An Encouraging Word
Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17
The second we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts as our Lord and Savior, we are considered a new creature. The Holy Spirit comes into our spirit along with the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. They are all there inside us but it is up to us to take steps to grow those fruits so they can be evidenced in our lives.
We must change our old ways of thinking by renewing our mind with the Word of God. We must study the scriptures to understand God’s will for our life and who we are as this new creature. The best way to have this new way of thinking to settle into our spirit and for us to believe what the Word says about us is to speak it out loud. In Genesis, it tells us how God formed the worlds and all creation by speaking forth words. Words are powerful. They can either speak life into us or death. Words will build someone up or tear them down. So speaking the Word, which is full of God and life, will change our lives. Speaking God’s Word will transform us and our way of thinking. The more we speak these words of truth, the more we will begin to believe them. We will not only change our way of thinking but we will change our actions. We will begin to see the fruits of the Spirit that have already been planted in us by the Holy Spirit.
Vicky Gentry – Administrative Assistant
How would you describe FOCAS ministries? What comes to your mind? FOCAS is an acronym that stands for The Foundation of Compassionate American Samaritans. In July it will officially turn 30 years old. Amazingly, Bob Clarke, our Director of Ministry Operations has been involved with FOCAS since the early 90’s, and I have been here since the week before the riots broke out in April of 2001. However, my first encounter with FOCAS and Dick Taylor came in the summer of 1999 when my family joined FOCAS on a two week mission trip to Haiti. That’s where I like to remind myself when God recalibrated my heart as to what is important – people.
The word that strikes me in our acronym is the word Samaritans. The term challenged me to better understand the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible. Briefly, Samaritans were not well thought of at the time, yet it was a Samaritan who helped the poor Jewish man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Earlier, a priest and Levite had a chance to get involved but they walked past the helpless man. Simply put, Jesus was describing the definition of who our neighbors are. He used this parable when explaining the definition to a lawyer who asked him who his neighbor is. (Luke 10: 25-37) In the end, Jesus says to the lawyer – “Go and do likewise” vs 37.
Fortunately, a person does not have to go to Haiti to learn this. We, as the body of Christ, can cross cultures into our own backyard and inner-city to meet and serve neighbors – neighbors who have been robbed, beaten, and left for dead. To learn more go to www.focas-us.org and click on the video tab to meet some new neighbors.
Scott Bowers - Executive Director
Whenever an evil is done specifically betrayal of a relationship, it can be easy for the one betrayed to justify their pain through the soul tie of emotions. If this goes without remedy bitterness becomes a root that sprouts resentment, disgust, sorrow and the list goes on and on until the one hurt seeks judgment on the person that broke the trust in the relationship.
When this occurs personal justification is as wormwood in the soul and the one seeking justification has traded restoration for revenge. This condition of the heart gives birth to characteristics not of God but of Satan because he is also the accuser of the brotherhood in Christ. Justification is so appealing because it keeps the focus off of having to consider personal flaws of character that need to be changed. Justification is much deeper than passing judgment on a wrong committed, it must become a form of vindication from the clutches of self-righteousness and become interdependent on a vital thriving relationship with God and man. When the motive of the heart seeks justification through restoration and not condemnation, unity is born.
The heart is full of deceit and only God can know it. The fruit of bitterness always produces division. If it is ignored, its power to create false perception and perspective about vital relationships and can sprout anger, resentment, and doubt. Accusation coupled with pride is the final fruit from the heart that will convert a good person or even a born again believer to the subtle nature of the devil. This is why Christ commands us to turn the other cheek and to be quick to forgive or apologize for a wrong done. When this happens humility crushes pride and gives way to redemption and a return of the heart to God.
Kevin Johnson – Chaplain Covington Lord’s Gym
Life is unstable, with situations and circumstances that will arise in our lives. How do we deal with them? Will we allow what we are going through mess with our emotions until the point we are overwhelmed? We as believers have a remedy and that is praying.
