RELIGION OR RELATIONSHIP

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

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  Matthew 16:24-26 NIV

The Bible contrasts the difference between those bound by religion and tradition – who put their trust in their own efforts – and those who trust in God alone. The Lord has reached out to us with life and liberty – if we will lay down our (lower) life, we can take up His (higher) life.

Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.  Luke6:20 NIV

If we read the whole of the word of God in context, we will see that it is the blessed of God who are not poor. Every one who willingly obeys God eats of the good of the land (Isaiah 1:19). Every one who serves God with their whole heart is blessed and prosperous (Joshua 1:8). Wealth and riches are in the house of the righteous (Psalms 112:3). “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God means that we need to recognize that we are nothing without Jesus.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Luke 6:24 NIV

If we think that we don’t need Jesus – we are wrong. If we think that we can earn our salvation – we are very wrong. We need Him! In Him we live and move and have our being. Those who think that they don’t need Jesus, have all the blessings they are ever going to have. Earth is the only heaven a sinner will ever know and the only hell the child of God will ever know!

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.  Luke 6:21 NIV

Revelations 3:17 NIV says, “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.”  We need to be hungry for God. We need to recognize that we need Him. We cannot afford to be self-confident or self-sufficient. God is our source and our supply. We need to recognize Him as our all-in-all. We need to be prepared to weep – to give Him our best – to commit to Him no matter what it takes – no matter what we have to lay down. We need to be willing to lay everything down for Him.

Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.  Luke 6:25 NIV

If we put our needs above His – if we think of ourselves first and take care of ourselves first – we will be found lacking.

Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.  Luke 6:22-23 NIV

Those who stand up to be counted as a child of God, those who preach the unadulterated word of God and those who will contend for the supernatural will be persecuted. However, it is not something to be sad about, but to rejoice about. We are not being treated any differently than our Lord and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.  Luke 6:26 NIV

You can be religious and you can try to please people and tickle their ears and they will speak well of you, but it is nothing to be proud of. The fact that people like you is no indication that God is pleased with you as well. On the contrary, if you will please God and not man, the devil is sure to stir up people against you to oppose you. Rejoice if you are being persecuted for the word’s sake – it means that you are on the right track!

THE DOER OF THE WORD LIVES A STABLE LIFE

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

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.   James 1:2-8 NIV

Why does it seem as if some people are stable and solid and blessed whilst others seem to be constantly unstable and always in the middle of a crisis?

These unstable people are blown all over the place by every wind of adversity that comes their way. Their circumstances totally control them – controlling their attitude, their mouth and their actions. They are full of doubt and fear. The word of God says that if you are a doubter, you are like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. You don’t know what it is that you believe. You are double-minded and therefore unstable in all you attempt to do. Because you are unstable and you don’t know what you believe and you can’t make up your mind what it is you want – you don’t receive anything from the Lord!

On the contrary, the man of faith – who knows what he believes and in whom he believes and what it is that he wants – is solid and stable. Because he asks clearly and he believes absolutely that God’s word is true, he receives what he asks for!

“Why do you call me, `Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”   Luke 6:46-49 NIV

You can call God your Lord, but do you really believe that He is your Lord? Do you really act like He is your Lord? “Lord” means “Master” – the boss! The boss tells you what to do. Do you do what He tells you to do? The only ones who have a right to call God “Lord” are those who do what He tells them to do and who put His words into practice. The person, who is a doer of the word, digs down deep to build the foundation of his house. He digs down into God’s word and he lets God’s word dig down deep on the inside of him! He builds his house – his life – on the foundation of God’s word by receiving it as if it is written to him alone and by applying it as if it is a command to him.

The person who hears God’s word, but does not receive it personally by doing it or acting on it is building his house – his life – without any foundation. Even though it may look good on the outside it is neither solid nor secure and the first storm is going to blow it away!

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does.  James 1:22-25 NIV

Those who hear the word and still do not receive it as written to them, nor put it into practice, are trapped in the bondage of self-deception. God’s word gives freedom. Those who receive God’s word and don’t forget it, but are careful to do it, will be blessed in all that they do.

If we want to be blessed, we should read God’s word as if it says on every page, “This means YOU!”

