GOOD TRADITION AND TRUE RELIGION

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

13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. 16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.   2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 NKJV

The word “tradition” used here means a teaching, a transmission, an ordinance or a precept. Paul is telling the Thessalonians – and us – that they need to continue to follow the teachings they received from Paul, himself, and the other disciples and apostles. He is also recommending that they follow the example that they set before them.

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.  Colossians 2:6-8 NIV

The teachings and traditions that we are taught by the Holy Spirit and recorded in the Bible are teachings and traditions that bring us into liberty and not into bondage. It is the hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world that lead us into bondage. Whenever people depart from the Word of God and begin to make up their own minds about how things are, that is when they – and everyone who listens to them – get into trouble.

Paul encourages the Colossians – and us – to grow in the things of God when he says, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him.” Just as we came into an intimate relationship with Jesus when we were born anew from above, so we must remain close to Him and intimate with Him, coming to know Him more and more every day. We must be rooted in Him and built up in Him alone and not in man’s tradition. We must continue to be strengthened in the faith just as we have been taught. We must maintain an attitude of gratitude and be overflowing with thankfulness.

5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with `unclean’ hands?” 6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “`These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain;

their teachings are but rules taught by men.’  8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”   Mark 7:5-8 NIV

There is good tradition and there is bad tradition. The important thing to remember is that we are to love God with all our hearts and honor Him always, in everything. As long as we remain humble and allow God’s work in our hearts, we will stay on the right path. It is human arrogance that will lead you into deception – thinking that we can make up our own rules whilst we ignore God’s rules.

26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.   James 1:26-27 NIV

Our religion – our worship – is in vain if we do it our own way and not God’s way. True religion – worship – is to keep a tight rein on our tongue, to care about other people and to continue to follow the Word of God and the Spirit of God. We live in this world, but we must not allow ourselves to be polluted by the world. We must allow the Word and the Spirit to lead us, guide us, direct us and keep us. The most important thing to remember is that it is God alone, Whom we must please and God alone, Whom we must honor – with all our hearts, at all times, every day and in every way!

THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT COMES BY FAITH

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

John, the son of Zechariah, went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins – preparing the way for the Messiah, Jesus – as he was born to do.

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”   Luke 3:7-9 NIV

John came to prepare the hearts of men to receive Jesus. He came to stir them up, to make them hungry for God, to make them aware that they needed a personal Savior. Usually, it is so much easier for people to trust in their heritage and to rely on someone else’s faith and sacrifice, rather than building their own relationship with God. The Israelites faith was in the fact that Abraham was their earthly father. Now Abraham believed the Word of God and because of his faith, Father God made him some wonderful promises. These promises applied also to those who would follow him, who approached God in the same attitude of faith. The promises are not inherited because of who your earthly father is, but because you had the same faith in your Heavenly Father as father Abraham did. Your inheritance comes to you as a result of your faith and your faith alone.

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about-but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.   Romans 4:1-5 NIV

Abraham was justified in the eyes of God, because of his faith, not because of his own efforts. This justification is a free gift, which you receive by trusting in God alone – and not yourself – and by believing His Word.

And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. 13 It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15 because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring-not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed-the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.   Romans 4:12-17 NIV

God made this promise of righteousness – of right-standing with Him – to Abraham and to all those, from any and every nation, who would believe in God and believe His promise just as Abraham did. Even Abraham’s own blood descendants were required to accept the promise by faith. The act of circumcision alone was not enough to release Abraham’s offspring from the curse of the law – it was faith in God’s sacrifice, on mankind’s behalf, that purchased their freedom from final judgment and eternal damnation.

Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”   7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”   9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.  Galatians 3:6-9 NIV

All those who put their faith and trust in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ are saved from condemnation and blessed with eternal life, in the presence of Father God for eternity, along with father Abraham.

 

SACRIFICE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR OBEDIENCE

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

And Samuel said to Saul, You have done foolishly! You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God which He commanded you; for the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever; 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue; the Lord has sought out [David] a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince and ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.

