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Hi, this is Pastor Ken, and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…Number One Is Looking Out For Me.

Human beings have long struggled with the urge to look out for number one a.k.a. thinking of ourselves first. In fact, the original failure of mankind was the result of this very compulsion. God created Adam and Eve, and the Bible tells us he placed them in a garden of perfection. They had everything they could ever need supplied for them by a good, good God who only desired what was best for them. The plan was that they would trust God to meet their every need and He would do so based on His love for them and their love for and complete trust in Him. Most of us recognize the story of their failure. The serpent, Satan, came and used deceit to convince them that God was holding out on them. Satan persuaded them to act out of selfishness and choose to take for themselves the one thing God had directed them to avoid. In that moment they were convinced God was not as good as He claimed to be and decided they needed to look out for themselves. Their spiritual enemy had succeeded at arguing the case that their selfishness was reasonable and therefore needed to be acted upon.

Satan’s playbook has not changed. He still seeks to convince us to be selfish. Almost everyone has some aversion to outright selfishness. Most people don’t like to be thought of as selfish and so try to operate in a way that downplays it’s existence in their lives. Interestingly, the few who seemingly don’t care if others find them selfish, are often the loudest about pointing out others selfishness, especially toward them. On one level or the other human beings don’t like selfishness. Why is that, and how then are we convinced to be so selfish? We don’t like selfishness because we have been created in the image and likeness of God. God is not selfish, He is selfless, and so in a sense selfishness goes against our created nature. If that is true, then how are we convinced to be selfish? I said last week that Satan is the father of all lies and the master of the plausible ones. In order to convince us we should not trust God to give us all we need and therefore look out for our own best interest, our enemy only needs to help us see that our selfishness is reasonable. He only has to show us that any responsible person would do the same thing given the same set of circumstances.

Jesus had to deal with this very problem. The other day I was reading an account in the book of Luke and this truth became glaringly obvious. In Luke 4 we read about Jesus’ time spent in the wilderness and the temptation He endured there for forty days. Verses 1-4 say: Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ”

This account is from the start of Jesus’ ministry. The word tells us that this happened after forty days of fasting! I have fasted before but never for forty days…not even close to it. I cannot even imagine the extent of the hunger Jesus must have experienced on that day. What I do know is that the devil used that extreme hunger as the basis for his attempt at a plausible lie. What Satan was suggesting (that Jesus turn some stones into bread so he could eat) was completely possible. Jesus was indeed hungry. The stones were present, and Jesus had the power to transform those stones into piping hot delicious bread. It would seem perfectly reasonable for him to do just that, perhaps even responsible. After all, the forty days of fasting had ended according to this scripture. Turning the stones to bread so that he could solve the problem of extreme hunger was both plausible and reasonable. It would have also been selfish. How? Look at the challenge posed by Satan. “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” The challenge was Don’t wait for God’s supply, if you are who you say you are, then look out for yourself and get what you need.’  Essentially Satan was saying ‘it would be perfectly reasonable and responsible for you to be selfish in this moment and look out for yourself first, in this situation it’s what anyone would do if they were the Son of God.’ Jesus answer was “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” Jesus response essentially was, ‘My Father knows what I need and He will provide for me, I don’t need to look out for number one because Number One is looking out for me.’

There is another account from the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth where He was again tempted by a reasonable and some might say responsible remedy to an even greater difficulty than forty days without food. This one is recorded in Luke 23:33-39. They say; And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”

Not once, not twice, but three times Jesus was tempted to be selfish and save himself from the agony He was enduring on the cross. First, it was the church leaders of the very religion that was supposed to worship Him who were sneering and making fun of Him as He hung, nailed to the cross through His hands and feet. They did not believe for a moment He could have saved Himself or they would not have been so brazen as to stand in such close proximity while antagonizing him. If they had believed, He was who He said He was, they would have stood in fear and trembling of what He could do to them if He did decide to come down from the cross. No, they were quite certain it was the nails holding Him there and not His incredible love for them.