A REASON TO REJOICE

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

Therefore, since we are justified (acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God) through faith, let us [grasp the fact that we] have [the peace of reconciliation to hold and to enjoy] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed one). 2 Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) by faith into this grace (state of God’s favor) in which we [firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 AMP

When you have faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice, you are justified, acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God. As a sinner, you may have done some very bad things, but from the moment you acknowledged your need of a Savior, repented for your sins, asked the Lord to forgive you and received Jesus as your Lord, God forgave you. Your sins are forgiven and washed away as if they never existed. God wants you to grasp the fact that you have been reconciled to Him and to enjoy the peace you have with Him. Father God has forgiven and forgotten your past and He expects you to forget your past as well and to leave it behind you. You need to become unconscious toward your former unrighteousness and become conscious of your new righteousness through Jesus Christ. You need to walk like a righteous person, talk like a righteous person, and act like a righteous person. Through faith in Jesus Christ you are introduced to God’s grace and you have access to His favor. This is not a flimsy or a temporary grace, but a grace in which you firmly and safely stand. Because of this grace, you have a hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God. You have a reason to rejoice!

7 But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [one combined] loss for Christ’s sake. 8 Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed one), 9 And that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him, not having any [self-achieved] righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law’s demands (ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired), but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ (the Anointed one), the [truly] right standing with God, which comes from God by [saving] faith.  Philippians 3:7-9 AMP

Our prayer, for the last thirteen years, has been, “Lord, burn out every bit of religion and tradition out of us. We only want that which is of You and of Your Word and of Your Spirit.” There is nothing that any of us can do, in our own strength or power or goodness to save ourselves or help ourselves. We all need Jesus – we all need the Spirit of God. The sooner you realize how much you need the Lord – the better off you will be. Growing in grace, growing in the Lord has more to do with you realizing how much you need Him and coming to know His heart than it has to do with you acquiring mere knowledge about Him.

As we celebrate The River at Tampa Bay’s sixth birthday, we remind ourselves of who we are and why we are here. When Jesus is lifted up, men are drawn to Him. We are here to lift up the Name of Jesus. He is our first love. We are here to give Him all the glory and the praise. We are here to preach His Word boldly and without apology. We are here to enjoy our relationship and fellowship with the Lord for Jesus is the joy of our salvation. We are here to preach faith in God and not works. We are here to demonstrate His power and to meet the needs of the people. We are here to bring people into a relationship and fellowship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are here to do the Spirit’s bidding and we are here to be a Church where the Spirit of God has His own way and where He is allowed free rein. Let us not allow religion or tradition to dilute our enthusiasm, but let us – by the Spirit – maintain the zeal of our salvation and remember that Jesus is Lord!

GOD ANOINTS OBEDIENCE

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

He Who comes from above (heaven) is [far] above all [others]; he who comes from the earth belongs to the earth, and talks the language of earth [his words are from an earthly standpoint]. He Who comes from heaven is [far] above all others [far superior to all others in prominence and in excellence]. 32 It is to what He has [actually] seen and heard that He bears testimony, and yet no one accepts His testimony [no one receives His evidence as true]. 33 Whoever receives His testimony has set his seal of approval to this: God is true. [That man has definitely certified, acknowledged, declared once and for all, and is himself assured that it is divine truth that God cannot lie]. 34 For since He Whom God has sent speaks the words of God [proclaims God’s own message], God does not give Him His Spirit sparingly or by measure, but boundless is the gift God makes of His Spirit! 35 The Father loves the Son and has given (entrusted, committed) everything into His hand. 36 And he who believes in (has faith in, clings to, relies on) the Son has (now possesses) eternal life. But whoever disobeys (is unbelieving toward, refuses to trust in, disregards, is not subject to) the Son will never see (experience) life, but [instead] the wrath of God abides on him. [God’s displeasure remains on him; His indignation hangs over him continually.]   John 3:31-36 AMP

Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. He was with the Father and the Holy Spirit when creation was created (John 1:3). He is one with the Father and equal with Him. And yet He humbled Himself to come down to earth in the body of a man, to endure what we endure and to pass the test, resist the temptations, take our place, to die and to rise again. He humbled Himself, submitting patiently to the verbal and physical abuse and pain that He endured on our behalf.

