Tag Archives: The Great Awakening

The God of New Beginnings

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

Ezekiel 18:30-32  (NAS)
30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,” declares the Lord GOD. “Repent   and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you.

31 Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a   new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel?

32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.”

God, our God, is the God of new beginnings.  It does not matter what you have gone through or what you have done – there is a new beginning for you.  God has no pleasure in your death and destruction.  He has made a way for you to have a brand new start and all it takes is repentance being sorry for the sin in your life and turning around to follow the Lord.  You cannot let pride stand in the way of receiving a fresh start from God.  The first thing that God wants to do for you is give you a fresh, new heart – a fresh new spirit.
2 Corinthians 5:17  (NKJ)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have   become new.
As a Christian, you have a new heart, but you still make mistakes.  Don’t let sin stand in the way of your relationship with God and your spiritual growth.  Be quick to confess your sin and admit your mistakes so that your Father God can forgive you and wash you and so that you can continue to grow into all the new things that God has for you.

Ezekiel 36:25-27  (NAS)
25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and   from all your idols.
26 Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from   your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

27 And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My   ordinances.”
When God washes you and cleanses you and gives you a new heart and spirit, He also puts His Spirit in you to help you to walk in His ways.  You are not alone, struggling to make it through the day.  The Spirit of God is there to help you to walk in newness of life.  All that is required is that you totally yield yourself to the Spirit of God on a daily basis and keep a repentant attitude.

Colossians 3:8-11  (NKJ)
8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your   mouth.

9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,
10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,
11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but   Christ is all and in all.

You have a new beginning in God and you keep on being renewed into the image of Him who created you as you walk in obedience to Him.  It is an ongoing process.

Lamentations 3:22-23  (NIV)
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Thank God His love, mercy and compassion is extended toward us new and fresh every morning and great is His faithfulness.

OUR STATEMENT OF FAITH – What we believe and teach at the River @ Tampa Bay

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

THE SCRIPTURES
The Bible is the inspired Word of God, the product of holy men of old who spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. The New Covenant, as recorded in the New Testament, we accept as our infallible guide in matters pertaining to conduct and doctrine. (II Tim. 3:16, I Thess. 2:13, II Peter 1:21).

THE GODHEAD

Our God is one, but manifested in three persons – The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit, being co-equal (Phil. 2:6). God the Father is greater than all; the sender of the Word (Logos) and the Begotten(John 14:28, John 16:28, John 1:14). The Son is the Word flesh-covered, the One Begotten, and has existed with the Father from the beginning (John 1:1, John 1:18, John 1:14). The Holy Spirit proceeds forth from both the Father and the Son and is eternal (John 15:26).

MAN, HIS FALL AND REDEMPTION
Man is a created being, made in the likeness and image of God, but, through Adam’s transgression and fall, sin came into the world. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” As it is written, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was manifested to undo the work of the devil and gave His life and shed His blood to redeem and restore man back to God (Rom. 5:14, Rom. 3:10, Rom. 3:23, I John 3:8). Salvation is the gift of God to man, separate from works and the law, and is made operative by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, producing works acceptable to God (Eph.2:8).

ETERNAL LIFE AND THE NEW BIRTH
Man’s first step toward salvation is godly sorrow that worketh repentance. The New Birth is necessary to all men, and when experienced, produces eternal life (II Cor. 7:10, I Jn. 5:12, Jn. 3:3-5).

WATER BAPTISM
Baptism in water is by immersion, is a direct commandment of our Lord, and is for believers only. The ordinance is a symbol of the Christian’s identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection (Matt. 28:19, Rom. 6:4, Col. 2:12, Acts 8:36-39).
The following recommendations regarding the water baptismal formula is adopted: to wit: “On the confession of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and by his authority, I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

BAPTISM IN THE HOLY GHOST
The Baptism in the Holy Ghost and fire is a gift from God as promised by the Lord Jesus Christ to all believers in this dispensation and is received subsequent to the New Birth. This experience is accompanied by the initial evidence of speaking in other tongues as the Holy Spirit Himself gives utterance (Matt. 3:11, John 14:16-17, Acts 1:9, Acts 2:38-39, Acts 19:1-7, Acts 2:4).

