11/24/2017 § Leave a comment
Presented at this year’s Akron Alliance Fellowship Church Ladies Brunch Conference, Saturday, October 7, 2017:
I’ve come to a place in my life where I have determined, beyond any doubt, that I don’t suffer fools very well. I don’t. I’m not proud of this statement. In some ways, it is an admission of guilt; however, I will do everything in my power to make sure that the fool that I run across will never be insulted or belittled. There may be comments in my mind that I will need to take to God for forgiveness later on, but I will speak to that person with kindness and courtesy, and then later on pray for that person to get it right. I am wary of making sure that I watch what I say–or even keep my own mouth shut–lest I be called a fool, as well. Proverbs 17:28 says that “even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent, discerning when he seals his lips.”
All of us have encountered people who can be considered as fools as referred to in the book of Proverbs. In addition, Scripture refers to some who take foolish actions, or people who lack sense or understanding. We won’t cover all of those verses here, but you get the idea. The psalms and proverbs of Scripture cover a lot of ground in this area, and the general theme that pertains to a fool involves a lack of wisdom or discipline (Proverbs 1:7), performing acts of wickedness (Isaiah 35:8) or having poor judgment (Proverbs 10:21), or even deserving to be chastised or corrected with a baseball bat–I mean, a rod (Proverbs 26:3)!
Well, the truth of the matter is that those psalms, proverbs and other Scriptures are written to describe me–especially when I am being hard-headed and disobedient. When I’m trusting in anything and everything besides Jesus Christ. I wish there were more occasions where I could say that I was a fool for Christ more than just being a plain old fool, but I don’t think I can because I know that I needed some heart surgery to take place.
One of my new favorite singers, Ms. Crystal Jackson, has a song that refers to this heart surgery. It begins as you listen to the words and sounds of the Holy Spirit as He speaks to you about your life. The Spirit is kind and cool, but He also can cut right to the chase. His Word cuts bone and marrow (Hebrews 4:12) like a hot knife through butter, and it convicts you of the life that you are living. Even with all of this cutting, paring and pruning, you can still see the character of Christ at work in your life, who declares in Matthew 11:30 that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Sin in your life weighs you down to the point that you don’t want to carry the burden anymore. Thankfully, the burden can be lifted once you decide to turn from your life of sin (because you no longer want to disappoint God) and acknowledge your need for a Savior in Jesus Christ. The heart surgery begins there, and the Spirit joins you in your fight–but now it’s the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7)!
The words “heart surgery” are not unique. The act of heart surgery means that a surgeon is repairing damage to the heart to return it to a place where it is beating and performing as it should in order to sustain life within the patient. I’m thankful that Jesus Christ performs this surgery for me on a regular basis, because I know that I sin and fall short of His glory, and I need His Spirit to make those repairs in me. I know, in spite of my position, that I am a work-in-progress in my goal to be a faithful, loyal servant of Jesus Christ.
I’m getting better at it. I don’t take as many trips down Fools Lane as I used to. I still have a ways to go. I am still receptive to the Holy Spirit continuing this surgery that removes the heart of stone and turns it into a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26-27 says “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
I want the stubbornness and impatience to be thrown off for obedience, gentleness and compassion, and I want people to see my life as a testimony–in my obedience, gentleness and compassion–living a life of thankfulness in Christ.
Now, that’s my short story. I don’t need to remind you what it is to be the wrong kind of fool now, do I? There are examples of being this type of fool everywhere you turn. Let me give you a quick quiz as an example. An NFL (National Football League) player, who will remain nameless, has 11 children from 10 different women. If they were running a race (the player and the women–all eleven of them together) for Top Fool, who do you think would win? And they’re off! The player is running hard, but look at the speed of the other women! It would be stride for stride all the way to the finish! And it’s a photo finish! You can’t tell who won this race, because there is no such thing as a winner in this type of race. Everyone loses, and the children involved are also on the losing side because of the lives that they now have. Being a fool has consequences that affect others in a very negative manner, and only God Himself can rescue and heal those who suffer from the fallout. His love, grace and mercy prevails over selfishness, pettiness and evil. Praise the Lord!
We need more people to become fools for Christ. This is an acceptable kind of fool. Why use the term “fools for Christ”? Because Paul spoke about this exact term in Scripture. He was giving counsel and instruction to the Corinthian church about what true leadership in Christ represents. He stated in 1 Corinthians 4:9-10 that he and his disciples were fools in Christ to the world because their message of the gospel has made them stand out in a peculiar way before others, and that they have been subject to ridicule, dishonor and oppression. There were even a couple of references in Acts (17:18 and 26:24) where Paul, in proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, was called crazy or insane. This is not hard to understand, because believers today are often referred to as “weird” or as “Jesus Freaks” (that’s an old term, too), or as “nuts.” More often than not, you are an outsider and treated differently among your friends or people you know because of your faith. It’s nothing that should catch believers off guard. I would rather be on the “weird” side than on the “wrong” side. I would rather be “left out” of a group because of my faith in Christ than be “lost” and without hope.
