"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .

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Tuesday, January 4, 2022

WHY DOES SHINE BRIGHT CHURCH EXIST? A NEW YEARS MESSAGE - 2022

Note from James
: We had an awesome and entirely appropriate message this last Sunday (01/02) that dealt with why we exist as a church. What is the purpose, what is the mission, what is the declaration of the church of Jesus Christ in today’s growing iniquity?
Where are we going, and do we need to retrace our steps and get on the path of righteousness once again?

As I heard this sermon, I was making mental notes on various TTUF articles that would be suitable accompaniments to it, and so I asked pastor Sonny if I could publish this teaching and insert links to my articles and he was all for it! You’ll see certain words and phrases hyper-linked throughout this article which will lead you to those articles.

I pray that this teaching is as much a blessing to you as it was to all of us at SHINE BRIGHT church, here in Tucson, AZ.
So, without further ado, on to the message!

By Sonny Islas, watch the video on FB here!

I’m reading a book titled Rediscover Church and it began with stating that due to the pandemic, 1 out every 3 church goers have stopped going to church (info gathered from Barna Research). Many now supposedly “connect online” every Sunday which is pure nonsense in my estimation (now I understand that some can’t help it; shut-ins, terminally ill, disabled). Where they now watch live streamed church on their smartphones, laptops, and TV screens. 
Even Facebook wants to monopolize on the Church’s fears and fleshly ways by encouraging the Church to go virtual with the Metaversevirtual church. I don’t know how far this will go but it’s a ridiculous idea.

Listen, this huge decline in church attendance is tragic for many reasons, but for one, it’s a picture of the possible death or serious decline of The Church and its influence in the U.S.A. – and two, it’s a blatant disobedience to Christ the Head of the Church, because it’s a clear violation of holy scripture, namely,

HEBREWS 10:25
not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching
.

And in the Book of Acts we find the Church meeting in person many times – it was a way of life – even during times of serious persecution and serious threats (ACTS 4).
Note from James: we are in alliance with a church overseas, aiding them with prayer, teaching and even some financial help (though we are a small church ourselves), and the pastor there has received death threats, physical abuse, destruction of property, and yet he and the church leadership are still going strong, seeing many conversions to Christ, to the glory of GOD!
The first time Jesus mentions His Church is in MATTHEW 16, He declares,
I will build My Church and the gates [forces, power, authority] of hell will not prevail against it.

And the second time Jesus mentions His Church is in MATTHEW 18 where it says that ...wherever two or more gather in His Name...

The church is called to gather in person to learn from Jesus through His Word, to worship Jesus through His Spirit, to serve one another through His love, and to shine forth the light and love of God to a lost and spiritually dead world.

This pandemic, with it’s very high survival rate, should have never caused us to run out of the local church but to run into the local church.

Some have “forsaken the assembling of themselves” out of genuine fear and health concerns (which is understandable to some degree) – but the LORD didn’t give us “...a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind” (2 TIM 1:7) and, after all “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (PHIL 1:21).

Many have just become spiritually lazy and indifferent. For some, this pandemic has become a perfect cover-up and excuse on why not to come to church – exposing their non-saved, degenerate state.
Let it be known now and forever that – The Church is essential because the Church is the Bride, the Body, the family and the flock of Christ!

Again, HEBREWS 10:25 says,
not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as in the manner of some, BUT EXHORTING ONE ANOTHER [encouraging one another, to lovingly, yet urgently poking one another to press on] AND SO MUCH MORE AS YOU SEE THE DAY APPROACHING [this refers to the end of the end times and second coming of Christ].

The times we’re living in ought to draw us closer together not further apart.

Listen, The Day of the LORD is approaching. When, in all of human history has there been a just about worldwide vaccination mandate with forcefulness and serious threats? Whether people get the vaccine or not is really none of my business BUT, in some countries such as Australia, Italy, Germany and Israel and states such as New York and California, the vaccine card is being treated in a similar way that the Mark of the Beast is going to be treated, where people are restricted from common privileges if they refuse the vaccines (now I’m NOT saying that the vaccine is the Mark of the Beast – because it’s clearly not) but I am saying that all this seems to be a precursor or a conditioning of some sort for the Mark of the Beast (where “no one can buy or sell without it” – REV 13:17).

I say all that to say this, again, the times we’re living in ought to draw us closer together, not further apart.

And nothing should separate the Body of Christ, not masks, not mandates, not vaccines and not politics. What should separate is the sword of God – the truth. The truth alone should be the only thing that unites and divides.
* See TTUF article GOT TRUTH? A book review of John MacArthur's excellent work The TRUTH War.

And not only have thousands stopped going to church due to the pandemic but listen to this quote/prediction by Barna Research which was made at the beginning of 2020:
There are more than 300,000 Protestant congregations in the United States. If David Kinnaman’s (president of Barna Research) prediction is applied to Protestant churches only, approximately 60,000 would close in the next 18 months.”
Referring to the year 2021 and early 2022. They haven’t released the actual numbers, but Barna Research is always either spot on or very close. Normally it’s anywhere from 5k to 10k churches that close every year but due to the pandemic they predict that way more churches than usual will shut down.

By the way, I would have you know that at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the first thing that came to mind was, “The LORD is going to clean house. He’s going to turn the tables and drive out the money changers. He’s going to shake the Church and refine it. He’s going to hush much of what is clearly false worship.”

And this is exactly what took place. I believe that God silenced the Church for a time in order for her to reflect and be refined and for many churches to repent.

From the enemies side, the pandemic was a clear attack on the Church of Jesus, from God’s side the pandemic was used to test, awaken, and even discipline the Church. Because “judgment does start at the house of God” (1 PET 4:17).