He humbled Himself to lay down His own will and desires to do and say ONLY what the Father instructed Him to do and say. Because He was so utterly and completely submitted and obedient to the Father, He was anointed with an unlimited supply of the Holy Spirit.

And the Lord said to me, They have well said all that they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet (Prophet) from among their brethren like you, and will put My words in his mouth; and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not hearken to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die. 21 And if you say in your [minds and] hearts, How shall we know which words the Lord has not spoken? 22 When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or prove true, that is a word which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.   Deuteronomy 18:17-22 AMP

Because Jesus speaks the Words of God, you have an obligation to listen to Him and obey Him. You must obey Him for your own sake – for your own eternity and your own blessing. Every one who hears what Jesus says and obeys Him is blessed, but those who won’t listen or obey will suffer the consequences of disobedience. What you have to understand is that we all live in a world that is under the influence of the enemy. God knows what you need to do to walk free from the devil’s influence and control. If you want to walk in victory and peace, you must hear and obey Him.

Jesus died to save you from sin and deliver you from the curse of the law. He died and rose again to make us all children of God and to empower us all to do the same works that He did. If you want to be anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit, you must obey the Holy Spirit. You must speak what He tells you to speak and do what He tells you to do.

There are people who claim to speak for God and yet they speak their own opinions. This is not a small matter to the Lord – He holds us responsible for every word we speak on His behalf. Speaking on God’s behalf is a sacred trust and we should not treat it lightly. Under the Old Covenant, a prophet who spoke his own words and not God’s words, or who spoke in the name of other gods was sentenced to die! God tells us not to continue to listen to prophets whose words do not come to pass.

If you want God to use you, if you want Him to anoint you, you must press in to His presence, to hear His voice and you must do everything in your power to obey His voice. Then you will be blessed by Him and you will also be a blessing to others.

YOUR HEART FOLLOWS YOUR TREASURE

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

Do not gather and heap up and store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust and worm consume and destroy, and where thieves break through and steal. 20 But gather and heap up and store for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust nor worm consume and destroy, and where thieves do not break through and steal; 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.   Matthew 6:19-21 AMP

Your heart follows your treasure – wherever your treasure goes, that is where your heart will go and that is where you will go. If you are born again, washed in the blood of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit – your first priority is your relationship with the Lord. You love him and whatever is important to Him is important to you. From the moment you invite Jesus into your heart, the first thing you give God is your heart, the second is your money. The fact is that if God has your heart, He will automatically have your money.

In years past, there has been an attitude in the Church that those in full-time ministry are expected to be “perfect” and selfless and to sacrifice everything, while those who are not are allowed to do whatever they want to! However, this is not a scriptural point of view. God expects the same commitment from every Christian! None of us is better or worse than our neighbor, but each of us is unique and each of us has his/her special place in the Body of Christ. We all have the privilege of being a part of the plan and purpose of God. There will be no unused members in the body of Christ and no one needs to ever feel left out!

If you know for sure that you are not called to contribute to the kingdom of God by means of full-time ministry, know this: you are called to contribute in some way – with your money – that which is precious to you! You may or may not be called to stand on a stage to preach, you may or may not be called to travel around the world to minister to the lost, but you are still able to be a part of preaching and ministering by giving your money to support those who go and who do! If we are truly born again we all have the same calling, heart, mission and goal: to build the kingdom of God!

There is absolutely no reason why any member of the body of Christ should not have treasure deposited in heaven. Every one of us has an opportunity to deposit treasure in heaven – through the winning of souls and by sowing our finances into the kingdom of God. You do not earn a living to put it in a bag with holes (Haggai 1:6), but you earn a living so that you can be a blessing to the kingdom of God with your resources. And in turn, God wants to have the privilege of blessing you and taking care of you, exceedingly, abundantly above all that you can ask or think! (Ephesians 3:20)

Now, if you are called to preach and minister, there is a time of preparation before you step out yourself. This preparation includes supporting the work of ministry with your time and your money. Be involved in ministry of helps and give your best into every offering! Give into ministries that are doing what you are called to do. The more money you give into a ministry, the more you give your heart into it and the closer you come to being released into that kind of ministry yourself. Give into ministries that are doing things that you are not called to do – so that you can still be a part of building the kingdom of God in areas that are different from what you will ever be involved in.

