An Acceptable Fool

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

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Who Needs Theology?

07/30/2015 § Leave a comment

WhoNeedsTheologyWhen 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. [1]

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.” [2]

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. [3] The English word “theology” comes from two Greek terms: theos, meaning “God” and logos, which refers to “word,” “teaching,” or “study.” [4]

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.” [5] 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.” [6] 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. [7] 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. [8]

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 [9] 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 [10] 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

Who We Become in Christ

06/22/2015 § Leave a comment

God’s desire for us is to live an abundant life. It is a life not with promises of perfect health and riches, but a life that understands the relevance of Christ’s presence and a desire to be more faithful and obedient to Him. Our riches are not physical. They are in the abundance of living a life for Jesus Christ. [1] In our living this abundant life, we develop the mind of Christ and perform acts of ministry to others in worship to Him and in praise for Him.

As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we receive the aid of the Holy Spirit who provides us with the desire to want to serve Him. We want to please Him often before we know how to do so. The enthusiasm of a new life in Christ is present (2 Corinthians 5:17), but the challenge is to build upon the enthusiasm with the actions that we believe are best in line with His will and purpose for our lives.

This is also true for “fifty-somethings” like me who have known Jesus for over twenty years. I have encouraged my church Sunday school class and congregation to always remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit as you submit your life to Him in prayer as to your focus within the body of Christ and in ministry as to your purpose. Everyone is born with at least one talent. The prayer is that God reveals to you all of your talents, abilities AND your spiritual gifts that He gives to you as you became a believer in Christ. You have to seek His wisdom and guidance in this area to reach your fullest potential.

Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life helped its readers to recognize that each person created by God has a purpose. As we read Warren’s first words of the book, “It’s not about you,” [2] it is apparent that our lives are not our own as much as we would like. We are often confronted with the reality that what we are doing in our vocational work or even within our actions in church is inadequate as we reckon with God’s calling for our lives.

The most important things that a person can do to resolve this issue include the ongoing development of one’s relationship with Jesus Christ. There must be a closeness with Christ in order to be in tune with His will and desires for you to be fulfilled. Of course, Satan and his agents will put up all sorts of opposition or obstacles that will keep you from developing this closeness. Your busyness will challenge your ability to focus on Jesus Christ, but your efforts to remain steadfast with Him and in Him makes you Satan’s enemy. Thankfully, you have the power of the conquering Holy Spirit who will cling to you and provide protection (Isaiah 54:17).

It begins with communication–His Word speaks to you and you respond in prayer. An in-depth review of His communication with you requires the quietness of meditation. From there, you can live with the confidence that God will provide direction for you as you grow in your relationship.

There may be a change of path in your vocation or even your career of service as you navigate through life, but there is nothing better than receiving the directions from the guiding hands of Jesus Christ as you move forward.

 

1 Article – John 10:10 – The Abundant Life (2000). Grace Communion International. © 2015 Grace Communion International. Retrieved June 18, 2015 from https://www.gci.org/bible/john1010

2 Warren, Richard (2002). The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth am I Here For? Copyright © 2002, 2011, 2012 by Rick Warren. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI., pg. 21

Who’s in? Who’s out? (How Someone Will Enter Heaven or Hell)

11/30/2014 § Leave a comment

Many people, without any definitive understanding of what it takes to get to heaven, believe that they are indeed going to heaven after death.

“People have different ideas about heaven. Many have no understanding of God at all, but still like to think of heaven as the ‘better place’ where we all go when we die. Most people don’t give heaven much thought until they attend a funeral or a loved one dies. It is popular to refer to heaven as the place where ‘the good people go.’ And of course, everyone they know and love is included in the category of ‘good people.'” [1]

“According to a recent news poll from a major news organization, 85% of people who believe in heaven but are not necessarily Christian believe that they will go to heaven.  Even more surprising is the fact that 77% of people who claim no religious affiliation feel that they are good enough to go to heaven because they feel they are a ‘good person.’” [2]

If this is true, then there would be little need to talk about heaven and hell at all; however, we need to remember our true state before God and that the way to heaven is hardly a multi-lane expressway:

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)

Being a “good person” also indicates a belief that what you do in life and how well you treat other people will tip the scales towards one going to heaven instead of hell.  What people fail to take into account is the sin in one’s life that prevents a person’s ability (or inability) to fellowship with God.

Without the atonement of sin, man cannot enter into a relationship with the holy presence of God.  Even when Jesus was on the cross, He lamented over the deep separation and abandonment that He experienced when He took the world’s sin upon His body:

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)

The words uttered by Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophetic message of Psalm 22:1, but His sacrifice on the cross was the only remedy over the power of sin and death.

