The Color of Christmas

12/25/2017 § Leave a comment

I have something to share with you that I have never shared to anyone except my wife.  It’s very personal.

Are you ready? Here it is…

I associate the days of the week with colors.  Yep, that’s it.  Each day of the week for me represents a unique color.

Some of you may be asking “what in the world are you talking about” or “have you been eating well lately,” and I assure you that I have been eating just fine, and maybe too well.

There is actually a name for this phenomenon.  The clinical term for this is referred to as synesthesia.  By definition, synesthesia is a stimulation of a sensory or cognitive area of the brain that involuntary leads to another sensory or cognitive path.  In its simplest form, synesthetes, depending upon how they are wired, associate colors to different stimuli.  Some people can actually associate the different sounds of music with colors.  Some will visually associate letters and numbers with individual, unique colors.

The association of colors with days of the week seems to be more common among synesthetes, and it all has to do with one’s personal perception.  This trait seems to be associated with creative people or artists, and it can be hereditary, but there is not a lot of science or psychology on this, and its probably because some people may not even realize that they have this ability.  I wasn’t able to put a name to it until a few months ago.

Anyway, for me, here are the colors that I see (as close as I can get according to my perception) for the days of the week.  Sunday is close to a white color with a warm, soft cream-like tone.  Monday is a basic blue.  Tuesday is a light gray.  Wednesday is a solid brown.  Thursday is orange, or close to what I would call a burnt orange.  Friday is a solid red.  Saturday is a bright yellow.  As I thought of this subject, I also realize that I associated colors with subjects in high school, which have nothing to do with the day of the week color scheme.  Chemistry and biology, for example, was a solid green.  English was a light blue color, and algebra and calculus were a bright red.  I have no explanation for these, but I can share that English and math were my best subjects in high school.

Many of us probably associate colors with different times of the year and we don’t even realize it.  The four seasons have relatively distinct colors for those of us who live around here.  Spring has a multitude of colors, but many will think of pink and yellow for flowers and cherry blossoms (April showers bring May flowers).  Summer is green and more green.  If you have allergies, you know about pollen, which is yellow.  Autumn means changing leaf colors and pumpkins, which are orange.  Winter is white, and sometimes can take on a rather dreary color of a slushy gray.  With that in mind, how wonderful it is to see Christmas lights this time of year!  We haven’t always had Christmas lights (before electricity we had candles, of course), but even a solid string of white lights in the evening seem to brighten up the surroundings.  Some lights that we see will cover all of the colors of the spectrum, and you can now even see colors dancing in the form of stars or angels projected onto houses with newfangled yard gadgets that run throughout the Christmas season.

Now, I like those kind of colors at Christmas.  We will kindly excuse the people who buy the gargantuan displays of Santa or Rudolph or Star Wars characters that are blown up with an air compressor only to collapse in a heap of wrinkled ruin on the lawn.  I can barely see the beauty of color when I look at those bodacious displays.

Color means a great deal to us.  There’s nothing more boring to look at than a blank canvas or pale white walls.  It’s amazing how something as simple as color stripes or accents on walls can change one’s entire perspective.  Christmas has a color scheme of its own that helps us to get into the spirit of the season after the browns, tans and oranges of Thanksgiving take a back seat for another year.  The reds and greens of Christmas are accented with the light blue colors of sparkle and the snow-white lights that reflect off of the snow on the roofs of houses.  All of these colors are quite prevalent throughout the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and yet they still fall short of the true meaning of Christmas.  The true color of Christmas is not in a shade or a hue, because that would be a limitation of its meaning and purpose.  The purpose of Christmas, in Himself, does not wear a red suit, sport a long white beard, or even go “ho, ho, ho!” The true color of Christmas is in the person of Jesus Christ.

He is the true color of Christmas.

Luke 2:8-14 CSB

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and peace on earth to people he favors!

So when you look at all of the different colors of lights that you see when you drive through your neighborhoods, you can readily conclude that all of the lights of color that you see actually do provide a great reminder of who Jesus Christ is.  He was born as a Savior, Christ the Lord, and He came to us for the purpose of showing us what it is to be a light in the world.

John 8:12 ESV

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Since He is our light, He gives us the example as to how to live as His disciples:

Matthew 5:14-16 ESV

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Jesus wants us to share His light with others.  How are we to do this?  With love.  With kindness.  With compassion.  With a presence…words are not always necessary.  With service.  With prayer for others.  We are to be lights in a world of darkness and suspicion.  It’s no wonder that charities ramp up their efforts around Christmas to raise money.  It is a giving season, and what better way to express the love of Christ than to unselfishly give to those who are in need?

