a door in front of you and do not rattle the door handles of the doors he has shut. Accept the will of God in your life and embrace his call. The church of Philadelphia had “little strength,” which could mean that they were small in number, short of resources, or had little prestige, and yet they kept God’s Word and refused to deny the name of Jesus Christ even though they were severely persecuted.  They are those, whether Christian or Jew, who persecute true Christians, thinking that they are working for God, when in reality they are motivated by the devil.  A person who truly loves God will love their neighbor.

When you keep your eyes on Jesus and do only what he is told you to do then even your enemies will come to a place where they have to acknowledge that God is on your side.  They will come to a place, either by choice or by force, where they must submit to Jesus Christ as King of kings and to you as his messenger.  Man cannot fight against God.  When we submit to God to endure patiently whatever comes our way then we will not be shaken or thrown off our course when hardship or persecution comes our way — and it probably will at some point or another.  Don’t allow anyone else to take your crown.  Don’t allow them to cause you to give up or to back down.  Put your eyes on Jesus, obey his Word, and do only what he tells you to do and he will cause you to triumph, always, and in all things.

He who overcomes will be made a pillar in the house of God.  A pillar must be strong and immovable.  A pillar holds up the whole house.  Even if the house is blown away, the pillar still stands.  We might be small in our own eyes, we might not have much to offer the Lord, but if we will commit to Him, he will strengthen us, protect us, and keep us until we see him face-to-face and until we receive our crown of victory — the overcomer’s crown!

TO THE ANGEL OF THE CHURCH IN LAODICEA

“From the Heart” teaching by Drs. Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne.

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. 21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  Revelation 3:14-22 NIV

As Laodice was a common name among the ladies of the royal house of the Selencidae, the name was given to several cities in Syria and Asia Minor. The city addressed by Jesus in Revelation chapter 4 was about forty miles east of Ephesus and forty miles southeast of Philadelphia and was known as Laodicea on the Lycus. It was situated on a group of hills between two tributaries of the Lycus – the Asopus and the Caprus – on the border of Phrygia, near Colossae and Hierapolis. Before it was called Laodicea, it was first called Diospolis (City of Zeus) and then Rheas. It was named Laodicea by Antiochus Theos (261 BC – 246 BC). Laodicea was called “the City of Compromise” by Ramsay. Laodicea was the last of the seven churches addressed with a special message and its name means “justice of the people.” Many of its inhabitants were Jews.

Toward the end of the Roman Republic, and under the first emperors, Laodicea became one of the most important and flourishing cities of Asia Minor, sitting on the great trade route from Ephesus to the east. It was the seat of large manufacturing and banking operations – large money transactions took place here. Woolen carpets and clothing were produced here and there was also an extensive trade in wood. The citizens developed a taste for Greek art, and were distinguished in science and literature. Laodicea was also a center of the worship of Asklepios and the seat of a great medical school.

During the Roman period it was the chief city of the Roman political district (conventus), in which courts were held by the proconsul of the province, and where the taxes from the subordinate towns were collected. The conventus represented by Laodicea consisted of at least twenty-five towns and inscriptions refer to the city as “the metropolis.” Later the Greek word dioikeesis, meaning the same thing as the Latin conventus, was applied to an ecclesiastical district, which is where we get the word “diocese.” Laodicea was subject to frequent earthquakes, and therefore it was eventually abandoned. It is now a deserted place, but, by their magnitude, its ruins indicate its former importance. Among these ruins are a racecourse and three theaters, one of which is four hundred and fifty feet in diameter.

The church there had a close relationship to the neighboring churches in Hierapolis and Colossae and an important church council was held there in the fourth century. Jesus bestows no praise on this church, but only reproves it for its lukewarmness. In verse 19, Jesus says that he rebukes and disciplines those that He loves. He must have loved the Church in Laodicea. According to Jesus, being lukewarm is unacceptable.  He told them that he was about to vomit them out of his mouth!  He would have preferred for them rather to be cold or hot. Cold – because then they would have known that they needed to repent – or hot – because then they would be on fire for God. The only thing you really want to be is on fire for God, because when you are lukewarm you only think that you are on fire.