1 Samuel 13:13-14 AMP

When Saul disobeyed God, He told him that his kingdom would not continue – his sons would never reign in his stead. God had already chosen a man after His own heart – David.

But the Lord said to Samuel, Look not on his appearance or at the height of his stature, for I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 AMP

Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, The Lord has not chosen any of these. 11 Then [he] said to Jesse, Are all your sons here? [Jesse] said, There is yet the youngest; he is tending the sheep. Samuel said to Jesse, Send for him; for we will not sit down to eat until he is here. 12 Jesse sent and brought him. David had a healthy reddish complexion and beautiful eyes, and was fine-looking. The Lord said [to Samuel], Arise, anoint him; this is he. 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed David in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.  1 Samuel 16:10-13 AMP

David was a shepherd boy who loved to worship God. He was not a big man and was not highly regarded even by his own family. Jesse was David’s father. When the prophet came to his house to anoint one of his sons as king, Jesse did not even think of calling David. Only after God rejected one son after the other, did Jesse remember that he had one more son. No one but God saw David’s potential. His strength was not in his natural ability, but in his humility and his whole-hearted commitment to God.

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to the multitude of Your tender mercy and loving-kindness blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly [and repeatedly] from my iniquity and guilt and cleanse me and make me wholly pure from my sin! 3 For I am conscious of my transgressions and I acknowledge them; my sin is ever before me. 4 Against You, You only, have I sinned and done that which is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified in Your sentence and faultless in Your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in [a state of] iniquity; my mother was sinful who conceived me [and I too am sinful]. 6 Behold, You desire truth in the inner being; make me therefore to know wisdom in my inmost heart 7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean [ceremonially]; wash me, and I shall [in reality] be whiter than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness and be satisfied; let the bones which You have broken rejoice. 9 Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my guilt and iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right, persevering, and steadfast spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from Your presence and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13 Then will I teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted and return to You. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness and death, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness (Your rightness and Your justice). 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise 16 For You delight not in sacrifice, or else would I give it; You find no pleasure in burnt offering.  17 My sacrifice [the sacrifice acceptable] to God is a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart [broken down with sorrow for sin and humbly and thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise. 18 Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then will You delight in the sacrifices of righteousness, justice, and right, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then bullocks will be offered upon Your altar.

Psalms 51:1-52:1 AMP

Saul disobeyed God when God told him to wipe the Amalekites off of the face of the earth – he allowed the king and the healthy animals to live – and then he had the audacity to defend his actions, deny his disobedience and blame the people. Because of it, God rejected him from being king. David was entirely different. When he sinned and God confronted him over it, he was relieved – He was tired of being out of fellowship with God. He immediately repented and offered no excuses. He submitted to the will of God and asked for forgiveness.

Saul thought that a sacrifice could make up for his rebellion and disobedience, but David knew that no sacrifice can take the place of a heart that is submitted completely to God. Even though David made a serious mistake, because of his repentant heart, he reigned with honor until he died and his sons and grandsons reigned after him. Jesus, Himself, came from the lineage of David.

CHARGE THE RICH TO DO GOOD

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

Let all who are under the yoke as bond servants esteem their own [personal] masters worthy of honor and fullest respect, so that the name of God and the teaching [about Him] may not be brought into disrepute and blasphemed. 2 Let those who have believing masters not be disrespectful or scornful [to them] on the grounds that they are brothers [in Christ]; rather, they should serve [them all the better] because those who benefit by their kindly service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these duties. 3 But if anyone teaches otherwise and does not assent to the sound and wholesome messages of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and the teaching which is in agreement with godliness (piety toward God), 4 He is puffed up with pride and stupefied with conceit, [although he is] woefully ignorant. He has a morbid fondness for controversy and disputes and strife about words, which result in (produce) envy and jealousy, quarrels and dissension, abuse and insults and slander, and base suspicions, 5 And protracted wrangling and wearing discussion and perpetual friction among men who are corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, who imagine that godliness or righteousness is a source of profit [a moneymaking business, a means of livelihood]. From such withdraw. 6[And it is, indeed, a source of immense profit, for] godliness accompanied with contentment (that contentment which is a sense of inward sufficiency) is great and abundant gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and obviously we cannot take anything out of the world; 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content (satisfied). 9 But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish (useless, godless) and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction and miserable perishing. 10 For the love of money is a root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have been led astray and have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many acute [mental] pangs. 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee from all these things; aim at and pursue righteousness (right standing with God and true goodness), godliness (which is the loving fear of God and being Christlike), faith, love, steadfastness (patience), and gentleness of heart.  1 Timothy 6:1-11 AMP

