Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Persevering trust

For the King trusts in the Lord, through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken. Psalm 21:7
Trust in God perseveres. It perseveres with the addition of more responsibilities and in a season of lost opportunities. Whether in the excitement of promotion or the discouragement of demotion it still trusts God. In fact, the more responsibility we gain, the more we need to be dependent on God. The more it seems we are capable, the more we realize we are incapable without the Lord. "Power may tempt us to lower our guard in trusting God, but the more responsibility and power we are entrusted with, the more we need to trust the Lord."  Kings and presidents need Christ as much as or more than paupers and priests. Trust is not contingent on our felt need. It is contingent on our having the ability to breathe. As long as we have breath in our lungs, we desperately need the Lord. Self-confidence is an obstacle to our holy confidence in the Lord. 
Trust perseveres because it is buoyant in its belief in the unfailing love of God. The love of God stands secure in the face of suffering. The love of God licks the wounds of a lacerated soul. The love of God provides the grace to forgive and forget. The love of God continues in the face of ugly odds because it is optimistic of what we can hope for in Christ. God’s love draws us into intimacy with Him. It is when God loves us that we feel safe. It is when God loves us that we feel secure. It is when God loves us that we feel support and encouragement. The love of God covers our sin of unbelief. It is the love of the Lord that lifts us when we are at our lowest to continue trusting our compassionate Savior. He is high and lifted up, so He can lift us up. 
No one is higher than God. He is the Most High and King of kings and Lord of lords. We have the privilege, the opportunity, and the obligation to go right to the top. The Holy Spirit is God’s gatekeeper. By faith we can trust Him to intercede on our behalf. Our faith may be faltering in our confusion, but Christ clarifies. Do not give up because of the complexities of the current situation. Go to the Most High to unravel the mess in which you find yourself. He is the decision maker. He is your maker. He knows how to guide you through this any and all uncertain process. The Most High has the needed perspective to see you through. It is by faith that we do not completely falter. Trust Him to tell you what you need to know. Persevere.
The fruit of trust is perseverance. The lethal high winds of adversity may attempt to uproot your faith, but you will persevere like a strong oak that is rooted and grounded. You will persevere in your marriage though our culture gives you a pass for divorce. You will persevere in your job even though you have been passed over for someone less qualified. You will persevere as a parent because this may be your time to mature and grow up. You will persevere as a leader because God is not finished spreading your influence. You will persevere as a disciple because you trust God. By God’s grace you will not be moved. Allow Him to grow your character. Stand strong. Allow Him to love you through this time of transition.

Our prayer:  Father grant us through the power of your Spirit an enduring faith that completely submits and trusts in your word Amen.

Pastor Todd A. Brown
The greatest ability is availability

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Wise living

For your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth. Psalm 26:3
Walk in truth and be led by love. These are the twins of wise living. Love is our leader and truth is our motivator. Love is our strategy, truth is our tactic. Love is our goal, truth is our inspiration. Love is our encouragement, truth is our obedience. We need both to become better followers of Jesus. Love and truth work together to bring us into balance.
This is why we look forward to the love of God as a guide for our faith. Faith trusts God to accomplish His own decrees. This is why we do not have to steal for we know God will provide for His children. This is why we do not have to get revenge on others because God can and will handle them in His timing and His way. This is why we look ahead to the love of God. We follow the Lord and His love by faith, we trust and walk in His truth.
Secondly, we walk grounded in truth. Truth governs our faith. Truth keeps us rooted in reality. It is obedience to God’s truth that proves our love for Him. Truth takes us back to the basics, “Who does Jesus want me to be?” We walk in truth because it preserves us from sinful behavior. It is the assurance of God’s promises that causes us to believe and behave like Christ. Like a GPS system truth guides us on the best path. Truth obeyed is best not delayed.
Moreover, a companion of fools suffers harm (See Proverbs 13:20). Stay away from those who stray from the truth. It may be a pastor, teacher, friend or business client who handles the truth loosely. They lie even when the truth will do. These are vain people. Do not sit with them and be drawn in by their sly charisma. However, those who walk in the truth will tell you things you do not want to hear. So listen when they prescribe doses of truth. The medicine may be distasteful but if applied will heal your heart. Walk in truth, and with those who walk in truth. Follow love’s lead as you walk with truth. 
Our prayer:  Lord empower us through your Spirit to walk each day in truth and love that we might always be a beacon that shines brightly for you leading others to life and relationship in you Amen.
Pastor Todd A. Brown