We are going to look at Luke 18:1-8, where Jesus speaks a parable (earthly story with a spiritual meaning) about how men should always pray and not give up. He speaks about an unjust judge that did not honor God or respect man. Also there was a widow, who would come to this unjust judge for him to avenge her from her enemies. Three things I believe this widow did that finally got this unjust judge to grant her request:
1. She was walking by faith: in this unstable life, we have to walk by faith. When things get rough, by faith, we pray to the One that is able to see us through.
2. She was committed: we have to stay committed to our prayer life, for that is how we communicate to our Heavenly Father (Phil 4:6-7). We must always be ready to pray about every situation, for the Heavenly Father will direct us in all things.
3. She was persistent: Jesus always expressed to the disciples, in so many words, "don't give up". In our faith journey, we need to focus on the purpose. That purpose is that our prayers are effective, because they are affecting people and things.
Prayer is important in a believer’s life. It should be continual. It is a two way communication line. Don't do all the talking, but allow the Heavenly Father to speak into your life, for you will see results!
Rob Dothard – Chaplain Lord’s Gym Queensgate
I don't like to suffer. I am not a glutton for punishment. But like us all I get my share. I have wondered why this might be.
In my wondering....it occurred to me that without an up...there is no down. Without an east....there is no west. Likewise it makes sense to me that without suffering ...there can be no pleasure. It would be unnoticed and unappreciated without a comparison.
I have learned that in the Gym when we work out with weights we damage our muscles to some extent. Those biceps suffer. But as the body repairs the muscles they get stronger. This is a solid example of suffering creating strength.
Maybe in your younger days, you, like me, used a rubber band to propel an object far into the distance. That object would go nowhere had you not pulled and stretched the rubber band backwards in the opposite direction before letting go. Perhaps suffering is the necessary pull back in the journey of life...shooting us forward into joy of eternal life.
However one may look at it, there are at least three things that are absolutely certain for Christ followers:
1. We will experience suffering.
2. Our troubles and suffering won't last forever.
The season of suffering will pass. There will be times of refreshment.
3. God will use suffering for good...it's a promise.
Bob Clarke - Director of Ministry Operations
A few weeks ago the STORM Outreach Team met a young, pretty college woman, as we were out on the streets ministering to the women that are trapped into the life of drugs and prostitution. We had never seen her before and may never see her again. She was in college but found herself relapsing, after being clean for 6 years. She was down on the streets, getting high on heroin, for 4 days straight. The moment she stepped onto our STORM bus, she encountered a loving and forgiving God, and a team that would embrace her and lead her back to our Heavenly Father. She wept with us in prayer and worship for almost an hour, as we were playing the song, “Good Good Father", in the background.
After she got off the bus we called her mother, to which she gave us permission. Immediately, her mother began to cry and praise God. They literally thought that she may be dead or abducted. They had hundreds of flyers made and ready to pass out on the streets the next day. We assured this mother that her daughter was alright, and that God was moving in her life and that she was on her way back home.
A week later, we decided to do a follow up call with her and her family. We found out that right after she got off our bus, she checked herself into a hospital to detox for a whole week. After detox, she went back home to her mother's house and the next day was on her way to a rehab center to get her life back. Wow, you want to talk about being in the right place and at the right time, here it is!
Jim Turner – STORM Chaplain
We just did our second week of Harvest Hill food outreach and we can chalk it up to the Lord! Harvest Hill, also known as Price Hill, is ripe for harvest. Our Executive Director Scott Bowers has said, “We have found the best way out of poverty is for the body of Christ to work together crossing denominational, financial, racial and class lines serving and working together.” We find in John 4:35 “…Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”
It was a warm evening and the streets were teaming with life. People were ready for something. They just had no concept of what they needed and who they needed. The Lord’s Gym Family Activity Center had a plan and a purpose. We extend the Love of God to the poverty-stricken, hopeless, desperate people of Harvest Hill serving and working for this community in practical and spiritual ways. This day was a normal chaotic day in the community. There was a shootout at 3:30 pm two blocks from the gym. Our Joshua Training kids made their way to the gym in spite of the surrounding chaos, while we were on a lockdown. By 4:00 pm the gym reopened the doors for our kids in Joshua Training. We had twenty kids in attendance. They were obviously affected by the shootings so, we pressed forward to train, to spiritually pour into these young men. We fed them to address that physical need that continues to be neglected, and then we spiritually fed them. The circumstances opened a door to radically address goals and to life coach. We had three of our young men set goals and two others were able to be coached on life skills in order to set up positive life choices. The thought of continuing in our day when all around you is chaos seems incomprehensive but, for those here on Harvest Hill, it’s a part of life. Guns, violence, chaos, confusion and lack are part of their life. This looks like: “…white for harvest!”