Colors are what add to the ambiance of Christmas, but all of the colors we see should point each of us directly to Jesus Christ.  So before we pan the secularism of the season and bemoan all of the light displays, let’s reflect on how the bright, colorful lights invigorate our spirits and lift us beyond the doldrums of the cold and the snow.  And if lights can brighten the night, what does Jesus Christ do for us?

How much more does Jesus Christ, with His very presence, lift us up when we are down?

How great it is that He who knows how we feel before we can express it?

How wonderful it is that Jesus shines His light of favor, mercy and loving care upon us!

With His light, I can readily declare that at one time I was blind in my sin, but now I can see!

He wants us to see Him in the light of His glory and grace. Amen. His true color is the color of light, which happens to be all of the colors that we see combined into one bright, beaming presence.  And His light has no end to it.

Remember Christ’s words to His followers: “You are the light of the world.”  He came to us in love and for the purpose of our salvation.  He wants us to see His true colors.  Not just at Christmas time, but all year round.  The color of Christmas is not limited to just one shade, hue or texture, and in the same way, let’s not limit our view of who Jesus Christ is for us.

Jesus wants you to see His true color shine.

“We are to walk in the light, beautiful light, come where His love and His mercy are bright.  Shine all around us by day and by night…Jesus, the light of the world!”*

 

*Lyrics from Jesus, the Light of the World. Words by Ken Bible and George D. Elderkin. Music by George D. Elderkin; arr. by Ken Bible © 1998, 2000, 2009 by LNWhymns.com. CCLI Song #3084764.

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

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A Life of Humility

10/27/2013 § Leave a comment

There are moments when you are wrong about something and it would be wise to admit it openly.  It’s times like this that you certainly wish that you were right, but everything points to you making a mistake (and hopefully it’s not a big one).  Of course, you have a choice in this matter…you can readily acknowledge your mistake to someone, or say nothing, hide behind it and point the finger at someone or something else–in other words, play the blame game.

Have you ever been around someone who never admits when they have done something wrong?  If you have, perhaps you remember the frustration that comes in having a relationship with such a person, especially if others around the person occasionally mess up. It can be very difficult to meet a person’s expectations if perfection is the only acceptable result.  A person who readily points out that he or she is “mistake-free” will invariably do more harm in relationships than good, and it’s because human beings who make mistakes can never meet the standards of a “perfect” person.

It is rare when a person is seen taking responsibility for his or her actions, and perhaps even refreshing.  In order to take responsibility, you have to check your pride at the door and humble yourself.  This message is about the act of humility.  Humility in action is the essence of godliness and the absence of pridefulness.  Using the examples I have just provided, it takes little effort to exercise pride when claiming perfection or blaming others for your mistakes because both of these prideful actions are rooted in the flesh.  Humility is in opposition to the desires of the flesh.

Humility is a character trait that must be learned and developed over time.  It must be learned and developed because we are not, in our own nature, capable of humility. As a child, you were only capable of communicating your basic needs and desires with dependence on your parents to care for you.  As you grew up, you had to learn about right and wrong, “please” and “thank you” and how to be courteous to others.  Assuming that you have learned all of these things (chuckle), humility is something that we continued to learn as we got older, and we are still learning to master it.

There is grace in humility…both for you when you exercise it, and for the recipient who receives it.  As we learn to master acts of humility, we are to be encouraged to grow in this area as it is a godly attribute.

James 4:6

But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says:

God resists the proud,

but gives grace to the humble.

The art of mastering humility will test six key areas of your life in your quest for godliness and living a Christlike existence.  These are far from being inclusive of everything but these will say a lot about who you are and your growth in Christ:

1. Your honesty (trustworthiness)

2. Your kindness (generosity, compassion and forgiveness)

3. Your patience

4. Your perseverance

5. Your respect (for others, your self-respect, self-esteem)

6. Your self control (contentment, temper)

You may have picked up that these virtues make up a number of the fruits of the Holy Spirit:

Galatians 5:22-26

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. 26 We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Living a life of humility requires a believer crucifying the flesh.  It is an ongoing struggle, but the Holy Spirit enables every single believer with the capability to overcome any fleshly influence or desires.  By yielding to the Spirit, you will best be able to do the following:

  • Rely less on your reasoning and rely more on your heart

Humility has a positive effect on your thought process.  You will invariably take the approach that extends beyond your own reasoning, logic and understanding, and extend beyond the inherent barriers associated with human thoughts to those thoughts that can only come from the wisdom and knowledge of the Spirit:

Isaiah 55:8-9

8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

and your ways are not My ways.”