The passages in 1 Corinthians Chapter 1 are meant to be an encouragement to any of us who have been ridiculed or even mistreated overtly or even covertly:
1 Corinthians 1:18-19
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
1 Corinthians 1:21
For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
And there is a reason why Jesus embraced the children who ran to Him (they saw something in Him that some of the adults, with hardened hearts, never saw). He knew of their innocence, and declared that whoever becomes like a child and humbles himself before Jesus Christ will be great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:2-4).
Be encouraged, for God knows what you are going through. When we are down, He will lift us up! When we see signs that we are losing, He will remind us that we already have the victory! Even when we are ridiculed, He reveals to us His grace and compassion. He covets your prayers and your relationship with Him, and He will affirm you as you seek after Him and follow His instruction.
I sincerely pray that you will consider that being a fool for Christ is a much better way to live than being just another, everyday fool.
© Melvin Gaines
09/21/2015 § Leave a comment
Ladies, join us September 26, 2015 for a great morning of inspiration and encouragement with our special Guest Speaker: Angelica Leigh Reeves, author of Black Girls Don’t Cry, available at Amazon.com in the first of a new series of L.A.D.I.E.S. brunch events (Living as Devoted in Every Sense).
Angelica Leigh is an example of how God can take someone that was once broken into pieces and place them perfectly together to fit His will. Hidden behind her smile was a young girl who battled with low self-esteem and depression for many years. Finding herself jobless and pregnant at 19, was devastating; but she vowed with God’s help, to do everything she could to turn her life around. Through her journey she found that each experience was a stepping stone to discovering her purpose. Overcoming those obstacles fueled her passion to help young women find their way.
Joining Angelica will be Anita Bivens Morrison from Hope Alliance Bible Church of Maple Heights.
Admission is FREE for this “can’t miss” event! Please call 330.376.4654 or Melvin Gaines at 234.206.0345. You can also send a message (voice or text) to 234.214.6550.
07/28/2013 § Leave a comment
If you watch television for any length of time, you will see commercials of full-length movies that feature many of the super heroes you grew up with from the world of DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Iron Man, The Wolverine, and coming soon to a theater near you, The Flash, Captain America and The Justice League of America.
There is little wonder as to the huge popularity of these movies, beginning with the appeal of the spectacular special effects that bring the comic book characters to life right before your eyes. In addition to this, all of these movies have similar compelling story lines. The heroes of our childhood on the big screen are now a little edgier and cooler for this generation of viewers, but all of them are on the side of righteousness and good, and they battle the opposing forces of evil.
We use the movies as a way of retreat. They help us to relax and unwind from our day-to-day routine, even with all of skirmishes and explosions that take place. While we can relate to our super heroes battling through madness and mayhem, our personal daily experience is a similar struggle of good versus evil–except we are far from super or even heroic. We are fallible and vulnerable, for we live in the reality of a fallen world surrounded by sin and transgression.
The news and events of each day reinforce that we are in a fallen world. Our own behaviors are challenged with conflicts, distractions and temptations to sin. God’s Word provides ongoing support and guidance to avoid sin, but it is up to each of us to remain consistent in this endeavor with a constant effort to seek Him and His truth.
Psalm 119:9-11 (HCSB)
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping Your word.
10 I have sought You with all my heart;
don’t let me wander from Your commands.
11 I have treasured Your word in my heart
so that I may not sin against You.
A few years ago I presented a message on the role of your conscience in determining and discerning right from wrong. It was noted that it is not just reliance upon your conscience to make the right decisions but it involves your inclusion of the Holy Spirit within your thought process to provide guidance. Both the Holy Spirit and your conscience will make up what we will call today your moral compass. For the benefit of those of you who are of Generation-Y, a compass is the ancient, old-timers version of today’s GPS system. It provides direction and guidance to successfully travel from one point to another. In this way, your personal moral compass guides you to make the proper response to outside stimuli based upon your morals or value system. A compass of any type is subject to deviation and sometimes need to be corrected for accurate readings; similarly, a person’s moral compass is only as good as his or her value system, which means that the Holy Spirit is not a factor when a person’s decisions reflect poor morals or values. It is safe to conclude that one’s poor decision-making is the result of not relying upon godly wisdom.
Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.