SANCTIFICATION
The Bible teaches that without holiness no man can see the Lord. We believe in the Doctrine of Sanctification as a definite, yet progressive work of grace, commencing at the time of regeneration and continuing until the consummation of salvation at Christ’s return (Heb. 12:14, I Thess. 5:23, II Peter 3:18, II Cor. 3:18, Phil. 3:12-14, I Cor. 1:30).

DIVINE HEALING
Healing is for the physical ills of the human body and is wrought by the power of God through the prayer of faith, and by the laying on of hands. It is provided for in the atonement of Christ, and is the privilege of every member of the Church today (Mark 16:18, James 5:14-15, I Peter 2:24, Matt 8:1-17, Isa. 53:4-5).

RESURRECTION OF THE JUST AND THE RETURN OF OUR LORD
The angels said to Jesus’ disciples, “This same Jesus shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” His coming is imminent. When He comes, “…the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air….” (Acts 1:11, I Thess. 4:16-17). Following the Tribulation, He shall return to earth as King of kings and Lord of lords, and together with His saints, who shall be kings and priests, He shall reign a thousand years (Rev. 20:6).

HELL AND ETERNAL RETRIBUTION

The one who physically dies in his sins without accepting Christ is hopelessly and eternally lost in the Lake of Fire and therefore has no further opportunity of hearing the Gospel or repenting. The Lake of Fire is literal. The terms “eternal” and “everlasting” used in describing the duration of the punishment of the damned in the Lake of Fire, carry the same thought and meaning of endless existence as used in denoting the duration of joy and ecstasy of saints in the presence of God (Heb. 9:27, Rev. 19:20).

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS MEEKNESS

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

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 KJV

The Greek word for “meekness” here does not mean weakness, but rather it has to do with humility. When you have humility you have a teachable spirit and you esteem and regard others more highly than yourself. You are humble toward God and man. You do not promote yourself, but you exalt the Lord in everything.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2:3-11 NIV

Humility is not selfish, nor is it pushy. Humility puts the interests of others above its own. Jesus did not first consider His own welfare or His own best interests when He agreed to be born into the earth in the body of a man. He was not thinking of Himself when He took the place of man, taking man’s sin upon Himself, being judged on man’s behalf, and dying a cruel death on the cross. Jesus was thinking only of His Father and of us. His Father asked Him to take our place and bring us back into His family. His sacrifice would save and redeem us. And because Jesus humbled Himself – Almighty God highly exalted Him!

The meekness – humility — demonstrated by Jesus was not weakness, but it was the fruit of power. He was not meek because He could not help Himself — He was meek because He had the infinite resources of God at His command!  When the soldiers who were sent by the chief priests came to arrest Jesus, His disciples tried to defend Him. He told them to put their swords away because He had more than 60,000 angels (twelve legions) at His disposal — all He had to do was to ask for them (Matthew 26:53). Jesus humbled Himself by laying His life down, even though He had heaven on His side. No one could have laid a finger on Him without His consent.

Therefore putting aside all filthiness and {all} that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.  James 1:21-22 NAS

When you are humble you are teachable. You receive God’s Word for your own life and allow it to discipline and correct you. You hear the Word and you do it. When you are humble you allow the Holy Spirit to lead, guide and teach you without excuses or rebellion. You obey the Spirit instantly and precisely. You conduct your life in the way that the Word and the Lord leads you to.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  James 3:13 NIV

When you are full of God’s Word and when you have grown in His wisdom then you will display humility. A wise person is also a humble person. Proverbs 12:15 and 15:5 says that a person who thinks that he knows everything and refuses instruction is a fool.

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.  Galatians 6:1  KJV

Even when you have grown in the Lord and have become a very spiritual person, bringing correction and speaking into the lives of others, you must do it with a humble attitude. If you have a humble attitude then you will protect your own heart and you will not be tempted to fall into sin yourself. People who try to bring correction to others in an arrogant, know-it-all attitude tend to end up falling into sin themselves. When you are humble, you do not believe that you are infallible. You do not have to walk in constant fear of falling into sin, but by the grace of God you should guard yourself, never allowing yourself to be put into a situation where you could be faced with temptation. You avoid the very appearance of evil.

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” When your head is lifted up in pride – you can’t see where your feet are going. You cannot see the trap that the devil would like to set for you. Humble yourself and let God do the exalting. You know that you are humble when you don’t care about being exalted anymore!

