FEAR

FearPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church     (Hear this message at THEGATHERINGHG.COM)

BOO!

It’s that time of year once again where everyone wants to be scared.  What is the obsession with fear?  In the US, Halloween continues to scare up some big sales. The US haunted house     industry makes over 300 million dollars per year and the National Retail Federation is predicting people will splurge a record breaking 9-point-1 billion dollars this year, on everything from costumes to candy by the time Halloween is over. This has nothing on the movie industry which capitalizes on fear all year long.

Scientifically speaking, some people love the feeling of being scared because the brain releases “feel good” chemicals like dopamine when we are terrified.  As soon as we realize that we’re not in fact going to die we can enjoy the arousal response — that’s when fear can be fun.  Thrilling sports or activities, roller coasters, scary movies and haunted houses are all sort of a way to escape from everyday stresses.  When we participate in such things we believe that we are coming out alive so the fear factor can be entertaining; however, when fear is realized as being real no one is having fun anymore. Real terror is terrible in the worst sense of the word. 

SIN SICK? Luke 6:45, Philippians 4:8

Bored one day, I was flipping through channels and was horrified to catch a scene from Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015), where Colin Firth’s character, ends up in a church      participating in a gigantic killing free-for-all. I watched for a minute in disbelief and then somberly changed the channel. Real life events like the Texas mass shooting, where 26 people were brutally killed by being gunned down in a church in 2017, and yesterdays killing spree that left 11 dead and 6 injured in a Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania makes sane people  wonder. What in hell is wrong with our entertainment values and do they influence people’s real actions?  I think they do.  In fact the Bible says “whatever a man thinks he is” (Proverbs 23:7a).  If out of a man’s heart he speaks (Luke 6:45) then how much more will he act out what is stored there?   As a Christian matures in his faith his character and values should too.  The Apostle Paul said:  if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things, then the God of peace be with you.  

With the above verse in mind let us continue on into the realm of real fear.  That is the stuff that you find no humor or thrill in–  those things that really cause you anxiety?  First things first…  If you have such fears then stop entertaining yourself with such anxiety producing trash and seek the peace of God as Paul instructed.

REAL FEAR Matthew 6:25-34, 11:28-30, Proverbs 3:5-6

Entertainment aside, what really scares you?  For me (at this time) it is the uncertainty of the upcoming city and state elections. The fear that the vote of the people or the lack thereof will bring in godless and evil people that will make disastrous decisions affecting our city, our state and our nation. Decisions that will ultimately affect the land and the people I love.  For others here it may be the fear of an uncertain future, death or illness, loneliness, or failing. For some it may even be the daily provisions that most of us take for granted.  Fear is real and crippling if allowed to control us, so what is a believer in Christ to do with it? Jesus said not to worry but to seek God first (Matthew 6:25-34) and to cast all of your  cares on him (Matthew 11:28-30, 1 Peter 5:6-7). King Solomon told us to trust God and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).   

Do you find all of this easier said than done?  Has someone said to you once before, “just let go and let God!” Did you want to hit them?  Now here is something that you will want to hit me for, but it is true even for me: “Fear, simply said, is a lack of faith”.  Faith and fear cannot exist together. Faith is described in Hebrews 11:1 as being “certain of what we do not see.” It is an absolute belief that God is constantly working behind the scenes in every area of our lives, even when there is no tangible evidence to support that fact. As unbelief gains the upper hand in our thoughts, fear takes hold of our emotions. As we believe God and his promises— fear flees and faith grows. 

REAL FAITH James 1:2-8, 1 John 4:18

Faith is not something that we make happen in ourselves. Faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9), and faithfulness is described as a fruit (or characteristic) that is produced in our lives by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).  Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17) and doing what it says (James 1:22) no matter what.  Just as a baby is strengthened by the food he is given and eventually walks by responding to his parent’s call—so we grow in faith the same way.  Eat the word and follow your Fathers call. 

