I PREDICT FOR 1999!

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

I predict for ’99 – a harvest of the spiritual kind
Souls plucked from the jaws of hell
As men the good news of the Gospel do tell
This is the former and the latter rain
That was spoken of by the prophets
Again and again
The glory of the latter house will be greater
Than the former – you will see
The harvest will be greater than you’ve ever dreamed
Though the world will get worse and worse it will seem
Wars, rumors of wars, only talk of peace
Droughts, weather upheavals, disease will not cease
Nations will fall and nations will rise
But it’s getting closer and you would be wise
To prepare your heart for the coming of the Lord
For He will come swiftly and with a sword
To judge the living and the dead
Sinners and those who’ve rejected Him will dread
The great white throne – where all men will see
Those who are righteous, those who are free
Rise up now, this army of the Lord
Run, run, run, with His Word
The time is short – the end is at hand
The glory of God will be seen in this land
By Rodney M. Howard-Browne
The Bible says that no man knows the day or the hour that Jesus will return, as promised by the two men in white apparel (Acts 1:9-11) the day He ascended into heaven after He was raised from the dead, but we know that God always keeps His word.  We should be always ready to meet Jesus, whether He comes first to us or we go first to be with Him.  Even though things in the world get worse, in Jesus things get better and better as we trust in Him and His word.  If your trust is not in God, you will be afraid when uncertain times come, but the good thing about uncertain times is that men begin to look for God and if we stand strong, we will be there to point them in His direction!  May God richly bless you this coming year and as you pull in closer to Him, may you know His love, joy, peace and provision in every area of your life.
God bless you abundantly. We love you.

The Source of Our Joy

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

I John 1:1-4  (NKJ)
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have  looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life–2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was  with the Father and was manifested to us–3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

The Word of God and the message of the awesome salvation He purchased for us in the precious blood of Jesus, is a source of great joy to us  His people. This fellowship that we now have with the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, does not bring us a little bit of joy, or partial joy, but joy that is FULL. Full also means, “complete”. Jesus brings us complete joy. We don’t need any more joy  we have access to a joy that fills every aspect of our being  crowding out all other things. Christians who walk in sadness need to dwell on God’s Word and get a revelation of what it means to have a relationship with, and to be in fellowship with, Almighty God.

Isaiah 61:1-3  (NKJ)
1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor;  he has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to  those who are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, 3 To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of  praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that  He may be glorified.”

This passage quoted by Jesus in Luke 4:18-19, says that Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit to comfort those who mourn, to give them beauty where there once were only ashes, the oil of joy to replace mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness. Because of what Jesus did for us in His death and resurrection, we have a reason to rejoice! How good our God is to us!

1 Peter 1:8-9  (NIV)
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and  are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

We cannot see God with our natural eye, but we have felt His presence and experienced His work in our heart. We love Him and are filled with joy unspeakable  joy that cannot be adequately expressed – as He continues to touch us and change us and as we renew our minds and continue to grow in Him. Not only does He give us a new spirit – He restores our souls (mind, will and emotions) and our bodies. If we do not allow His Spirit to work in us, we will not have or experience His joy.

Romans 14:17  (NIV)
17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy  Spirit,

There are so many things that try to distract us from the things that really matter. People get caught up in the “do’s” and the “don’ts” instead of focusing on the important things  God’s grace and His mercy and what HE has done for us. If we keep our eyes on the Holy Spirit, we will enjoy His righteousness, peace, and joy.

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS FAITH

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

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

Galatians 5:22-23 KJV

The Greek word for faith means a firm persuasion, belief, believe, trust, trustworthiness, confidence, acceptance, fidelity and moral conviction. It means reliance upon Jesus Christ for salvation. Faith has to do with what you believe and also the strength of that belief. The word faith is also used to refer to your belief system.

Simply put, faith means believing strongly in God and believing strongly that everything that He says is true. It means to be firmly persuaded. We must have faith in the grace and mercy of God. The only way we can obtain God’s grace and mercy is by faith – we cannot work for it. If you could earn God’s grace then you would not need faith in God. Our faith is essential – not only to ensure our salvation, but in order that we may receive the fulfillment of every promise of God that has been made to us.

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.      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. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead– since he was about a hundred years old– and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

Romans 4:16-21 NIV

Faith is not believing in God only — faith is believing in God without wavering. Faith calls those things that are not as though they are! Faith agrees with the Word of God and not with what we see or feel. Faith speaks the Word of God only — not doubt and unbelief. If you swing between faith and doubt then you don’t have faith at all. You can only have one or the other – not both. Doubt neutralizes your faith. Faith is only faith if you don’t have a plan B.