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  James 4:6 NKJ

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

James 4:10 KJV

DELIGHT YOURSELF IN THE LORD – PART TWO

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

Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.  Psalms 37:3-5 KJV

Psalms 37:4 says that when you delight yourself in the Lord — He will give you the desires of your heart. Notice that it says that God will give you the desires of your HEART – not of your head or your flesh! A man or woman who delights themselves in the Lord, is one who has a heart after God. They have a heart that longs to please God – a heart filled with good desires. God will not honor the ungodly, sinful desires that spring from an unrenewed mind or unrestrained flesh. He only honors godly desires. If your desire is toward the Lord, then it will also be toward the things of the Lord and He promises to fulfill those desires.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Romans 7:18-23 NKJV

After we are born-again we desire God and the things of God in our heart, but the flesh hankers after those things that are sinful and evil. We need to allow our heart to rule our flesh. We need to allow the desires of our heart to take precedence over the desires of the flesh.

The desire of the righteous is only good, But the expectation of the wicked is wrath – NKJV.  The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath – NIV – Proverbs 11:23

What the wicked dreads will overtake him; what the righteous desire will be granted.  Proverbs 10:24NIV

When you are righteous, your desires are righteous desires and God will give

you those things. Your righteous desires will be fulfilled.

The LORD upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.  Psalms 145:14-20 NIV

God is good to all and His tender mercies are over all His works. He rains on the just and the unjust. He reaches out to bless all those who reach out for Him. The wicked will be destroyed and their plans will come to nothing, but God hears the just and save those who honor, respect and fear Him.

Psalms 73:25 NIV says, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”  There is nothing on earth or in heaven to be desired beside our God. Proverbs 3:14-15 says that she – wisdom – is better, more precious and more profitable than gold, silver or rubies and nothing you can desire compares with her. We will be blessed if we desire after, and ultimately find, wisdom. 1 Peter 2:1-3 says, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.”  1 Corinthians 14:1 says that we should, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts.”

A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but fools detest turning from evil. Proverbs 13:19 NIV

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. NKJV. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. NIV – Proverbs 13:12

Desire the wisdom of God, the word of God, the gifts God gives and most of all God Himself and you will be refreshed and fulfilled.

DELIGHT YOURSELF IN THE LORD

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

Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.  Psalms 37:3-5 KJV

Psalms 37:4 says that we should “delight ourselves in the Lord.” The Hebrew word “delight” used here means “to be soft or pliable.” Our heart must be soft toward the Lord. It must be pliable, yielded and submitted to Him.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10 NIV

The Father loves us completely and unconditionally. Because He loves us, we can trust Him. We can place ourselves totally –- spirit, soul and body -– in His hands. We can devote ourselves utterly to Him and to His will for our lives. We can delight in Him. When you love and respect someone, you want to please them, you want to honor them — you delight in them.

Isaiah 58:14 NKJV says, “Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD;

And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.” This verse in the NIV says, ”Then you will find your joy in the LORD.”  In order to delight in the Lord, you must find your JOY in Him! You must enjoy Him – you must enjoy His presence – you must be satisfied with Him.

Psalms 40:8 NKJV says, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.” The NIV says, “I desire to do your will, O my God.”  We must delight in and desire to do His will – not our own. We must lay down our own agenda and we must put Him and his word first place in our lives. He must take precedence – He must have His way in us. We must find our pleasure in the things that are pleasing to Him.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  Psalms 1:2 NIV

I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.  Psalms 119:14-16 NKJV

And I will delight myself in Your commandments, Which I love. Psalms 119:47 NKJV

God’s word is His will. It is our life and the length of our days. If we put His word first before anything else, we will be blessed all of our days. We must love His word. We must love to read His word, speak His word and do His word. We must willingly submit to his word and allow it to govern our thoughts, our words, and our actions. It is our standard and our counselor. If we truly delight in God’s word then we will yield to it and submit to it. We will allow His word to wash us and change us.

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the LORD more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs. Psalms 69:30-31 NIV

We are delighting ourselves in the Lord when we praise Him and glorify Him — and He delights in us. He would rather have our praise and our worship than any other sacrifice. We need to set our hearts to love Him, please Him and delight in Him in all things. He is so wonderful and He is so worthy. There is nothing else in this world that can compare with Him and no one else who can compare with Him – so delight yourself in Him right now!