“2 Corinthians 5:21 says, ‘He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.’  It is possible that at some moment on the cross, when Jesus became sin on our behalf, that God the Father, in a sense, turned His back upon the Son.  It says in Habakkuk 1:13 that God is too pure to look upon evil.  Therefore, it is possible that when Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), that the Father, spiritually, turned away.  At that time, the Son may have cried out.” [3]

It is the power of sin that prevents one from fellowship with God; moreover, it presents the eternal dilemma as to how a person can become righteous before God.  The answer is that no one is righteous (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10-12) and all are unable to come anywhere near God’s standard of holiness and righteousness (Romans 3:23).

The difference for man between heaven and hell is only realized through God’s provision of grace in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and in the recognition of the need to accept His saving grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).  He has promised that He forgives all sin as it was left on the cross (1 Peter 2:24).  The power of sin cannot be overcome by anything that man does on his own (Isaiah 64:6).  It is faith in the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ that cleanses the stain of sin (Isaiah 1:18; Psalm 51:7; Ephesians 5:26-27).

In the same way that “Abram (Abraham) believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6), man must believe in Jesus Christ as Savior in order to have fellowship with God in heaven.  Even the thief on the cross received Jesus’ eternal promise because of faith in Him and recognition as to who He was (Luke 23:42-43).

Anything less than faith in Jesus Christ means that man cannot be righteous before God, and man is subject to the consequence of spiritual separation from God.  It is not God rejecting man, but man rejecting the saving grace of Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:8).  When God is rejected, there is no other place for man to go than hell.  Again, while those who practice lawlessness without repentance will go to hell, so will those who believe they are “good enough.”

Consider the doctrine of Oprah Winfrey, who was elevated to the status of a spiritual icon by USA Today:

“Oprah speaks less about salvation through Christ than she does Christ-consciousness. Likewise, she describes heaven not as an eternal destination but an inner realm of consciousness. And she dismisses the idea that there is ‘one way’ to God, when she says, ‘There couldn’t possibly be just one way. One of the mistakes that human beings make is believing that there is only one way to live,’ she said. Instead, ‘there are many paths to what you call God.'” [4]

Scripture warns of false prophets and false teaching (Romans 16:17-18; 2 Peter 2:1-3), for they will only confuse people from knowing and hearing the true gospel that is rooted in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

 

1 Article – S. Michael Houdmann (n.d.). Who Will Go To Heaven? © Copyright 2002-2014 Got Questions Ministries, Colorado Springs CO. gotquestions.org. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from http://www.gotquestions.org/who-will-go-to-heaven.html

2 Article – Jack Wellman (2012). Who Goes to Heaven? Do Good People Go to Heaven? Copyright © 2010-2014 Telling Ministries LLC. whatchristianswanttoknow.com. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/who-goes-to-heaven-do-good-people-go-to-heaven/

3 Article – Why did Jesus cry out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, Nampa ID, CARM.org. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from http://carm.org/questions/about-jesus/why-did-jesus-cry-out-my-god-my-god-why-have-you-forsaken-me

4 Article – Steve Rabey. Oprah’s ‘gospel’- Entertainment mogul preaches ‘many paths’ to God. (2008). Christian Examiner® El Cajon CA. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from http://www.christianexaminer.com/Articles/Articles%20May08/Art_May08_02.html

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

Philosophical Thinking Leads to Greater Maturity in Christ

11/06/2014 § Leave a comment

The study of philosophy has challenged me to see that a person who is giving careful consideration about matters of life, whether the outcome of their thinking is correct or erroneous, is stretching themselves for the purpose of greater understanding. A philosophical thought process requires time, effort and deliberation. It involves acute concentration and exceptional focus. In the end, it develops the mind and lends to providing answers to questions that may otherwise never be addressed or solved. It also, of course, just as easily raises more questions.

I see how philosophy, in my quest for “love of wisdom,” has helped to shape how I approach my faith and preparation in my own personal studies. Socrates got it started, and Blaise Pascal really greased my skids of interest with “Pascal’s Wager,” [1] a tremendous exercise of thinking–making a decision and being deliberate about it! I have been sharing my classroom experiences with my church family as a Sunday school instructor and even when I fill in for my pastor. I will tell anyone willing to listen that it is very important for a person to continually use reason and to evaluate and reevaluate their faith in Jesus Christ, and to continue to seek the godly wisdom and knowledge that the Spirit is ready to share at every opportunity. None of us can afford to stand pat in this area. Standing pat or accepting the status quo can only lead to complacency in our spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. The very nature of Christian Apologetics is the result of deliberate thought, reasoning and declaration that Jesus is indeed Lord and Savior for all.

