Your IMAGE and Forgiveness – Free Seminar – April 17-18, Stow OH

03/27/2015 § 1 Comment

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Your IMAGE and Forgiveness – Spring Break Relationship Conference 2015 – April 17-18

02/24/2015 § Leave a comment

Your Hosts: Melvin and Lynn Gaines

Your Hosts: Melvin and Lynn Gaines

The act of forgiveness is very difficult.  An unforgiving person may experience extreme anger, anxiety or hopelessness…or all of these emotions.  Unforgiveness can cause others a lot of pain, as well—people may tend to avoid you.  What about you?  These unresolved issues are spiritually debilitating and can even make you physically ill.

There’s no need to avoid dealing with forgiveness any longer!  If you are harboring animosity, resentment or dread over past hurts or injustices, then this two-day seminar is for you!  We will discuss and share how forgiveness, with the healing power and grace of God, is the best way to conquer the past, free your mind and soul and experience true rest in Jesus Christ!  Join us for lively conversation, prayer time and fellowship!  The seminar is free (hotel stay extra)!

Friday, April 17   ·  Saturday, April 18

Hampton Inn Stow

4331 Lakepointe Corporate Drive  •  Stow OH 44224  •  330.945.4160

Special room rate for overnight stay (April 17) only $85.00 plus 15.25% tax.

When booking ask for the Akron Alliance Fellowship Church rate.

Book your reservation by Friday, March 20 (up to 4 guests per room).

A free hot breakfast is available for hotel guests

Free internet  •  pool  •  fitness center

  comfortable and relaxing amenities  •  shopping and restaurants nearby

Availability will go quickly!  Be sure to register today!

Questions?  Call Melvin Gaines at 234.206.0345 or visit akronalliance.org

God’s Love Languages For Your Life

04/21/2012 § Leave a comment

The following is the text of the two-day seminar presented to Akron Alliance Fellowship Church on April 20-21, 2012.  The material is based upon the book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate © 1992 and The Love Languages of God by Dr. Gary Chapman © 2002, Northfield Publishing, Chicago IL.

Welcome to Spring Break 2012 and another installment of the Akron Alliance Fellowship Church Relationship Conference Series.  We are now in our fifth year of the series and our seventh seminar where we study and discuss everyday interpersonal relationships with a biblical perspective.  Our seminar series is a unique approach to relationships that go beyond the how-to and advice books as we rely upon God’s Word to extrapolate how relationships form, develop, and change within our life experiences.

In the past we have discussed relationships from an interpersonal standpoint, including those with relatives, friends, co-workers, and, of course, a loving, healthy relationship with God and even how you value yourself.  We have focused on marital relationships and explored the importance of knowing your spouse as your marriage grows.  We have even discussed the difficulties of being in relationships with those that you love that are often unlovable.  We have covered a lot of ground, and there is much more to explore with our present look at love in action.

This past year we discussed the importance of love and communication, and we saw the benefits of knowing the love languages of the people that matter to us the most.  Our spouses, our friends and our family members all have different personalities, and not surprisingly, different love languages for those personalities.  What we discussed last year will have relevance to this year’s program, but not so much in how we communicate with our spouses or friends, but more in our relationship with God, and in how He communicates with us, and how we hear and respond to His communication.

It is important, however, to set the stage for our discussion by looking at the communication between Jesus and His disciples in the parable of the sower in the book of Matthew, Chapter 13:

Matthew 13:1-9

The Parable of the Sower

1 On that day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2 Such large crowds gathered around Him that He got into a boat and sat down, while the whole crowd stood on the shore.

3 Then He told them many things in parables, saying: “Consider the sower who went out to sow. 4 As he was sowing, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Others fell on rocky ground, where there wasn’t much soil, and they sprang up quickly since the soil wasn’t deep. 6 But when the sun came up they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered. 7 Others fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them. 8 Still others fell on good ground and produced a crop: some 100, some 60, and some 30 times what was sown. 9 Anyone who has ears should listen!”

Matthew 13:18-23

The Parable of the Sower Explained

18 “You, then, listen to the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one sown along the path. 20 And the one sown on rocky ground—this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. 21 Yet he has no root in himself, but is short-lived. When pressure or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now the one sown among the thorns—this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the seduction of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 But the one sown on the good ground—this is one who hears and understands the word, who does bear fruit and yields: some 100, some 60, some 30 times what was sown.”

Note that Jesus is referring to His primary method of communication, God’s Word, and how it is received (or not received).  From this parable, we can conclude that in order for each of us to hear (and recognize) God’s communication with us, there are conditions that promote optimal understanding of His Word:

  • You must be open to the possibility that God wants to speak to you.
  • You need to set aside time to hear God speak to you.
  • You need to eliminate or put aside distractions in your life to hear Him speak.
  • You need to affirm God’s voice before you hear it.

Why is it important to hear God speak to us?

It demonstrates and affirms that we are in God’s family.

John 10:14-16

14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, 15 as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 But I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd.

It protects us from serious mistakes.

Job 33:14-18

14 For God speaks time and again,
but a person may not notice it.
15 In a dream, a vision in the night,
when deep sleep falls on people
as they slumber on their beds,
16 He uncovers their ears at that time
and terrifies them with warnings,
17 in order to turn a person from his actions
and suppress his pride.
18 God spares his soul from the Pit,
his life from crossing the river of death.

It helps us to lead a productive life that ultimately will glorify God.

John 15:5

“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.