The food outreach was a success that evening as well. Over 125 people were fed; the community responded and came out. There were children jumping rope, playing games, Christian music across the atmosphere, prayer, the Gospel message was shared, resources extended, life coaching and the presence of God. One of our families that came shared how they love that the Lord’s Gym came back for another year of service to this community, “You didn’t give up, and you stayed committed to us!” said a grandmother of five. Until the last hamburger bun was handed out and the last plate thrown away, we shared the love of Jesus to this community.
I conclude by encouraging you to read Galatians 6:9.
Larry Spellman – Chaplain PH Family Activity Center/Lord’s Gym
So many of us have grown up and been around people that have said and done bad things towards us. They may have told you that you will never amount to anything, you are a failure or you ruin everything you touch. They may have never commended you for the good things you did but pointed out everything you did wrong. We have been programmed and taught to think the wrong things about ourselves.
Once we come to Christ we must reprogram our way of thinking. Romans 12: 2 says, "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." We have to read the Word of God to know what God says about us. He loves us and wants the best for us. In His eyes, when He looks at us He sees Jesus, He sees His righteousness. We are His children. We are new creatures in Christ. The old man is dead. We are Holy and without blame before Him in love. (1Peter 1:16, Ephesians 1:4). We are the elect of God. (Colossians 3:12, Romans 8:33). He chose us before the foundations of the earth. He knew us while we were still in our mother's womb.
I challenge you to make it a daily habit to spend time with the Lord in the Word of God. See how many scriptures you can find that affirms you and shows you who you are in Christ.
Vicky Gentry - Administrative Assistant
The more I read about Peter in the new testament and study his life journey with Christ, I continue to be amazed. My last blog was about selecting people to imitate. Paul challenged us to imitate him in Phil 3:17. In addition to Paul I suggest we look at Peter’s spiritual journey too.
Peter had the opportunity to hear about Jesus as the word and works about him spread. Maybe he heard John the Baptist’s comments or heard Jesus a few times while he was walking around the Sea of Galilee. It becomes personal to Peter when Jesus healed Peter’s mother in law in Luke 4.
Throughout Peter’s 3-year relationship with Jesus he’s being challenged, multiple times, by Jesus to follow him. At various times he is getting out of the boat to obey Jesus. Conversely Jesus does not give up on Peter even after a few abrupt misfires of not wanting Jesus to go to the cross and denying Christ at his trial.
That is what encourages me the most – Jesus did NOT give up on Peter. Peter recognized and accepted Jesus’ forgiveness and encouragement to take care of his sheep. As a result, Peter grew in courage and boldness as he received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and was used by God to establish his church among Jews and Gentiles.
Peter was not an overnight success. It took years of trials and growth. As such, it gives me encouragement too, that God is still at work in me.
Scott Bowers – Executive Director
Faith without works is dead. James 2:14-26 speaks of this, as it addresses the notion that people attempting to get Yahweh to do something for themselves, express faith as if no work of their own is required. When seemingly helpless or hopeless circumstances arrive in one’s life, desperation consumes the soul and distorts the proper perspective of faith the believer should have. The absence of work with the expression of faith results in a delayed or often hopeless outcome. You may ask why or how is this true???