The church in Laodicea was just the opposite of the church in Smyrna, which was poor in wealth, but rich in grace. This church was in a rich city and was rich in pride and conceit, but poor in grace, and ignorant of its own spiritual poverty. Just because you are rich does not mean you don’t need God in your life.  Physical prosperity is no indication of spiritual prosperity – they are separate issues – the most important is spiritual prosperity. Because the Laodiceans were wealthy and prosperous, they were also complacent.  They thought they did not need help from anyone, even God, but they did not realize that they were actually wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked! They were dressed in the finest clothing, and yet, they were spiritually naked.  They could also be called “unhappy, unfortunate, or pathetic.”

We must be zealous to repent of our arrogance and we must humble our hearts to receive all that Jesus has for us. After all, everything we own is His and comes from Him.  The only true wealth is spiritual wealth – the only true riches are spiritual riches. Will you hear Jesus when He knocks at your door?  Will you open the door of your heart, and allow Him into your life, to touch you, to change you, to burn the junk out of you, and to make you whole and complete? Don’t wait any longer – today is your day to get rid of your lukewarmness and mediocrity – today is your day to fall in love with Jesus and to burn with fire for Him!

NOT EVEN THE SMELL OF SMOKE

“From the Heart” teaching by Drs. Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne.

The stories in the Old Testament are types and shadows of the realities of the New Testament. In the book of Daniel, God’s people were in captivity, living in a foreign land, serving a foreign king. Four men from the tribe of Judah, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were trained up to serve king Nebuchadnezzar and the king found them to be wiser than any other of his learned magicians and astrologers. Because they honored God, He gave them great favor and promotion. This provoked much jealousy on the part of the other “wise” men and they sought an opportunity to bring them down.

If you are a child of God, you do not belong to this world or this world’s system. Your spiritual passport is stamped “Citizen of Heaven!” You are a stranger in a strange land. However, while you are here, if you honor the Lord and do right, He will bless and promote you. The devil may try to stir up strife against you, people and circumstances may line up against you, and it may seem as if all is lost, but if you commit wholly to God and serve and honor Him in all things and do the right thing because it’s the right thing, then the Lord will see you through. He will walk into the fire with you.

In Daniel, chapter 3, King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. He called all his provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image. Everyone in Babylon was ordered to fall down and worship the image as soon as they heard music playing. They were informed that non-compliance would result in death in a fiery furnace. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego served the king faithfully in natural matters, but in their worship, they were committed to God alone. There was no way that they could obey the king’s insane decree and so they didn’t. The Chaldeans (astrologers) did not waste any time pointing out to the king that they neither worshipped his gods or his golden image.

Nebuchadnezzar was enraged. He confronted them on their disobedience to his law and reminded them about the fiery furnace. “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’” (Daniel 3:16&17) They fully expected God to save them, but their commitment was such, that whether He did or not, they would still not bow to the idol. This made Nebuchadnezzar even madder and he had the fire heated seven times hotter. His strongest men tied Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego up tightly and threw them into the middle of the furnace. Because the fire was so hot, they were killed as they threw them into the fire. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego fell down bound into the burning fiery furnace. Then something amazing happened.

The king was shocked to see not three men, but four, walking around in the fire. Nebuchadnezzar recognized the fourth man – He was the Son of God! He also observed that though Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had been tightly and securely bound with ropes, now they were free. The fire had burned off the ropes, but they were completely untouched by the fierce blaze. He called them out of the fire and he and his people were astounded to see that the fire had not burned their bodies, their hair, or their robes at all. They did not even smell of smoke. They all realized that they were seeing a supernatural miracle take place in front of their eyes.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon. Daniel 3:28-30 NIV

Even though Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fire tightly bound, now they could be seen walking around in the fire freely and there was a fourth man with them – the Son of God! The king was so impacted by this that he not only pardoned them, but he also promoted them. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s lives were spared, they became a sign and a wonder, and God was glorified in the eyes of the king and the Babylonian nation.