With these points in mind, what we will hopefully see over the course of this program is how important it is to note the following:

  1. To have a healthy relationship with God through Jesus Christ
  2. Learning your “languages” of communication with God
  3. Discovering ways to enhance your communication and your relationship with God

It is fairly simple to conclude that you will maximize your ability to communicate with God if you have a healthy relationship with Him.  In contrast, if you do not have a healthy relationship with God, you will struggle in your communication with Him.  With this in mind, we will spend some time reviewing points that help to reinforce a healthy relationship with God.

Talking Points—A Healthy Relationship With God

Assuming that a person has the fundamental relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, there are key elements of a healthy relationship with God.  It is based upon these elements:

Prayer (Hebrews 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Building a healthy relationship begins with communication that is sincere and beneficial to greater understanding.  Prayer is something that must be practiced on a regular basis, and it allows for being open to hear God speak to your more clearly because of your sensitivity to Him.

The subject matter of your prayers is also relevant to a healthy relationship with God.  The prayers should be rooted in connecting with God’s desire for you to love Him through obedience to His Word.  Prayers for forgiveness, strength, and protection are relevant to this, but God also wants you to see the world as He sees it, and you should be compelled to inject praise and worship in your prayers because of His goodness.

Bible Study/Sunday School (Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; James 1:21-25)

In order to develop a relationship, its roots are in communication.  Prayer is your communication with God, while God’s Word is His communication to you.  In order to have a basic line of communication with God, you will need to study His Word on a consistent basis.

Meditation (Psalm 119:97-104; Colossians 3:1-2)

It is necessary to reflect upon your Bible reading and prayer time (this may be the most difficult thing to do during the day when things are very busy…it requires down time to use this effectively).  Taking the extra time to be still allows for a greater ability to hear God speak to you and for you to know best how to pray to Him.

Fellowship (1 Corinthians 12:12-14; Hebrews 10:24-25)

While a good one-on-one relationship with God is important, it is even better when you are able to share and worship with others who are of like minds.  The support, encouragement, and friendship of fellow believers is what rounds out a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ.

When we have a healthy relationship with God, we learn about His deep, unchanging, unconditional and personal love for us.

John 10:1-5, 14-15

1 “I assure you: Anyone who doesn’t enter the sheep pen by the door but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The doorkeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger; instead they will run away from him, because they don’t recognize the voice of strangers.”

14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me, 15 as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep.

1 Peter 5:6-7

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.

As a good relationship with God promotes the best communication, we are best able to hear God’s voice.  Since God knows who you are, He communicates with you in ways that are unique to who you are, which makes sense in that none of us are exactly the same.  Before we explore the differences, let’s review what each of us has in common as a fellow believer:

God’s Word

Each believer has many resources available to read and review, but the Bible is the common text for each of us to know God’s personal communication.  In addition, there are different bible translations that suit the taste of the believer, but the basic intent of God’s Word is communicated.

Psalm 34:8

Taste and see that the LORD is good.
How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!

The Holy Spirit

Each believer has the Holy Spirit that provides guidance that is unique for each person.  The Spirit dwells within and is readily present to the believer for immediate communication.

2 Timothy 1:13-14

13 Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who lives in us, that good thing entrusted to you.

It should be noted that both the Bible and the Holy Spirit are also available for the non-believer, as well.  The difference is that the Spirit does not dwell within the non-believer, but it is indeed God who brings a person to Himself.  Remember, He is actively seeking to save the lost, and He is the One who provides the increase.

John 6:44

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.

John 12:32

As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to Myself.

1 Corinthians 1:9

God is faithful; you were called by Him into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Acts 2:46-47

46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.

God indeed makes Himself present for every person that He created—it is up to each person to respond to Him.  He is the One who builds the membership of the body of Christ each day, and He does in ways that are unique to each new believer.

Our focus will be on God’s unique communication with each of us and, with this information, we can discover the languages that God uses to communicate with us, and how we can improve and even enhance our understanding of His communication.  Notice that God speaks to us in love throughout His communication with us, which is His essence, whether you are a believer or a non-believer.

2 Timothy 3:14-17

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, 15 and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Revelation 3:19

As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent.

Now that we have explored how God desires to communicate with us, how can we close the gaps we experience in understanding how God speaks to us? 

First, we need to understand the basics about effective communication.  Effective communication is when both parties receive information that accurately represents the viewpoints of the other person.  In contrast, ineffective communication is when there is a misunderstanding by one party of the other party’s intent, or it can also be ineffective if the person communicating information does not do so clearly enough for the other person to understand.  You can see that, with all of the opportunities for miscommunication, the practice of effective communication requires just that—practice.  It sometimes requires a little extra effort to make sure that effective communication is taking place.

As a result, we need to be patient as we learn, for God is very patient, while we are often not nearly as patient.  Love indeed is patient and kind, and can also be confusing if you don’t understand when and how God is communicating with you.  It is not that God is communicating in a strange way (God always communicates truth)—it is more that we are not as “in tune” with God as we should be.  The process of discovery will take time and, again, patience.  Growing in the Lord is very important in our efforts to communicate with God.

Ephesians 4:13

11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.

2 Corinthians 8:7

Now as you excel in everything—faith, speech, knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love for us—excel also in this grace.

This seminar will look at the languages of love as identified by the author of the best selling book, The Five Love Languages—How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, Dr. Gary Chapman.  Dr. Chapman’s book, The Love Languages of God, was an expansion of the original book that reflected on God’s use of the love language in His unique communication with each believer.  While we will explore each of the love languages, please note that God speaks to each of us individually.  As we review the material through this seminar, note that you will relate completely to one or more of the languages based upon your personality and sensitivities, while others will be like a foreign language to you.  This principle should be applicable to most of you.