I have become very passionate about individual Christian preparation and the development of good study habits in advocating a daily two-year bible reading plan. It’s not about just reading the bible, but investigating what is being read. This means that the individual needs to analyze bible passages with cross-references and commentaries, and use prayer and meditation for greater understanding. This process can only promote the maturity of the believer in Jesus Christ and strengthen their ability to live out their faith. On the surface, you might think that people are already doing this stuff. After observing individuals, their overall bible knowledge and even some personal study habits, the reality is that there are many people who are not doing anything even close to a regular daily bible routine. Many people don’t read the bible because they don’t understand what they are reading, or it even comes across as boring. If the bible is hard to understand or uninteresting, that means there is little to no energy being expended in the thought process and expansion of one’s person faith. While many people acknowledge that they should read the bible (and there are thousands of reading plans available), there now needs to be a “training” of sorts over the daily reading approach. There must be a deliberate thought process within the bible reading plan that becomes habitual and, in turn, beneficial to the reader. The bible must be taught in such a way where people need to see that it is far from boring and that any reading time is time well spent. In summary, we all need to improve our personal habits and grow in how we think about Jesus Christ and continue to develop our faith and trust in Him.

God has always said there will be a remnant of His chosen people that will lead the way in the world, and that especially includes today (Romans 9:27, 11:5). The leaders will be the very people who are faithful in seeking Him, His wisdom and knowledge…the real thinkers about Jesus Christ. They will know how to proceed in these troubled times against all opposition and difficulty, for they will know the Spirit’s voice when they hear it to help them to endure and persevere. Many who proclaim the name of Christ at some point will fall away due to pressures and persecution, which is already occurring today (Matthew 24:4-14, 23-24), and we are not yet at the great tribulation. The people who will stand are the thinkers, the philosophers of today who love the wisdom and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
1 Article – Pascal’s Wager (n.d). From Wikipedia. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal’s_Wager

“The Talk” – When It’s Time to Share the Gospel

10/12/2014 § Leave a comment

My text for a message at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, October 12, 2014:

“Just wait until you’re father gets home!”

At that moment, when you heard those dreaded words from your mother, a sense of dread and doom was cast over you. You knew that the inevitable would happen once your Dad would hear the story about your latest transgression. When he gets home, your fate would be in his hands. Until that time, all that you want to do is hide somewhere. For those of you who remember the movie, A Christmas Story, Ralphie was hiding under the kitchen sink because he was afraid of what his Dad would do to him because he got in a fight. I thought of hiding in a closet or under my bed a few times. Maybe the amount of time it would take to find me would make everyone forget all about what happened…or, as I would find out later, maybe not.

As a parent, when my children looked at me as I was reprimanding them with my words and my very serious tone and facial expression, I could see the looks on their faces. They saw the unhappy father instead of happy Dad, and it wasn’t very cool. Their eyes were riveted to my eyes as they listened, and they were waiting for it all to be over and done with. They were enduring what I will affectionately refer to as “The Talk.” There are different names for this event, but the most effective “talks” are those that get the point across without the need for any other punitive action. If they are done correctly, the offense that is being addressed will never come up ever again.

When considering the impact of “The Talk,” the words spoken in this communication (and it’s pretty much a one-sided conversation) are made up of the following elements:

  • A subject
  • A statement of fact or facts
  • A declaration
  • A summary and conclusion
  • A clarification (as in “Do you understand?”)

All of us have been impacted in some way, shape or form by “The Talk.” Consider that it is not always communicated in a way that it is interpreted as negative or in such a way where you are being corrected; however, it should be noted that the gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed a message of love and peace that can be received either very positively or very negatively. Why is that? It’s interesting that a message that conveys hope can be seen either as a hopeful message, or as a message of dread.

When the mailman delivers a tax refund check to you, he is the greatest person alive at that very moment. When he delivers bills to you, not so much. When he is delivering a tax bill, he becomes an agent of Satan.

An important thing to keep in mind here is that it is not so much an issue as to how one responds to the gospel message—it is simply important to be the messenger and deliver the message.

Most of you are aware of the Great Commission verses in Matthew 28:19-20, but I want to share with you how Jesus had “The Talk” with His disciples after He rose from the dead because of their fear and unbelief that He indeed had returned. Note that, at the same time, He told his disciples to go and declare the truth to all the people:

Mark 16:9-20 (HCSB)

Early on the first day of the week, after He had risen, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had driven seven demons. 10 She went and reported to those who had been with Him, as they were mourning and weeping. 11 Yet, when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it. 12 Then after this, He appeared in a different form to two of them walking on their way into the country. 13 And they went and reported it to the rest, who did not believe them either.

14 Later, He appeared to the Eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table. He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who saw Him after He had been resurrected. 15 Then He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; 18 they will pick up snakes; if they should drink anything deadly, it will never harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.”