JOYFULNESS AND GRATITUDE – KEYS TO RECEIVING THE BLESSING OF THE LORD

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

45 All these curses shall come upon you and shall pursue you and overtake you till you are destroyed, because you do not obey the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and statutes which He commanded you. 46 They shall be a sign [of warning to other nations] and for a wonder, and upon your descendants forever. 47 Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness [of mind] and heart [in gratitude] for the abundance of all [with which He had blessed you], 48 Therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord shall send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and in want of all things; and he will put yoke of iron upon your neck until he has destroyed you.   Deuteronomy 28:45-48 AMP

Deuteronomy 28:1-2 says that if you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all His commandments, many blessings will come upon you. But verse 45 says that if you do not obey the Lord your God, keeping His commandments and statutes, that curses will come upon you, pursue you, and overtake you until you are destroyed. Verse 47-48 says that you will end up serving your enemies if you do not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gratitude. If you are going to serve God, you should do it with the right attitude. The right attitude of mind and heart is to serve God with joy and to be grateful for His blessings on your life. The Amplified Bible says, that you should be grateful for the abundance of all with which He has blessed you and the NIV says thatyou should serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity.

If you are blessed, and you want to stay blessed, remember Whom it is Who blesses you and remember – do not forget – to be grateful and thankful to Him and to tell Him so!

However, if you don’t feel very blessed and you are struggling just to make it, it is hard to be joyful or grateful. After all, how can you be joyful or grateful when you have no blessings to be joyful or grateful for? Of course, if you want to stay where you are, then you can continue to be grumpy and feel sorry for yourself, but if you want to lift yourself up and out of your situation, then you need to change your attitude and begin to thank God for His many blessings! You need to “count your blessings!” Remember all the good things that God has done for you and it will begin to lift your spirits. You will begin to have hope and then faith and then you will begin to expect blessings instead of curses on your life.

It is a medically proven fact that even if you don’t feel good – if you make yourself smile – you automatically begin to feel better. In the same way when you change your perspective and count your blessings, your situation will begin to change for the better. If you change your attitude you could change verse 47 to “you will be abundantly blessed ‘because you served the Lord your God with joyfulness [of mind] and heart [in gratitude] for the abundance of all [with which He had blessed you].'”

11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria andGalilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that,as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.   Luke 17:11-19 KJV

Ten lepers asked Jesus to heal them and all ten lepers were cleansed and cured, but only one, when he realized he was healed, turned back to thank Jesus and to give glory to God. Jesus was surprised that only one out of ten, a Samaritan at that, came back to thank Him. Because the Samaritan expressed his gratefulness with joy, not only was he healed, but he was also made whole. The Greek word translated here as “whole” is “sozo” which means to save, deliver, protect, heal, preserve, do well, be whole or make whole. Ten were healed, but only one was made whole!

We would see so much more of God’s blessings on our lives, if we would only change our attitude and be joyful and grateful for the blessing that He has already poured out on our lives.

A MORE EXCELLENT WAY

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

NOW YOU ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST, AND EACH ONE OF YOU IS A PART OF IT. 28 AND IN THE CHURCH GOD HAS APPOINTED FIRST OF ALL APOSTLES, SECOND PROPHETS, THIRD TEACHERS, THEN WORKERS OF MIRACLES, ALSO THOSE HAVING GIFTS OF HEALING, THOSE ABLE TO HELP OTHERS, THOSE WITH GIFTS OF ADMINISTRATION, AND THOSE SPEAKING IN DIFFERENT KINDS OF TONGUES. 29 ARE ALL APOSTLES? ARE ALL PROPHETS? ARE ALL TEACHERS? DO ALL WORK MIRACLES? 30 DO ALL HAVE GIFTS OF HEALING? DO ALL SPEAK IN TONGUES? DO ALL INTERPRET? 31 BUT EAGERLY DESIRE THE GREATER GIFTS. AND NOW I WILL SHOW YOU THE MOST EXCELLENT WAY.   1 CORINTHIANS 12:27-31 NIV