As a reminder for each of us, love languages are relevant to each and every one of us for one simple reason…each love language is rooted in the essence of God’s love, and we are all His creation in His image!  The love languages are a stimulus in much the same way that our five senses are stimuli of communication—both verbal and non-verbal—for each of us.  In the same way, we are responsive to God’s nature and essence with His love languages because He communicates in a way that is unique to us as our Creator.  Our challenge is to be sensitive to this communication as we grow and develop in Jesus Christ.

God’s Love Languages and You

The essence of God is love, and we have explored His desire to have a healthy, vibrant relationship with each of us in His love.  To build on our discussion yesterday about God’s love and His communication with you, we will look at the love languages that God uses to communicate with us, but first let’s explore the different ways that God speaks to us.

Through the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16; Psalm 119:11, 105)

This is the most clear (and likely most effective) method of God’s communication with His people.  The Bible is God’s manual for His people.

Through the inner still, small voice of the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:12, 13:2, 16:6-7; 1 Kings 19:12; Isaiah 30:19-21; John 14:26)

Through the advice and counsel of men and women of God (Proverbs 12:15)

Through the audible voice of God (Acts 9:4-5)

Through dreams (Matthew 1:20-21) – there are many instances in the Bible when God clearly communicates through dreams.

Through visions (Acts 10:9-18)

Through angels (Luke 1:26-38)

By circumstances – this also includes through your personal pain and related difficulties (but not always).  Note that there are moments when suffering in our life shapes us and promotes for hearing God speak to you in a very personal way.

There is a danger, however, in allowing mere circumstances to run our lives, for it can open doors to Satan being present instead of God.  Allow a confirmation of God through another method of communication to confirm that God is speaking to you in this way.

Through peace and contentment – this is similar to hearing God speaking through the Holy Spirit.  He can also speak to you by giving you a strong sense of peace as confirmation of God’s presence.  It is also a by-product of your trust and faith in Him through obedience.

Each of us has experienced one or more of these ways of God’s communication at different times.  A point of concern, however, is that we can overshadow our hearing God’s voice by listening to our own desires.  Beware of anyone who is quick to claim that God told that person to do this or do that.    In order to prevent this miscommunication, we need to rely upon more than one source of God’s communication as confirmation of His message.  The primary, and most important check and balance of confirming God’s communication with us is through God’s Word and being in accordance with God’s will.

Job 33:14

For God speaks time and again,

but a person may not notice it.

Love Language #1

Words of Affirmation

God values man with His Words.

Isaiah 41:10

Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 31:1-3, 12-13

1 “At that time”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be My people.”

2 This is what the LORD says:

   They found favor in the wilderness—
the people who survived the sword.
When Israel went to find rest,
3 the LORD appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you. 

12 They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion;

they will be radiant with joy
because of the LORD’s goodness,
because of the grain, the new wine, the fresh oil,
and because of the young of the flocks and herds.
Their life will be like an irrigated garden,
and they will no longer grow weak from hunger.
13 Then the young woman will rejoice with dancing,
while young and old men rejoice together.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
give them consolation,
and bring happiness out of grief.

Jesus’ Encouraging Words

John 5:24

“I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.”

John 6:35, 40

“I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.” 40 For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 10:27-30

27 My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

Revelation 22:12-13, 17

12 “Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

17 Both the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Anyone who hears should say, “Come!” And the one who is thirsty should come. Whoever desires should take the living water as a gift.

Additional verses for words of praise and affirmation:

Hebrews 13:15

Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name.

In order to praise God with words of affirmation, there has to be a love for God that places Him first in your life in your worship and praise.  For many people, this is not a primary love language, especially if you have had difficulty with expressing feelings to others in your family.  This is a one of those “core” languages where you will feel it deeply or only express it when you are going through a very emotional (and vulnerable) life experience.

Psalm 150

1 Hallelujah!
Praise God in His sanctuary.
Praise Him in His mighty heavens.
2 Praise Him for His powerful acts;
praise Him for His abundant greatness.

3 Praise Him with trumpet blast;
praise Him with harp and lyre.
4 Praise Him with tambourine and dance;
praise Him with flute and strings.
5 Praise Him with resounding cymbals;
praise Him with clashing cymbals.

6 Let everything that breathes praise the LORD.
Hallelujah!

God wants us to affirm Him in our words (through prayer, praise, and worship) and in our actions (worship through obedience).  Both of these are expressions of our desire to show God that He is prominent and important in how we conduct ourselves, and when we reflect our love for God in this way, He provides assurance and guidance with His presence.

Love Language #2

Quality Time

If you value a relationship, you will devote quality time to it.  Relationships will not grow effectively without quality time.

John 14:23-26

23 Jesus answered, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 The one who doesn’t love Me will not keep My words. The word that you hear is not Mine but is from the Father who sent Me.

25 “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

John 17:24

Father,
I desire those You have given Me
to be with Me where I am.
Then they will see My glory,
which You have given Me
because You loved Me before the world’s foundation.

 John 14:16-18

16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. 17 He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you.

Jesus spent time with the twelve:

Mark 3:14

He also appointed 12—He also named them apostles—to be with Him, to send them out to preach…

A biblical reference to quality time is the exchange between Martha and Jesus and how the busyness of life can swallow up the things that are most important, especially your relationship with Jesus Christ:

Luke 10:38-42

While they were traveling, He (Jesus) entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what He said.  But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.”  The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Quality time with God is necessary for vision and energy.  It is a joyful experience to spend time in the Lord—not burdensome, but uplifting and invigorating.

God wants us to spend time with Him, and not just on Sunday, but every day, as well.

Love Language #3

Gifts

God is the “gift-giver” of life.