God is kind and understanding toward our weaknesses, but He requires us to go forward in faith, and the Bible is clear that faith does not mature and strengthen without trials. Adversity is God’s most effective tool to develop a strong faith. When you walk with God through fearful situations you will learn to obey his word and find that each trial becomes a stepping stone to a stronger and deeper faith (James 1:2-8). God always responds in love as you walk by faith and that perfect love drives out fear (I John 4:18).  Again, like the baby who learns to walk —no matter how many times he falls the call of love beckons him to try again on faith

GOOD FEAR Proverbs 3: 7-12, Proverbs 9:10-12

Proverbs 3:5-6 is a great memory verse when dealing with anxiety and fear but read on if you think that God wants you without any fear at all.  There is bad fear and good fear. It is wise to fear the Lord and shun evil.  We should fear what we would be apart from God—what our city, nation, and world would be apart from God.  Apart from God we would face judgment and wrath, but with God we need to fear nothing at all.  Therefore to fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  To any mocker I say, “You haven’t even begun to be wise”.

Keep The Fire Burning (Soul On Fire #8)

LionFountPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church  (Soul On Fire Series Conclusion #8)                            To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Laodicea Revelation 3:14-21

According to Revelation 1:11, on the Greek island of Patmos, the risen Jesus told the Apostle John to “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamum, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” The “churches” in this context referred to the congregations of Christians living in each city throughout Asia, and not merely to the buildings in which they    gathered for worship. Each of the seven letters is a prophetic word from Jesus that no doubt described these churches perfectly at that time and also foretold their fate if they did not take heed to the warnings given to them. It has also likely  that these churches represent seven types of churches (even seven different types of Christians) which may be found not only in the first century but in any period of church history. For today’s study we will focus on the letter to Laodicea.

Laodicea was a well off city of trade but being down in the valley, they had difficulty getting water. The Laodiceans built an aqueduct to bring cold water down from the mountains. When it left the mountains, it was ice cold, but by the time it made that trip all the way down the mountains to Laodicea, it was lukewarm. Down in the valley where the Lycus River joins the Maeander River, there were hot springs. However, when they would take this hot water up to Laodicea, by the time it got there, it was no longer hot — it had become lukewarm water. That lukewarm water didn’t quench the thirst or sooth the aches and pains of the Laodiceans. The church was as tepid (unenthusiastic, apathetic, halfhearted) as the water!  They were not souls on fire!

 As we read on we see that the church was deceived.  They thought they were rich and didn’t need a thing but they were so distasteful to God that he was about to “spit them out of his mouth”.  God warned them to become like refined gold bathed in his fire (Holy Spirit).  He also told them to cover their “shameful nakedness” (sin) and put salve on their eyes so they could see.  Laodicea was well known for their medical advancements and one of the most celebrated was an eye salve.  God was declaring the irony that although they practiced medicine for    physical blindness they were spiritually blind.  The Remedy for their condition was to repent!

God wants us on fire for him, offering light and warmth in this ice cold dark world. Let us look at ourselves closely by looking at the five check points below.  These are signs of impending lukewarmness. Let us guard ourselves and one another from them and stay on fire for God.

The Dead Sea Philippians 2:3-8

The Dead Sea has nothing living in it, and it is too toxic to drink. That’s why it’s called the Dead Sea, but feeding into it, there is the life giving Jordan River, which also feeds the Sea of Galilee. This Sea of Galilee is teeming with life and the waters are abundantly clear. What’s the difference? The Sea of Galilee receives but it also gives, whereas the Dead Sea only receives, and never gives anything. If we begin to only want to “receive” but never give, we may become lukewarm, and lukewarm is not what Christ wants, just as no one wants to drink from the Dead Sea.

The Sin of Silence Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 9:26

Whenever we’re around people we work with, or our friends or family members, do we ever share our faith? We’ve all been given a commission from Christ (Matt 28:19-20). Jesus said, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26). Notice it is Jesus and Jesus’ words that we must not be ashamed of. Let’s not be silent when it comes to sharing our faith. Not only in speaking it, but in living it.