If you are persecuted for your obedience to God and His word; if the devil stirs up trouble against you; if you get thrown in the “fire”; don’t be afraid. Continue to trust God. He will go into the fire with you. You will not be burned; you won’t even have the smell of smoke on you. The only thing that will be burned up will be the limitations the devil tried to put on you. You will come out at an even better place than you went in! Your life belongs to the Lord; you are not your own; you are bought with a price. There is only one sure way to come out on top every time – submit to God at all times and in all things. If you will trust God absolutely and obey Him implicitly, He will bring you out completely!

 

PREVENTING STRIFE AND DIVISION – PART 2

“From the Heart” teaching by Drs. Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne.

Proverbs 6:19 says that God hates “he who sows discord (or strife) among his brethren.”

A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. Proverbs 16:28 AMP

A person who sows strife is a person who is perverse – a person who is carnal and deaf to the voice of their conscience. This word “perverse” is also translated as “fraud.” Strife grieves the Holy Spirit. If you are a Christian He will bring conviction to you in your spirit when you do or say something to cause strife or accelerate it. If you are disobedient to the Holy Spirit, or if you have a seared conscience and you can’t hear Him, you will continue on in strife and in sin. When you whisper – gossip and tell tales about people – you cause strife between them. God hates this kind of behavior!

He who covers and forgives an offense seeks love, but he who repeats or harps on a matter separates even close friends. Proverbs 17:9 AMP

Surely the churning of milk brings forth butter, and the wringing of the nose brings forth blood; so the forcing of wrath brings forth strife. Proverbs 30:33 AMP

When you won’t drop something, but you go on and on about it, you are causing strife and division between people. Many times friends have fights or disagreements or misunderstandings, but if they love each other they will work at working it out and repairing the breach. However, if a third person continues to bring it up and harp on it all the time, the strife will continue and even accelerate. If you continue to remind people of the issues that caused the strife and if you work at working them up over it, then you are a strife-causer.

However, if you are a true friend, you will be a peace-maker and peace-encourager; you will encourage forgiveness; you will promote peace and reconciliation; you will discourage friends from allowing strife to cause unforgiveness and bitterness, which would ruin their relationships. Husbands and wives need to encourage one another to forgive other people and not be bitter. We are to protect one another from the wiles of the devil. If he can get you into strife he has an open door into your life, to cause havoc and destruction.

He who is of a greedy spirit stirs up strife, but he who puts his trust in the Lord shall be enriched and blessed. Proverbs 28:25 AMP

Greed and covetousness are a source of strife. Put your trust in God alone and you will be blessed. Don’t be jealous when someone else is blessed – be happy for them – your turn is coming!

The beginning of strife is as when water first trickles [from a crack in a dam]; therefore stop contention before it becomes worse and quarreling breaks out. Proverbs 17:14 AMP

When strife first starts, that is the time to jump on it and stop it. If you allow it to continue, it will soon be out of control – all kinds of people will be quarreling with each other, and it will be very hard to quench it.

It is an honor for a man to cease from strife and keep aloof from it, but every fool will quarrel. Proverbs 20:3 AMP

You show yourself to be a fool when you are quarrelsome and argumentative. An honorable man stays far away from strife, and if he happens to be drawn into it, he extricates himself as quickly as he can.

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it. 18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger appeases contention. Proverbs 15:17-18 AMP

A man of wrath stirs up strife, and a man given to anger commits and causes much transgression. Proverbs 29:22 AMP

Strife is stress-inducing and soul-destroying. Most sensible people would rather have fewer material goods and a peaceful home, than wealth and strife. When people are hot-tempered, they have a tendency to anger quickly, and anger stirs up strife. So if you have a tendency to be hot-tempered, the first thing you need to do is to learn to control your temper, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and to not be so reactionary. Take a little more time to find out all the facts and do not be tempted to jump to conclusions.

If you want to be able to control your temper and if you want to prevent strife, then you need to be more patient and more considerate; don’t be envious or jealous; don’t be arrogant, conceited, or boastful; don’t be rude; don’t insist on your own rights or your own way; don’t be touchy, fretful, or resentful; pay no attention to a suffered wrong; don’t rejoice at injustice or unrighteousness; believe the very best, not the very worst of other people. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

JESUS—WHAT DOES THAT NAME MEAN TO YOU?