This is the Lord’s declaration.

9 “For as heaven is higher than earth,

so My ways are higher than your ways,

and My thoughts than your thoughts.

1 Samuel 16:7

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.”

  • Trend less towards anger and more towards peace

In order to understand the nature of peace, you need to go beyond the obvious (for example: no war, no yelling or screaming, a quiet room — these are all correct but you must consider the influence of Christ in your efforts of humility).  Jesus Christ’s influence on you in your efforts of humility will remind you of God’s grace to you and how that grace is extended to others.  When you recognize God’s grace in your life, you will readily extend that grace to others–even during those times when you have every right to be angry.

Ezra 9:7-9

7 Our guilt has been terrible from the days of our fathers until the present. Because of our iniquities we have been handed over, along with our kings and priests, to the surrounding kings, and to the sword, captivity, plundering, and open shame, as it is today. 8 But now, for a brief moment, grace has come from Yahweh our God to preserve a remnant for us and give us a stake in His holy place. Even in our slavery, God has given us new life and light to our eyes. 9 Though we are slaves, our God has not abandoned us in our slavery. He has extended grace to us in the presence of the Persian kings, giving us new life, so that we can rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.

This is especially true in areas where forgiveness is necessary.  True forgiveness is not on our own strength and ability.  It comes only from God Himself through the Spirit.  As God has forgiven our sins through grace and granted us an eternity of fellowship with Him, we are to extend the same grace to others and put aside our anger.

1 John 3:16-22

Love in Action

16 This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him?

18 Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action. 19 This is how we will know we belong to the truth and will convince our conscience in His presence, 20 even if our conscience condemns us, that God is greater than our conscience, and He knows all things.

21 Dear friends, if our conscience doesn’t condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and can receive whatever we ask from Him because we keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight.

Luke 17:3-4

3 Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Matthew 6:14-15

14 “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15 But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.

Don’t let your harshness that comes from an unforgiving spirit ruin your testimony before Jesus Christ and others.  This is an area that is a stumbling block to many believers because they are failing to grasp the immeasurable grace that God has bestowed upon them in forgiveness for their own sin.  As you grow and learn more about God and this grace, you will be less resentful, less angry, and be more ready and willing to extend grace and forgiveness to others.  It’s an area that all of us need to work on, and it starts with humbling yourself before God and before others.

This also applies to how well you esteem yourself before God. Satan will trick believers into thinking that they are forever inadequate before God, when God assures us that we are made righteous before Him when we confess our sin and trust that He is true to His Word:

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Romans 8:1-2

1 Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

  • Know that it is not about you and that it is more about Jesus

Your relationship with Jesus Christ should be far more important than those things that would keep you from living a life of humility: your ego, your reputation, your adversarial relationships, your finances or anything that has an adverse effect on your relationship with Jesus.  A humble person is a godly person who is secure and content in himself, in his relationships and acknowledges a dependence on Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 8:5-6

5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth—as there are many “gods” and many “lords”—

6 yet for us there is one God, the Father.

All things are from Him,

and we exist for Him.

And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.

All things are through Him,

and we exist through Him.

Philippians 4:12-13

12 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

1 Peter 5:6

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

Above all, humility is necessary for a person to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Acts 2:38

“Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 149:4

For Yahweh takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with salvation.

Romans 10:9-12

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. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. 11 Now the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame, 12 for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him.

James 4:7-10

7 Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

The Wayward Child

10/14/2013 § Leave a comment

As an adult with children, I always wanted the best for each of them as they grew up, and I often imagined how life would be for them once they became adults.  All loving parents want to see our children succeed in their education, and once they get older, their careers and even finding the perfect spouse.  Each of these are significant life milestones, and in all of them, it is our hope that our children look to the Lord in all of their life choices and decisions.  That is easily the most gratifying result that we want to see from our children…living a life that is holy and pleasing to God.

