07/30/2015 § Leave a comment
When I made the decision to return to school two years ago to work on obtaining my Master’s degree, I knew that it was the right thing to do. It was just as important as when I enrolled at the University of Akron part time back in 1997 to work towards my Bachelor’s degree. For anyone who considers furthering his or her education, it is admirable and beneficial to stay the course and complete the task. (It is costly, for sure, but the benefits do transcend the financial burden over a lifetime.)
I will always be an advocate of higher education and pursuing knowledge by going to school or taking online classes. Doctors, lawyers, tradesmen and various professionals are where they are today because of their pursuit of knowledge in the classroom.
Knowledge is also important from a societal picture. There are studies that indicate that graduation from high school, especially for African-American males, can make a difference in lowering crime and incarceration levels. 
To obtain knowledge is beneficial. Knowledge is power.
From a believer’s perspective, when we learn more about the Lord Jesus Christ as we live for Him, we obtain valuable knowledge that bolsters our faith in Him.
The more that you learn about God, the more you will recognize God’s power in your life.
Knowledge of God is powerful.
As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, who wouldn’t want that?
In order to learn more about God, you have to be a student of God. A good student of God will search and seek after Him.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
Scripture encourages you to be a student of God. A student of God practices theology.
What is theology?
According to Roger Olson, “theology is any reflection on the ultimate questions of life that point toward God.” 
With this definition, I can make a broad, and perhaps even bold, declaration that a student of God practices theology; therefore, you, as believers, are all theologians!
Theology is very important for the believer, and it should be important because of what it means. It is the study of who God is, His attributes and His relationship with man and the universe.  The English word “theology” comes from two Greek terms: theos, meaning “God” and logos, which refers to “word,” “teaching,” or “study.” 
It stands to reason that studying who God is in your life provides you with knowledge and understanding that supports your faith and trust in God. It’s good for growth in your relationship with Him, and you learn about how to apply His Word, grow and endure as you move forward.
There must be a distinction, however, between Christian Theology, and theology from a worldly view. They both exist. Theology from the world’s perspective may indeed involve having questions about life and what that means in relationship to God, but that does not mean that the matter is given serious or prolonged thought–it may only be for a short period of time, or little more than cursory consideration. Some questions about life may be more substantive, such as “Why am I here?” or “What am I supposed to be doing?” or “Is there anything after death?” All of these are legitimate questions, but all of them will eventually lead to no real solution unless God is brought into the picture as the object that provides answers.
Christian theology goes much deeper. Anselm of Canterbury was archbishop of Canterbury and a great 12th Century theologian. He defined theology as “seeking to understand with the intellect what the heart–a person’s central core of character–already believes and to which it is committed.”  That’s a good way to describe the heart of a person who seeks understanding to support his faith.
Now that we have established a distinction between worldview theology and Christian theology, we need to consider the different levels of theology that exist within Christian theology, because all are not created equal.
There are real doctors and lawyers with degrees to support it, while there are actors that portray doctors and lawyers on television and in the movies. That doesn’t make them real doctors or lawyers. You wouldn’t let a doctor from Grey’s Anatomy perform surgery on you, would you? You also would not want an orthodontist to perform an appendectomy. You want the best available attorney representation instead of someone like the role actor Joe Pesci plays in the movie, My Cousin Vinny.
In the same sense, everyone is a theologian, but not everyone has the same theology. You may discover this as you speak to other people who attend church as you listen closely to what they really believe.
Many people, you may find, will not see the need for theology because it would hinder the understanding of the simple faith that a person has! It’s like saying the more you know about God from an intellectual perspective, the more that it would hurt your ability to have faith. This may sound strange to some of you, but this is a more popular belief than you may realize. The question “Who needs theology?” reflects a person’s view that one does not need a Master’s degree or a doctorate to help one understand God any more than we already do.
Some of you may remember when I spoke about Socrates, a philosopher, who declared, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”  He was absolutely correct. If we are serious about our relationship with Jesus Christ, there should always be an active, ongoing evaluation–a reflective look at one’s life in service to Him. If you are not actively seeking Him through His Word, meditating on it and prayerfully submitting to His will, how can one honestly know if God is speaking? A life in Jesus Christ is an active, reflective life.
With that in mind, we need to see how different theologies can be an indication of how reflective (or not) a person may be. A less reflective theology is referred to as “folk theology,” while the greatest level would be indicative of “academic theology.” In between the two are various levels of theology, defined by more or less reflective thought levels.  The levels are defined as folk, lay theology, ministerial theology, professional theology and then academic theology.