Next, we read that the soldiers who had nailed him to the cross began to join in with those church leaders making fun of Jesus. We read that they mocked him, essentially by saying that any real king would have had an army at the ready to save Him. Instead, He chose to hang there and die for the actions of the filthy men who had excruciatingly driven spikes through his flesh, and who had earlier that day beaten him and enjoyed the sport of it. Their Creator chose to be murdered by His own creation for the express purpose of ensuring a way to spend eternity loving and blessing those very men.

Finally, even one of the two guilty men being justifiably crucified alongside Jesus began to question His Lordship and say that if He really was the Messiah then He should save not only Himself but them as well. The temptation from all three groups was the same, to be selfish, to think of Himself. After all, it would be responsible to remove Himself from the pain and agony He was enduring. It would be reasonable to show the created just WHO had created them! No one would blame Jesus for proving that all the things He had claimed about Himself were true…especially in light of His circumstances. But instead we go on to read in verse 46 that His response to the temptation for the most reasonable of selfishness was And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father into Your hands I commit my spirit,” Having said this, He breathed His last. Essentially, His answer was once again, ‘My Father knows what I need and He will provide for me, I don’t need to look out for number one because Number One is looking out for me.’

As Christ followers who desire to guide our lives by His example, it is important to have a new definition of Looking out for Number One, because Number One is looking out for us. When we come to understand that God is number One and we look to Him to supply all our needs, no matter how critical they may be, we are empowered to subdue selfishness and embody selflessness in every situation. In those times, we think our selfishness might be reasonable, and perhaps even responsible…Jesus’Pastor Ken Brown Jr example says no.

So now, choosing selflessness in every circumstance, to closer resemble your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…Go Be Awesome!

Hi, this is Pastor Ken thanks for joining me for the Monday Marriage Message. Last week I spoke about marital conflict from an unusual perspective. I wasn’t talking about the conflicts between spouses but rather the conflicting schools of thought about marriage. I spoke to the fact that worldly wisdom or common knowledge on the subject will provide answers, though often leading to greater marital problems, but that God, the initiator of the institution offers flawless information that will guide a couple into an awesome marriage.

God’s word includes many instructions intended to help a man and a woman enjoy the best marriage has to offer. Human beings have a propensity to develop their own answers to marital difficulties, most of which conflict with what the Bible tells us we should do in those very situations. I will spend the next several weeks identifying several marital difficulties, and the human common knowledge intended to “fix” the problem. I will also share with you the biblical concepts and scriptural references to God’s solutions to those same concerns. God is spiritual; therefore, marriage, created by God, endorsed by God, and given to us by God, for us to experience, is a spiritual experience. Spiritual experiences must be guided by spiritual principles. Bearing this foundational truth in mind, we need to know what the spiritual principles that govern marriage are, and how to employ them in our own marriages. Marital statistics abound, and the vast majority of them point out an important corresponding truth…Worldly wisdom, human understanding, common knowledge, whatever title you give it, is not serving us well when it comes to marriage.

As I said a moment ago, I will be highlighting several of these marital conflicts and the opposing disciplines they present when attempting to reconcile our marriages to their proper condition. In order to do that well, I believe we need to begin with the foundational marital conflict that must be corrected if any of the others can be viewed accurately. When a marksman goes to the range, the first task that must be completed is sighting in the scope. If the scope is not properly adjusted every shot fired will miss its intended target. Every other function the sharpshooter employs may be accomplished perfectly, but if the scope is off every attempt to hit the target will be as well. As couples if we do not have the scope of our marriages sighted in correctly, we will fail to attain the intended result. This primary marital conflict is one I have spoken of before, but it is so key to correctly assessing every other marital conflict that I believe it bears repeating.

Each time I attempt to prepare a couple for marriage through pre-marital counseling, I ask the following question within moments of beginning our first meeting. “Why did the two of you decide to get married?” I usually get various answers all of which would make for a wonderful greeting card, romantic novel or love song. I hear things like, “I just feel so loved whenever we are together” or, “He or she completes me”. They may tell me they are marrying to have unending companionship or, that they find happiness with each other. Over the years, I have received many different answers to my question, I even hear sometimes that they feel the Lord has led them together to be joined in marriage. I know that my wife Lynn and I certainly felt, and still feel that way to this day. Almost all of the answers I get to that question are from the school of worldly wisdom. Most of them come from the very sources of influence I named a moment ago. Many of those couples decided marriage was right for them because the way they feel in that moment, reflects their interpretation of what so many songs, books, and movies about love must be describing. Because they are experiencing such a deep “love” for their future spouse, they decide marriage must be intended to be the result of that love, and the target is to maintain that feeling toward that particular person for the rest of their lives.