Worldly Living James 4:4

If your friends or co-workers talk to you just like they talk to their own friends, then you might be living too much like the world. Do you laugh at their crude or profane jokes? Do you sit and listen to gossip at work or church? James asked the church, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). James had seen the hypocrisy of believer’s being one way during worship, and acting another way with their friends in the world. That’s definitely lukewarm.

A Guilty Conscience  2 Corinthians 13:5, Romans 12:3-4

Can you think of any indications in your life where you might see a red light on the dashboard? Do you have a guilty conscience? Maybe you’d better check the warning light to see what the problem is. The Apostle Paul tells us to examine ourselves to see if we’re in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). Before we take Communion, Paul says, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:28). Self-examination should be an occasional practice for the believer, particularly before Communion. Self-examination is important for physical help.  It is just as important for your spiritual help.

Hunger & Thirst  Matthew 5:6, Psalm 63:1, James 1:22-25, 1 John 1:8-2:6

If you find that you’ve stopped praying, or pray very little, and/or if you have no desire to read the Bible, or do very little reading, then you have a problem with your appetite.. Jesus said blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matt 5:6). The Psalmist compares his desire for God as if he’s in a wasteland with no water. Stay thirsty my friends!

If you should look into God’s “mirror” (James 1:22-25) and see that your fire has diminished then don’t deny it— confess it to Jesus and repent (1 John 1:8-2:6). To keep a fire going we must tend it.  Give, Speak out, Be Holy, watch those signs and   hunger for righteousness…and if Jesus is knocking on the door to your heart, open it quickly!  It’s time to eat!

A Passion For Holiness (Soul On Fire #7)

HighwayPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church: A Passion for Holiness (Soul On Fire Series #7)        To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Which Highway? Isaiah 35:8-10, Matthew 7:13-14

Bon Scott of the iconic heavy metal band, AC/DC, died of alcohol poisoning only seven months after the bands hit album Highway To Hell was released.  Some of the lines from the albums theme song (by the same title) said:

No stop signs, speed limit— Nobody’s gonna slow me down
Like a wheel, gonna spin it— Nobody’s gonna mess me around
Hey Satan, paid my dues playing in a rocking band
Hey mama, look at me—I’m on my way to the promised land, whoo!                                                   
I’m on the highway to hell

Well, Bon Scott was certainly slowed way down and any wise man knows that Hell is not the “promised land”. Despite the artistry of the songs driving rhythm and catchy chorus there is a eerie irony to the song when you know that after a drinking binge Scott tragically suffocated on his own vomit so soon after its release.  There is no doubt that he is on that highway now and biblically speaking it is no great party.

There is an alternate highway promised to those who, unlike Scott, desire to be “holy” (that is to live set apart to follow Jesus).  The prophet Isaiah wrote about that highway in Isaiah 35:8-10.  Jesus also spoke of that same road in the gospel of Matthew and apparently it’s quite narrow and only a few find it. Which highway are you on and are you sure you are traveling down the right road?

Be Holy 1 Peter 1:13-19, Ephesians 1:13-14, Psalm 119:9-16

In our last lesson we talked about how as Christians we are a “chosen people”, “God’s special possession”, sent to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”(1 Peter 2:9). In order to accomplish this special mission we must be “alert and sober”.  We must be obedient to God and be set apart for his purposes.  We must be holy!  Do you have a passion to be holy?  Is your soul on fire to be a reflection to this world of who God really is or are you content to simply give him lip service of your appreciation?  Remember, God did not purchase us from the Devil’s grasp with mere silver and Gold.  He purchased our adoption with his blood.  Shouldn’t our blood (our life) be on fire for him? 

To be holy means to be set apart or separate from sin and evil. God is holy—completely separate from everything that is evil.  In him there is no darkness at all          (1 John 1:5). God calls us to be holy, just as He is (1 Peter 1:16, Leviticus 19:2), but we must understand that apart from God this is impossible. We must have the Holy Spirit indwelling us and filling us with His holiness. We can only live a holy life through the power of the Spirit. The first step to living a holy life is to accept Jesus as Savior (Ephesians 1:13).  We are then marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. 