People use money as security, but riches are temporary and unstable – wealth comes and it goes. People also see money as an indication of a person’s worth, but money has absolutely nothing to do with who you are or your worth in this world. God does not differentiate between us, based on what we have or what we know (head knowledge). God is no respecter of persons. There are people who are puffed up with pride and stupefied with conceit, even though they are actually woefully ignorant. They love to argue and they try to use the Gospel to profit themselves, but they are not contented. They are always striving for money and prestige and they don’t care who they trample along the way. This is not God’s plan for you.

God wants you to be content in spite of and apart from your circumstances. Godliness is indeed, a source of immense profit. Godliness accompanied with contentment – a sense of inward sufficiency – is great and abundant gain. We did not bring anything into the world and obviously we cannot take anything out of the world, but if we have food and clothing, we should be content and be satisfied with these, because those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare. They are distracted from God’s true purpose for their lives. The love of money is a root of all evil. The love of money will cause you to make wrong decisions and mess up your life and other people’s lives.

If you want to be a man or woman of God, you must flee from all these things. Rather, you must pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, patience, and gentleness of heart.

As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be proud and arrogant and contemptuous of others, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches, but on God, Who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for [our] enjoyment. 18[Charge them] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be liberal and generous of heart, ready to share [with others], 19 In this way laying up for themselves [the riches that endure forever as] a good foundation for the future, so that they may grasp that which is life indeed.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 AMP

God does not want you to be poor, He wants you to be blessed, but He wants you to put Him first – always. He does not tell you not to be rich and He does not say that it is wrong to be rich. He does warn the rich not to be proud, arrogant, or contemptuous of others. He cautions them not to set their hopes on uncertain riches, but on God. Why? Because God is the One Who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. If we will pursue Him, He will pursue us. He charges the rich to do good, to be rich in good works, to be liberal and generous of heart, and ready to share with others,

So be blessed – be rich – but make sure that you always put God first, that you do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to, and that you are always generous and kind as well. If you do this, you will lay up for yourselves the riches that endure forever.

COVETOUSNESS IS IDOLATRY – PART 2

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

So kill (deaden, deprive of power) the evil desire lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]: sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and covetousness, for that is idolatry (the deifying of self and other created things instead of God).  Colossians 3:5 AMP

Idolatry is the deifying of self and other created things instead of God. Idolatry is the worship of created beings or created things rather than the worship of the Creator – the only One worthy of worship. What people don’t realize is that when they commit idolatry by worshipping an object or a person, they give it, or them, control over their life. The devil will jump at the opportunity to take control over you through your idolatry and you really don’t want him to have any influence over your life, because he is a thief, a liar, a murderer, and a destroyer! The Lord, on the other hand, is worthy of your worship. He will receive your worship and reach out to you to embrace you, to protect you from the devil, to bless you, and to restore whatever the devil has stolen or destroyed. The bottom line is that you choose your outcome by whom or what you choose to worship.

God gave us direction for our blessing and prosperity – spirit, soul, and body – through His commandments. In Exodus 20:2-6 AMP, God gave us His first two of ten commandments. “I am the Lord your God, Who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before or besides Me” and “You shall not make yourself any graven image [to worship it] or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; You shall not bow down yourself to them or serve them…” If we keep these, we will be blessed, blessed, blessed!