Proverbs 22:6

Teach a youth about the way he should go;

even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Unfortunately, the challenge that parents of a Christian household often face with their children is far from what they envisioned when they raised them with the instruction of what it is to follow Jesus Christ.  At one point, it appeared that a son or daughter was obedient and responsive to the instruction, but one day, something must have happened where the tide had turned.  The turn occurs because our children possess the very same thing that we possess…free will.  They have the ability to make choices, both good and bad ones, in the same way we do.   We remember how we came up over the years and the choices that we made, and we don’t want our children to make the same mistakes.  Our prayers have been, and will continue to be, that our children’s good choices will far outweigh the bad ones, and that the bad ones will not be as costly to them.  The proverb of teaching the child is true…the child doesn’t forget what they have learned.  It is not just your desire, but also God’s desire for the child to remember what was learned, to understand it, and to make the decision to completely live for Jesus Christ.

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.

What a blessing it is when our child, who is obedient to the Lord, grows with this same philosophy as an adult!  When our child veers into a different direction–one that is contrary to living a Christlike existence, we are deeply affected because it leaves the parents with feelings of helplessness, and even regrets that perhaps something could have been done differently that would somehow have made the child behave differently.  The reality is that a child raised in a Christlike household may or may not follow that same teaching as an adult, and parents will beat themselves up with regret and blame that doesn’t change the behavior.  This message is about those children who keep parents up at night.  In moments like this, it is very important to  remember God’s love and grace, and look at ways to manage our interaction with the wayward child.

First, before you interact with your child, you need to examine your own behavior.  You cannot effectively minister to other people, let alone your child, unless you are paying very close attention to your level of obedience to Jesus Christ.  You need to go through a self-examination of your life and your attitude.  This allows you to truly listen to what the Spirit is saying to you and be aware of the leanings of the Spirit.  It starts with the most important commandments as noted by Jesus Christ:

Matthew 22:34-40

34 When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”

37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command.

39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

In order to love your wayward child (and you do love the child even though there are times when you are disappointed or angered by his or her behavior), you need to draw upon the basic principles of your faith in Jesus Christ–loving the Lord with all of your heart, soul and mind, and loving your neighbor as yourself.  Both of these commands of Jesus Christ have a profound effect upon your life and the consistency of your behavior.  Others, who observe your behavior, and especially your child will see your love for God.  What is the one thing that you do that can have an adverse effect on your child and how he or she responds to you?  It’s your inconsistent behavior.  As a prime example, you can’t address the sin of another person without addressing your own sin.

Matthew 7:1-5

1 “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. 2 For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? 5 Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Let’s look at the context of this verse when coupled with the second great commandment that Jesus mentions in Matthew 22:39 (Love your neighbor as yourself) with where He draws it from in Leviticus 19:

Leviticus 19:9-18

9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you are not to reap to the very edge of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 You must not strip your vineyard bare or gather its fallen grapes. Leave them for the poor and the foreign resident; I am Yahweh your God.

11 “You must not steal. You must not act deceptively or lie to one another. 12 You must not swear falsely by My name, profaning the name of your God; I am Yahweh.

13 “You must not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages due a hired hand must not remain with you until morning. 14 You must not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but you are to fear your God; I am Yahweh.

15 “You must not act unjustly when deciding a case. Do not be partial to the poor or give preference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly. 16 You must not go about spreading slander among your people; you must not jeopardize your neighbor’s life; I am Yahweh.

17 “You must not harbor hatred against your brother. Rebuke your neighbor directly, and you will not incur guilt because of him. 18 Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.

This part of the message is very important when it comes to the nature of developing a loving and consistent interpersonal relationship with your child.  God’s love is always to be the foundation of your interaction with anyone, let alone your child.  You must remove any hint of hatred or animosity in your dealings with your wayward child, for it is when they see your love and concern it paves the way for your ability to minister to them in the truth of God’s Word when the Spirit provides the opportunity to do so.  Your sin and transgressions that God commanded the people of Israel not to do in Leviticus 19 can block your ministry to the child and show you as less credible in their eyes.

Hebrews 10:22

…let us draw near (to Jesus Christ) with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.

Another important point to consider here in this relationship is to take the focus off of yourself, which essentially means you need to give yourself a break.  What does this mean?

1.  Acknowledge that you did the best you could as a parent.  You weren’t perfect, but you presented the gospel message to your child, and they heard what was necessary for them to effectively discern right from wrong.  There’s no good energy spent in regret over the past or what might have been.

2.  Acknowledge that you can’t control their behavior.  The choices the child makes are on the child alone, and not you.

When you decide that you did everything you could as a parent and that you can’t do anything about your child’s behavior, it comes down to taking the humble approach and doing the most important thing that you can do for your child…prayer.  Your communication to God is the natural response when God communicates with you through His Word and through His Spirit.  Your prayers make a difficult situation bearable and put your faith and trust in God in action.  He hears your prayers in the midst of your affliction and provides, first and foremost, peace to your soul and rest for your body.