What is folk theology? It is a faith in God that is largely blind and based upon a traditional approach to Christianity. It is when a person states belief but cannot articulate it very well. In addition, there is a rejection of critical thinking about the belief and an acceptance of it based upon tradition, clichés and legends. 
Folk theology is everywhere. It can be found in virtually any setting. They are not adherents to any specific church affiliation, and they would not even consider themselves theological–yet, they are. Unfortunately, the traditionalism of this practice is contrary to any deep, careful reflection that allows a person to defend one’s faith, which is what the apostles had to do early on just years removed from Christ’s existence. A believer must be able to defend his faith in order to articulate his faith to a person who seeks the truth about Jesus Christ.
Lay theology is a step above folk theology but is, in reality, much more progressive in thought. It describes a Christian who works to understand the faith he or she holds in Jesus Christ. It is the act of putting one’s mind into the faith relationship. The root of this is in one’s seeking the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to gain this understanding.
Ministerial theology is a step above lay theology in that it now involves the teachable faith as practiced by trained ministers and leaders within Christian churches. This is the effort to put into practice formal training such as bible classes or even seminary classes to train people to learn how to read and interpret Scripture and apply it within the body of Christ and the real world.
Professional theology is best described as those persons who are qualified to train lay people and pastors to increase their knowledge. They are the ones who create an active and healthy learning environment that encourages critical thinking and reflection. They teach in seminaries and colleges with church affiliations to provide methods to be more effective in service to all people.
Academic theology is an advanced study that lends more to philosophical thinking shared with other theologians. As a practical matter, there is nothing wrong with academic theology, but its greatest criticism is that it lacks in application to real world Christian living. The challenge for the academic theologian is to reach beyond thought processes and provide ways to apply this thinking that are beneficial to lay, ministerial and professional theologians.
We’ve seen that anyone who seeks to answer the questions of life that point to God is a theologian. Knowing that there are different theologies, which one of these best describes you?
If you are honestly seeking His wisdom, you will grow well beyond those who are stuck in folk theology.
As you can see, the level of theology that is practiced has everything to do with the amount of time and effort that one puts into it. As you put your time into it, you will able to clarify and articulate Christian doctrine in a more effective manner  for the purpose of carrying out His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).
All of the effort that you put forth in pursuing greater understanding of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, is very pleasing to Him! Why? It’s simple. Your pursuit of Him means that you are seeking fellowship with Him through five key elements to enhance your IMAGE  in Jesus Christ:
1. Investigating His Word. To really learn about Jesus Christ, you have to do more than just read His Word. You need to dig deep into it and use the available study tools, concordances and commentaries to promote greater understanding of His Word. You can hear God speak to you even more clearly once you pray to Him for guidance as you gain this understanding.
2. Meditate on His Word. Prayer is certainly important in your communication with Him, but meditating on His Word requires an extra special time of quietness and reflection. It means “slowing down” to a place where you recognize God’s comforting presence and fellowship, and allowing His Words to permeate you to see His perspective.
3. Act on His Word. Your theology will not mean very much if you are not living in obedience to God’s Word or conforming to His will. He speaks to you and gives you advice for your benefit and for the benefit of those who you come into contact with.
4. Grow in His Word. Your theological study should bring about true growth in your Christian life. There should be a realization of more successes and fewer failures as you progress in your faith and grow in godly wisdom and understanding.
5. Endure in your faith. A believer in Jesus Christ must be prepared to not only persevere but to remain steadfast in faith. It makes the boldest statements of Jesus Christ’s presence in your life.
Remember, knowledge of God requires seeking after Him. A good student of God will search and seek after Him. It takes godly wisdom and reverence of our Lord, Jesus Christ, to see the importance of continuing to grow in knowledge.
The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks it. Proverbs 18:15 (HCSB)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)
Theology is needed by each and every one of us in order that we, as believers in Jesus Christ, can grow to our greatest potential in service to Him.
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. Ephesians 1:17-19 (HCSB)
Who needs theology? You do.
