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?

Take an Offering Only From Those Who Have a Willing Heart!

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

Thoughts on Stewardship
Lesson No. 14 from Exodus
Take an Offering Only From Those Who Have a Willing Heart!

Foundation Scripture: Exodus 35 verses 5 – 29

‘Take from among you an offering to the LORD. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the LORD: gold, silver, and bronze; 6 blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; 7 ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; 8 oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; 9 onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate. 10 ‘All who are gifted artisans among you shall come and make all that the LORD has commanded: 11 the tabernacle, its tent, its covering, its clasps, its boards, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets; 12 the ark and its poles, with the mercy seat, and the veil of the covering; 13 the table and its poles, all its utensils, and the showbread; 14 also the lampstand for the light, its utensils, its lamps, and the oil for the light; 15 the incense altar, its poles, the anointing oil, the sweet incense, and the screen for the door at the entrance of the tabernacle; 16 the altar of burnt offering with its bronze grating, its poles, all its utensils, and the laver and its base; 17 the hangings of the court, its pillars, their sockets, and the screen for the gate of the court; 18 the pegs of the tabernacle, the pegs of the court, and their cords; 19 the garments of ministry, for ministering in the holy place — the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, to minister as priests.’” 20 And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. 21 Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the LORD’s offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments. 22 They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart, and brought earrings and nose rings, rings and necklaces, all jewelry of gold, that is, every man who made an offering of gold to the LORD. 23 And every man, with whom was found blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, goats’ hair, red skins of rams, and badger skins, brought them. 24 Everyone who offered an offering of silver or bronze brought the LORD’s offering. And everyone with whom was found acacia wood for any work of the service, brought it. 25 All the women who were gifted artisans spun yarn with their hands, and brought what they had spun, of blue, purple, and scarlet, and fine linen. 26 And all the women whose hearts stirred with wisdom spun yarn of goats’ hair. 27 The rulers brought onyx stones, and the stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate, 28 and spices and oil for the light, for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense. 29 The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to the LORD, all the men and women whose hearts were willing to bring material for all kinds of work which the LORD, by the hand of Moses, had commanded to be done. Exodus 35:5-29 NKJV

1. God told Moses to take an offering from the children of Israel—only from those who had a willing heart.

a. Why did God do this?

b. He did this because God does not want us to give Him an offering out of compulsion—He wants us to give Him an offering out of our love for Him, just as He blesses us out of His love for us.

c. He gave them a choice to bring what they had—from the costliest of treasures, down to acacia wood, to goat’s hair. Every type of offering was needed for a different aspect of God’s house. Every offering was welcomed and received.

2. Verse 29 says that the children of Israel brought to the Lord a freewill offering—those whose hearts made them willing were the ones who gave.

a. Everyone whose heart was stirred, and whose spirit was willing came with something.

b. Many brought bracelets, earrings, rings, tablets, and jewels of gold.

c. God is looking for willing vessels—those who will come to Him and give to Him of their treasure, their time, and their talents.

N.B. Let us always be willing to give God our best.

Pastor Adonica’s Thoughts:

The Lord did not want anything in His house that was given grudgingly—with an attitude of unwillingness or resentment. He wanted only those things that were presented to Him with love and joy. Whatever you give—always give with a willing heart.

Pastor Rodney’s Thoughts:

I have often watched, with interest, as the offering is being received, at how people respond. Some people act like they believe they are giving to a man, or a church, or an organization and either expect something back from them or they give without willingness. I am sure that some only give so others don’t see them not giving. However, I have come to realize that people don’t really get the big picture—for some reason they don’t realize that it is God they are giving their gifts to when they give to His work and His Kingdom. They don’t realize that God sees what they are doing and even looks into their heart at their attitude and intent as they do it. Your giving is totally between you and God. Do it like God is watching. Do it with a willing heart.

Prayer and Confession:

Father I pray that my heart will always be willing to serve You and obey You. In my giving, I will worship You and I give my best to You. All that I have is Yours. I am Yours and my heart has made me willing!