Psalm 31:7-8

7 I will rejoice and be glad in Your faithful love

because You have seen my affliction.

You have known the troubles of my life

8 and have not handed me over to the enemy.

You have set my feet in a spacious place.

Matthew 11:28-29

28 “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.

Isaiah 40:30-31

30 Youths may faint and grow weary,

and young men stumble and fall,

31 but those who trust in the Lord

will renew their strength;

they will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary;

they will walk and not faint.

James 1:5

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.

This endeavor is not a sprint…it is a marathon.  Your in it for the long haul because you want the best for your child, and you don’t know or when God is going to reach your child to change the behaviors and, eventually, the outcome.  This will always be part of God’s mysterious ways that He draws people near to Himself, but always remember that He loves your child more than you ever could, and He wants the very best for all of us.

Jeremiah 29:10-11

10 For this is what the Lord says: “When 70 years for Babylon are complete, I will attend to you and will confirm My promise concerning you to restore you to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

I deliberately included verse 10 here to show that even as God has plans for our hope in the future, we need to remember that our time and God’s timing can be much different.  In our prayers, we can certainly pray for change, but we must respect God’s timing in everything, including how He acts as a change agent for our wayward child.

An important aspect of your ministry to your wayward child is how you interact with your child.  No matter how you feel about what he or she is doing, you are to always show yourself to be open for the child to come home or to have social time.  You don’t condone their sin, and you establish ground rules as to behavior if the child is there for a period of time, but they should always see the love of Christ in you when they look at you.  Love the child in the midst of your disappointment.  This is admittedly tough to do, but with God’s help, you can do it, and you can shine for Christ while doing it.  You are to regard your child in the same way God sees you (1 Samuel 16:7b – “Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.”).

Understandably, your ongoing prayers for help and guidance in maintaining the proper attitude will go a long way in this area.  Pray for the right words and the boldness to remain steadfast in righteousness.

Proverbs 16:7

When a man’s ways please the Lord,

He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

In the same way that you are looking for the right words to say, keep your communication open with your child.  Send emails and texts to keep in touch when you can (texts are brief, while emails will have more substance).  Take an interest in the things that interest them (as long as they are not contrary to living for Christ).  Have lunch or dinner with them, and keep the conversation as light as possible.  All of this is to build upon your relationship.  Even though this is your child, it is still an adult-adult communication that is taking place.  Keep your focus on the love of Christ throughout your communication, and keep the lines open, free and clear.

All of this effort is to keep the focus on the saving grace and love of Jesus Christ.

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.

John 10:7-10

7 So Jesus said again, “I assure you: I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

In order for you to keep the door open for the child to enter the door for Christ, you have to provide the path for the child to pursue Him at the appointed time.  We have the blessed assurance that Jesus Christ will welcome your wayward child at a moment’s notice.  That day will indeed be a day of praise and thanksgiving.  Keep your child before the Lord and bathe the matter in prayer, but remember to seek Him with righteousness in everything that you do, and God will hear your appeals.

Psalm 34:17-18

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,

and delivers them from all their troubles.

18 The Lord is near the brokenhearted;

He saves those crushed in spirit.

Proverbs 15:29-30

29 The Lord is far from the wicked,

but He hears the prayer of the righteous.

30 Bright eyes cheer the heart;

good news strengthens the bones.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

Shutting Out the Noise (A Study of 1 John)

07/01/2013 § Leave a comment

Woman-Headache-6234357The 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.

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

Text from Spring Break 2013 Seminar – Seasoning with Brightness! (Day One)

06/05/2013 § Leave a comment

Salt and Pepper Light Bulbs RoseText from this year’s first session (April 19) of the Spring Break 2013 seminar, Seasoning with Brightness!

This weekend, it is my desire that you will successfully begin the process of developing a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. This desire is not only rooted in an enhanced practice of prayer and in additional Bible study (for those elements are part of the picture), but, even more importantly, in how you see the world around you as Jesus Christ sees the world. If you see the world in the way that Jesus sees it, you are bound to see things much differently than how you have seen them up until now; in fact, your practical application of living a Christ-like existence will change everything that you understand today about your life in Christ and your relationships with others. 