You never know what God will ask you to do next. We sowed a lot of money, for years, into ministries who do mass soul-winning outreaches, because we were not doing this at that time, and then one day, the Lord called on us to do one. Because we had already sowed into other ministries, we could stand on God’s Word to reap a harvest on what we had sown, to pay for our crusade. We sowed into it and then God called us to do it ourselves and He paid for it!

Your gifts to God, and His work, open the door for blessing in your life. They also open the door for favor – supernatural opportunities will come your way. If you are not called to ministry – keep on giving your best – so you can have treasure in heaven. If you are called to ministry – keep on giving your best – so you can have treasure in heaven and also before long your heart will follow your money. You will find all the right doors opening and you will be in full-time ministry, in the center of God’s will!

GO OUT OF YOUR WAY TO BLESS GOD AND HE WILL GO OUT OF HIS WAY TO BLESS YOU

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

One day Elisha went on to Shunem, where a rich and influential woman lived, who insisted on his eating a meal. Afterward, whenever he passed by, he stopped there for a meal. 9 And she said to her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God who passes by continually. 10 Let us make a small chamber on the [housetop] and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then whenever he comes to us, he can go [up the outside stairs and rest] here. 11 one day he came and turned into the chamber and lay there. 12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. When he had called her, she stood before him. 13 And he said to Gehazi, Say now to her, You have been most painstakingly and reverently concerned for us; what is to be done for you? Would you like to be spoken for to the king or to the commander of the army? She answered, I dwell among my own people [they are sufficient]. 14 Later Elisha said, What then is to be done for her? Gehazi answered, She has no child and her husband is old. 15 He said, Call her. [Gehazi] called her, and she stood in the doorway. 16 Elisha said, At this season when the time comes round, you shall embrace a son. She said, No, my lord, you man of God, do not lie to your handmaid. 17 But the woman conceived and bore a son at that season the following year, as Elisha had said to her.  2 Kings 4:8-17 AMP

Shunem was a city in the tribe of Issachar that lay in the road between Samaria and Carmel, a road that Elisha often traveled. One day as Elisha passed through town, a rich and influential woman who lived there insisted that he stopped for a meal at her house. She did not give him an opportunity to say no thank you — she would not take no for an answer — she was going to be a blessing to him whether he liked it or not.  Fortunately, he liked it.  And after that, when ever he passed by, he stopped there for a meal.
She was not only rich and influential, but she was obviously deeply committed to the Lord.  She recognized that Elisha was a prophet of the Most High God and, out of respect for God, she desired to be a blessing to his prophet. She asked her husband for permission to provide a special room furnished with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, exclusively for Elisha’s use.  Not only did she feed him, but she provided a private accommodation for him to use any time he needed it. This woman did not do this with any ulterior motives.  She did not do this so that she could brag to her friends that the prophet stayed in her house. She did this because she loved God, she recognized his messenger, and she simply wanted to bless the prophet, and in so doing, she blessed the Lord.  She did not expect anything from Elisha in return, she simply did what she felt was right.

One day while Elisha was lying upon his bed, in the rich woman’s house, he began to wonder what he could do for her.  I believe that the Holy Spirit stirred him up to begin to think about it.  He had some political influence and so he asked her if there was anything that he could do for her. He offered to use his influence for her in the king’s court, but she politely declined.  She did not need favor from man — she was already well connected politically.  What she did desire — only God could give her!

If Elisha could not intervene for her in the courts of men, he wondered if he could intervene on her behalf in the courts of heaven.  Elisha servant, Gehazi, thought he knew what she needed and told Elisha.  She was married, but had no children, and now her husband was old. Obviously it was very painful for her that she had borne no children, but she had had to give up on that dream.  She put it behind her and went on with her life and yet, deep down in her heart, the desire was still there. So Elisha told her that at the same time next year she would hold a son.  She became very emotional and said to the prophet, “Please don’t mess with my emotions — only speak the truth to me because I cannot bear to be disappointed once again after all this time.” Sure enough, the next year, against all odds her son was born.