There were two very significant moments and statements in history that solidified everything regarding the believers’ faith and actions. Genesis 2:2 and on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
When Yahweh finished His work, Adam’s began. There's no record of Adam having to ask his Father to do anything for him. Yahweh had already provided everything Adam needed in advance. Adam’s responsibility was to access what Yahweh had pre-established for him on earth. Notice, it is through work Adam has the ability to manifest what was provided because his faith was already functioning as a result of his relationship with the Father. Adam’s faith working was a result of his citizenship in heaven influencing earth not a religion.
The second significant event was Yeshua hanging on the cross and he said these words, "it is finished". His finished work on the cross re-established our access to the pre-established work of Yahweh on earth. A good question to ask is how does this change my faith life through prayer requests to Yahweh? Don't approach Him to persuade Him to do something for you that was already pre-established, approach Him to access what’s already at your disposal. Remember the just will live by faith.
Kevin Johnson - Chaplain Covington Lord's Gym
Faith is an essential part of a believer's life. We should be walking in unlimited faith, for we serve an unlimited God. We are going to look at the story of the fig tree, which is in Mark 11:12-14; 20-26.
In Mark 11:12-14, we see Jesus, in front of HIs disciples, operating in this unlimited faith, by cursing the fig tree.
In Mark 11:20-24, Peter actually sees that the fig tree has withered from the roots. Expressing this to Jesus, He not being surprised by this, simply says, "Have faith in God ".
To really operate in unlimited faith, we cannot doubt, for doubt will hinder our faith. I want to throw something out there for you to think about. Where Jesus said, "......whosoever shall say to this mountain..... " Was He really talking about a physical mountain? or was He talking about life issues, being a mountain? - just food for thought. We have the capabilities, in Jesus Christ, to work this unlimited faith that is in us.
In Mark 11:25-26, Jesus doesn't want any ones faith to be hindered, so He expresses that we need to learn how to forgive, for if we don't, the Heavenly Father will not forgive us. Plus our faith will be hindered. So let us forgive, so our faith will continue to grow.
Rob Dothard – Chaplain Queensgate Lord’s Gym
For the first time in my life I realize that there is a big difference between faith and trust.We can have strong faith that God is able to perform a miracle. The three Hebrews had faith that God was able to deliver them from the fiery furnace, but they weren't sure whether God would deliver them from that furnace.
When my grandson suffered from SIDS and was rushed to the hospital, they were able to revive him. He had been on life support since that day. We prayed and believed God for a divine miracle from that day on. Until the end of his life, we had strong faith that God was able to heal him and raise him up.
When they took little Ronnie off life support, we had faith that God was able. We also had to exercise our trust in God and that God would do as He pleased. Trust is where you may not understand your situation. It may be painful. It may be contrary to the outcome you desire, but you must trust that He is God and that He works all things together for good and according to His purpose.
We prayed and believed God for a miracle until the very end. We also trusted in the sovereign God, who created the heavens and the earth and everything in it, to perform His perfect will. I believe that trust is the strongest form of faith. That trust is a level of maturity of walking with God that goes even beyond faith.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5‐6 KJV
James Turner – STORM Chaplain
Take a couple minutes and listen to the Lauren Daigle song "I Will Trust in You" on this YouTube video:
There are thousands of different Christian denominations with various views concerning theology. Libraries are filled with books written by people convinced of their theological perspectives. Some of these theologians, I believe, are too willing to charge others who have alternative views on non-essential issues with heresy.
It seems to me the emphasis on sound doctrine found in Scripture is not so much concerned with "theology" but is more focused on right living.
Paul, the apostle, wrote to Titus:
"But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed."
People often argue theology...accusing one another of all kinds of things...when in the end...how we love God and others makes all the difference.
I suspect people from all kinds of theological perspectives will be proven to be His most cherished examples because of their faith, hope and love...not because of their view on the end times or their view on eternal security etc.