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Forgive quickly and forgive often

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seventy times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)
The offense of sin hurts. Sin wounds indiscriminately. It is no respecter of persons. Sin builds walls. It ravishes relationships and it separates. Sin is a sorry excuse for wrong behavior. Sin is deceptive, carnal and Christ-less. Sin is unfair, sad and sometimes sadistic.
Sin follows a process of desire, conception, birth, maturity and death. James describes its diabolical development in his epistle to the saints. “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15). So sin is not and should not be taken lightly. Certainly its infliction of pain cannot be ignored for long. It can kill relationships.
Nonetheless, when you are sinned against, you are to forgive. When someone’s sin assaults you, you are to forgive them. When someone’s sin berates your work, you are to forgive them. When someone’s sin violates your trust, you are to forgive them. When someone’s sin steals your joy, you are to forgive them.
When someone’s sin crushes your dreams, you are to forgive them. When someone’s sin steals from you, you are to forgive them. This level of forgiveness is counter-intuitive and counter-cultural, but it is the way of Christ and His disciples. Forgiveness is God’s game plan. You will lose if you don’t forgive. Unforgiveness is tortuous to the soul. It is unhealthy for the body and emotions. 
It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. Forgiveness cuts through the varying degrees of guilt and erases the entire debt, as to forgive is to cancel a debt that is owed. True forgiveness comes from the heart of the one offended. It is not a flippant acknowledgement, but a sincere removal of anything that is owed. When the offended one forgives, he or she wipes out the expectation for an apology, a pay back or change. It is forgiveness clear and simple. Forgiveness is letting go of the hurt, anger and shame. When you forgive you are free. You are free from the shackles of sin. When you forgive you trust God to judge others in His time. His judgment is just. God can be trusted with the consequences of sin’s offense.
Lastly, you continue to forgive others because our heavenly Father continues to forgive you. Without Christ’s forgiveness we are all men and women most miserable. Jesus does not deal in forgiveness quotas. The forgiveness of the Cross was swift, full, final and forever. Unlock your relational restraints with the key of forgiveness. Set others free with forgiveness and you will be set free. There is freedom in Christ. Forgive fast, and forgive often.

Our prayer: Father thank you for your forgiveness.  As you have continually forgiven us, Father give us the strength and ability to forgive those who offend us, that our heart and soul might always be pure before you Amen.

Pastor Todd A. Brown
First Baptist of Chesterbrook
and Independent Travel Agent "Travel by Todd"