The second step to living a holy life is knowing and obeying God’s Word (John 17:17).  Hiding( cherishing, holding dear) God’s Word in our hearts keeps us from sin (Psalm 119:11). As we hear, read and study God’s word, and meditate upon his instruction his Spirit will help us to live it out in our lives. We should delight in living out God’s word as one rejoices in great riches. The Holy Spirit will produce Christ likeness in us as we yield to Him. We can live a holy life (Galatians 5:16) if we keep our minds on him.

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Isaiah 26:3 NKJV 

Dead to Sin Alive to God Romans 6:11-14, 17-18

Any time we face temptation, we should say, “I’m dead to that! That was part of my old life! I am a new creation in Christ!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). To live a holy life and separate ourselves from sin we must see ourselves as God does—as born-again children of the Most High, clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 61:10).  Sin will no longer be our master unless we surrender ourselves to bondage once again!  Why put back on a filthy robe when God has clothed us with a clean and royal one? 

As former slaves of the Devil— now set free by Christ, we should “obey from the heart” (Romans 6:17) in allegiance to Christ as willing slaves to righteousness. What else can we possibly give to him in appreciation for our salvation?  How else can we thank him for his indescribable gift? (2 Corinthians 9:15)  If you have a passion for Jesus then you will have a passion for holiness too, but remember, we are not trying to live a holy life in order to earn salvation. Living a holy life is a natural outgrowth of being saved by God’s grace and filled with His Spirit. It is also important to not give up when we mess up. When we fail, our response should be to confess the sin and keep moving forward in our Christian walk(1 John 1:9). God’s grace doesn’t go away when we make mistakes. (Romans 8:1) 

Stir It Up! Hebrews 10:23-25, Matthew 5:13-16

Fellowship with other Christians and making ourselves accountable to them is a great source of strength in living a holy life. As Christians, we are called to spur one another on in this matter. We are instructed to “stir up one another to live in holiness” (Hebrews 10:24–25). We are to influence one another to live our lives in praise to the one who purchased us from the Devil with his own blood. We are to make one another holy.  Like salt we are to preserve one another and make one another “taste” better.  If we lose our desire to be holy then we ruin one another and are good for nothing, but are trampled underfoot by the world. 

We are the light of the world, brothers and sisters in Christ.  That light comes only from our deliberate relationship with Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.  It is only by our obedience to Christ in being holy that we can shine that light for the world to see.

Pray for a passion for holiness.  Live to be a soul on fire for Christ. Let’s join together to make his praises great in our homes, our church, our city, our state, our nation and the world!  Be holy, for our God is holy and we are his children.

A Passion For Home (Soul On Fire #6)

Heaven2

Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church  A Passion For Home (Soul On Fire Series #6)  To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Not Of This World John 18:36, Philippians 3:18-21, 1 John 3:1-3

In our last lesson we spent some time in Hell and I prayerfully hope that we were all motivated to have a passion for the souls headed there.  Today we will be spending some time in Heaven.  How often do you think about that place?  Most people’s thoughts don’t turn to Heaven until going through some kind of personal Hell on this earth, but that shouldn’t be the case.  As Christians, Heaven is our home and the hope we hold on to. Someone might say “your thoughts are in the clouds if you’re always thinking about Heaven”, but then the scripture says that this is exactly where our thoughts are to be rather than on earthly things.  

The phrase “not of this world” is perhaps most well-known for being a Christian apparel  company (http://www.notw.com), but what the phrase actually means is that Christians are “not of this world.” The phrase comes from the verse John 18:36 where Jesus says that His kingdom is “not of this world.” As His followers, Christians are members of His kingdom which is “not of this world,” that is, Heaven (Philippians 3:20).   As the Apostle Paul lamented, many live on this earth as enemies of the cross of Christ. “Their destiny is destruction”, “their mind is set on earthly things”, but the citizenship of the Christian is in Heaven.  Yes, we are on earth for now, but our earthly lives are like a vapor (James 4:14).  Eternity is where a Christian’s focus should be.  We are children of God and the world will not know us or accept us because it did not know or accept Jesus (1 John 3:1-3).  We should have the hope of Heaven in our hearts because that is where our Lord will come from to get us. 