There are people who would not dream of worshipping an idol of wood or stone, and yet they worship their money and their stuff! You might say, “I don’t worship my possessions,” but if they are more important to you than God is to you, then you are an idolater. If you can’t give anything away, if you are offended when someone talks to you about giving your money or your stuff away, if the thought of losing your stuff or giving it away makes you extremely fearful, then you have made an idol out of your money and stuff. You are no longer the master of your stuff – it has mastered you!

No servant is able to serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (riches, or anything in which you trust and on which you rely).  Luke 16:13 AMP

It is impossible to serve two masters. Every living person makes a choice of who they worship by whom or what is most important in their life. If you want to be blessed, if you want God’s blessing on your life, you have to realize that there is a choice to make and God’s word makes it abundantly clear which choice will result in your good and your blessing. If you are wise, you will take God’s advice and make Him your priority!

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.  1 Corinthians 6:8-11 NKJV

Covetousness is a hallmark of those who do not know Jesus, who are not yet washed in the blood of Jesus, who are not yet sanctified and made righteous by receiving Him as Lord and Savior. When you receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are making a choice to love Him and serve Him. He gave His ALL to you; He gave His very own life! This is a covenant relationship. He gives you His life and you give Him your life – ALL of it and ALL of you! You now belong to Him and so does everything you own. You need to act like you belong to Him and He belongs to you by taking your hands off your stuff and by releasing it into His service.

It is like a marriage relationship – unless both partners give 100%, there are going to be problems. Selfishness in a marriage is always destructive to the relationship. Selfishness will cause you to hold back your heart, it will make your spouse feel unloved and devalued, and cause a breach in your relationship. There is nothing as awesome as a relationship where two people totally accept one another and give each other unconditional love. This is the only way to be truly fulfilled as God intended for you to be.

In the same way, selfishness in your relationship with the Lord will cause you to miss out on all the blessings of a committed relationship with Him. Everyone wants to get something from God without giving Him anything in return, but you need to realize that as committed as you are to Him, is as committed as He is going to be to you! Commit to Him, give Him your all, and allow Him to bless you exceedingly above all that you could ask or think!

PAY WHAT YOU VOW – THE GLORIOUS CYCLE

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

And whoever offers a sacrifice of peace offering to the Lord to make a special vow to the Lord or for a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock must bring what is perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish in it. 22 Animals blind or made infirm and weak or maimed, or having sores or a wen or an itch or scabs, you shall not offer to the Lord or make an offering of them by fire upon the altar to the Lord. 23 For a freewill offering you may offer either a bull or a lamb which has some part too long or too short, but for [the payment of] a vow it shall not be accepted. Leviticus 22:21-23 AMP

Anytime you vow a vow, anytime you commit to do something for God or give something to Him it must be the best you have, not the worst. Under the Old Covenant, it was a matter of law; under the New Covenant it is a matter of the heart; however God has always emphasized how important our attitude is in everything we do—under the Old and the New. God is extremely generous. He does not do things in a measured way; neither does He hold back His blessing; He always gives His all and His best. You are the one who puts the limits on God when you have a bad attitude and when you refuse to give your all, and your best, to Him. It is your choice to give God your best or to give Him your junk, but be forewarned that He will not accept your offering of junk. An unaccepted offering is the same—or maybe worse—than no offering at all.

But cursed is the [cheating] deceiver who has a male in his flock and vows to offer it, yet sacrifices to the [sovereign] Lord a blemished or diseased thing! For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and My name is terrible and to be [reverently] feared among the nations. Malachi 1:14 AMP

When you make God a promise to give God something that is your best and then you change your mind, God is not satisfied with your offering and does not receive it from your hand. It is an insult. Don’t think that He won’t notice or won’t care, because you could not be more wrong. Just how little respect do you have for Him? It is arrogant and stupid of you to try to deceive and cheat the Lord. He is not some stranger, who does not count in your life—He is your Father, the One who has always given you nothing but the best and who loves you with an undying love. What kind of ungrateful, spoiled brat child are you to give Him a blemished, diseased offering? What kind of a slap in the face have you given Him? You are cursed for giving God your rubbish when you committed to give your best.