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:6-8 NKJ

We don’t get from God the things that He has promised just because He promised them, we get them because we believe that His promises are true.

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”

16      But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  Romans 10:8-17 NKJ

When we believe God’s Word in our heart then we will speak it out of our mouth. Faith comes by hearing and hearing and hearing the Word of God. You will only be full of what you meditate upon. Luke 6:45 says that we speak out of the overflow of what is in our heart in abundance. And our confession must be in line with our faith or we will not get what we say we are believing for. The fruit of the work of the Spirit in our life is an increase in our faith and trust in God. The more we learn of God, the more we learn to trust Him, because He is faithful who has promised (Hebrews 10:23)!

DON’T BE IGNORANT OF THE DEVIL’S DEVICES

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

Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.  2 Corinthians 2:10-11 NKJV

God loves us with all His heart. We are the crowning glory of His creation. He made the earth and everything on the earth before He made us and placed us in the middle of it. The devil hates God and he hates God’s creation. The devil tries to destroy man by trying to get us destroy each other. If we are ignorant of his devices and how he operates, then we won’t recognize his handiwork and he will be able to take advantage of us. If we are aware of his tactics and his devices, then we will recognize when he is at work and then he is in trouble because we will be able to deal with him and we will defeat him. One of the ways the devil gains the advantage over us is by stirring up strife between us. Then he manages to maintain an ongoing advantage by keeping the strife fresh in our hearts by getting us to walk in unforgiveness toward one another.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.  This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.  James 3:13-18 NKJV

Envy and selfishness are earthly, sensual and even demonic. When we are envious, covetous and selfish, then we will inevitably strive with one another. We will fight each other for wealth, power and control. This covetousness and strife open the door to confusion and every evil work. In other words, the devil has his way, imposing his will on us. The love of money and worldly goods is the root of all kinds of evil and it will destroy the covetous person in the end.

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.  1 Timothy 6:5-11 NKJV

God does not want us to be destroyed and if we do not want to reap a harvest of destruction in our lives, then it is vital that we seek peace and pursue it. It is vital that we are peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. We must flee envy, selfishness and covetousness and we must pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.

We must be aware that when we strive with each other, that we give the devil the advantage, but when we do everything we know to do to walk in love and forgiveness by the help of the Holy Spirit, then we close of any avenue that the devil might have had and instead, we give place to the Lord, Who will defend and protect us. The blood of Jesus and the Name of Jesus will give us the advantage over the devil and that is where we want to be. He is under our feet as long as we are submitted to God and as long as we are joined together in unity and peace with each other.

Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.

Ephesians 4:25-27 NKJV

Don’t be ignorant. Don’t give place to the devil. Walk in love and refuse to strive with your fellow man. Rather give place to the Holy Spirit!

FORGIVEN AND HEALED

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

Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him. And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus. When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”–He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen strange things today!”  Luke 5:17-26 NKJV

The four men (Mark 2:3) brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus to be healed. The house was so full of people that they could not get to Jesus. They could not get in the doors or the windows, so they decided to go through the roof. They ripped up the tiles and lowered their friend down right in front of Jesus. Jesus was blessed by their bold faith. He said, ”Man (Son), your sins are forgiven you.” Jesus saw their faith, manifested through their boldness and determination to get their sick friend to Him, and He healed the man even as He forgave him.

The scribes and the Pharisees were offended by this and began to accuse Jesus of blasphemy in their hearts. Of course, Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking! He said to them, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’?” Jesus did not make a distinction between healing and forgiveness. Forgiveness and healing go together. Jesus died on the cross to bring you both forgiveness of sins and healing for your body. He has power to heal you and forgive you. When you repent of your sins and you accept Jesus as Lord – you can receive your healing as the same time!

Jesus said to the skeptics, “So that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” — He said to the man who was paralyzed —

“I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” The man stood up, picked up the bed that he lay on as he was carried in, and walked out of the house praising and glorifying God. Everyone in the house was amazed by the miracle and they glorified God too.

The Greek word for salvation means soundness, wholeness, healing, preservation, deliverance, and provision. All the goodness of God is wrapped up in the finished work of the cross.

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.  Isaiah 53:4-5 NKJV

Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness–by whose stripes you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24 NKJV

Jesus died and rose again to restore everything the devil stole from us – our life, our relationship with the Father, our health, our peace and our joy. On the cross, Jesus poured out His blood to heal you and to save you. You need to receive both right now.