1 Article – Crime Rates Linked To Educational Attainment, New Alliance Report Finds (2013). © 2015 Alliance for Excellent Education, Washington DC. Retrieved June 12, 2015 from http://all4ed.org/press/crime-rates-linked-to-educational-attainment-new-alliance-report-finds/
2 Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson. Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God. © 1996 S. J. Grenz and R. E. Olson. Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove IL. pg. 13
3 Grenz, pg. 37
4 Grenz, pg. 14
5 Grenz, pg. 16
6 Grenz, pg. 26
7 Grenz, pg. 26
8 Grenz, pg. 27
9 Grenz, pg. 46
10 Blogpost – Gaines, Melvin (2015). Characteristics of Your IMAGE. Melvin Gaines’ Blogspot. Retrieved June 12, 2015 from http://melvingaines.blogspot.com/2015/04/characteristics-of-your-image.html
© Melvin Gaines
04/24/2015 § Leave a comment
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. (Genesis 1:26-27 HCSB)
When God created mankind, He created us in His image. He did this with the intent of His creation to be in His likeness (James 3:9b). His will for His people are to live in a manner that is praiseworthy and devoted in worship to Him. Man’s image was to be the glory of God, and a woman, created as man’s helpmate, was intended to be the glory of man (1 Corinthians 11:7), and both, in this image and in worship, are to honor the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 8:23). With this, man has a responsibility to live in a manner that is worthy of His creation. With your belief in Jesus Christ as Savior, He restores you to the place where God intended for you to be—as a person who is under grace and as a new creation in Him (John 1:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17). In the same way you were created in his image, it is His will for you to live in this manner as a new creation. Christ’s sacrifice for you should compel you to put off your old nature of sin and put on the new nature and character of Christ (Romans 6:6-7, 11-12). Your image in Jesus Christ is all about the change taking place in your spiritual character (Ephesians 4:24; 1 Peter 1:16).
A believer who is fully engaged in his or her relationship with Jesus Christ is going to be a dynamically effective witness for Jesus Christ. It is the perception of the believer’s interaction with others that provides the impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ; therefore, a believer’s image is what people see (and need to see—whether you are interacting with non-believers as a testimony or with believers as a person of support and encouragement). It is this image that is the complete makeup of a believer who wants to be more than just salt and light—a bright, seasoned witness for Jesus!
The believer’s image is extremely important in three different areas:
1.) It builds and develops the person’s relationship with God
2.) It builds and develops the person’s self-worth and self esteem
3.) It builds and develops confidence to interact with others in multiple scenarios and circumstances
I will use the word “IMAGE” as an acrostic word comprising what a believer in Jesus Christ needs to do with a consistent fervor to grow in Christ and be a dynamic testimony before others.
There are five elements that we will study that make up the word IMAGE in this endeavor. In order to develop and maintain your IMAGE before others:
I – Investigate the Word of God
The development of a believer must begin with the appropriate time and effort devoted to bible reading. Even as you are developing a routine for bible reading each day, the proper development of the image of the believer must have progression in this process—the progression must continue in the achievement of levels to where you are no longer just reading the bible, but you are investigating what scripture has to say to you.
Your success as an investigator includes:
- Reading the bible daily
- Reading at a predetermined time as part of a regular schedule
- Using external biblical resources to complement your study (for example, using a Greek and Hebrew reference, concordance and/or study bible with commentary)
Investigate (v.) – to observe or study by close examination and systematic inquiry (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
M – Meditate on the Word of God
(Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10)
Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to become aware of and reflect upon the revelations of God. Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (such as a bible passage) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God. 
Meditation is reflection, consistent prayer and practice that promote greater understanding and wisdom in the application of God’s Word.
A – Act (Application of God’s Word)
The act portion of your IMAGE involves taking action upon what you have learned in your investigation and mediation of God’s Word. Taking action or applying God’s Word involves four key lifestyle elements of your faith in Jesus Christ:
- Repentance upon acknowledgment of sin to restore immediate fellowship with Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:8; Acts 3:19)
- Compliance with God’s will in your life (John 7:17)
- A desire to improve and please God (Colossians 3:15)
- Greater consistency in Christlike behaviors (Psalm 119:101-106; Romans 12:1-2)
We act upon God’s Word and His will because we are His specially chosen people, and we desire to maintain a special relationship with Him (Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 37:23-24, 73:23-24)
G – Grow
Growing in Jesus Christ is the natural progression of a healthy, vibrant relationship with Him (Ephesians 3:17-19, 4:11-15)
Growth is measured in the following:
- Continuing achievement of maturity in Christ
- Hearing and knowing when God is speaking to you
- Increased sensitivity to matters of the Holy Spirit
- Greater focus and determination
E – Endure
Bearing all things that occur in the faith with an understanding of the big picture–the love of Christ is exhibited for all to see and that Jesus Christ is glorified (Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 13:7; James 1:2-4).
