Resurrection Sunday

Today marks the greatest celebration in the life of the Christian Church… the Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. And yet, over 2000 years later, some people still don’t grasp the reality of the resurrection.

The Apostle, Paul, aware of unbelief and even cynicism, addresses some of the questions hypothetically in 1 Corinthians 15: 12-20. “But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died”.

The reality is…He rose!

Jesus died so that we might have forgiveness of sin and a restored relationship with God. He rose so we might have fulness of life.

Do you believe it? If so, be a bold witness!

Pastor R. Mario Howell

Carrying On

My Brothers and Sisters,

As I pen this message with you on my heart, and with Paul’s letter to the Philippian Church on my mind, I do not consider it plagiarism to use his words of encouragement as my greeting to you. Philippians 1: 3-6 “I am so thankful every time I think of you. I pray that our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ will give each of you His fullest blessings and His peace in your hearts and your lives. All my prayers for you are full of praise to God! When I pray for you, my heart is full of joy because of all your wonderful help in making known the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in His grace until His task within you is finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns”.

So, my church family, carry on faithfully and joyfully the mission that God has assigned to you, and continue to pray for my strength as I pray for you.

Pastor R. Mario Howell

Marks of Spiritual Maturity – Part 1

My Brothers and Sisters, as I go through a period of rest, rejuvenation, and intimate time with God, my heart is still ministering to you, the household of faith. I’m praying for your spiritual maturity because it is God’s will that we all come to full maturity in Christ, and “Be conformed (grow) into the image of Christ”. Romans 8:29. The book of James gives us five marks of spiritual maturity. Today, and in the coming weeks, I will share some of those marks of Spiritual maturity.

Mark of Spiritual Maturity #1: Master your Mouth.

A mature Christian has mastered his or her mouth. “All of us make mistakes with our tongues. If someone doesn’t make any mistakes when he speaks, he would be perfect. He would be able to control everything he does” James 3: 2.

When you go for a checkup, your doctor says: “Stick out your tongue.” He uses your tongue to check your health. God checks your tongue to determine your spiritual health also. James gives us several characteristics of the tongue: “It’s like a bridle to a horse, a rudder to a ship, and a spark to a fire, …It is an uncontrollable evil filled with deadly poison” James 3:8. “If a person thinks that he is religious but can’t control his tongue, he is fooling himself. That person’s religion is worthless” James 1:26. Gossip, spreading rumors, and constant negative talk is a sign you’re immature in the faith.

Dear Saints, please continue to pray for my strength as I honor the Lord by caring for my personal temple. I pray that you continue to honor the Lord with the fruit of your lips and “Let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to respond to everyone”. Colossians 4: 6

Pastor R. Mario Howell

Prayer Focus for March 2024

This month we commemorate the most sacred, holy events in Christian history…the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord. In the midst of our busy lives and familiarity of the Gospel story, we can find ourselves losing the reverence and sense of gratitude that these two foundational truths hold.

Jesus aligned His heart and will to His Father’s will through prayer. He is an excellent example for us to follow. Over the coming weeks, let’s follow Christ’s lead and spend special time devoted to prayer, preparing our hearts for what God wants to teach us regarding surrender and obedience. The Bible gives us scriptures to pray to help prepare our hearts for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

Philippians 2: 8-10 tells us that Christ was obedient even until death. “And when he was living as a man, he humbled himself and was fully obedient to God, even when that caused his death—death on a cross. So God raised him to the highest place”. This week, I encourage you to pray that you will be determined to obediently submit to God’s will as Jesus did.

Pray: Thank you, Father, for a desire to obey you willingly. Father, I want to have the spirit of obedience in my life, not rebellion or pride, not resistance or hard-heartedness, but a sensitive heart that is willing to do anything You command or require of me. I rebuke rebellion and stubbornness in Jesus’ Name. Amen

Pastor R. Mario Howell

A Glimpse at the Emergence of Black Church Music

Black gospel music, as we know it today, evolved from songs, chants, poems and prayers of enslaved black people who communicated their dreams and hopes for freedom someday. Many of the songs were secret codes and road maps to freedom. Music was a way for slaves to express their feelings whether it was sorrow, joy, inspiration or hope. Songs were passed down from generation to generation throughout slavery. These songs were influenced by African and religious traditions and would later form the basis for what is known as “Negro Spirituals”.

Music is rooted in the conversion of enslaved Africans to Christianity, starting with work songs sung in the fields and, later, with religious songs sung in various church settings, later classified as Negro Spirituals (which shaped much of traditional Black gospel).

At the start of the 18th Century, work songs, developed from African traditions, were commonplace in enslaved communities. Field hollers and chain gang songs were the predecessors to ‘spirituals’, the ‘call-and-response’ singing style forming the blueprint for many strands of Black gospel music that we sing today like: “If You Call on Jesus… He’ll Answer Prayer” and “God is a Good God… Yes He Is” and “Travel’in Shoes…Got on My Travel’in Shoes”.