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Training that works

Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7b-8
Godly training is profitable now and for eternity. It does not mean you are some super spiritual person who cannot relate to others. Actually, godly means you have the character of Jesus working in and through you at optimum capacity. Thus, you understand and relate to people very effectively. It is not all about you, but about others and their needs. You encourage when there needs to be encouragement. You rebuke when you need to rebuke. You teach when there needs to be teaching. The godly know how to laugh, cry, pray, hope, work hard, and have faith in God. Godliness comes in all forms.
Every temperament we have can express godliness. If you are an extrovert, your godly expression may come in the form of humor or encouragement. Your ability to make people laugh is godly. Your passion to encourage and build up others is godly. Godliness is certainly expressed through your character. Your honesty is godly; your diligence is godly; your pure motive is godly; your generosity is godly; your compassion, boldness and leadership are godly. All of these behaviors that reflect the way Christ would behave are godly. Godliness is behaving as Jesus would behave. It is not a certain voice inflection or body language, because those can be pretentious/fake and ungodly. It is having a heart and mind that expresses itself as Christ would.
True godliness points others to God. It provides value for all things: body, mind, soul, and spirit. Godliness, however, does not happen accidentally. There is intentionality to godliness. Just as the body benefits from physical training, so the mind, soul, and spirit benefit from training in godliness. The most effective training comes with consistency and repetition. It is not a complicated process, but it is exercising faith. The muscles of faith expand and contract when engaged in everyday life. Training involves prayer instead of worry as  praying works on the heart. It is our spiritual cardio workout. Worry works like plaque and cholesterol clogging the flow of God’s faithfulness to you. He is always faithful, but you must receive his faithfulness by faith. Prayer facilities this and provides a free flow of faith. In addition, fasting keeps your focus on the Lord.
Training in godliness means the word of God becomes our spiritual diet. If we replace the word with the world we will settle for spiritual junk food rather than Jesus. Snubbing God’s word is like substituting chips for chicken or fish. This cheap imitation of spiritual nutrition eventually disables our godly maturity. Lastly, training in godliness requires service to others. We work out our faith in good deeds. We serve others for the glory of God. This is training in godliness. This has tremendous value now and forevermore. Therefore, train well and you will be transformed. Over time, when you look into the mirror of your soul you will see His glory in you. There are benefits to training in godliness, and this training always works for our good.
Our prayer:  Father thank you for your training us in godliness.  Help us to embrace your word, commit to prayer, and give ourselves to service daily that more and more we grow in godliness Amen. 

Pastor Todd A. Brown
First Baptist of Chesterbrook
and Independent Travel Agent "Travel by Todd"

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Faith over fear

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, Abba, Father. Romans 8:15
Fear is a cruel master. Like a bad dream, fear imagines scary situations that never take place. The fears in our mind can seem so real that we stress over, even obsess over them. Recently, I became fearful of a worse case scenario at work. It caused a loss of confidence as well as sleep. Finally, somewhat perturbed, I began to quietly reflect, remind, and remember how God is in control and because nothing takes Him by surprise there is no need for me to worry. In His script, His perfect love casts out all phobias. We are not slaves to fear, but disciples and servants to Jesus.  The love of God is much larger than life’s momentary anxieties. His love converts fear into faith.
The Holy Spirit reminds us of our position: we are a child of God. The Lord adopted us as His daughters and sons. The Spirit gives us life to live for Christ. In His power we are able to produce positive and lasting results. The Spirit allows us to put to death the deeds of the flesh (see Romans 6) that facilitate fear. As we yield to the Spirit, He uses us for His purposes. Similar to a gifted teacher, the Holy Spirit instructs us in truth to combat the lies we lived before Christ. He leads us as adopted children. Fear has no place for a child cared for by Jesus  (See Roman 8:14).
What do you fear? Confronting a co-worker? Confessing a hidden sin to your spouse or loved one? A new school? A new job? A new relationship? A new responsibility? A health issue or lack of finances? Whatever you fear, ask the Holy Spirit to lovingly convert your fears into faith. Trust, when you have done the right thing, it will be what’s right for everyone involved. Do not dread someone or something you have no control over, instead trust the Spirit to accomplish the appropriate outcome. Fear holds onto pseudo control. Faith hands over all control to the Lord and His sovereignty.
You are a child of God and no longer a slave to fear. You have been released from the fetters of trepidation and freed to trust Jesus. Your ball and chain of dread has been removed by the grace of God. Once you cowered in a corner of shame, but now you have come clean and placed your confidence in Christ. Your Lord’s perfect love has replaced your pesky fears. Fear acts like a malaria carrying mosquito, only to discover the blood of Christ in your spiritual veins. Fear wants you back in bondage, but God’s love sets you free. Cry Abba, Father and fear not.