Many times people only do what’s right in order to impress other people and to be seen of man.  Often they will only bless those who can bless them in return and do them some special favor. Before they do anything they always ask, “What’s in it for me?” They are selfishly motivated and they will never have the blessing of God on their life. Because the Shunammite woman honored God by being a blessing to his prophet, God went out of his way to bless her and to give her the secret desire of her heart. She did not pursue recognition or a reward — she pursued God — therefore God stirred up his prophet to speak out her heart’s desire and He blessed her with a baby boy — something that was impossible in the natural!

When you go out of your way to bless God and to be a blessing to His people — then he will pursue you and go out of His way to give you the desires of your heart — even if they are impossible in the natural!

THE LORD WILL GIVE YOU VICTORY THROUGH YOUR OBEDIENCE

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

Now when David and his men came home to Ziklag on the third day, they found that the Amalekites had made a raid on the South (the Negeb) and on Ziklag, and had struck Ziklag and burned it with fire, 2 And had taken the women and all who were there, both great and small, captive. They killed no one, but carried them off and went on their way. 3 So David and his men came to the town, and behold, it was burned, and their wives and sons and daughters were taken captive. 4 Then David and the men with him lifted up their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep. 5 David’s two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail, the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. 6 David was greatly distressed, for the men spoke of stoning him because the souls of them all were bitterly grieved, each man for his sons and daughters. But David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord his God.  1 Samuel 30:1-6 AMP

David went through some very, very hard and difficult things in his life. The only way he made it through these things was by his humility. He put God first place in his life – he respected, honored, and worshiped God, and gave Him the credit, in every situation. He submitted himself to God in everything and he did not try to fight battles in his own strength. When you are in a position of leadership, you are the one who is praised when things go well and you are the one who is blamed when things go wrong. If you want to be a great leader, you cannot afford allow praise to go to your head and to be lifted up in pride when things go well. Neither can you afford to react negatively, toward yourself or others, when things go wrong. In the middle of his intense pain over the loss of his own family and the threats against himself, by his own men, David turned to the Lord. David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord his God. He remembered God’s promises to him and he put his trust in the Lord.

David went to the Lord to ask for direction. The Lord told him to pursue the enemy and that he would surely overtake them and recover all that was taken. David took only 400 men with him, because 200 of them were too exhausted and faint to cross the brook Besor. On the way, his men found an Egyptian in the field and brought him to David. He had not had food or water for three days so they gave him bread, figs and raisins to eat and water to drink. As it turned out, he was a servant of an Amalekite, who had left him behind because he had fallen ill. He told David that the Amalekites had raided several cities, including Ziklag. David asked the servant to take him down to this band and he did, after making David promise to neither kill him nor deliver him into the hands of his master.

God told David that he would prevail and win the victory, but He never told him that he would meet an Egyptian, who would help him. David’s men could have minded their own business, as they passed him by, ignored his plight, and left him to die, being selfishly focused only on their mission to recover their families and property. They would have missed their opportunity to gain a valuable advantage over a powerful enemy. However, they did what was right in God’s eyes, showed kindness and saved his life. They had no idea that this act of mercy would be the key that would open the door, leading them to their victory. Do not only do what the Holy Spirit tells you personally and specifically to do – do what God generally tells you to do in His Word. A small key – a small action – can lock or unlock a huge door! Don’t be so busy with your own stuff that you miss an opportunity to show mercy and kindness to someone else who needs it. Don’t forget what is most important to the Lord and don’t forget why you are here – to be a giver and not just a taker. Don’t be disobedient to God’s Word and then blame Him for your defeat, when you are the one who missed your opportunity to do the right thing!