In This World John 17:14-21, 1 Peter 2:9-12 

The things of this world, wars, famine, suffering, poverty, etc., impact Christians and non-Christians alike. By remembering that we are “not of this world,” remembering that these things are just for a little while, we can see them in a different light. We are still in this world but we are no longer of it (John 17:14).  We must remember that we are here for the purpose of sharing the truth with others that they might be saved and that we all might be one.  We are only visiting this planet.  For this reason Jesus prayed for us in John 17 and for this same reason Peter reminds us that we are a chosen people, foreigners and exiles on this earth.  We are here to show the deeds of God while longing for his arrival.

Do you have a passion for Home (Heaven) or are you full of worldly desire? “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold”. (Romans 12:2a Phillips NT Translation) 

Heaven Revelation 21:3-5, 23-27, 22:5

Heaven is a real place described in the Bible. The word “heaven” is found 276 times in the New Testament alone. The Apostle Paul refers to being caught up into the “third Heaven” in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 causing some to teach that Heaven has three levels but this is incorrect.  We are not in some hierarchical order in glory “we are one” as Jesus said in John 17:21. In many ancient cultures, people used the term heaven to describe three different “realms”—the sky, outer space, and then a spiritual heaven (i.e. “third Heaven”). Paul was saying that he was caught up into the spiritual heaven and was not allowed to describe it. 

The Apostle John did describe his vision of the “new heaven and a new earth” with the “new Jerusalem” coming down out of Heaven (Revelation 21:1-2). He described the “Holy City” made of precious jewels and clear crystal (Revelation 21:11). The City and streets are made of pure transparent Gold (Revelation 21:18-21) and the gates are made of pearls.  A great river flows from the throne of God  and runs through the city and on each side of that river are two great trees which bear a new crop of fruit each month (Revelation 22:1-5), but the greatest description of Heaven is what is happening in it. “God’s dwelling place is now among his people”…he wipes away every tear and makes everything new (Revelation 21:3-5).  The city needs no sun or moon for the glory of God is there. Many nations are in that place but nothing impure will ever enter it and only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life are within its walls…and they will reign forever and ever! (Revelation 21:23-27, 22:5). 

Passing Through 1 Corinthians 2:9, John 14:1-6, Psalm 30:2-5

Do you have a passion for going home?  Some want to travel the world, I long to see Heaven! Israel was great to see but the New Jerusalem will out shine it forever! Nothing comes close to Heaven! (I Corinthians 2:9)  Remember Christians:  God wants us to enjoy our lives on this earth but not to forfeit our purpose of bringing his truth to it.  God surely wants us to take care of this earth but to never forget that we are just passing through. 

Jesus’ disciples were troubled when he told them that he was going away.  We too may be troubled when we see our loved ones in Christ close their eyes on this earth.  We cannot see on the other side, but we have the promise of the one that can and he has conquered death.  To his troubled disciples Jesus said “believe in me”.  “I will come back and take you to be with me”.  “You know the place where I’m going” he said to Thomas, but Thomas doubted.  We too doubt sometimes, but Jesus responds the same way to us as he did to Thomas:  “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, he says, only Jesus can lead us to the Father who is in Heaven.  Keeping our eyes on Jesus is keeping our eyes on home.  Heaven is our hope and Jesus is the way.  He who has promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). 

God is mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17) and he has delivered us from the realm of the dead through Jesus Christ who raises up those who trust in him.  Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning! (Psalm 30:2-5). 

My heart can’t wait till that day comes
I’m gonna’ hear Him say my child well done
Till it comes my time to go
Heaven is the Hope

Matthew West/ Heaven Is The Hope