CHARACTERISTICS OF A BELIEVER

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

Romans 12:1-21

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. 17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”  21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. NKJV

As Christians, we have a code of conduct to follow. God expects a certain standard of behavior from us that is different from the way we conducted ourselves when we were in the world. This passage in God’s Word gives us some practical guidelines that we need to follow concerning our Christian conduct.

Verse 6 says that we all have gifts that differ according to the grace that is given to us. Grace is God’s ability given to us – not indiscriminately – but according to His divine purpose and plan. Verse 8 says that the person who gives should give with simplicity and singleness (without strings attached and without an ulterior motive). We should give with sincerity (without dissimulation or self-seeking). Dissimulation is deception, dishonesty or pretense.  Self-seeking means that a person only gives in order to benefit themselves and not others. The Lord wants us to give in order that we would be a blessing to someone else. When we give it should be generously, liberally and bountifully.

Verse 10 says that we should be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love and that we should honor and give preference to one another.

Verse 11 says that we should not be slothful in business. We should be fervent in spirit – never lagging in zeal and earnest endeavor. We must be diligent as we serve the Lord – everything we do for Him should be done well and to the best of our ability. Verse 16 says that we should be of the same mind toward one another. We should not set our minds on high things, but we should condescend to men of low estate – we should associate with the humble. We must treat everyone the same way – not looking down on any person as being beneath us. We must not be haughty, snobbish, high-minded or exclusive, but we should readily adjust ourselves to people and things and be prepared to give ourselves to humble tasks. We should never overestimate ourselves or be wise in our own opinion.

Verse 20 says that if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this, you will heap coals of fire on his head.  This verse is not referring to your hungry and thirsty friend, but your hungry and thirsty enemy! In the flesh, we want to fight back against our enemy, but God has a better way. He says that when you fight back, you will be overcome by evil, but when you respond with love and kindness, then you overcome evil with good. We should hate that which is evil; be patient in tribulation; bless those who persecute us and not curse them; avenge not ourselves; repay no one evil for evil; overcome evil with good; and live at peace with all men.

God does not tell us to do these things to torment us, but to bring us into a place of blessing and victory. God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path – let us take God’s Word and apply it in our daily lives.

GOD DOES NOT ACCUSE THOSE HE HAS ACQUITTED

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

So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance. 27 And He Who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the [Holy] Spirit [what His intent is], because the Spirit intercedes and pleads [before God] in behalf of the saints according to and in harmony with God’s will.  Romans 8:26-27 AMP

Jesus loves us so much that He sent the Holy Spirit, Who prays through us, interceding for us, according to God’s will. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit want the very best for us and they are working together for our blessing and our benefit.

We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew [of whom He was aware and loved beforehand], He also destined from the beginning [foreordaining them] to be molded into the image of His Son [and share inwardly His likeness], that He might become the firstborn among many brethren. 30 And those whom He thus foreordained, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified (acquitted, made righteous, putting them into right standing with Himself). And those whom He justified, He also glorified [raising them to a heavenly dignity and condition or state of being].  Romans 8:28-30 AMP

God, through Jesus, has brought us into a relationship with Himself, molding us into the image of His Son. According to this passage – to God – all believers look just like Jesus! He calls us the children of His family. When we love God and we have responded to the design and purpose of His call, He becomes a partner in our labor. With God on our side – if we will trust Him – all things are working together and fitting into a plan for good.

What then shall we say to [all] this? If God is for us, who [can be] against us? [Who can be our foe, if God is on our side?]  32 He who did not withhold or spare [even] His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all [other] things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect [when it is] God Who justifies [that is, Who puts us in right relation to Himself? Who shall come forward and accuse or impeach those whom God has chosen? Will God, Who acquits us?] 34 Who is there to condemn [us]? Will Christ Jesus (the Messiah), Who died, or rather Who was raised from the dead, Who is at the right hand of God actually pleading as He intercedes for us?  Romans 8:31-34 AMP

Contrary to what the devil and religion would like us to believe, God is really and truly on our side! If He did not withhold His own precious Son, sending Him to die for us, then He will surely freely and graciously bless us with all the other things! The devil wants us to think that God is angry with us, judging us, condemning us and accusing us, but it is the devil that is the accuser of the bretheren. God went to so much trouble to justify and acquit us, He is not about to start condemning us. Jesus, Himself, died for us and now intercedes for us, pleading with God on our behalf.

Who shall ever separate us from Christ’s love? Shall suffering and affliction and tribulation? Or calamity and distress? Or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword? 36 Even as it is written, For Thy sake we are put to death all the day long; we are regarded and counted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us.  Romans 8:35-37 AMP

Jesus loves us so much that even in the midst of the worst of circumstances and persecution, He is working with and in us, giving us the victory.