If you return to the Almighty [and submit and humble yourself before Him], you will be built up; if you put away unrighteousness far from your tents, 24 If you lay gold in the dust, and the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brook [considering them of little worth], 25 And make the Almighty your gold and [the Lord] your precious silver treasure, 26 Then you will have delight in the Almighty, and you will lift up your face to God. 27 You will make your prayer to Him, and He will hear you, and you will pay your vows. 28 You shall also decide and decree a thing, and it shall be established for you; and the light [of God’s favor] shall shine upon your ways. 29 When they make [you] low, you will say, [There is] a lifting up; and the humble person He lifts up and saves. 30 He will even deliver the one [for whom you intercede] who is not innocent; yes, he will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands. Job 22:23-30 AMP

When you make God your precious treasure, you give Him His rightful place in your life; you delight in Him; you adore Him; you worship Him; you look to Him alone as your source and supply; you give Him both those things for which He has asked of you and the things which you have promised Him. All these things work together to get God’s attention and to cause His promise to you to be activated, and His blessing to be released onto your life. When you are faithful to keep covenant with Him and pay Him what is owed to Him—the things He has asked you for and the things you promised to Him—you will lack nothing. God’s favor will be upon your life. You have honored Him and He will honor you. You will ask for something and He will do it for you. He will even listen to you when you stand in the gap to pray a prayer for someone who is not deserving of His mercy. If you honor Him with your best, you position yourself as a person of covenant, a person after God’s own heart, and a friend of God Almighty, Himself!

Offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High, 15 And call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall honor and glorify Me. Psalms 50:14-15 AMP

When you are faithful to keep your promises and pay your vows, God will be prompt and diligent to deliver you whenever you are in trouble. Then you will have yet another reason to praise and thank God.

In God have I put my trust and confident reliance; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? 12 Your vows are upon me, O God; I will render praise to You and give You thank offerings. 13 For You have delivered my life from death, yes, and my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life and of the living. Psalms 56:11-13 AMP

I place my trust in my God. When it is time to pay my vows, I do it. I do it cheerfully and willingly and I praise and honor Him. Because I honor Him by paying my vows, He delivers me. Because He delivers me, I praise, thank, and honor Him by paying my vows! It’s a glorious cycle!

THE DANGERS OF OVERCONFIDENCE

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

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”‘ 14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked — 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.  20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.  Revelation 3:13-20 NKJV

The Lord had to rebuke and chasten the Laodiceans because they were over-confident because of self-deception. They called themselves Christians, but they were only lukewarm. They were not totally cold, but they were definitely not hot. They believed that they were on fire for God and they believed that they had everything they needed. They said, “We are wealthy and rich and we don’t need a thing!” but God said to them, “You are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked!” Their trust was in themselves and their own abilities, but God warned them to open their eyes to realize how they needed Him and to repent and turn to Him again, trusting only in Him.

People who trust in money and things as their security are full of fear when they don’t have it and over-confident and arrogant when they do have it. People who trust in God are humble people. They appreciate everything God does for them and they pass the blessing along.

I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want. 13 I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].  Philippians 4:12-13 AMP

Paul tells us that he found the secret of facing every situation – being content no matter what. Paul made a decision to control his feelings and emotions and to keep his eyes on Jesus at all times. When your happiness is based on your circumstances, you will always be an “up and down” Christian, but when your total confidence is in God, and you are not moved by your circumstances, you are able to be joyful ALL the time, no matter what your actual condition. If your total confidence has been in yourself and you now realize this, then you need to repent for your lack of faith and trust in God alone and start to meditate on the scriptures that confirm that Jesus is your ONLY Lord, Provider, and protector.