Jesus wants you to not only persevere but to remain steadfast in your faith and retain boldness in your faith (in words and in your demeanor before others). It is your steadfastness that makes the boldest statements of Jesus Christ’s presence in your life.
Keep your attention on Jesus Christ as risen from the dead and descended from David. This is according to my gospel. I suffer for it to the point of being bound like a criminal, but God’s message is not bound. This is why I endure all things for the elect: so that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. This saying is trustworthy:
For if we have died with Him,
we will also live with Him;
if we endure, we will also reign with Him. (2 Timothy 2:8-12a HCSB)
1 Christian Meditation for Beginners by Thomas Zanzig, Marilyn Kielbasa 2000, ISBN 0-88489-361-8 page 7
2 An introduction to Christian spirituality by F. Antonisamy, 2000 ISBN 81-7109-425-5, pages 76-77
Copyright © Melvin Gaines
07/01/2013 § Leave a comment
The following is the text of a sermon presented at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church on December 11, 2005.
This is a study of the first book of John entitled Shutting Out the Noise. The pursuit of a greater understanding of God starts with a fundamental decision that must be made. We have to be prepared to answer correctly the question of ‘Who is in charge of my life?’ To address such a question requires us to filter out all of the noise and distractions that keep us from living as God would have us to live. This so-called ‘noise’ is everywhere. It’s bad enough that the world tries to steer us away from godly pursuits, but there is even noise within our churches that elevate what man has to say over what God has to say. Look at some of our churches today. There is rampant hostility and rebellion in the midst of some congregations and denominations. Men who claim to be messengers of God are anything but that.
- Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now. You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them (1 John 4:1-5).
This is a good place to start because we need to understand the playing field. There are going to be those individuals in our midst who will truly talk a good game when it comes to being true to God, but their lives will not reflect it. We have to become smarter as believers and start doing our own homework when it comes to what Scripture says. There are too many of us who are unable to discern truth because we don’t know the truth. If we fail to discern this truth, we cannot effectively live for God. God is very clear about how we need to live our lives in obedience of His word. The world, and those who are false, will try to come up with ways that stretch and bend God’s law to their own liking with their cleverness and cunning. But God’s true children can overcome such deception.
- I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you have come to know the One who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have had victory over the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you have come to know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have come to know the One who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, God’s word remains in you, and you have had victory over the evil one. Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever (1 John 2:12-17).
The key is to get back to the basics of what you were taught from the beginning, and build upon it with good, solid teaching, along with your own independent study. The best part of all of this is that you already have the basics down pat, and there is no better teacher that dwells within you than the Holy Spirit.
- What you have heard from the beginning must remain in you. If what you have heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He Himself made to us: eternal life. I have written these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie; just as it has taught you, remain in Him (1 John 2:24-27).
So through all of the noise that we hear each day, how well are you allowing God’s voice to come through, and how well are you slowing yourself down to articulate your thoughts and prayers to God? It takes a conscious effort to have effective communication with God. It starts with our recognition of who God is in our lives.
- What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed, and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life—that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—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. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete (1 John 1:1-4).
Who is this God that we put on the brakes for to slow down and pause for fellowship with? Or do we just go through life without paying attention to where God fits in? Perhaps we have already answered the previous question ‘Who is in charge here?’ with the proverbial ‘I’m in charge.’ Believers have to do more in this life to cut through the noise than just call themselves ‘Christians.’ We are to live differently as the people of the world live as the night is from the day. There has to be a distinction. If you are trying to blend in with others in society who are not of the Lord, Scripture says there is no difference between you and the world (1 John 1:5-10). We are called to be different. We are called by God to love one another. This love is key and is immediately distinctive from the behavior of those in the world.
- Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command, but an old command that you have had from the beginning. The old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another (1 John 2:7-8, 3:11).
Are we missing the call that God has given us? We have seen how having knowledge of the truth and discerning truth is important. We also see that we need to make a difference in our actions and not just play like we are believers. All of this comes with greater wisdom. The noise of the world must be filtered out of your life to gain such wisdom. There are a great number of people who have been held up as people to emulate. There is always talk of people that we would like to have as great role models. The greatest so-called role models of the world were also some of the greatest sinners. A pastor or anyone else in authority should never require anyone to emulate a human being. My recommendation of a person to live for is Jesus Christ. To live for Christ is the epitome of living a life of love and obedience. God has been and will always be a great mystery to us. He is beyond our earthly capacity to understand his mysteries and his ways. Yet, for those that are genuinely intrigued by this mystery, it should be a natural inclination to want to know more about Him. That is true unless you are inherently selfish. Selfishness cannot coexist with the love of God. It is selfishness that keeps God’s love from becoming real in our lives or in the lives of those we encounter. How easy is it for you to express God’s love to someone else in your life? It is more than just putting money in a kettle once a year…it is about a way of life.