The actual use of the term “moral compass” describes the foundation of one’s values and behaviors from a moral perspective. I will now take poetic license to expand my definition of a moral compass as a person who gives the perception of demonstrating high moral character. This perception, in addition, carries a high degree of influence with others who know the person. For example, you are a “moral compass” amongst your friends if you can influence others, just by your presence, to clean up the other persons’ colorful language. A person known as a “moral compass” can have a positive effect, but he can also drive people in a different direction if the people he interacts with are of their own mind and don’t want to focus on godly things. This should not be strange to a believer, for remember Jesus’ comments when He was in the midst of His earthly ministry:
34 Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to turn
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and a man’s enemies will be
the members of his household.
It is reasonable to conclude that the gospel message that you convey to others is either going to draw a person near to you, or it will push the other person away from you. It’s the same consistent message, but it depends upon the heart of the respondent as to which direction the person will go.
Have you checked your moral compass lately? Do you have the proper focus in looking to Jesus Christ in everything that you do? When others look at you, do they see you as salt and light in the world, or do you just blend in with everyone else? These are important questions for the believer, and they require honest answers. A believer in Jesus Christ is compelled by the love of Christ and the love of other people to serve Him for His glory. A believer, as a result, should never blend in.
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
In order to glorify God through Jesus Christ, you, as the moral compass of your sphere of influence to others, must continually show yourself as a vision of hope before those who are seeking the truth. The very meaning of hope is to create the expectation that good things can happen in one’s life. According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, hope is a “trustful expectation, particularly with reference to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Hope, is the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God’s guidance–the confidence that what God has done for us in the past guarantees our participation in what God will do in the future.” Hope is a key element in the knowledge and understanding that comes in a love relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and how we are to love others, as well:
1 Corinthians 13:13
Now these three remain:
faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
In today’s world, those who are sincerely seeking the truth will want answers; therefore, they will seek out the persons who have godly character and who demonstrate the practice of living in truth. While some will reject the truth, believers in Jesus Christ will possess the mind of Jesus Christ and will strive to live according to His will. A true believer will live in accordance to the Great Commission and want to see people saved for Jesus Christ.
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.
How does a person regarded as a “moral compass” convey this hope to others? There are four points that we will cover today whose first letters will each spell the word “hope.” You will stand out as a moral compass that provides guidance and direction with your daily approach in these areas:
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.
The result of humility is fear of the Lord,
along with wealth, honor, and life.
Humility is the first step that every person must take when they first acknowledge the need for a Savior. It begins there and continues throughout life as a believer as one grows and develops in the wisdom and knowledge of God’s Word. This wisdom and knowledge begins with the appropriate reverence for God in your life–it requires a life of humility.
Psalm 111:10 (NIV)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
To him belongs eternal praise.
Humility leads to the next acronym–
You cannot love God and show God’s love to others, without being obedient to His Word.
The evidence of your obedience will be apparent in your daily, consistent approach in how you remain obedient and convicted to God’s Word. It is your daily walk as that moral compass that will show the importance of trusting God and His Word to others. You will show that obedience to God’s Word really matters.
1 Peter 1:20-23
20 He (Jesus Christ) was chosen before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the times for you21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
22 By obedience to the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God.
Note that this obedience requires faith, which is a necessary component in your relationship with Jesus Christ.
Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.
In order to be humble before the Lord and obedient to His Word, a life devoted to prayer must be in the mix.
Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.
Your prayers are not just personal, but also for those persons that you interact with on a daily basis. Prayer is a mighty force when you petition God to touch the people in your life to make a decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. When people know that you are prayerful and are sincerely praying for them, it speaks a powerful message of your love, care and compassion for others.
To be exemplary is to set the best example of living before others. It is when you exhibit a great demeanor, a positive presence, and exceptional behavior as a believer in Jesus Christ where others will be drawn to you. To be exemplary is not about being perfect, or even being the best at everything you do–you still need to show yourself to be a human being that recognizes when mistakes are made and own up to them. In sporting events or competitions, you are to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. Your exemplary behavior will draw people near to you, and also to Jesus Christ, when you show your love and concern for others. This is the essence of your life as a moral compass standing up for Jesus Christ and standing out while living for Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:12
12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation.
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.
The “moral compass” has an important role in the body of Christ—both for the individual and for those he or she interacts with. It starts with the reliance of the Holy Spirit in making all decisions, and it continues as you live for Jesus Christ in providing hope to others who need to make a decision for Him. Your mission in the Great Commission is to show others the love of Christ through humility, obedience, prayer and exemplary behavior. It is living in the best way that you can in being salt and light in the world before others, and it begins with your faith, hope and love in Jesus Christ.
02/22/2010 § Leave a comment
The following is a summary and commentary of a sermon that I presented to Akron Alliance Fellowship Church in 2006.
Last week we were in Hebrews Chapter 3 learning about the relationship between Jesus Christ and us. We learned that Jesus Christ was appointed by God to be in charge of His household, which refers to all of us within the body of Christ, and His church. God created all of us, and Jesus was put in charge of us by His divine appointment.