And when he had brought David down, behold, the raiders were spread abroad over all the land, eating and drinking and dancing because of all the great spoil they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from the land of Judah. 17 And David smote them from twilight even to the evening of the next day, and not a man of them escaped, except 400 youths who rode camels and fled. 18 David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken and rescued his two wives. 19 Nothing was missing, small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken; David recovered all. 20 Also David captured all the flocks and herds [which the enemy had], and the people drove those animals before him and said, This is David’s spoil.  1 Samuel 30:16-20 AMP

God gave David a great victory and restored everyone and everything that was taken, together with the additional spoil from the other tribes and cities that had been raided by the Amalekites. When David arrived back to the brook Besor, where the 200 exhausted men had stopped and waited, some of David’s men who had gone with him, did not want to share any of the recovered goods with those who did not fight. In other words, they were personally taking the credit for the victory. Instead, David spoke to them about being grateful to the Lord, Who was the One Who had saved them, and about sharing equally with those who had stayed behind. In God’s eyes, when you are obedient, everyone counts and every job well done – whether fighting the battle or waiting with the baggage – is worthy of a reward.

PREVENTING STRIFE AND DIVISION – PART 3

“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.”

What leads to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you? Do they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members? 2 You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your desires go unfulfilled; [so] you become murderers. [To hate is to murder as far as your hearts are concerned.] You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain [the gratification, the contentment, and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3[Or] you do ask [God for them] and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is [when you get what you desire] to spend it in sensual pleasures. James 4:1-3 AMP

In the Body of Christ, strife between believers is caused by the sensual desires that are constantly warring in their own bodies. The root of strife is in the individual himself or herself. Most of the time, it does not occur to the person who is stirring up the strife that they actually causing it – they are convinced that it is the other person’s fault! Strife is caused when people are jealous of what other people have – they covet their blessings. If you pointed out to most strife-causers that the root of their desire to fight with others is jealousy and covetousness, they would probably be shocked and surprised to learn what is really in their own heart. If you are armed with this truth, you will be able to recognize when your carnal nature is being stirred up with covetousness and jealousy and you will be better able to stop it in it’s tracks, and even avoid it completely, by allowing the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to regulate your thought life and to help you overcome your own flesh in these areas.

Cleaning up your life in this area is not optional – it is crucial. God commands that you face your sin and deal with it, because it will destroy your life and the lives of those with whom you war and fight. When you jealously covet another person’s blessings, you demonstrate that you have no faith in God to provide for you, too. There are two reasons you will not be blessed: one is because you don’t expect God to provide for you, so you don’t ask, and the other is that you are greedy and even when you do ask God for things, it is with a totally wrong motive. God cannot answer a prayer that is never prayed and He will not answer a prayer that is prayed with evil, selfish motives. When you behave like this, you just shoot yourself in the foot as far as God is concerned. If you want God’s blessing then stop being jealous of others, stop wanting what they have, be happy that they are blessed, start to find out what God requires of you, become a giver not a taker, find out how you can be a blessing to others, be motivated to be a blessing to others at all times, let your requests be made known unto God, and trust God to supply everything you need!

For you, brethren, were [indeed] called to freedom; only [do not let your] freedom be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for selfishness], but through love you should serve one another. 14 For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is complied with in the one precept, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. 15 But if you bite and devour one another [in partisan strife], be careful that you [and your whole fellowship] are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God).  Galatians 5:13-16 AMP

Fill up and complete my joy by living in harmony and being of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention. 3 Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves]. 4 Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others.  Philippians 2:2-4 AMP

If you want to avoid strife and be blessed in every way you must be motivated by the love of God – you must know that God loves YOU and you must know that He loves everyone else, too: you must love God and love people as you love yourself; you must serve others in and through the love of God; you must walk and live in the Holy Spirit as a habit; you must be controlled and guided by the Holy Spirit; you must be sensitive to Him and responsive to Him; you must not give in to your carnal nature – do not gratify the cravings and the desires of your flesh; you must not be motivated by selfishness or contentiousness; do not be prompted by conceit or arrogance; you must have a humble estimation of yourself; don’t think of yourself as better than anyone else; think more highly of others than yourself; do not think only of your own interests – what you want and what you need; think about the interests of others; think about how you can help them and bless them. If we will love others, stop focusing on ourselves alone, and reach out to bless and to be a blessing, we will cut all the strife out of our lives and God will be pleased!

TRULY GOD IS ONLY GOOD Psalms 73

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

Truly God is [only] good to Israel, even to those who are upright and pure in heart.  Psalms 73:1 AMP

The Psalmist is correct when he speaks of the goodness of God. God is a good God and He is good to those who are upright and pure in heart. We choose blessing by choosing to serve and honor God.