Genesis 1:27, 29-31

27 So God created man in His own image;
He created him in the image of God;
He created them male and female.

29 God also said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth and every tree whose fruit contains seed. This food will be for you, 30 for all the wildlife of the earth, for every bird of the sky, and for every creature that crawls on the earth—everything having the breath of life in it. I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Evening came and then morning: the sixth day.

His daily provision

Deuteronomy 7:13

He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will bless your descendants, and the produce of your land—your grain, new wine, and oil—the young of your herds, and the newborn of your flocks, in the land He swore to your fathers that He would give you.

Deuteronomy 11:13-15

13 “If you carefully obey my commands I am giving you today, to love the LORD your God and worship Him with all your heart and all your soul, 14 I will provide rain for your land in the proper time, the autumn and spring rains, and you will harvest your grain, new wine, and oil. 15 I will provide grass in your fields for your livestock. You will eat and be satisfied.

Psalm 19:1-3

1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky proclaims the work of His hands.
2 Day after day they pour out speech;
night after night they communicate knowledge.
3 There is no speech; there are no words;
their voice is not heard.

A reciprocal, personal love…

1 Kings 3:7, 9, 11-13

7 “LORD my God, You have now made Your servant king in my father David’s place. Yet I am just a youth with no experience in leadership.

9 So give Your servant an obedient heart to judge Your people and to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

11 So God said to him, “Because you have requested this and did not ask for long life or riches for yourself, or the death of your enemies, but you asked discernment for yourself to understand justice, 12 I will therefore do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has never been anyone like you before and never will be again. 13 In addition, I will give you what you did not ask for: both riches and honor, so that no man in any kingdom will be your equal during your entire life.

Psalm 5:12

12 For You, LORD, bless the righteous one;
You surround him with favor like a shield.

Matthew 7:7-11

7 “Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

God’s gift to mankind

John 3:16-17, 35-36

16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hands. 36 The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him.

James 1:17

Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.

1 John 3:1-2

1 Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know Him. 2 Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is.

Gifts promised by Jesus

John 16:16, 20

16 “A little while and you will no longer see Me; again a little while and you will see Me.”

20 “I assure you: You will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy.

John 16:23-24

23 In that day you will not ask Me anything.

   “I assure you: Anything you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. 

24 Until now you have asked for nothing in My name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

Ephesians 5:1-2

1 Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. 2 And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.

Spiritual gifts

Ephesians 4:11-12

11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.

Wisdom, knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, and leadership

1 Corinthians 12:7

A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial.

Gift giving in ministry is recognized by God

Matthew 25:34-40

34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’

40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’

One of the most expressive ways of communicating to God is by giving gifts to others.

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17

12 “Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.


16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to attest these things to you for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright Morning Star.”

17 Both the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Anyone who hears should say, “Come!” And the one who is thirsty should come. Whoever desires should take the living water as a gift.

The word ‘gift’ comes from the Greek word charis, which means “unmerited favor.”  God’s gifts are not given because we deserve them—they are given as an expression of love for us.  In the same way, our gifts to others are not based upon merit or the person’s performance or what they have done for us; instead, it is because we love them as Jesus loves them.

Love Language #4

Acts of Service

Jesus’ act of service

John 13:1-5, 12-17

1 Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

2 Now by the time of supper, the Devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray Him. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into His hands, that He had come from God, and that He was going back to God. 4 So He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself. 5 Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him.

12 When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.

16 “I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

Luke 4:18-19 (Isaiah 61:1-2)

18 The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,
because He has anointed Me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent Me
to proclaim freedom to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

John 17:1-5

1 Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said:

   Father,
the hour has come.
Glorify Your Son
so that the Son may glorify You,
2 for You gave Him authority
over all flesh;
so He may give eternal life
to all You have given Him.
3 This is eternal life:
that they may know You, the only true God,
and the One You have sent—Jesus Christ.
4 I have glorified You on the earth
by completing the work You gave Me to do.
5 Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence
with that glory I had with You
before the world existed.

John 14:1-7

1 “Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. 4 You know the way to where I am going.”

5 “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?”

6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

7 “If you know Me, you will also know My Father. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.”

John 14:8-11

8 “Lord,” said Philip, “show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.”

9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves.

Jesus rose to life a widow’s son, a ruler’s daughter, and an older man and friend who had been in the grave for four days.  These miracles are recorded in Luke 7:11-17; 8:41-42, 49-56 and John 11:1-44).

The ultimate act of service

1 John 4:7-12

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us.

Romans 5:6-8

6 For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. 8 But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!

Expressing love to God through acts of service

John 14:12-15

12 “I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.13 Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commands.

Matthew 10:42

And whoever gives just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple—I assure you: He will never lose his reward!”

Love Language #5

Physical Touch

Physical touch is when a person “feels the presence of God.”  It is an emotional “burst” of energy that one experiences.  It is the result of a deep desire of a person to want to make a connection with God.  This phenomenon does not determine the level of worship or praise of a person (as in, the more you put into it—the more that you get out of it).  This love language is most evident during a worship service when you see persons with hands raised and singing loudly, and even with tears running down their faces, while you may observe others with not nearly the same response.

I’ve often wondered about this myself, as I am not nearly as connected emotionally during a worship service, and at first, I thought that it had to do with my personality.  After thinking about it, I had to go further than that because I think that I have a personality that is a little more outgoing than most people…so now I’m thinking about my worship and wondering what’s missing?  Well, the answer is nothing is “missing” at all.  For me, this love language of physical touch with God is not a primary language, while my wife would readily acknowledge that physical touch is a primary love language in our marriage.