Bob Clarke – Director of Ministry Operations
There is global inequality among the human race. From my perspective, as a black American, I cannot say if it is more or less dominant globally in one particular continent however, it is dominant within our country in very subtle ways. It is propagated through social media’s misuse and abuse for promoting racism. People are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge. The cause of racial inequality is layered with the appearance of good intention based on a biased established system for any given people group. Therefore this question is not easily answered. To give an adequate answer, for a beginning dialog, understanding must be established.
Racism is a myth as an ideology. Simply put until the perspective of the human race changes, the perception will become the subconscious idea of division that justifies the perceived reality of racial inequality through social and economic status that ultimately reigns supreme in the hearts of people everywhere. The fullness of the heart produces the reality of men, notice I did not say the truth. There is a difference between reality and truth. The reality is, we are diverse in color but the truth is we all need air to breath, food to eat, and relationships to understand our worth as human beings, all which are independent of color.
The human race is a species not a host of races. We are defined by our ability to reproduce according to our kind (species) not color. You’ve never heard of a goat and sheep mating and producing a human baby. Just as goats and sheep are diverse, they are still the same species. Diversity of color, religion, political status, social class or economic standing, does not constitute a different race. A white man and an Asian woman will still produce a human baby. In short, a lack of knowledge and a willingness to consider the ideals mentioned keep the notion of racism alive. To associate color with race as an ideology of multiple races is a misconception.
I don’t believe focusing on who is against or for racial inequality is significant. It is more important to focus on what people define racial inequality as because people die for what they believe in. Ideas are the most powerful thing known to humanity. Humanity has a critical dilemma to deal with. Will one consider his or her ideas to be right or wrong and be willing to let go of bad ideals when necessary? Humility is the opportunity for change because the act of humbling oneself, is to hear and listen to opposing views with unity in mind. When these things happen, the influence over caste systems can be addressed without fear spawning hate. Racial inequality has its web of segregation on several monumental institutions; education, religion, government, entertainment, the arts, media, business, and family life. When each of these reflects a new perspective on race as being one, peace and equality will win the day.
Kevin Johnson – Chaplain Covington Lord’s Gym
1 John 4:19 says, "We love Him because He first loved us." (NKJV)
John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son...
Romans 5:5 tells us how the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
When we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts as Lord and Savior the Holy Spirit comes into our spirit. With that all the attributes of Jesus Christ are in us. His love is in us. It is there. We just need to believe, receive and step out in faith displaying and using that love towards others.
I believe one of the biggest hindrances to receiving the love of the Father is that many of us have never received love from the humans we have in our life. Maybe you grew up in a family that never displayed love towards you. Maybe you grew up without one of your parents or both parents and all you feel is rejection from them not being there for you. You may have grown up in an angry environment and you always felt they were angry at you.
As a result of the environments we grew up in, that often becomes how we view our Heavenly Father. Our earthly father is supposed to be the spiritual example that leads us to the Heavenly Father. If our earthly father is angry and unloving we may think our Heavenly Father is angry and unloving. The relationships we have on earth often affect the kind of relationship we have with God.
We must study the Word of God to see the true character of God and come to know that He is LOVE. His love is unconditional. Jesus died when we were in the midst of sin. He doesn't expect perfection, but He does want us to accept and receive Him and His LOVE and be obedient to His will.
Vicky Gentry - Administrative Assistant
Brothers and sisters are we Relevant, Real and Raw specifically are we being mindful that we have turned the corner towards a downward slope to major developments in our city, state and our country? We as the Body of Christ are about to feel the labor pains of Matthew 24 in our city, from my perspective, up here on Harvest Hill. There are unsettling racial tensions, irrational understanding about how to get ahead in their social lifestyles and economical situations. Brothers and sisters there are many people living in Price Hill feeling very discouraged, hopeless frustrated, depressed and suicidal. Believing that their situation will be forever this way and what's the point of trying to press forward?