For I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers, 39 Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39 AMP

There is nothing in the natural realm or the spirit realm – even death – that can separate the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing in creation can stop the love of God in our lives. God loves us beyond what our minds can imagine or comprehend, but we need to meditate on His Word and begin to get a revelation of God’s immense and immeasurable love for us so that we can walk in the fullness of all He has planned and prepared for us.

HONOR GOD WITH YOUR MOUTH AND FROM YOUR HEART

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

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and 2 saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. 3(The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) 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 7:1-8 NIV

Religion and tradition are terrible things. They cause you to take your eyes off the really important things and to become obsessed with trivia – things that are completely unprofitable to your spiritual life. If the devil can’t get the Church to reject God outright, he will try to dilute the power of God and the power of the Word by mixing it with doubt, unbelief and man-made tradition. In the end you are serving a ritualistic form of religion and you have no more relationship with the Lord at all – you only think that you do. This is the place the Pharisees were. They were blinded and deceived by their religion, relying completely on their own works for favor with God and neglecting to keep their hearts pure and honest before God. They only did Him lip service. They worked at perfecting the outward man to impress people, rather than humbling themselves before God – the only One Who has the power to save their souls. Because they only gave lip service to God without giving Him their hearts, all their efforts amounted to nothing before God and were of no eternal value.

And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’   11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”   Mark 7:9-13 NIV

Because the Pharisees’ hearts were not right with God, they were not afraid to brashly pervert the Word of God. They were so deceived by religious tradition that they even encouraged people to bring an offering to the temple in lieu of obeying the Word and commandments of God! They built their kingdom at the expense of God’s kingdom. No wonder they were disturbed and threatened by Jesus – He exposed their lies and hypocrisy and their impure hearts.

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.'”  17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”) 20 He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.'”  Mark 7:14-23 NIV

You must not only put a guard on your lips, but you must guard and protect your heart. Don’t try to please or impress man. The only One you should be trying to please, is the Lord – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Your lip service is totally insufficient without a humble heart that is yielded to the Lord. Your sacrifice is worthless if your heart is not submitted to God and if it is not right with God. If you turn your heart toward God and you seek to please only Him, then He will gladly accept all your sacrifices, including your sacrifice of praise.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  Psalms 51:15-17 NIV

PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD

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

A voice of one who cries: Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord [clear away the obstacles]; make straight and smooth in the desert a highway for our God! 4 Every valley shall be lifted and filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked and uneven shall be made straight and level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory (majesty and splendor) of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.  Isaiah 40:3-5 AMP

John, the Baptist, was set apart for a special mission from the moment he was conceived. He was a messenger sent by God to prepare the way for Jesus. His task was to put everyone on alert that the long-awaited Savior was finally here. He called on them to repent of their sin, to turn from the world and worldly pursuits, and to prepare their hearts to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Messiah. God is found by them who seek Him. You must look for Him; you must seek Him; you must be hungry for Him – draw nigh to Him and He will draw nigh to you.

Seek, inquire for, and require the Lord while He may be found [claiming Him by necessity and by right]; call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have love, pity, and mercy for him, and to our God, for He will multiply to him His abundant pardon.  Isaiah 55:6-7 AMP

The Lord sends messengers out ahead to prepare the hearts of people for His coming. If you are a Christian, then you are a bearer of good news. When you tell people how much Jesus loves them and what He has done for them, you are preparing the way for them to receive Him as their Lord and Savior. They might receive Him into their hearts immediately, they might receive Him after some days, or months, or even years, but as long as you are as faithful and as bold as John to speak the truth, they will never be able to say, “I never heard the Gospel. I did not know that I had to seek the Lord. I did not know what Jesus did for me. I did not know that I had to confess with my mouth and believe in my heart to be saved and to make heaven my eternal destination.”  John did not take an opinion poll before he preached. He just preached what the Spirit told him to say, regardless of who was offended. Because he boldly spoke the truth, he lost his life, but he never backed down, he never compromised and those who heard him have no excuse.