Gary Thomas wrote an amazing book entitled The Joy of the Sacred Marriage. The entire book is dedicated to answering just one question that embodies this primary marital conflict. The question: Is your marriage intended to make you happy or to make you holy? It is a great question, and I encourage everyone to read his book. Common knowledge certainly makes the case that marriage is intended for our happiness. All one has to do is look at the stated reasons for divorce in our society to recognize that worldly wisdom dictates that when happiness is no longer the result of a marriage, divorce is the answer to that problem freeing the contestants to try again with a new partner. For these, marriage is akin to the lottery, some win, more lose, but if you don’t win this time…no worries, you can always try again tomorrow.

Lynn Anderson made famous a song entitled Rose Garden the song began with these lyrics…I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine, there’s gotta be a little rain sometime. While not a biblical song about marriage, it did come from a time when we exercised a little more patience with the institution than we do today. The fact of the matter is that God never made any ironclad guarantees that marriage would bring us happiness or any of the other outcomes people have in their sights when they marry.  The Bible does make the point that there is a specific outcome God intended, and the natural consequences of achieving that goal in our marriages are likely to be peace, joy and yes, a sense of happiness. It is imperative to recognize however, that those are the results of fulfilling the goal…not the goal itself.

So what is the stated goal of marriage found in God’s word? What is it that the Bible tells us we should be looking for from our marriages? If the answer to the question Gary Thomas poses is holiness, how does marriage do that? Genesis 1:26 & 27 references God’s decision to create human beings. 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. From this scripture we can easily see that when God decided to make mankind, that the intent was that we would be in His image and according to His likeness. Simply stated, the idea was that the creation (mankind) would be reflective of its creator (God). This scripture also points out another important fact. When God created beings that would reflect Him, He created two things that are similar in some ways, and yet completely different in others. He created both a male and a female, two beings to reflect one God. Genesis chapter two gives us further information concerning Adam and Eve’s creation. There we learn that Adam was created first. We also read in Genesis 2:18 that The Lord God said “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him”. What this statement actually means when we look carefully at the original Hebrew is that God was saying Adam was not complete for the purpose for which he had been created. In other words Adam alone was not capable of comprehensively reflecting God, and so God said He would create a female to help the male fulfill their intended purpose and reflect God more completely. Verses 21-23 describe the creation of Eve. 21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. 23 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” These verses are imperative because they reveal a subtle and important truth. When God presented Eve to him, Adam made a critical declaration. Adam noted that Eve was bone from his bones and flesh of his flesh. Essentially Adam said that He and Eve were “One flesh”. In making that statement, Adam acknowledged that he and Eve were married; they were created “One flesh”. In the next verse, God confirmed Adam’s observation. 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. God was pointing out that it was not only this first union of a man and a woman that would be considered “One flesh” but that in fact because of the special ability their union gave them to be reflective of His image and likeness, every marriage between a man and a woman going forward would have the same purpose. In Ephesians chapter five Paul made the point that this miraculous or as he put it mysterious occurrence of recreated “One-fleshness” continues for the very same reason today. The intended purpose of marriage according to the word of God is to create “Oneness” between a man and a woman giving them exponentially greater capacity for reflecting God than they possess alone.

The purpose of your marriage is the same. You and your spouse were joined together by God for the intended purpose of reflecting His nature, His character, and His ways. When we begin to understand that and furthermore, accept that as our purpose, viewing marital difficulties and their corrective measures gains a whole new clarity. The more we operate our marriages with reflecting God being our primary concern, the more peace, joy, and yes…happiness will result. God understands the spiritual principle that glorifying Him fulfills our purpose, and when we accomplish that which we were created to do, contentment and all of the positive emotions it brings are ours.

Now that the scope is correctly sighted in, join me next week as I begin to target other marital conflicts, and the answers God provides.