My response to their reasoning is not to down play their issues but with the help of the Spirit assist them with tearing down some of the strongholds spoken of in 2 Corinthians 10:4. It speaks of pulling down "strongholds" which Paul defined as reasonings, arguments, philosophies, theories, and constructs that exalt themselves against what the Lord says is the Real Truth! In these times we need to give them the Relevant, Real and Raw Wisdom of the Lord. People all over this city regardless of economic or social status are searching for some way to obtain peace because of the anxieties and worries in their lives. We must intercede on their behalf before God via The Holy Spirit following the passage found in James 1:5, “Let’s access heaven for Divine answers for the natural problems that are developing into nightmares.”
I leave you with this encouraging passage, Galatians 6:9!!
Your fellow brother in the fight for souls,
Larry Spellman – Chaplain, Family Activity Center Price Hill
What did you learn from people growing up by observing their behaviors and habits? Chances are likely that you still observe people today. Who over the last decade have you observed who has made a difference in your life just by being around them? Maybe your parent was a stickler for being organized, well-groomed, articulate, kind, or other _______ you fill in the blank. As you look at your own life you see that you have picked up some of the same good (and bad) behaviors.
Philippians 3:17 says, “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” (NIV)
Simply put here, Paul was an example to the early church leaders and converts. Here he is being so bold as to say follow my example, imitate me, mirror the behavior of other believers.
Ask yourself if you are you comfortable with saying the same thing? Should people be imitating you? It’s a great question. Hopefully the answer is yes and that we are growing in our witness before the Lord on a daily basis.
Don’t stop here. God gave us an Old Testament full of great examples to observe – complete with the lessons to be learned from. In some cases it is not doing some of the things they did. Also, pick up some autobiographies to read and reflect on them for further spiritual growth. May God grant us a witness that glorifies Him.
Scott Bowers – Executive Director
We know, as children of God, we have a Heavenly Father that loves us and will make sure that our needs are met every single time. So we shouldn't be a worry wart about things. We are going to look at Matthew 6:25-34 and see what Jesus says about worrying.
Jesus focused on three needs not to worry about:
Jesus expressed how the Heavenly Father feeds the birds and dresses the fields. He expressed that we are more important than they are (Matthew 6:26-30).
Jesus is reassuring His listeners not to worry about these things and have faith in our Heavenly Father (Matthew 6:31).
Jesus wants His followers to put things in prospective by seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness while putting Him at the center of our lives. With that everything else will fall in line (Matthew 6:33).
We don't need to worry for our Heavenly Father will always take care of us!!!!!
Rob Dothard – Chaplain Lord’s Gym Queensgate
Have you ever wondered why Noah built the Ark? For years, I believed that Noah built an ark to save the world. In fact, for the past 20 years, I thought my number one mission was to save the world. It wasn't until the past few years that I had insight on the importance of family, even above the ministry.
We are told in Hebrews 11:7 why Noah built the ark. “It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood”. Noah got up every day, for 120 years, to build an Ark to save not the world, but to save his family. He received a game plan directly from God to save his family. He knew that the days were evil and that judgment was coming and that it was up to him to save his family.
We also are living in times just like the days of Noah. We are living in an age where the earth is full of violence and the thoughts of man are evil continually. In fact, I believe we are living in the last days and judgment is imminent.
So knowing that we are living in parallel times as the days of Noah, and knowing that judgment is imminent, what are you doing to get your family into the Ark (Jesus Christ). It's going to take hard work and a daily commitment from you, but your family is worth it. Just as God gave clear direction to save Noah’s family, if you pray, I believe that God will give you a game plan to save your family.
Jim Turner – STORM Chaplain
The scriptures tell us..."...our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."
As we look around today so many things are wrong and not pleasing to us. The danger is that we get angry and attempt to correct things carnally.
But we who have been given life anew and are living spiritually must fight...not as the world...but as is pleasing to the Father
His ways of fighting the good fight include:
- Speaking truth in love...
- Intentionally involved in the world as ministers of reconciliation.
As I listen to the news and watch the craziness...I get so frustrated. I'm almost tempted to yell and throw things...but ah...I know better.
So...I stop and realize to fight the good fight...I must do it from a spiritual perspective using spiritual weapons.
Bob Clarke - Director of Ministry Operations