What you can learn from this experience is that your primary love languages in your interpersonal relationships may or may not have a correlation with your primary love languages between you and God.  There is nothing right or wrong about this at all.  The most important part of this is to discover what your primary love languages are with God and develop them in order to have your best moments of communication and understanding from God.

People who experience a deep relationship with God are making a connection with God that enriches their worship and praise experience.  It is this type of connection that best emulates the praise and worship between that person and God.

Psalm 42:1-2

1 As a deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for You, God.
2 I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I come and appear before God?

God and physical touch

Genesis 32:25, 30-31

When the man saw that He could not defeat him, He struck Jacob’s hip socket as they wrestled and dislocated his hip.

30 Jacob then named the place Peniel, “For I have seen God face to face,” he said, “and I have been delivered.” 31 The sun shone on him as he passed by Penuel—limping because of his hip.

Exodus 34:29, 33

29 As Moses descended from Mount Sinai—with the two tablets of the testimony in his hands as he descended the mountain—he did not realize that the skin of his face shone as a result of his speaking with the LORD.

33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.

Acts 9:4-9

4 Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

5 “Who are You, Lord?” he said.

   “I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting,” He replied. 6 “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the sound but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. 9 He was unable to see for three days and did not eat or drink.

Acts 9:17-19a, 20-22

17 So Ananias left and entered the house. Then he placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you can regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

18 At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 And after taking some food, he regained his strength.

20 Immediately he began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues: “He is the Son of God.”

21 But all who heard him were astounded and said, “Isn’t this the man who, in Jerusalem, was destroying those who called on this name and then came here for the purpose of taking them as prisoners to the chief priests?”

22 But Saul grew more capable and kept confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that this One is the Messiah.

Mark 10:13, 15-16

13 Some people were bringing little children to Him so He might touch them, but His disciples rebuked them.

15 I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 After taking them in His arms, He laid His hands on them and blessed them.

God heals with physical touch

John 9:11

He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So when I went and washed I received my sight.”

Matthew 8:2-3, 15

2 Right away a man with a serious skin disease came up and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

3 Reaching out His hand He touched him, saying, “I am willing; be made clean. ”Immediately his disease was healed.

Matthew 9:27, 29-30a

27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, shouting, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, “Let it be done for you according to your faith!” 30 And their eyes were opened.

Acts 3:6-10

6 But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” 7 Then, taking him by the right hand he raised him up, and at once his feet and ankles became strong. 8So he jumped up, stood, and started to walk, and he entered the temple complex with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. 9 All the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and they recognized that he was the one who used to sit and beg at the Beautiful Gate of the temple complex. So they were filled with awe and astonishment at what had happened to him.

After Jesus returned to His Father, God continued to work through the believers in the early church.  They gladly carried on the serving, touching, and healing ministry of Jesus. Since the first century, God has touched thousands of men and women.  They, in turn, have touched others as representatives of Christ. They work in hospitals, giving baths and wiping fevered brows. They are in rescue missions, kneeling beside the homeless with an arm draped around the shoulder of a needy person. They serve as “greeters” in their churches to smile, extend a hand, and give an affirming pat on the back as people enter the house of worship. They are channels of God’s love, speaking fluently the love language of physical touch.

                                                                                 –Gary Chapman

Conclusion

The love languages have a special meaning when it comes to our communication with God and with our relationship with Him, as well.  It is clear that your growth with God in the development of your relationship with Him has a profound effect on your personal self-esteem and in your relationship with your spouse, your family, your co-workers—everyone that you come in contact with.

I pray that you will make a special effort to do the following things in the coming weeks:

  1. Develop your relationship with God through a diligent prayer, Bible reading and process of meditation.  If your relationship with God is not healthy, pray for healing and seek the help of other believers that can help you with this issue.  If the relationship is healthy, continue to seek God for even more ways to improve.
  2. Pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to provide guidance throughout the day and to increase your sensitivity to how He is communicating with you.  You may discover different ways that He is speaking to you that you may not have been as sensitive to in the past.
  3. As God’s essence is love in His communication with you, pray for guidance as to how, with the talents and gifts that He has provided, you can offer your best worship of praise and service for Him (note that your primary and secondary love languages between yourself and other people in your life may not be the same primary and secondary love languages between you and God).
  4. Practice your prayer time to allow it to grow in intimacy with God and to develop your time spent with Him.

1 John 4:16

And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.

We hope that you sincerely enjoyed this weekend’s seminar, and we look forward to seeing you down the road!

Thank you!

For more content, please see melvingaines.com, melvingaines.blogspot.com and melvingaines.wordpress.com.

Spring Break 2012 Seminar Coming Soon!

04/09/2012 § Leave a comment

I will be hosting this year’s free two-day seminar on Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21 at the Hampton Inn in Stow, Ohio. The subject, God’s Love Languages For Your Life, will cover how God communicates with you and your communication with Him, while discovering ways to improve upon hearing how He speaks to you while enhancing your worship experience.

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I recommend that you take advantage of the newly remodeled Hampton Inn hotel for an overnight stay on Friday, April 20 at a special rate of only $79 plus tax (ask for the Akron Alliance Fellowship room rate when booking your room). I promise that the entire event will help you to relax, refresh, and recharge, and you might just learn something, too!

There are still rooms available, but you need to act quickly. If you are unable to stay at the hotel and are in the northeast Ohio area, you’re welcome to visit for the seminar and enjoy the fellowship! For start times and more information, please call 234.206.0345.