But as for me, my feet were almost gone, my steps had well-nigh slipped. 3 For I was envious of the foolish and arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For they suffer no violent pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. 5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they smitten and plagued like other men. 6 Therefore pride is about their necks like a chain; violence covers them like a garment [like a long, luxurious robe]. 7 Their eyes stand out with fatness, they have more than heart could wish; and the imaginations of their minds overflow [with follies]. 8 They scoff, and wickedly utter oppression; they speak loftily [from on high, maliciously and blasphemously]. 9 They set their mouths against and speak down from heaven, and their tongues swagger through the earth [invading even heaven with blasphemy and smearing earth with slanders]. 10 Therefore His people return here, and waters of a full cup [offered by the wicked] are [blindly] drained by them. 11 And they say, How does God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High? 12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who always prosper and are at ease in the world; they increase in riches.  Psalms 73:2-12 AMP

The psalmist was not in a good place. He had nearly lost his way, because he started to look to the wicked and think that they had it better than him. He looked at their wealth, their pride, and their arrogance; he looked at they way they scoffed and blasphemed; and yet they seemed to have it so good. They seemed only to increase in riches.

Surely then in vain have I cleansed my heart and washed my hands in innocency. 14 For all the day long have I been smitten and plagued, and chastened every morning.  Psalms 73:13-14 AMP

The psalmist is tempted with thoughts of envy for the wealthy wicked. He starts to feel that serving God and his self-sacrifice have not been beneficial to him; that God has not taken care of him; that he does not have it as good as the arrogant wicked.

Had I spoken thus [and given expression to my feelings], I would have been untrue and have dealt treacherously against the generation of Your children.  Psalms 73:15 AMP

Thankfully, the one mistake he does not make, is to open his mouth and speak his negative thoughts out loud. Even though he is tempted by the devil to make terrible accusations against God – in his heart, he knows the truth. If he had spoken these demonic lies he would have been lying and he would have been betraying every child of God, who loves and serves Him and who has experienced His goodness.

But when I considered how to understand this, it was too great an effort for me and too painful  17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood [for I considered] their end. 18[After all] You do set the [wicked] in slippery places; You cast them down to ruin and destruction. 19 How they become a desolation in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors!  Psalms 73:16-19 AMP

It was hard for him to understand why the sinners – the arrogant, wealthy people seem better off, but he started to understand when he realized what their end would be. No man can stand against God and live. Only those who honor Him will live forever. This life is so short and eternity is so long. You can serve yourself and think that you are really something, but if you refuse to humble yourself before God, you will suffer in hell forever. Forever is a long time! Whatever the believer suffers on this earth in order to serve God, it is nothing compared to eternity in the glorious presence of God!

As a dream [which seems real] until one awakens, so, O Lord, when You arouse Yourself [to take note of the wicked], You will despise their outward show. 21 For my heart was grieved, embittered, and in a state of ferment, and I was pricked in my heart [as with the sharp fang of an adder]. 22 So foolish, stupid, and brutish was I, and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.  Psalms 73:20-22 AMP

The psalmist is honest with God. He confesses the torment he went through, as a result of feeling that life was unfair, until his conscience pricked him and he realized the truth – that he was stupid for thinking like that and stupid for listening to the devil.

Nevertheless I am continually with You; You do hold my right hand. 24 You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to honor and glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but You? And I have no delight or desire on earth besides You. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the Rock and firm Strength of my heart and my Portion forever. 27 For behold, those who are far from You shall perish; You will destroy all who are false to You and like [spiritual] harlots depart from You. 28 But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God and made Him my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.  Psalms 73:23-28 AMP

The psalmist once again reminds himself of God’s faithfulness and His promises, and he testifies of it to others. Sometimes we feel that life is unfair and that we have not been appropriately rewarded for doing right, but we must remind ourselves of God’s goodness. The devil would love to separate us from God with his lies, but when we hide God’s word in our hearts, we will keep on believing right and talking right and we will live to see His blessing on our lives.

Giving So Much They Had To Be Restrained

“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!

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