GOD HAS A PLACE FOR EVERY ONE IN HIS BODY. YOU ARE NOT ALL CLONES OF EACH OTHER. YOU ARE UNIQUE, YOU ARE DIFFERENT, AND YOU NEED TO BE CONTENT TO BE DIFFERENT. YOU WILL NEVER BE HAPPY UNTIL YOU ACCEPT YOURSELF AS YOU ARE AND STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHER PEOPLE. GOD LOVES YOU AS YOU ARE AND HE WANTS YOU TO BE LIKE HIM AND TO WALK IN HIS LOVE TOWARD OTHERS. THERE IS NO PLACE FOR COMPETITION IN THE BODY OF CHRIST. THE GIFTS AND THE CALLING OF GOD ONLY FUNCTION AS THEY WERE INTENDED TO FUNCTION WHEN THEY ARE MOTIVATED BY AND OPERATED IN THE LOVE OF GOD.

IF I SPEAK IN THE TONGUES OF MEN AND OF ANGELS, BUT HAVE NOT LOVE, I AM ONLY A RESOUNDING GONG OR A CLANGING CYMBAL. 2 IF I HAVE THE GIFT OF PROPHECY AND CAN FATHOM ALL MYSTERIES AND ALL KNOWLEDGE, AND IF I HAVE A FAITH THAT CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS, BUT HAVE NOT LOVE, I AM NOTHING. 3 IF I GIVE ALL I POSSESS TO THE POOR AND SURRENDER MY BODY TO THE FLAMES, BUT HAVE NOT LOVE, I GAIN NOTHING.  1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-3 NIV

WITHOUT LOVE, YOU ARE EMPTY – YOU ARE ONLY A RESOUNDING GONG OR A CLANGING CYMBAL – YOU MAKE A LOT OF NOISE, BUT PRODUCE NOTHING OF VALUE! WITHOUT LOVE, ANYTHING YOU DO FOR THEKINGDOM OF GOD IS POINTLESS AND VALUELESS – IT IS WOOD, HAY AND STUBBLE, READY TO BE BURNED UP AT THE LAST. LOVE IS THE “MORE EXCELLENT WAY.”

Dear friends, let us practice loving each other, for love comes from God and those who are loving and kind show that they are the children of God, and that they are getting to know him better. 8 But if a person isn’t loving and kind, it shows that he doesn’t know God-for God is love.  1 John 4:7-8 TLB

Whoever does not love others does not know God, because God is love. God is not the source or inspiration of this person. The absence of God’s love in their life is proof of that.

Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, 5 never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. 6 It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. 7 If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him. 8 All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8 TLB

People have a lot to say on the subject of love, innumerable songs and poems and books have been written on the subject of love, but they still have no idea what true love is. True love is God’s love. It is completely unselfish – in fact it is devoted to the well-being of the one being loved. God’s love gives value where there was none before – He sees you and me as valuable and precious and He treats you and me as valuable and precious when we are nothing of the sort.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  1 Corinthians 13:8-11 NIV

Contrary to religion and tradition and the devil, the gifts of the Spirit have not “passed away.” If they were “passed away” then we would all be perfect and we all know that we are far from perfect. You will never be perfect until you see Him face to face! The gifts of the Spirit are still available to you today and will continue to be available as long as the earth remains as it is. Even so, the gifts of the Spirit are only needed here on earth, but love goes on into eternity. 1 Corinthians 14:1 says that we should, follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts.”  You should not refuse God’s gifts, but you should eagerly seek them, allowing God’s love all the while to have its way in you.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.   1 Corinthians 13:11-13 NIV

God’s love, operating in you, causes you to come to a place of spiritual and emotional maturity. Faith, hope and love will stand the test of time, but love is the most important thing you can possess even into eternity. You will always need faith. You will always need hope. You will always need love. But love is the most important thing you can possess. God’s love will never let you down.

WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?

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

And then a certain lawyer arose to try (test, tempt) Him, saying, Teacher, what am I to do to inherit everlasting life [that is, to partake of eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]? 26 Jesus said to him, What is written in the Law? How do you read it? 27 And he replied, You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. 28 And Jesus said to him, You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live [enjoy active, blessed, endless life in the kingdom of God]. 29 And he, determined to acquit himself of reproach, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbor?  Luke 10:25-29 AMP

This lawyer tried to trip Jesus up and expose Him by asking an argumentative question. However the lawyer was the one whose heart was exposed. Jesus knew the Word of God and submitted Himself to it. He did not preach His own doctrines or draw people after Himself, but He always pointed people to the Father and to the Word of God. Jesus answered the question with a question, “What does the Word say? What does the law say?”