Life Beyond Salvation

03/23/2012 § Leave a comment

The evidence is overwhelming and unmistakable.  God’s presence in our lives is easy to see.  Unlike the contentions of those who doubt His existence or make claims that there is no God, there are many facts that we can point to that refute or cancel out the views of the atheist or agnostic.  This is not, however, about proving God’s existence to the non-believer, for a non-believer ultimately takes a position that is similar to that of an atheist or agnostic.  To deny that God exists is to ignore the evidence of His presence.

God’s presence is evident in the miracles of nature.  Only He can orchestrate the perfection of the earth, its atmosphere, its rotation, its distance from the sun that allows for optimal life for humans on earth, and the perfect balance of resources that sustain and promote overall population growth.  Seeing the miracles of God from a distance is one thing, but knowing Him on a personal level is a completely different thing.

To have a personal relationship with God requires more than just knowing who God is, because even Satan knows who God is.  An atheist or agnostic has no concept of a personal relationship with God.  A non-believer must make a decision to accept who Jesus Christ is in order to begin the journey of having a personal relationship.  A believer in Jesus Christ, as a result, must continue to grow and develop in his or her understanding of God to have a fulfilling relationship with Him.

Successful growth in a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ is not a certainty for the believer.  It requires the believer to do what is necessary to promote the relationship.  Please note that God is always ready and always willing to develop a relationship with you.  He is not fickle in the same way that you and I are about our fellowship with Him.  We have to make the effort to meet Him where He is as we develop our personal relationship with Him.  Why is this such a difficult thing for us?  Answer:  He is God and you are not.

The essence and nature of God, summed up in a brief phrase is eternal love and holiness. There are many, many verses that support God’s love.  In addition to John 3:16-17, here are just a few:

1 John 4:9-11

9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.

Galatians 2:20

…and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

The essence of God’s love is aptly described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

4 Love is patient, love is kind.

Love does not envy,

is not boastful, is not conceited,

5 does not act improperly,

is not selfish, is not provoked,

and does not keep a record of wrongs.

6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness

but rejoices in the truth.

7 It bears all things, believes all things,

hopes all things, endures all things.

 8 Love never ends.

But as for prophecies,

they will come to an end;

as for languages, they will cease;

as for knowledge, it will come to an end.

Romans 5:8

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!

Romans 5:8 should always remind us who we are in comparison to who God is…we are sinners; nevertheless, God loves us!  The talking points that describe God’s love in 1 Corinthians are certainly achievable as long as we are practicing humility in our actions.  We have to practice humility because we are fleshly, which is in conflict of God’s nature.  We are unable to love in the same way as God’s essence of love without the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  Without the Spirit, this is who we are:

Ecclesiastes 7:20

There is certainly no righteous man on the earth

who does good and never sins.

Romans 3:10-12

10 as it is written:

   There is no one righteous, not even one.

11 There is no one who understands;

there is no one who seeks God.

12 All have turned away;

all alike have become useless.

There is no one who does what is good,

not even one.

This is why it is foolish to rely upon your salvation, through God’s grace, of course, to be sufficient in the development of your personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Your desire to develop a personal relationship with God should go hand in hand with your desire to learn about Him.

Proverbs 1:7, 22, 29-33

7 The fear of the LORD

is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and discipline.

22 “How long, foolish ones, will you love ignorance?

How long will you mockers enjoy mocking

and you fools hate knowledge?

29 Because they hated knowledge,

didn’t choose to fear the LORD,

30 were not interested in my counsel,

and rejected all my correction,

31 they will eat the fruit of their way

and be glutted with their own schemes.

32 For the turning away of the inexperienced will kill them,

and the complacency of fools will destroy them.

33 But whoever listens to me will live securely

and be free from the fear of danger.”

Proverbs 2:1-6

1 My son, if you accept my words

and store up my commands within you,

2 listening closely to wisdom

and directing your heart to understanding;

3 furthermore, if you call out to insight

and lift your voice to understanding,

4 if you seek it like silver

and search for it like hidden treasure,

5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD

and discover the knowledge of God.

6 For the LORD gives wisdom;

from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,

and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 19:27

If you stop listening to correction, my son,

you will stray from the words of knowledge.

Psalm 119:66

Teach me good judgment and discernment,

for I rely on Your commands.

When you grasp the nature of God, His grace to you and His unconditional love for you in spite of who you are (Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 5:8), you can’t help but WANT to know more about who He is.  And there’s the rub…your desire to know Him and grow in your personal relationship with Him is based upon how serious you are about God.  In other words…”Do you take Him and His Word to heart?  Do you take God seriously?”

We already have the assurance of eternal life by trusting in Jesus Christ because His Word promises this to us (Acts 16:31).

1 John 5:11-13

11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

 12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

There has to be a foundation as you build your relationship with Jesus Christ.  He is the foundation of your faith, your development, and your growth.  A strong foundation begins with a Cornerstone:

1 Peter 2:1-8

1 So rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation, 3 since you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 Coming to Him, a living stone—rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God— 5 you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it is contained in Scripture:

   Look! I lay a stone in Zion,

a chosen and honored cornerstone,

and the one who believes in Him

will never be put to shame!

7 So honor will come to you who believe, but for the unbelieving,

   The stone that the builders rejected—

this One has become the cornerstone,

 8 and

   A stone to stumble over,

and a rock to trip over.

  They stumble because they disobey the message; they were destined for this.

Your growth in your personal relationship starts with Jesus Christ and continues with a key phrase—obedience to His Word.  We will only grow in Christ in our ability to maintain fellowship with His Word.

Psalm 1:1-3

1 How happy is the man

who does not follow the advice of the wicked

or take the path of sinners

or join a group of mockers!

2 Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction,

and he meditates on it day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted beside streams of water

that bears its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers.