Come now, you rich [people], weep aloud and lament over the miseries (the woes) that are surely coming upon you. 2 Your abundant wealth has rotted and is ruined, and your [many] garments have become moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver are completely rusted through, and their rust will be testimony against you and it will devour your flesh as if it were fire. You have heaped together treasure for the last days. 4[But] look! [Here are] the wages that you have withheld by fraud from the laborers who have reaped your fields, crying out [for vengeance]; and the cries of the harvesters have come to the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5[Here] on earth you have abandoned yourselves to soft (prodigal) living and to [the pleasures of] self-indulgence and self-gratification. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and have murdered the righteous (innocent man), [while] he offers no resistance to you.  James 5:1-6 AMP

These rich people are also very selfish people. They have not treated their neighbor with the respect that is due them. All through the Bible, the Lord emphasizes our responsibilities toward one another. We are to love God AND love our neighbor – they go hand in hand. These people were not using what they were blessed with to help others – they weren’t even paying them what they owed them for their labor! They are confident in their wealth and position, thinking that they can do whatever they want and get away with it. Some people arrogantly think that their wealth is a sign of favor with God, and therefore they do not need to straighten out their attitude. God says that there will be a day of judgment and accountability that no amount of money can avert. It is not a sin to be wealthy, but it is a sin to be arrogant and self-confident!

What should our attitude be? 1 Timothy 6:17-19 AMP tells us, “As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be proud and arrogant and contemptuous of others, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches, but on God, Who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for [our] enjoyment. [Charge them] to do good, to be rich in good works, to be liberal and generous of heart, ready to share [with others], In this way laying up for themselves [the riches that endure forever as] a good foundation for the future, so that they may grasp that which is life indeed.”

Watering Camels – Being a Blessing – will open the Way to Your Destiny

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

Thoughts on Stewardship
Lesson No. 8 from Genesis

Watering Camels – Being a Blessing – will open the Way to Your Destiny
Foundation Scriptures: Genesis 24 verses 10-53

And he said, I am Abraham’s servant. 35 And the Lord has blessed my master mightily, and he has become great; and He has given him flocks, herds, silver, gold, menservants, maidservants, camels, and asses. 36 And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old, and to him he has given all that he has. 37 And my master made me swear, saying, You must not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I dwell, 38 But you shall go to my father’s house and to my family and take a wife for my son. 39 And I said to my master, But suppose the woman will not follow me. 40 And he said to me, The Lord, in Whose presence I walk [habitually], will send His Angel with you and prosper your way, and you will take a wife for my son from my kindred and from my father’s house. 41 Then you shall be clear from my oath, when you come to my kindred; and if they do not give her to you, you shall be free and innocent of my oath. 42 I came today to the well and said, O Lord, God of my master Abraham, if You are now causing me to go on my way prosperously 43 See, I am standing by the well of water; now let it be that when the maiden comes out to draw water and I say to her, I pray you, give me a little water from your [water] jar to drink, 44 And if she says to me, You drink, and I will draw water for your camels also, let that same woman be the one whom the Lord has selected and indicated for my master’s son. 45 And before I had finished praying in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her [water] jar on her shoulder, and she went down to the well and drew water. And I said to her, I pray you, let me have a drink. 46 And she quickly let down her [water] jar from her shoulder and said, Drink, and I will water your camels also. So I drank, and she gave the camels drink also. 47 I asked her, Whose daughter are you? She said, The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him. And I put the earring or nose ring on her face and the bracelets on her arms. 48 And I bowed down my head and worshiped the Lord and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, Who had led me in the right way to take my master’s brother’s daughter to his son.   Genesis 24:34-48 AMP

1. Abraham wanted a wife for Isaac, so he sent his servant, Eliezer, with a solemn pledge that he would not come back without a wife for Isaac. Eliezer prayed and asked God to bring the right girl to him. When he asked Rebekah for a little water from her jar, she offered to water his camels as well—all of them—which was a huge undertaking! Eliezer brought ten camels and camels will drink about 25 gallons each! At that time, wells were set down low in the ground, where the water was, and also to minimize evaporation. You would need to go down about 50 steps to draw water in jars that usually held about 3 gallons apiece. That means that Rebekah had to make 8.33 trips per camel—83.3 trips or 4,165 steps for 10 camels.

2. This was no easy task—it was no walk in the park—but her humility, hospitality, and generosity opened wide the door of God’s blessing in her life. This seemingly small moment in her life changed her destiny and established her place in history as a mother of a nation. What seemingly insignificant moment in your life will turn out to be a hugely significant and pivotal moment depending on your response to the opportunity? One act of humility, generosity, and hospitality may determine your destiny.