The Repentant Heart

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

So repent (change your mind and purpose); turn around and return [to God], that your sins may be erased (blotted out, wiped clean), that times of refreshing (of recovering from the effects of heat, of reviving with fresh air) may come from the presence of the Lord.  Acts 3:19 AMP

The root meaning of repentance is: a change of mind (and heart) and purpose. It is deep sorrow, compunction, or contrition for a past sin, wrongdoing, or the like. The only way to repent is to have true godly sorrow. There is a difference between regret and repentance. Some people are sorry for being caught in the act of sin, but are not repentant of the sin itself. Sin is not a weakness, an unfortunate happening, or a mistake. It is a transgression of divine law; any act regarded as such a transgression, especially a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle; any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, or lapse. Sin is a personal guilt—each one independently will give an account of his/her own sin.

Iniquity is gross injustice or wickedness. Some people have iniquity in their heart. Deep down on the inside, they desire to commit sin even though they have not yet done it for fear of the humiliation of being caught. Sins of the heart also require repentance. Turn to God. Acknowledge your sin and then confess your sin with godly sorrow and the gift of repentance, which only God can give you. Acts 11:18b says, “Then God has also granted to the gentiles repentance unto life.” 2 Timothy 2:25b says, “…if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.” You repent by believing God’s Word. Jonah 3:5 AMP says, “So the people of Nineveh believed in God and proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth [in penitent mourning], from the greatest of them even to the least of them.”

God’s mercy should never be taken for granted, because some things can never be changed, no matter how sorry you are afterwards. Hebrews 12:16-17 AMP says that Esau sold his birthright for a single meal. “For you understand that later on, when he wanted [to regain title to] his inheritance of the blessing, he was rejected (disqualified and set aside), for he could find no opportunity to repair by repentance [what he had done, no chance to recall the choice he had made], although he sought for it carefully with [bitter] tears.”

REPENTANCE FOR THE SINNER
1. By the preaching of the Gospel
Now when they heard this they were stung (cut) to the heart, and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles (special messengers), Brethren, what shall we do? 38 And Peter answered them, Repent (change your views and purpose to accept the will of God in your inner selves instead of rejecting it) and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of and release from your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Acts 2:37-38 AMP

2. Through the Goodness of God
Or are you [so blind as to] trifle with and presume upon and despise and underestimate the wealth of His kindness and forbearance and long-suffering patience? Are you unmindful or actually ignorant [of the fact] that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repent (to change your mind and inner man to accept God’s will)?  Romans 2:4 AMP

3. Remember this very important fact: God’s mercy is extended to ALL
The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people’s conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance.  2 Peter 3:9 AMP

REPENTANCE FOR THE BELIEVER
1. Through God’s reproof and chastisement
For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes.  Hebrews 12:6 AMP
For [our earthly fathers] disciplined us for only a short period of time and chastised us as seemed proper and good to them; but He disciplines us for our certain good, that we may become sharers in His own holiness. 11 For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness—in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God].  Hebrews 12:10-11 AMP
Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them]. So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude].  Revelation 3:19 AMP

2. A New Vision of God
I had heard of You [only] by the hearing of the ear, but now my [spiritual] eye sees You. 6 Therefore I loathe [my words] and abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.  Job 42:5-6 AMP

3. The Loving Reproof of a Brother
And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.  2 Timothy 2:24-26 NKJV

THREE FRUITS OF REPENTANCE
1. Acknowledgement and confession of sin

2. Humility – asking God for mercy
But the tax collector, [merely] standing at a distance, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but kept striking his breast, saying, O God, be favorable (be gracious, be merciful) to me, the especially wicked sinner that I am!  Luke 18:13 AMP

3. Very, very important – making restitution (or apologizing)
So then Zacchaeus stood up and solemnly declared to the Lord, See, Lord, the half of my goods I [now] give [by way of restoration] to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone out of anything, I [now] restore four times as much.  Luke 19:8 AMP

CONCLUSION
In order to stay in right standing with God, you must maintain a repentant heart toward Him. You must keep your heart humble and have a teachable attitude and a thankful heart. Never be self-righteous. Check your own temperature on a daily basis. Be very careful with whom you associate and whom you allow to influence you. Allow the Word of God to be your guide and the peace of God to reign in your heart. When you sin, confess immediately. Make right, accept the cleansing of the blood, and walk on. In this way, you ensure that your heart is a consistently repentant heart and is always right in the eyes of God

Rodney Howard Browne bringing Revival to Louisville KY