In all reality, it’s the LORD who has the last say on what local church shuts down or stays open. Regarding the church in Ephesus Jesus threatens to shut it down in: 
REVELATION 2:5
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent
.

One thing we must understand is that the LORD sees the condition of the entire Body of Christ - made up of millions of true believers worldwide. BUT the LORD feels a certain way [and has a specific perspective] about every individual local church fellowship.

And my desire and goal for SHINE BRIGHT Church is that the LORD would look down upon us and be well pleased. Regarding the 7 Churches in Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus has something positive and something negative to say about every church except for two of them – Smyrna and Philadelphia (all positive). 
Note from James: for a comprehensive study on the Seven Churches of Revelation, check out the following TTUF links that will provide a study for all these churches that the LORD Jesus wrote these Divinely penned Love Letters to!
REVELATION Chapter Two - Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira
REVELATION Chapter Three - Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea
I don’t know exactly what the LORD thinks about SHINE BRIGHT Church BUT I do know what He wants from us and we can do our best to honor Him through His Word.
So why does SHINE BRIGHT Church [S.B.C] exist? In a nutshell, here’s our MISSION STATEMENT:
“Shine Bright Church exists to glorify GOD, worship JESUS, preach the Word, love one another, and reach the lost, by the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit.”
Brother Eddie asked me the other day how it is that we came up with the name of our church and I told him that when I drop off my sons at school I tell them to “shine bright!” And the verse in my mind when I say this is of course MATT 5:16 where Jesus says, “Let your light so shine [bright] before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” SO when it came time to choose a name, my son Blue said why not call it Shine Bright Church because of what I tell them every morning.

So as you can see, our church name is more than a name, it’s MATTHEW 5:16, it’s a command from Jesus and it’s a way of life. This shining is connected to The Beatitudes; so to Shine Bright, or to be salt and light is to live out the Beatitudes.
Note from James: And here is yet another TTUF series on the Beattitudes: Included in these articles are video teachings from SBC with pastor Sonny,
Part ONE, Part TWO, Part THREE.
MATTHEW 5:1-10 “To be poor in spirit” (see your need for Jesus’s righteousness), “to repent of and mourn over sin...to be meek or humble...to hunger and thirst for righteousness...to be merciful...to be pure in heart...to be peacemakers,” and “to be willing to suffer for Christ’s sake and to love our enemies” in the process.

If this characterizes S.B.C. or any other local church – we are blessed! And if it doesn’t then this is the goal and aim of S.B.C.
Ever since the LORD called me to plant S.B.C. ACTS 2:42 has always been at the heart of what I wanted for this fellowship to reflect. And just so no one forgets, I hung up four posters in the back near the entrance to remind us of ACTS 2:42 and what a good and healthy church looks like (here is a four part study on this extremely important verse!).

ACTS 2:4 says of the vibrant early church:
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” This is a clear picture of true discipleship.

S.B.C. exist to – “continue in the Apostles’ doctrine” (teaching). All their teaching is recorded for us in the New Testament. So we stick to the Word of God. It’s our life source, it’s our compass, it’s our everything. In what is known as the Great Commission in MATTHEW 18:20a Jesus says, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…”
The Word cleanses our heart and rejuvenates our minds with absolute truth. By the public reading and preaching of God’s Word, we all grow in oneness – one mind, one heart, one faith, one speech etc.

S.B.C. exist to – “fellowship” - The Greek word for fellowship here is koinonia which points to rich community, closeness, bonding, and friendships. To truly care for one another as Christ does. And this is the way in which the world will know that we are the disciples of Jesus (JOHN 13:35).
Our love for one another is the greatest evangelistic tool we have. It’s great to pass out tracts and preach open air but if we just loved each other more, the LORD would add to the fellowship!

S.B.C. exist to - “Break bread” – To take part in the LORD’s Supper together in person always – as a way to remember what the LORD has done for us on the cross (LUKE 22:19). To “break bread” also points to hanging out and just doing life together as the LORD leads. Eating together is one of the most intimate things we can do together – hence potlucks every last Wednesday of each month!

S.B.C. exists to – “Pray”
1 TIMOTHY 2:8a shows us that the men in the local church are to lead by example in regard to prayer
I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands,”

Listen, all the godly men of old are characterized by those who “called upon the name of the LORD” (PSALM 116:17). 
We are to be a church that talks to God and looks to God always! Every single one of us; starting with the men.

I have so much to say but in closing:

Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church. Wives respect and submit to your husbands as unto the LORD.

Parents and guardians instruct your children in the ways of the LORD.

Children, respect and obey your parents as unto the LORD.

Men, lift up holy hands in all places.

Older women, focus on pouring into the younger women.

Everyone, honor the LORD in everything you do. Obey Him from the heart in every area of your life. Leave no leaf unturned. For we will all stand before the judgment Seat of Christ and give an account for our lives and ministries. To be assessed and rewarded.

Please be faithful in praying for me as your pastor. It’s been said that “No congregation rises above their pastor.” There’s a lot of truth in that. Keep James and Albert in your prayers as well as they are elders in this fellowship. They’ve been called by God to assist me in loving and leading you.

Pay for all who serve in leadership. Pray for each other. Pray for the unsaved. Pray for S.B.C. India. Be faithful in seeking God always. Be faithful in Bible reading. Be faithful in church attendance and the extras (Men’s, women’s and youth Bible studies, prayer meetings, discipleship classes of all kinds, MORE GOD. LESS ME. conferences etc.) Be faithful in your giving of tithes and offerings. Be faithful in all that the LORD has commanded and has empowered you to do and be.

Listen, S.B.C. is going as far and as high as the LORD will take her, but it will be connected to our faithfulness and efforts.
I love and appreciate every one of you. With that said, let’s keep our eyes on Jesus in 2022 and beyond! Amen.

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