Pastor Adonica’s Thoughts:
People don’t always recognize opportunities when they come, because they are selfish and self-centered and looking for the blessing of God for themselves, but not for opportunities to BE a blessing. God wants us to focus on being a blessing to others and trust Him enough to allow Him to bless us as He sees fit. God expects us to be submitted to His Word and to do the things He tells us in His Word. When we do, we will not miss His master plan for our life, because we will do the right thing when our opportunity comes and we will find ourselves in the center of His will!

Pastor Rodney’s Thoughts:
Many people miss their God-ordained destiny, because they are waiting to be served rather than being willing to serve. There are opportunities that pass people by on a regular basis—the word declares that whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. When I was a child, I purposed in my heart that I would get involved in everything that I could in order to serve God. I cleaned toilets and helped in every area of ministry, from tape duplication, to sound, to ushering, etc. If you take the opportunities the Lord gives you to serve, then He will open other doors for you. When I started out in the ministry, I would take time to drive men of God around and wait on them and serve them. Even now, if I get the opportunity to serve a man or a woman of God, I do it—whatever it takes—if it means getting up early or going without sleep; if it means going out of my way or going without. No matter how much God promotes, we are called still to be a servant. I know that the Lord will bless me as I serve His people and as I sow into the lives of other people. Always remember to be willing to give and to serve.

Prayer and Confession:
Father, please help me to be more of a servant in my daily life and to be willing to do even the smallest of tasks to benefit others. Help me to never become proud or arrogant, so that I will not miss my date with destiny.

Happy Birthday to You—The River at Tampa Bay

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

Happy Birthday to You—The River at Tampa Bay

Today we celebrate a birthday! Eleven years ago on Sunday, December 2, 1996, we held the first service of The River at Tampa Bay in the gymnasium of the Sun Dome on the campus of the University of South Florida.

Also, in two weeks, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of our family’s arrival in the United States of America!  God called us to this great nation and we love this country with a passion. Twenty years ago, when we arrived in the USA, we flew from South Africa to Orlando via Miami. We love Florida and would bring our children to Orlando every year from that first Christmas in 1987, usually at Christmas time, but we had never been to Tampa, even though it was so close. We saw the Tampa signs every time we drove on I-4 and there was something that we felt when we looked at that name, but the timing was not right.

In January of 1993, our ministry was still based in Louisville, Kentucky, when we came to Springhill, Florida, for a month of meetings, followed by a month in Lakeland, which turned into a total of 13 weeks of meetings that year. When we had tried to look at homes or property in Kentucky, we felt a very strong and definite check, in our spirits, from the Lord. When we came to Lakeland, all the houses and apartments for rent and the long-term hotels were full, because of spring-training, so we rented a furnished house in Tampa. Before long we found ourselves looking at houses again, but this time the Lord said to us, “Go ahead and build your house.” He also told us, “For 14 years, you have built My house—I am going to build yours!” We were ecstatic! We were so happy to be in Florida—we really love this state. Florida is a state full of the world—people from every state and every nation!

In 1994 we moved into our home and in 1995, we moved our offices down to Tampa. We continued to travel, but in October, 1996, the Lord spoke to us to start a church in Tampa. We had no desire to pastor before that time, but when God speaks, you obey; when God ordains something, He prepares you and He prepares your way. On Sunday, December 2nd, 1996, we started The River at Tampa Bay with 575 brand new people. We had spent nearly four years sowing revival into Central Florida. Hundreds of thousands of people were touched and changed. People were saved, people were set on fire, and many were called to full-time ministry in that time. It really was a revival!

When God spoke to us to start the church, we went to see every pastor we had a relationship with to tell them what God had told us. Our desire was definitely not to take people from any other local church, but to gather the people who had been touched by the revival who were not attending anywhere else. We knew there were many of them, because we would meet them every where we went in Tampa. God told us, “Go get your babies!” We did not want religious, church-hoppers—we wanted people who were hungry for God. We told our staff that it was not mandatory for them to attend our services if they were committed to another church. We even took every one off our mailing list that we knew attended local churches. We have also worked with local churches and sent our people to help them to win souls in their area.