- If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but shuts off his compassion from him—how can God’s love reside in him? Little children, we must not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth; that is how we will know we are of the truth, and will convince our hearts in His presence (1 John 3:17-19).
God is love, and we are to live to reflect that love. Failure to do so is to not live for God. Yes, that also means to love your enemies (Matthew 5:43). All of us must concede that as we learn more about who God is, we are inadequate in ourselves. After we have effectively cut through the noise of this world, we can stop and give our thoughts and desires to God in prayer.
- Now this is the confidence we have before Him: whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for (1 John 5:14-15).
All of this requires focus. How focused are you on who God is in your life. Do you have a hunger and desire for greater understanding of who God is? I suggest that if you meet God halfway through all of the noise of this world, He will make Himself evident to you. It is important that, through all of this, we remember that there is an adversary that wants to keep you from seeing Him at all. Thankfully, God’s power overcomes the world, and the noise of this world.
07/15/2012 § Leave a comment
In an election year, there are dozens of radio ads and television commercials that air to provide information for the voting public. The commercials are a blend of opposing views that run early and often on a daily basis up until Election Day. The intent of these advertisements is to do one thing and one thing only…to persuade the listener or viewer to choose the side representing their position. These ads are never vague or unclear as to what side is represented because the information tips the scales in the favor of the group who is sponsoring the commercial.
In the midst of these commercials are elements of truth and areas where the truth is stretched in varying degrees. Remember, the sponsor of the commercial is trying to get your vote or even affirm your vote for their side, and there is often a creative license that is taken in order to make their position more appealing or to convince you to despise the opposing view, which inevitably brings you back to their view.
What the advertisers count on with these ads is that the casual observer will not go through the trouble or the burden to educate oneself and do research to see if the information has merit. They know very well that their ads are effective in their impact with the public because many people will either rely upon the information as being true or a close match with their ideology, and that many will not go through the fact-checking process. The civic-minded voter, however, readily assumes the responsibility to take the time to review any available information about the candidates and issues at hand. He or she desires information and education as to what is at stake in the election. After all of the information is gathered and disseminated, exercising discernment that leads to the final decision in the voting booth. Discernment is the key word…it is the ability to judge well.
Discernment is more than simply possessing good judgment or referring to your conscience. It, for our purposes today, also means to have the ability to review something and determine its truthfulness or its viability. It is something that each of us should possess within our evaluation process, but you may know someone who has the uncanny ability to “see through” and make conclusions about situations with what seems to be the least amount of information. It is not something that should be seen as “mystical” or as being something that someone would have in a special sense when it comes to ability. All of us can discern and make judgments. Let’s instead focus on the importance of discernment when it comes to recognizing truth and error in the presentation of God’s Word. Are you able to discern what is being presented? In the same way that political ads work well, especially with their repetitive nature, many people are ill-prepared to deal with false doctrine or false presentations of the gospel because they don’t take the time to review the information properly. It’s like taking a test in school without studying for it…it often doesn’t go well in the end results.
If you lack the appropriate information, you are unlikely to be able to make the appropriate conclusions in your discernment efforts. This leaves one wide open to deception and someone telling you anything that can lead you astray, which is very, very dangerous.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.
A discerning mind seeks knowledge,
but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.
The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
OK…so discernment is important and some of us seem to have a better time of it than others. These are the people that can readily provide us with godly advice when it seems to matter most. You may be asking yourself…”What if I am lacking in my ability to discern? What can I do about it?” The answers lie in understanding some truths about discernment. Discernment is a godly attribute, and it requires God’s participation within the process.
- Discernment requires godly knowledge…knowing the Bible.
9 And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, 10 so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
- Discernment requires prayer and actively seeking God
The more that you are seeking God and being prayerful for wisdom and insight, the more that God will make plain to you those things that seemed to be elusive to you in the past. You can develop your ability to discern, but it requires completeness in your trust that God is giving you exactly what you need when you need it.