The lawyer quoted the law in reply, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus told him, “That’s exactly right – now go and do it!” This embarrassed the lawyer, because he was looking for an argument and he wanted to put Jesus on the spot. Instead Jesus put him on the spot. Instead of shutting up and leaving, he tried to save face and maintain his pride by asking, “Who exactly is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with a story.

Jesus, taking him up, replied, A certain man was going from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him of his clothes and belongings and beat him and went their way, [unconcernedly] leaving him half dead, as it happened. 31 Now by coincidence a certain priest was going down along that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 A Levite likewise came down to the place and saw him, and passed by on the other side [of the road]. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled along, came down to where he was; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity and sympathy [for him], 34 And went to him and dressed his wounds, pouring on [them] oil and wine. Then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii [two day’s wages] and gave [them] to the innkeeper, saying, Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I [myself] will repay you when I return. 36 Which of these three do you think proved himself a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers? 37 He answered, The one who showed pity and mercy to him. And Jesus said to him, Go and do likewise.  Luke 10:30-37 AMP

Here this man was beaten and robbed and left for dead out on the open road. A priest came by and saw him, but did nothing to help him. All he did was move as far over to the other side of the road as possible and hurry by. A Levite came by after that and did the exact same thing. Then a Samaritan came by. He did not do what the priest and the Levite had done – he stopped and helped the man. He dressed and bound his wounds, placed him on his own transportation – his beast – and took him to an inn. He gave the innkeeper money and instructed him to take care of the wounded man. He promised to come back by later and to reimburse the innkeeper for any further charges he might incur taking care of him.

This was not a small thing he did. He was on his way conducting his business and this man was a perfect stranger to him. He went out of his way to help this man; he spent his time and his money on this man who was nobody to him. He could have hurried away and minded his own business like the others, but he didn’t. Maybe he thought to himself, “If I had been coming down this road a little earlier, it might have been me lying helplessly on the road right now!” and he had compassion on the man. The priest and the Levite may even have felt sorry for the wounded man, but not enough to inconvenience themselves in any way. The Samaritan did not just feel sorry for him, he did something about it.

The Jews despised the Samaritans and looked down on them. They thought that they were better than them and that they weren’t “saved” and yet the Samaritan, alone, proved himself to be the good neighbor. He showed himself to be a man of character and integrity. It is not our heritage, our title, or position that matters to God. He is pleased when we walk in love an when we are humble and kind. It is our generosity of spirit that matters above all else.

Withhold not good from those to whom it is due [its rightful owners], when it is in the power of your hand to do it.   Proverbs 3:27 AMP

LOVE FULFILLS THE LAW

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

8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.  Romans 13:8-10 NKJV

Under the Old Covenant, God’s people spent all their time trying to fulfill the law. Of course, they never managed to keep the law one hundred percent of the time and that was the whole point of the law: to give them a standard to live by, to make them aware that they were incapable in their own power of living up to that standard, that they needed a Savior and to point them toward Jesus Himself as Savior and Lord.

17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.  Matthew 5:17-18 NKJV

Jesus did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it and to deliver us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). Out of His own mouth He gave us a new standard to live by.

34 But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. 35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.  Matthew 22:34-40 KJV

He did not tell us that we do not have to obey God’s commands once we are born anew from above, but He did give us an easier way to obey the commands of God—walk in the love of God. Romans 5:5 NIV says that, “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Our righteousness, as believers, had nothing to do with what we have done, but with what Jesus did for us. We are washed in His blood, saved sanctified and redeemed! Now, with the help of the Holy Spirit we walk out our righteousness in obedience to God’s Word. It is love that fulfills the law and it is God’s love in us that enables us to keep God’s law and obey it. We do not obey God’s commands because we are afraid of Him, but because we love Him. Because we love Him, we also love our neighbor as He has commanded us to.