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,

and do not rely on your own understanding;

6 think about Him in all your ways,

and He will guide you on the right paths.

When you remain obedient, God blesses your obedience with His faithfulness—remember that it is in God’s nature to be faithful because of His love for you (Galatians 5:22).

God also responds to our persistence in seeking Him, our patience in waiting on Him and in our desire to know more about Him:

Philippians 4:6-7

6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

1 John 5:14-15

14 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.

Finally, in building your personal relationship with God, it is to be done with humility.

Luke 18:9-14

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: 10 “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’

   13 “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me—a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Salvation through Jesus Christ is sufficient for eternal life, but not enough to experience the abundant life…

John 10:10

A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

The abundant life that Jesus refers to comes from developing your relationship with Him through the following:

  • A desire for His Wisdom
  • Obedience to His Word
  • Persistence with patience
  • Reverence to Him in humility

Pray for His wisdom and focus upon these things each and every day.  It starts in His Word and builds you up as you trust in Him and rely upon His presence.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

Easter Still the Annual Church Tryout Day

04/25/2011 § Leave a comment

When I was very young, I didn’t go to church except for once a year since my parents were unchurched and weren’t especially motivated to seek a regular church fellowship. The once-a-year trip was to the neighborhood church in the Lee-Harvard area of Cleveland, and it was on Easter Sunday. I was too young to have a clue about church except that it was a place to go on occasion where you could wear your best light blue pastel suit and sit for a couple of hours on a hard bench and get overheated very quickly because of the lack of ventilation. I felt relief when I finally left the church and got outside, where the cool breezes would call attention to my perspiration under a steamy, polyester-like suit.

I did pay attention enough through the heat, however, to see that church was not such a scary place after all. I had already experienced the screaming, sanctified woman at the colorful, inner city church where the women dressed as nurses would carry the wounded yellers out of the sanctuary. I had to learn over a few visits that the screamers was not a regular part of church (thank goodness).

Now that I am older and a little smarter about the church experience, I realize that, many years ago, I was part of a large group of people that go to church once a year, and that group still exists today…the Easter Sunday once-a-year church goers.  As I checked through my Facebook faith posts and Twitter faith tweets, I noted that there were many efforts to get people to go to church services on Easter in large venues–even stadiums–in different parts of the country, or there were multiple services at large churches to accommodate the crowds.

There must be a sense of duty behind the magnitude of people compelled to attend Easter services.  It is a movement that occurs on the one day that Jesus Christ is given honor by the secular or unchurched people…and that’s just fine with me.  It is my hope, however, that the people who do visit church will actually come to the understanding that visiting church once a year does not earn brownie points or good favor with God because of the effort.  While God sincerely appreciates the visitation, I have found that many once-a-year visitors often slip into church and sit in the back row at the start of the service only to duck out the door before it ends…these premeditated escape artists put Houdini on notice.

Not to be overly critical, I must point out that the once-a-year tryout people have a latent curiosity, if not an outright need for understanding, of how the other half lives–in other words, how can these church folk stand to go into churchdom (AKA boredom) every Sunday?  What is the attraction that one can have to maintain such a regular routine as going to church every week…wait, sometimes even twice a week…or even (heaven forbid) go to Sunday school???

There is no single answer for this phenomenon of regular church attendance, but the reasons all circle back to one simple thing…there is a strong likelihood that many of the people who attend church once or twice a week (and even Sunday school) have a greater understanding about what it is to have a healthy relationship with God.  The regulars are far from perfect–and share the same flaws that the once-a-yearers have–but they acknowledge these shortcomings by recognizing that God provides forgiveness and healing…missing commodities in today’s world of artificial fixes.

And now I’ll speak for me, one of the regulars, who did not come to a greater understanding of who Jesus Christ is until I was 26 years old, and when I accepted Him as my personal Savior.  It took a little interest, and then curiosity, and then an open mind to help me to understand that I needed Him in my life.  That’s what it ultimately takes for each of us who want to learn something new.  Sometimes we have to realize that it is the very things that we don’t understand that we are most afraid of.  It is all about overcoming our fears, which we often have to do to grow personally, and even spiritually.  We also have to be careful to not listen to someone else’s opinions about something that we don’t understand, which can keep us from seeking what ultimately is the truth.  That is what is really tragic about not trying something…when you make excuses not to seek understanding when you have everything in your power to make it happen.

It is my prayer that if you are a once-a-year Easter Sunday tryout person that you consider going back to church in a week or two, but don’t wait an entire year.  There are many wonderful bible-teaching churches with people just like you that are more than willing to welcome you for the second, third, or fourth visit (but you have to stay long enough after the service ends, of course).  You just may find that the friendliness and fellowship that you experience will be far from boring and will actually be refreshingly sincere, which just happens to be just the way Jesus Christ would have you to see Him.  Church is not really a scary place, but you’ll have to try it out more than once to see for yourself.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.

A Fanatic For Christ

12/12/2010 § Leave a comment

As the holidays approach every year, first Thanksgiving, and then the Christmas shopping season, you would have to have lived in a cave to have not seen the change in television commercials promoting sales, early hours of bargain hunting, and even stores open on Thanksgiving Day and midnight on Black Friday.  The national retailers look to finish strong after a mediocre sales year with a flurry of activity, and they already know that the time and money spent in advertising is going to reach consumers that are ready, willing and able to make excuses to spend money!  It’s time to go Christmas shopping to get out of the doldrums.  I want to save money, so I need to spend money!  You know the drill.