“From the Heart” teaching by Drs. Rodney & Adonica Howard-Browne.

Jesus – the Name above all names – the Name that evokes very different responses in different people. Some people love to hear that Name; some hate it and use it as a curse word. Demons fear and tremble at that Name. What does that Name mean to you? How do you respond to the Name and person of Jesus Christ?

John the Baptist and Elizabeth:
As a baby, in his mother’s womb, John recognized the presence of Jesus and responded by moving in his mother’s belly. The anointing of the Holy Spirit came on Elizabeth and she rejoiced with Mary at what God had done in her, because she, herself, had experienced a great miracle – she was pregnant after many years of barrenness. Elizabeth recognized the Baby in Mary’s womb as the fulfillment of God’s promise to save His people.

And at that time Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country to a town of Judah, 40 And she went to the house of Zachariah and, entering it, saluted Elizabeth. 41 And it occurred that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with and controlled by the Holy Spirit. 42 And she cried out with a loud cry, and then exclaimed, Blessed (favored of God) above all other women are you! And blessed (favored of God) is the Fruit of your womb!  Luke 1:39-42 AMP

The shepherds:
The shepherds in the field were minding their own business when they had a visitation from angels, which initially scared them out of their wits, but after the angel told them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people. For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ (the Messiah) the Lord!” they went to see Mary and Joseph and the baby, Jesus. From there, they went out and told everyone what they had seen. They testified about the angels and the baby – born a Savior, the promised Messiah – and people were astounded and they marveled at what the shepherds told them. (Luke 2:8-20)

Simeon and Anna:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout [cautiously and carefully observing the divine Law], and looking for the Consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been divinely revealed (communicated) to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed one). 27 And prompted by the [Holy] Spirit, he came into the temple [enclosure]; and when the parents brought in the little child Jesus to do for Him what was customary according to the Law, 28[Simeon] took Him up in his arms and praised and thanked God and said, 29 And now, Lord, You are releasing Your servant to depart (leave this world) in peace, according to Your word. 30 For with my [own] eyes I have seen Your Salvation, 31 Which You have ordained and prepared before (in the presence of) all peoples, 32 A Light for revelation to the Gentiles [to disclose what was before unknown] and [to bring] praise and honor and glory to Your people Israel.   Luke 2:25-32 AMP

Simeon recognized the Messiah because he was looking for Him. When he saw Him, the anointing of the Holy Spirit came on him and he knew this was the Savior of the world! He prophesied to Jesus’ parents what the future would bring and then he told God that he was ready to depart this world in peace, because God’s promise had been fulfilled. Anna, a very old widow woman, who never went out from the temple enclosure, because she worshiped God night and day with fasting and prayer, also saw the baby Jesus and rejoiced with Simeon and gave thanks to God. She told everyone, who was looking for the redemption of Israel, about Jesus. (Luke 2:25-38)

The wise men from the east:
Wise men, from the east, followed a star to find the One born King of the Jews. They obviously knew of God’s promise and sought its fulfillment, unlike the religious leaders of the day, who despised Jesus and sought to destroy Him. When they found the place Jesus was, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy; they were thrilled with ecstatic joy! They fell down and worshipped Him. They gave Him, and His parents, very expensive gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-12) It does not matter who you are, or what family or what denomination you were born into. It only matters that you have a heart after God and that you recognizes Him when you see Him and that you honor Him for Who He is.

Herod and the religious leaders:
Herod tried to kill Him once; the religious leaders tried a few times – all unsuccessfully – until He laid down His own life. They all saw Him as a threat to their power and their leadership. Because they were arrogant and power-hungry, they missed their own opportunity to receive salvation.

The people:
The people mostly came around Jesus to receive things for themselves, but they let Him go to the cross alone. They acted selfishly. What has Jesus done for you? Think about it and then ask yourself this: How much do you love, honor and appreciate Jesus? What does He mean to you and what are you doing for Him?

Rodney Howard Browne bringing Revival to Louisville KY

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