Just as the Israelites did, our ancestors shouted songs of victory as they breathed freedom: “Then Miriam (the sister of Moses) took a tambourine and the women followed her with tambourines, dancing, and singing before the Lord: Victory is Ours!” (Para-phrased) Ex: 15: 20—21

Pastor R. Mario Howell

The Power of God’s Word

As believers, we have access to the most important guidance on earth…God’s Word. It shows us how to live and what to strive for in our Christian walk. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV.

Yes, reading and reflecting on God’s Word is helpful with “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” It also helps us to act on our convictions and faith. Knowing what God is saying to us allows us to know how to direct our lives and helps us better understand Him. Thus, we can grow closer in our relationship with God.

The Bible instructs us to meditate on the Word of God, and that simply means to think about it, roll it over in our minds, speak it, and know that as we do so, it is renewing our minds and teaching us to think as God wants us to think. Meditating on God’s Word helps us to apply Romans 12: 2 “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds”.

Spend time everyday meditating on God’s Word. Join the morning ACF Inspiration Time on Zoom and get a fresh Word in the form of scripture, song, even a mini-sermon or Bible inspiration. Join the mid-week Bible Study Class and receive a powerful Word. Throughout the year ACF offers over 300 opportunities to grow in your faith through the Word of God. I challenge you to commit to a steady diet of God’s Word and watch what He does in your life.

Pastor R. Mario Howell

You are Salt!

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out
and trampled under people’s feet”.
Matt 5:13

In this dark and troubled world, we, as believers, are called to be salt: preserving, flavoring, healing for those who live in darkness. When Jesus spoke to His disciples, He called them “the salt of the earth” In those days, salt was the only way to preserve food. As Christians, we, too, have a preserving effect on the earth because we have the only message that can deliver people from the corruption of sin and give them eternal life.

Salt that has lost its taste does not enhance the taste of food, and can actually makes it bitter. “It’s good for nothing”, except to be used as the Romans did when building the Roman Road system. As part of the Roman Road system, salt would be “trampled under people’s feet.” There is a balance with salt…too much of it will turn food bitter; too little makes food bland; just the right amount enhances the flavor. This what Jesus was saying…we are to be a spiritual influence in the lives of people around us. Just as salt enhances the flavor of food, our Christlike character and lifestyle is the essential ingredient that draws others to Christ.

You are salt!

Pastor R. Mario Howell

Developing Christian Maturity

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” Matthew 7:16-18 NIV

As Christians, our lives should reflect the fact that we are made new. No matter how long you have been walking with Christ, there is still a newness because we are developing fruit. Christian maturity is a long-term process evidenced by producing the Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit of the spirit as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

For some Christians, there is a complete lifestyle change when they become a believer. For others, the change in their hearts may be subtle at first, but as time passes, the Fruit of the Spirit is seen on display in their lives.

Let us all examine our hearts and our actions and look at the fruit we are producing. Is our fruit honoring to God? Or is it reminiscent of our old sinful nature?

Spiritual maturity is God’s goal for every Christian!

Pastor R. Mario Howell

Not Works, But Faith

“What good is it, my Brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:14-17

Many people confuse good works with the path to salvation. The scripture makes it clear that salvation is by grace and grace alone. Even our works are an act of God’s grace. We cannot earn salvation through good works, it is a free gift. It is a result of our faith that we even desire to work for the things of God.

“It is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His (God’s) great mercy, He saved us.” Titus 3:5

As we continue to do the works of righteousness, know that our deeds are the result of God’s great mercy and amazing grace working in us
through faith. If we allow the Lord to develop and strengthen our faith, He will accomplish His work through our faith!

Pastor R. Mario Howell

Lord’s Supper: Remembrance

What does it mean to “remember the Lord” as we observe the Lord’s Supper? To remember is not only to reflect on what Christ did for us on Calvery, but also on who He is. God knew that even the greatest minds would eventually forget his priceless sacrifice and many of the miracles and wonders that He performed. That’s why throughout the Bible, we find precious reminders of who He is and what He has done.

A few examples:

The Rainbow: God provided the rainbow to remind us that He would never flood the earth again and that He keeps His promises (Gen. 9:13-16). The Passover Feast and Celebration: This is a powerful reminder of how God passed over His people because of the blood over the door posts. Today, we are reminded of how God’s judgment passes over us because of His blood. (Exodus 12:11-14).

The 12 Large Stones: The stones were placed on the other side of the Jordan River so that in the generations to come, when people were traveling and saw the stones, and someone asked, “What do these stones mean?”, the people of God could tell them about the provision of God in helping His people cross the Jordan (Joshua 4:7).

The Lord’s Supper: Perhaps the greatest memorial of all! It helps us to reflect and think about who Jesus is and what He has done for us. (Excerpt from Luke 22: 14-19) Jesus said to His disciples: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer”. After taking the cup, He gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes”. And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ”This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me”.

Every time we observe the Lord’s Supper, let us remind ourselves that it is not only a memorial to our Lord, but a powerful reminder of who Christ is, what He has done for us, and what He has promised.

Pastor R. Mario Howell