We believe that God does not give a city to a church, but He gives a church to a city! God gives many churches to each city. There are about 2.5 million people in the Bay area—we need every good church we can get. We believe that the people in our church are not “our people”—they are God’s people! Christians should not be in competition with each other—we should be working together and supporting one another in our cities. We are all in the same business—Kingdom business!

Our vision for this church has not changed—only intensified. What we love about pastoring The River at Tampa Bay is that it is a family of people that have been brought together, by God, with one purpose, one aim, one goal, and one vision: to see a nation shaken! We believe this is a family of soul-winners, prayer-warriors, and financiers of the end-time harvest, that love Jesus with all their heart, and who are committed to seeing America shaken by the power of God. We believe that the best is yet to come. Continue to press in with us into this New Year. We believe that we will see an explosion of every thing that God has promised —including a Great Awakening in America. Thank you for being a part of our family.

Happy Eleventh Birthday to The River at Tampa Bay!

My Roadmap — The Word of God

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

LAYING THE FOUNDATION
Foundation Scriptures: Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12 NKJV

The Bible is Our Handbook.

  • Every intricate thing that is made by man has a handbook or a manual.
  • God created and made us and all of creation.
    • Psalms 139:14 NKJV – I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
  • The Handbook or Manual for our lives is the Word of God—the Bible.
    • Psalms 119:105 KJV – Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
  • God’s Word is our Roadmap and our Guide on the path of life.
  • Sadly, many believers don’t believe the Bible is the final authority for their lives—they don’t believe that His Word is true.
  • Some people explain God’s Word away by saying that He doesn’t mean what He says. If God does not mean what He says, then why doesn’t He just say what He means? He did say what He means—read it, believe it and act on it!
  • God’s Word is firmly established and will never move or change.
    • Psalms 119:89 KJV – Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.
    • Psalms 119:160 KJV – Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.
  • John 17:17 NKJV – Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
  • God and His Word are one—they can never be separated.
    • John 1:1 NKJV – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
  • You cannot and should not try to “spin” the Word of God to suit your self. God does not allow any personal or private interpretation of any scripture.
    • 2 Peter 1:20 KJV – Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
  • God’s Word is final authority for the believer—in ALL areas of life and conduct.

What Roadmap Are You Following?

  • Your own way is the wrong way.
    • Proverbs 14:12 AMP – There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death.
  • God’s Word will lead you to Life.
    • Psalms 119:11 KJV – Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
  • God has given us His Word—which is His will. His will is His way.
  • In John 14:23-24, Jesus says that if a person really loves Him, they will keep and obey His Word, and if a person does not really love Him, they will not keep or obey His Word.
  • If you want something from God, you must come to Him on the basis of His Will—His Word—or your prayer will remain unanswered.
    • 1 John 5:14-15 NKJV – Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
  • Psalms 138:2b NKJV – You have magnified Your word above all Your name.
  • Jeremiah 1:12b AMP – I am alert and active, watching over My word to perform it.
  • Isaiah 55:11 NKJV – So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
  • Mark 13:31 NKJV – Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

God’s Word is Our Final Authority.

  • Child of God—you need to settle this, in your own heart and life, once and for all.
  • Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. The Word shows us the way.
  • John 1:1-14
  • Jesus said only what the Father told Him to say.
    • John 8:28-29 NKJV – Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.  29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.”
    • John 3:34 AMP – 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!
  • We must obey His Word as He obeyed His Father’s Word.
    • Matthew 7:21 AMP – Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven.
    • Luke 6:46 NKJV – “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?

Let’s Settle This Today!

  • God’s Word has the answer and is the answer for everything in your life.
  • God’s Word is your guide for your conduct—spirit, soul and body.
  • God’s Word will cause you to prosper in every arena of life.
  • Joshua 1:3-8
  • Psalms 1:1-3

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