Therefore, holy brothers and companions in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession; He was faithful to the One who appointed Him, just as Moses was in all God’s household. For Jesus is considered worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder has more honor than the house. Now every house is built by someone, but the One who built everything is God. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s household, as a testimony to what would be said [in the future]. But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household, whose household we are if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.
There is a role for all of us within God’s household that we must be mindful of, however, and that important piece of our relationship within Jesus Christ is revealed here beginning in Hebrews 3:6 where it states “But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household, whose household we are IF WE HOLD ON TO THE COURAGE AND THE CONFIDENCE OF OUR HOPE.” Some manuscripts add the words “Hope in Christ” or “firm to the end.” So it is our responsibility, as members of God’s family, in the body of Christ, within our church and in our Christian community, for us to hold onto the courage and confidence of our hope for the rest of our lives in Christ Jesus. It is by doing this that we remain as members in “good standing” within His household. What do I mean by members in “good standing”? Well, you can be a member of an organization, but as a member there are certain things (at the very least minimum requirements must be met) that must be done within the organization in order to fulfill the terms and conditions of your membership. Members that do these things are regarded as members in “good standing.” If one fails to meet these requirements, it does not mean that your membership is automatically cancelled or that you were being kicked out of the group, but it does mean that you may be a member “not in good standing.” You can also be a member of the body of Christ, God’s family, and yet you are not doing the things that God would have you to do. Here is where your relationship with God may be tenuous. God has one standard for all of us to meet, and if we fail to meet that standard, our membership is classified as “not in good standing.” God does not cancel our salvation or break His promises to us. If we are not in good standing it is because we have failed Him or broken our promises to Him when we accepted Christ.
We fail God, and yet He does not fail us. We fail Him because all too often we succumb to the temptations of the flesh, the world we live in, and we put God in a place far removed from first place in our lives. We fail to obey His laws and precepts and we fall victim to our own selfish desires…pridefulness, jealousy, envy, anger with sinful behavior. No, we don’t lose our membership in God’s family, but we systematically remove ourselves from God’s fellowship because we find the ways of the devil as more attractive. All of this occurs because we fail to listen to what He has to say to us.
In Hebrews 3:7, this is exactly why the voice that we are to listen to, in the form of the Holy Spirit, makes a strong and firm declaration.
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested Me, tried [Me], and saw My works for 40 years. Therefore I was provoked with this generation and said, “They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways.” So I swore in My anger, “They will not enter My rest.”
We need to listen to His voice, and not just listen, but also trust in His voice. We get ourselves in trouble because of our inconsistency in trusting in Him and our failure to truly believe in Him. We are distracted all too easily by the flesh.
Why do we fail to believe in Him? We show a lack of courage versus the world.
Courage is the ability to act on what we know is right and good, and to dare to do what we should or must. While fear paralyzes, it is courage that helps us move ahead.
The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom should I be afraid?
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.
We lack confidence in God and who He is in our lives. Confidence has many meanings. It also can imply our level of faith, our level of hope, and our level of trust in Him. Note that I refer to having confidence in Jesus Christ and not just confidence in us, which is completely different.
The other reason why we don’t listen to His voice is that we listen to other voices. We have been studying in Sunday school about our first enemy who is all-powerful…the flesh. We can never allow the flesh to get the upper hand.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.
Pride creates an adversarial relationship with God.
Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep under His care. Today, if you hear His voice: “Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in the wilderness where your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they had seen what I did. For 40 years I was disgusted with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray; they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My anger, ‘They will not enter My rest.’ ”
Anger must be subdued.
In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also presented [an offering]—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why are you downcast? If you do right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
We are to avoid these failures and heed the warnings in Hebrews 3 and 4. Notice the emphasis–in triplicate–within these Scriptures to bring the point home:
Hebrews 3:7-8, 14-15, 4:7
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the desert…For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start. As it is said: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion…again, He specifies a certain day—today—speaking through David after such a long time, as previously stated: Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.
In Hebrews 4:7, the emphasis is not to put off listening tomorrow (which is the response that the flesh will always present to you when it is time to make a decision). The importance of doing it today as referenced means “DO IT NOW!” Today is the day, not tomorrow, not next week, not when you get older and more settled in…today!!!
We run away from God when our life is not right. Look at the evidence of this in Genesis 3:8-11:
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” Then He asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I had commanded you not to eat from?”
God ignores no one. He knows each and every one of us, and we cannot and will not escape His judgment.
For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart. No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.
Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord.
Watch your thoughts and heed your actions.
You can fool others with your false sincerity.
You can even try to fool yourself.
God will not be fooled.
Turn your heart to Him, and give it all that you’ve got!
But from there, you will search for the Lord your God, and you will find [Him] when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul.
What about overcoming a lack of courage or the lack of confidence?
Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
We are commanded by God to do this. Listen to His command. Remain faithful to the end.