Some have made the argument that discernment is a spiritual gift, and by reviewing Scripture, we can make a case that it is not a “special” gift in itself, and we also can find in Scripture that some persons have a special ability to discern, or judge, about certain spirits:
First, the example that people who possess the Holy Spirit already have discernment capabilities:
1 Corinthians 2:10-16
10 Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. 13 We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.14 But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. 15 The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. 16 For
who has known the Lord’s mind,
that he may instruct Him?
But we have the mind of Christ.
Second, here is a passage that shows how God can enable some of His saints to possess a gift of discernment:
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person. 7 A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial:
8 to one is given a message of wisdom
through the Spirit,
to another, a message of knowledge
by the same Spirit,
9 to another, faith by the same Spirit,
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
10 to another, the performing of miracles,
to another, prophecy,
to another, distinguishing between spirits,
to another, different kinds of languages,
to another, interpretation of languages.
11 But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills.
To have discernment of distinguish about spirits is necessary in the growth and maturity of a believer in Jesus Christ. Here is a how-to guide as to what all of us should be able to do if we are paying attention to the Holy Spirit that speaks from within:
1 John 4:1-6
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
2 This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. 3 But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now.
4 You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.
We are counseled throughout Scripture, in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, to test the spirits (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). We need to test them because they certainly test every believer. They come in all forms from the opposition, and it is nothing to joke around with or play with.
11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.
Therefore, we are to be smart about our encounters with the opposition—not in a way that diminishes your testimony for Christ; instead, using the power of the Holy Spirit to do the work while you speak.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
- Discernment also comes from the counsel of others when seeking advice.
20 Listen to counsel and receive instruction
so that you may be wise later in life.
21 Many plans are in a man’s heart,
but the Lord’s decree will prevail.
It’s wise and just plain smart to get advice from people who are knowledgeable, especially in subjects where you don’t have it. The Spirit even guides you in this area. It’s also wise to seek the counsel and take the other person’s sound advice. It’s silly to ask opinions over and over again and never take the advice. As you obtain knowledge, you should be able to come to a satisfactory conclusion as you discern what the appropriate outcome or ending should be. When God provides you with wise counsel, take it.
Discernment is the essence of wisdom and understanding in Jesus Christ. Here are some important takeaways:
- It is provided through the power of the Holy Spirit for every believer
- It requires a healthy understanding of the Bible
- It requires prayerful consideration and appeals to godly wisdom in the process
- It relies upon the testimony of wise counsel
All of this leads back to a proverb that is well-known and recognized…the Spirit provides the guidance that all of us need, and we choose to follow His leading rather than let our way of thinking keep us from using the proper discernment.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.
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:
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!”
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.
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.
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.
“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:
- To have a healthy relationship with God through Jesus Christ
- Learning your “languages” of communication with God
- 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:
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.
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.
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
“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.”
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:
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.
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.
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
If you value a relationship, you will devote quality time to it. Relationships will not grow effectively without quality time.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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
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
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.
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.
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.
12 For You, LORD, bless the righteous one;
You surround him with favor like a shield.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
1 Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said:
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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!
For more content, please see melvingaines.com, melvingaines.blogspot.com and melvingaines.wordpress.com.
09/25/2011 § Leave a comment
Except for some tweets and posts on the Akron Alliance Fellowship Church blog, I’ve been quiet on my own blog pages for a little while. It’s been a busy summer—busier than I can remember for the summer months—and my wife and I were overdue for a break for a couple of weekends in September. With the break, there was time to reflect on the blessings that my wife, my family and I have, and how God has been more than evident in His presence in our lives.
It has become more evident that change is, more than ever, a prominent part of life. There has been unexpected change at my workplace (new boss), my wife’s workplace (yep, new boss), and at church (an elder resignation). Even with all of this, there is still cause for praise and worship for how God has given us the grace and ability to manage all of the changes and the surprising events. When my wife and I have talked about this, we readily agree that we don’t care much for change, let alone sudden ones. While we’re both thankful to be working and making a living, the changes are still unsettling and can be downright stressful! It’s often necessary for us to bring our work home and use “downtime” to still be productive and keep pace with everything that comes our way.
With everything moving so quickly, I have discovered that we need to remain continually focused on God and His Word every day, and remain open to the words and direction of the Holy Spirit everywhere we go, whether it is at work or in the car or at the grocery store. In fact, there is not a moment when we should feel comfortable without the input of the Holy Spirit, especially when things seem to be going well (Psalm 51:11).
When circumstances have taken place that you don’t always understand right away, it is always best to trust God for direction when you are unsure of your response (Psalm 3:5-6, 56:3-4). He is our comfort in the midst of uncertainty.