Questions to Answer:

  • Why did you and your spouse choose to marry?
  • When you look back, do you see God’s hand in bringing you together?
  • Do you now believe that you were created “One flesh” for the purpose of reflecting God better than either of you could alone?
  • What do you think it means for a marriage to reflect God?

Actions to Take:

  • Discuss ways you see your marriage as an entity that can reflect God.
  • Talk about ways the two of you feel you do this well.
  • In a non-judgmental way, talk about ways you feel you could reflect God as a couple, better than you do now.
  • Talk about dreams the two of you have that could be realized that would be great at reflecting God.

So now, recognizing the true intended purpose for your marriage, choose to fulfill that purpose together…and Go Be Awesome

Hi this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…”Walk Like You Have a Purpose”

My maternal grandfather had many sayings, some were repeatable, most are not. No matter which of those two categories they fell into, almost all of them had some truth or consequence he was trying to convey. I shared one of his grandpa-isms in a podcast a year or so ago. In that episode I shared that he taught me, while I was learning to drive to “Watch where I was going or I would end up going where I was watching.” That was one of his better repeatable quotes.  One that I heard more than a few times as a boy, especially when I was doing what he liked to call “Lollygagging” was “Boy, you need to walk like you have a purpose”. I don’t think grandpa considered the biblical truth behind that one when he used it on me, he just wanted me to keep up with him and not “Lollygag” There is however, some real biblical truth in that grandpa-ism.

When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior there is some expectation on God’s part that we will begin to walk like we have a purpose. Prior to coming to an understanding of our need for Him to lead and to guide, each of us made our way through life “Lollygagging”. Believe it or not, the Miriam-Webster dictionary actually offers a definition for the term Lollygagging. It is defined as: Fooling around or wasting time. When we walk through life without a personal relationship with our Creator, we are doing little more than aimlessly and foolishly wandering through, and wasting our lives. However when we begin that relationship in earnest everything changes, and in the words of my grandpa, we have to walk like we have a purpose. So what does that look like? Just how should we walk?

For starters, we need to walk differently than we did before…no more lollygagging. Romans 6:4 says: Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. In a sense when we accept Christ as Lord and Savior we should begin to walk like we have a new lease on life. In reality, our entire creation has become new, and likewise our walk should look new. It should appear to us and others to be different than it did before. But how?

We can now walk in wisdom. As people made one with Christ, we now have access to some things we never did before. The Bible says that now we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) Ephesians 5:15-17 tells us to See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. God gives us the ability to walk not as fools (as before) but as wise. As we walk in that wisdom He promises to redeem the time or help us correct past mistakes and missteps and even sometimes see the results of those past poor decisions reversed and reconciled to our new walk with Him. We can even walk in wisdom when we don’t know the right thing to do. James 1:5 in the New Living Translations says:  If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. So walk like you have a purpose and walk in wisdom.

According to God’s word, we can walk in Love. In Ephesians 5:1-2 Paul exhorts us to walk in love as Christ did. Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. God is love, and when we love others, it is evidence that we know and are connected with God. (1 John 2:10) So walk in love so you can walk like you have a purpose.

The Apostle John goes on to encourage us to walk in truth. In 2 John 1:4 he wrote: I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father. In his third letter to Gaius he wrote: For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. When we have a personal relationship with God, the source of all truth, we have the ability to walk in truth. So walk in THE TRUTH so you can walk like you have a purpose.

When we are connected with God we can also walk in the Spirit. Romans 8:1, 4 says: There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spiritthat the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Paul went on to write to the Galatians, I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh, and If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Galatians (5:16, 25) so walk in the Spirit so you can walk like you have a purpose.

Finally walking as Christ would have us to means that we walk by faith and not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) It means that we will do what God has created us to do. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10) Ephesians 4:1 says that we are to walk in a manner worthy of the calling on our lives in Christ I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. Ephesians 5:8 encourages us that our walk should be completely different than it was before…For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. So why are all these new ways of walking important? In Colossians 1:10 Paul wrote that it was so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Finally, Paul went on to say in Colossians 2:6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.

So now, walking in Christ, walk like you have a purpose…and go be awesome!

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