Our prayer:  Father I recognize that at times I become fearful because of the trials and tribulations of life.  When these times comes instead of worrying Holy Spirit nudge me to spend time in prayer releasing all my care and burdens unto the Lord, as His yoke is easy and His burdens made light.  Amen.

Pastor Todd A. Brown
First Baptist of Chesterbrook
and Independent Travel Agent "Travel by Todd"

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Servant Leadership

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45
Of all the things Jesus taught His disciples, the way of humility was one of the hardest for them to grasp. His disciples thought they were following a revolutionary: someone who would overthrow the Romans and help God’s chosen people regain their rightful place in the world. This is why these words from Jesus in Mark the 10th chapter immediately follow a request from James and John to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand when He conquers and begins His reign. What then is all this business about coming not to be served but to serve?
Though they couldn’t see it at the time, Jesus’ approach to leadership was in fact, deeply revolutionary.   When we look at Jesus, we see that true glory is only found through humility. That strength is found in weakness. Good Friday must precede Easter Sunday. This is the upside down nature of God’s kingdom, and the invitation of the gospel is for us to reframe our lives in light of this value system.
Jesus is fully aware of the radical nature of servant leadership. He knows it stands in direct opposition to the way people “make it” in this world. Yet He is also fully aware of the destruction that comes from inflated egos and leadership power plays. He knows that when we enter the rat race and fight our way up the corporate ladder, we will eventually find ourselves bitter, broken, frustrated, and burnt out.

Because Jesus loves us deeply, He says to His disciples, “It shall not be so among you” When He says this, Jesus redefines what it means to be a leader. In God’s kingdom, a leader doesn’t have to have the corner office. A leader isn’t someone with power over employees or an agenda to push. No, in God’s kingdom, a true leader is the person who has the courage to walk the way of humility. A servant leader sees their brokenness and weakness, not as a source of shame or embarrassment, but as a way to point beyond themselves to the one who came, and has graced them with His presence and power “not to be served but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.”
Our prayer:  Lord help us to understand and walk in the fullness of servant leadership.  Let our first response be what can we do, as opposed to what can I get.  Help us through the power of Your Spirit to join You in the work of Your will, as a servant leader Amen.
Pastor Todd A. Brown
First Baptist of Chesterbrook
and Independent Travel Agent "Travel by Todd"

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Mentored to mentor

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:1-3
God’s heart for mentoring is motivated by love: love for God and love for people to grow in grace and love for God. I have been blessed by multiple mentors over the years. Individuals loved me where I was, but loved me too much to allow me to remain where I was in my relationship with Christ.  Because these saints intentionally invested in me, I seek to prayerfully invest time, energy and money in others. I am an imperfect person helping other imperfect people grow in the perfect love of Christ. God has a heart for mentoring and it is displayed in the discipleship process that we see in Christ, as well as in the relationship of Paul and Timothy.
Paul affectionally refers to Timothy as his son in the faith. The older saw potential in the younger. Timothy’s humility made him teachable and a worthy candidate to grow stronger in grace. Paul challenged Timothy in the presence of others to select qualified men who would also teach other men. Like training a good soldier, effective mentoring requires discipline, sacrifice and suffering. Since life change necessitates life engagement, mentors do life with those who want a better life. Invest in reliable people, who will invest in reliable people.
If you wait to mentor until you feel perfectly qualified, you will never mentor. Those who influence the most feel the least qualified. They are vulnerable with their own struggles, sins and shortcomings. The younger can relate to the older who are real about their insecurities, fears and failures. Like Paul, you invite sincere seekers to join you in your journey with Christ. The great adventure of faith is not without tests and trials. But together, young and old, you persevere together. Start with one who wants to grow, then expand into a small community.
Our prayer:  Lord give us the discernment to see the potential in others, and the heart to take them under our wing and mentor them in the things of You and Your Kingdom that we might be active in making disciples amen.
Pastor Todd A. Brown
First Baptist of Chesterbrook
and Independent Travel Agent "Travel by Todd"