If you love God, you will keep the Ten Commandments. If you love God, you will put Him first in all things. You will not worship any other god or any other earthly thing, like money or possessions. If you love God, you will not take His Name in vain. You will take time to honor Him and to spend time in His presence. If you love God you will honor and respect your parents. Even if they were not perfect, the love of God in your heart will forgive them and begin to appreciate them and see them as valuable and precious. When you forgive them, you will not repeat their mistakes and where there are generational curses, they will lose all their power over you. As far as God is concerned, all curses are broken on the day you are born-again. You activate this power of God in your life in this area by walking in the love of God.

If you love God and your neighbor, you will not murder your neighbor—either in your thoughts, with your mouth or with your hands. If you love God and your neighbor, you will not commit adultery. You will honor the other person by not allowing the lusts of your flesh to triumph. You will not do anything that dishonors your neighbor and their current or future spouse. If you love God and your neighbor, you will not steal—you will not take something that belongs to your neighbor. You will work with your hands and earn your living honestly and you will give to the Lord and your neighbor according to the blessing of the Lord on your life.

If you love God and your neighbor, you will not lie about your neighbor nor accuse them falsely. You will always tell the truth. If you love God and your neighbor, you will not covet your neighbor’s possessions. You will not be jealous or envious. Instead, you will be blessed by the fact that your neighbor is blessed and you will sow your own seed and you will expect God for a harvest of blessing to come to your life in due season. When you love God and your neighbor, you are sowing seed for blessings to come back to you, good-measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over!

BESIDE YOURSELF WITH THE JOY OF GIVING

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

Jesus inspired great joy from the moment He was born – everyone who believed in Him, approaching Him with an open heart, experienced great joy! On the night Jesus was born angels appeared to shepherds in the field. “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  (Luke 2:10-12 KJV)

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem wise men from the east followed a special star, which went before them, until they found Him. “When they saw the star, they were thrilled with ecstatic joy. And on going into the house, they saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then opening their treasure bags, they presented to Him gifts–gold and frankincense and myrrh.”  (Matthew 2:10-11 AMP)

When the wise men found Jesus, they were thrilled with ecstatic joy. The KJV says that they rejoiced with exceeding great joy and the NIV says that they were overjoyed. They came a long way to worship and honor Jesus and it was all worth it. They were overwhelmed and beside themselves with joy and they worshipped him with their heart and soul and then with their treasure. In that day, you always brought a special gift when you came before the king and they had come prepared with very precious gifts to give Jesus – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Because the wise men honored Jesus as King, they were overjoyed to be in His presence and thrilled to shower Him with gifts. God loves to bless us, it gives Him great joy, and He would like us to feel the same way about Him!

[Remember] this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings. Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver [whose heart is in his giving].   2 Corinthians 9:6-7 AMP

God loves a cheerful giver.  The Greek word for cheerful is “hilaros” from which we get our English word “hilarious.” It means that you are happy and merry, but also prompt and willing. A cheerful giver’s heart is in his or her giving and they do it promptly without griping. There is a true saying, “Givers never gripe and gripers never give.” Your cheerful attitude sets the tone and the standard every time for your giving. People who are willing to give, are happy to give, and people who are happy to give, don’t hesitate, argue, or waste any time. They have already made up their mind to obey God and they are happy to do it. They don’t have to stop and wonder what to do next. They don’t argue with themselves over what to do. When the opportunity presents itself, they give with a happy smile.

We want God to answer our prayers promptly and to meet our needs on time and therefore we should bless Him by not hesitating to sow our seeds cheerfully and promptly.

And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation]. As it is written, He [the benevolent person] scatters abroad; He gives to the poor; His deeds of justice and goodness and kindness and benevolence will go on and endure forever! And [God] Who provides seed for the sower and bread for eating will also provide and multiply your [resources for] sowing and increase the fruits of your righteousness [which manifests itself in active goodness, kindness, and charity]. Thus you will be enriched in all things and in every way, so that you can be generous, and [your generosity as it is] administered by us will bring forth thanksgiving to God.  2 Corinthians 9:8-11 AMP

We should expect God to honor His word. This is faith in action. When you expect God to honor His word, you will not hesitate to DO His word! God promises that as you put Him first in your life and honor Him with your obedience in giving, He will grace you with every favor and earthly blessing so that you will have enough for your needs, your desires, and enough to share with others. God wants to bless you so much that you can be really generous in your giving. You will never have to give sparingly ever again!