As the people were in suspense and waiting expectantly, and everybody reasoned and questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether he perhaps might be the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed one). 16 John answered them all by saying, I baptize you with water; but He Who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of Whose sandals I am not fit to unfasten. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing shovel (fork) is in His hand to thoroughly clear and cleanse His [threshing] floor and to gather the wheat and store it in His granary, but the chaff He will burn with fire that cannot be extinguished. 18 So with many other [various] appeals and admonitions he preached the good news (the Gospel) to the people.  Luke 3:15-18 AMP

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John to be baptized by him. 14 But John protested strenuously, having in mind to prevent Him, saying, It is I who have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me? 15 But Jesus replied to him, Permit it just now; for this is the fitting way for [both of] us to fulfill all righteousness [that is, to perform completely whatever is right]. Then he permitted Him. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, He went up at once out of the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he [John] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him. 17 And behold, a voice from heaven said, This is My Son, My Beloved, in Whom I delight!  Matthew 3:13-17 AMP

John never pointed people to himself, but he always pointed them to the Father, to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit. That is your responsibility, to point people to the Word, to the cross, to Jesus Christ. You are the messenger, and not only that, you are commissioned by Jesus, Himself, and anointed by the Holy Spirit, to demonstrate the power of God to your generation! When you talk about Jesus, when you do the works of Jesus, you show the glory of God in an earthen vessel and He is lifted up and glorified. There is no other way to prepare the way of the Lord and to prepare people to meet Jesus, than to pray and most importantly, to preach the good news of the Gospel.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!  Romans 10:13-15 KJV

WHAT AN INCREDIBLE QUALITY OF LOVE!

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

See what [an incredible] quality of love the Father has given (shown, bestowed on) us, that we should [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are! The reason that the world does not know (recognize, acknowledge) us is that it does not know (recognize, acknowledge) Him. 2 Beloved, we are [even here and] now God’s children; it is not yet disclosed (made clear) what we shall be [hereafter], but we know that when He comes and is manifested, we shall [as God’s children] resemble and be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He [really] is. 3 And everyone who has this hope [resting] on Him cleanses (purifies) himself just as He is pure (chaste, undefiled, guiltless).  1 John 3:1-3 AMP

God has bestowed an incredible amount of love on us in making us His very own children. No other religion of man can make the same claims. Every other religion requires do’s and don’t’s. They have a long list of things you can and can’t do, and even if you fulfill all the requirements (which is impossible any way), you have no idea if you will actually make heaven and miss hell and damnation! The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only message that truly offers a guarantee! Since the Gospel offers heaven based on faith and not works, God made it very, very simple for every person on the planet to become His very own child and spend eternity in His wonderful presence.

He loved us so much that He did it all – He did all the hard work and left nothing up to us, except believing and receiving – so that we can be assured of eternal life, eternal peace, and eternal joy!

Wait and listen, everyone who is thirsty! Come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Yes, come, buy [priceless, spiritual] wine and milk without money and without price [simply for the self-surrender that accepts the blessing]. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your earnings for what does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness [the profuseness of spiritual joy]. 3 Incline your ear [submit and consent to the divine will] and come to Me; hear, and your soul will revive; and I will make an everlasting covenant or league with you, even the sure mercy (kindness, goodwill, and compassion) promised to David.  Isaiah 55:1-3 AMP

Even if we owned the whole world with a gold fence around it, we could not pay for one drop of God’s priceless mercy or one drop of the priceless blood of Jesus. He loves us so much that He freely offers His priceless blood, grace, mercy, and forgiveness to every person, no matter how bad they are and no matter how awful their sin. The only way to access this gracious, free gift is by humbling your heart and surrendering your life to the Lord. The way – the only way – that the blessing comes to you is by self-surrender, as it is only by self-surrender that you are able to accept the blessing!

Unfortunately, for some people, this is too high a price to pay. They will do anything else, but do not ask them to surrender their life to the will of the Father. Many people are outwardly religious – some of them ridiculously so – but they will not submit their heart to the Lord. Of course, there are many people who do not know that this is all that God requires of them, as they have never heard the Gospel and their eyes are blinded by the devil, but there are others who have heard and yet find it too difficult to do. You would think that people would be thrilled to know that they no longer have to fulfill a long list of difficult and uncomfortable, sometime tortuous requirements, in order to be guaranteed eternal life, but strangely they would rather suffer and feel like they DID something to pay for their salvation or their reward.

This is not humility – it is false humility – pride dressed up like humility. True humility embraces the free gift. True humility is bold to say, “Yes, I am the righteousness of God in Christ,” knowing all along on the inside that HE paid the price and that we are completely undeserving!

Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it].  Hebrews 4:16 AMP

Because of God’s grace, you can come boldly into the presence of God to ask for what it is that you need. Because you have surrendered to Him and allowed Him to wash and cleanse and change you, you are unashamed to enter into His presence. Because you have a revelation of how much He loves you and how much He has done for you and how much He has promised you, you are not afraid to come straight to Him and ask Him personally for what you need!

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