The retailers spend money for advertising because they anticipate that their potential customers will resemble the woman in the red jump suit who is working out at the store lifting packages with one arm as if they are barbells, circling the dates on a calendar in anticipation of Black Friday for an early morning shopping fest while she flexes her muscles.  She also screams with delight as she reads the circular loaded with deals.  The stores want to see you spend money during the Christmas season as if you are in a state of frenzy.  They want shopping fanatics.

A fanatic, by the way, does not mean that you have to have a screw loose or that you are missing a few cards from the deck.  A fanatic means that you are a person who has a significant or even extreme amount of enthusiasm for something, such as in politics, or even, of course, religion.  We have seen extremism associated with both politics and religion, and most of us know when that extremism goes beyond reasonable sensibilities.  This is also evident when we look at fans (which is short for fanatic) of sports teams and the behaviors that are associated with being a fan.  Many sports fans will readily associate alcohol with being a fan, and we know that it doesn’t often end well when there is too much booze for sports fans.

I’m a sports fan, for sure.  I also love to watch college football, and I also love roller skating, and I’m a big fan of my wife, of course!  But all of those subjects, even my wife, have to be viewed from the proper perspective.  My passion for life itself must be derived from the one that gives the reason for me to be passionate for life…this is the zeal for Jesus Christ that every Christian should experience.

My point to all of this is that you do not have to be crazy to be a fanatic.  You can be a fanatic for Christ, for example, and not be characterized as a Bible Thumper, or as a Holy Roller, or “Goody Two Shoes,” or some other term that implies more of what are perceived as negative character traits than positive ones.  You can be a fanatic for Christ by living enthusiastically, positively, and pointedly for all of the things that Christ represents.

Please note that, while I have nothing against the word “fan,” the shortened version of the word “fanatic,” the two words come across with different interpretations.  To be a fan of something is OK, such as a fan of a musician or of a sports team, while being a fanatic implies even more of a commitment and a passion for something.  Given this conclusion, is your commitment to Christ more of that as a fan, or is it more like a fanatic for Christ?

When you have a healthy relationship with God through Jesus Christ, you can begin to see what it really means to be a fanatic for Christ.  Our challenge, especially as we are reminded over and over during the Christmas season about how Jesus is the reason for the season, is to see Christ in such a way where, to the average Christian, He means more to that person than just that of a favorite football team or sports figure…more than a favorite band or artist…more than an actor or performer.  The name of Jesus should fire you up in such a way where His name truly is above every name!

How do we capture that zeal, that passion for Christ that is missing at times?  The answer is in our relationship with Christ.  Our relationship with Christ will determine how we live and breathe for Christ, which others will see in our actions as we live for Christ at a high level.  Our life for Christ, in our relationship with Christ, helps us to build and develop relationships with others through Christ, and wins people over to Christ!  It is all accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit, but we must always remember that the Spirit works through the believer that trusts in Him and relies upon His wisdom.  The love and trust for Christ is a magnet that attracts others who want to know more about Him directly to you!

To be a fanatic for Jesus Christ requires repetition and practice of an effective Christian lifestyle.  It requires practice because we have natural opposition to this effort because of our own fleshly nature, and because Satan does not want us to be successful in this lifestyle.  We have to overcome the things that are not healthy for us, especially sin, and move towards the things that create a bond with Jesus Christ.

First, being a fanatic for Christ means that we must forsake sin.

Romans 13:12-14

The night is nearly over, and the daylight is near, so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk with decency, as in the daylight: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires.

Forsaking sin means more than just turning away from it.  Our attitude should be the same attitude that God has about sin.  He hates it.

Psalm 5:4

For You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot lodge with You.

Just as God has nothing to do with sin, He also wants us to have the same mindset.  Remember, because we are in the flesh, we must have an attitude that hates sin, because our flesh desires it greatly.  We can’t have a zeal for Christ if we do not forsake sin.

Next, a fanatic for Christ must have a heart of forgiveness.  Just as God has forgiven our sins because of our faith and trust in Him, we also must have a heart of forgiveness for others.

Matthew 6:14-15

For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.  But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.

This includes treating others the way that Christ would have you to treat them, without malice or holding grudges.

Ephesians 4:32

And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.

After forsaking sin and having a heart of forgiveness, a person who is a true fanatic for Christ is one who relishes in fellowship.  There is a desire to seek out others to share the passion that you are living out in Christ.  After all, it is God’s desire that each and every one of us shares the gospel with others (Matthew 28:19-20).  Our fellowship in Christ through the Holy Spirit gives us the confidence and the ability to fellowship with others.  Your message that you communicate to others is in line with the verses from 1 John 1:3:

1 John 1:3

What we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

The fanatic for Christ does not chase persons away in fellowship; on the contrary, he or she draws people nearer to where they are comfortable in relationships of friendship.  Friendship is what allows for sharing, caring for others, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work deeply in the lives of those who are seeking the Lord.

A quick recap—a person who is a fanatic for Jesus Christ must readily forsake sin, forgive others, fellowship with others, develop friendships, and finally, focus on the strength, direction, and power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit enables us with the ability to withstand pressures and difficulties, and also fortifies us with energy when it is most needed.  Our focus, in order for the Spirit to work through us, is to listen to remain obedient to Jesus Christ’s commands:

John 14:15-16

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.

The Holy Spirit is always available to the believer in Jesus Christ.  The more that we focus on the Spirit, the more we learn about the abundant life that we truly have in Jesus Christ.  It is that life of abundance that creates the fanatic for the one who loves Jesus and lives for Jesus.

Are you a fanatic for Christ?  Is your zeal for the One who gave everything for you?  Think about what it truly means to live a life of enthusiasm for your Lord and Savior.  It should be a life of passion where you turn away from the things that ruin your fellowship with Christ and trust in His Word.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.

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