19 Then after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the accompanying signs.

 

When you give someone The Talk, there must be substance within the message. There must be evidence that the words within the message have a meaning and a purpose to promote the greatest opportunity for understanding.

Jesus gave His disciples The Talk, and they listened. But even in their listening to His words, there had to be evidence to support Jesus’ words. Without evidence, the words lose all meaning and purpose. Jesus backed up each and every one of His words with evidential proof in the results of their obedience to His words. His words, as a result, became even more powerful and meaningful to them as they proclaimed the gospel.

OK, so with this in mind, we are to present “The Talk” of the gospel to others.

Maybe it will happen sometime later today. Perhaps it will even be tomorrow. It will almost certainly happen sometime in the near future.

Knowing this, are you prepared to give someone “The Talk” when the time comes?

You need to be ready. If you’re not ready now, you need to get ready ASAP.

Assuming you’re not ready, or at least not completely comfortable with this prospect, let’s take some steps to get you to a place where you’ll feel better about where you are.

First, keep in mind that the Holy Spirit is your guide in all discussions about the gospel of Jesus Christ. You’re less likely to trip over tongue-tied words if you allow the Spirit to guide you.

John 16:13 (ESV)

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

 

Luke 12:12 (HCSB)

For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what must be said.

 

Next, you will need to read, study and pray over God’s Word in order to grow in your knowledge about Him, and as a result, become more confident in your message.

Psalm 1:2 (ESV)

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

 

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (HCSB)

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.

 

John 15:7 (ESV)

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

 

Finally, and most importantly, be consistent in your life as a believer in Jesus Christ to show yourself as a true follower of Jesus Christ. Your communication will be believable as you show the evidence of a Christlike existence.

Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

 

Romans 5:1 (ESV)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Galatians 2:20 (ESV)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

 

Proverbs 22:4 (HCSB)

The result of humility is fear of the Lord,
along with wealth, honor, and life.

 

Again, here is how you prepare to deliver “The Talk”:

  1. Read and study God’s Word to obtain greater knowledge and understanding about your relationship with Him
  2. Live with consistency as a believer to show yourself as a credible witness for Christ
  3. Allow the Spirit to speak freely through you at all times

This is how you will be ready when the Spirit prompts you to present the gospel message to a person. When He prompts you, keep in mind that, in your testimony, it is God who prompts a person to make a decision for Jesus Christ. It will be accepted or rejected, but all that God asks from each of us is His obedience in proclaiming the message.

Let’s look again at the elements of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is not just any talk, but THE Talk…

The subject – Salvation and Jesus Christ

The statement of facts

  • All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23)
  • The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a)
  • Jesus Christ died on the cross as a Sacrifice for all of mankind (Romans 3:25)
  • God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Jesus Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
  • The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23b).
  • If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:9, 13)

The declaration

  • Jesus is the only way to salvation (John 14:6)
  • Forgiveness in Christ begins with repentance (turning away) of your sin (Mark 1:15)
  • Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31)

The summary and conclusion – You can have eternal life by believing in Jesus Christ.

The clarification

  • “Do you know what this means for you?”
  • “Do you know what to do now with this good news?”
  • “Are you ready to pray with me?”

(A quick note: Repentance paves the way for confession, and a mere confession with believing that Christ died for one’s sins is all that is necessary for eternal life. There are no other conditions for salvation—not in how much one believes or how much one knows or understands about Jesus Christ. All of that comes as a person grows and develops in his or her faith.)

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

My Published Media for the Gospel

07/01/2013 § Leave a comment

I have been blessed to be able to teach Sunday school and present sermons at my home church, Akron Alliance Fellowship Church in Akron, Ohio. There is nothing more important to me than to relay the gospel message through my words and actions everywhere I go. It’s important to me because it is also important to God that each of us presents the gospel to others, for He wants to see everyone receive the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9). Salvation is a gift–but just like any gift, you have to accept it.

My eBook is available on Amazon.com (for Kindle or Kindle apps) or BN.com (for Nook or Nook apps) for only $2.99.

My podcast is available through iTunes or through PodOmatic.com via webpage or RSS feed.  They’re free.

Each of these is my way to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is only one way to receive eternal life, and it is through Jesus Christ when you acknowledge your need for Him to be your personal Savior (John 3:16-17; 14:6).

Feel free to share my eBook or pass on links to my podcast to friends or family members.  If you are in need of prayer, please inbox me on my Facebook page or send me a message on Twitter (@melvingaines).  You can also visit my website and my two blogs on Blogger and WordPress.  I welcome your questions, comments or suggestions, but most of all, if you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, make a decision for Him today.

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