The thought process behind this seminar was actually born out of a group of sermons that I wrote last summer pertaining to personal growth in your relationship with Jesus Christ. Of these, one sermon in particular—Remaining in Him—emphasized the importance of a believer going beyond the basics when it comes to a relationship with Jesus Christ, and making every effort to stay in a close relationship with Him. In order to be distinctive in the world as a believer, you need to develop your godly knowledge and your practice of godliness in order to be available for use by God at any given moment. This requires a desire to grow and do more and go further as a believer than you may have ever imagined you could. This weekend, you will look at ways that will help you to see your relationship in Jesus Christ reach new levels that you can attain and maintain! 

How can we achieve this seemingly formidable task in such a short period of time? The short answer is that we can’t do it in one weekend. The good news is that we will be developing personal skills that will help to provide focus on how to develop good habits to drive us closer to the goal. You will, however, need to have an open mind and a desire to develop your relationship with God through Jesus Christ in order to get something meaningful out of our discussion this weekend. We will need to discuss this before we even begin to address how we can be a greater influence in the world as salt and light for Jesus (Matthew 5:13-16). 

Use this evening to reflect upon the following questions about you and your relationship with Jesus Christ: 

· Why do you follow Jesus Christ? 

· What are the benefits of this relationship beyond the promise of salvation? 

· If someone were to ask you why you follow God through Jesus Christ, how would you answer their question? 

What you may discover in your effort to answer these questions, you may see a correlation in your level of commitment to growing your relationship with Jesus Christ—not in a way where you are more or less charismatic in your worship, for example, but instead in your level of commitment to be successful in developing your love relationship with Him. The prayerful commitment to have the desire to seek Jesus more and more begins with faith in who Jesus Christ is…even to the point where every believer must begin with a childlike faith and build upon it. 

Hebrews 11:1 
Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. 

To seek God requires a basic premise that faith must be in the entire process. Prayer without faith will not accomplish your goal to grow in Christ: 

Hebrews 11:6 
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. 

Growing in Your Love Relationship with Jesus Christ 

In order to grow in your relationship with Jesus, you will need to grow in your love for Jesus. Your desire to grow will be simultaneous in your effort to love Him for who He is. 

This entire process begins with prayerful consideration—beginning with greater understanding of God and His role in your life. This is a critical area for most believers, because it means progression beyond the message of Jesus Christ being your personal Savior. It means developing a deep desire to know and learn more about Jesus Christ—in much the same way that Jesus’ disciples had to grow and learn more about who Jesus was. Note that their complete understanding of Jesus did not occur until after His death and resurrection. This should tell you that learning more about Jesus and loving Him is far from an overnight process…it will take a long time—as it should. It is a process of developing a level of intimacy with Jesus, which requires time and effort. It is this time well spent that moves us to respond to God’s expectations for each of us in this love relationship. 

Matthew 7:7-8 
“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.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

What are the important things that we are to be seeking in prayer? 

Closeness with Him 

Mark 3:13-14 
Then He went up the mountain and summoned those He wanted, and they came to Him.  He also appointed 12—He also named them apostles—to be with Him, to send them out to preach. 

Ron Hutchcraft noted in one of his writings that while it was important for the apostles to assist Him in their actions of ministry, Jesus also wanted to develop a relationship—a close relationship—with his ministry team. When you spend time with someone you cannot help but get to know the person. This means spending time with them in fellowship and conversation. In the same way that you learn more about someone by spending time with them, you will accomplish the same thing with Jesus the more that you spend time with Him—a closeness that promotes building a valuable relationship. 

Godly Wisdom 

Proverbs 3:13-14 Happy is a man who finds wisdom
and who acquires understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver,
and her revenue is better than gold. 

Praying for godly wisdom may seem to be obvious, but it’s not. This type of prayer challenges a believer to truly think outside of his or her way of thinking. Our concept of godly wisdom is far from a certainty, for you will discover that how you see things is not always the way the God sees things. Your prayers to receive godly wisdom requires you to be open to direction from the Holy Spirit that can challenge your way of thinking. 

Removal of Obstacles 

You would naturally think that this item would be first on the list; however, God merely wants to see our desire, and then He provides us the ability to see what we need to do in the midst of prayer to call to our attention what we need to do within the process, including the removal of obstacles that prevent fellowship with Him. These obstacles include sin and the need for repentance, or even a more careful consideration of those less obvious obstacles, such as seeking God’s wisdom about the people in your life that will support your efforts to maintain a healthy relationship with God, and avoiding those people who do not think the same way that you do (2 Corinthians 6:14). 

A Greater Desire to Seek Him 

Matthew 6:33 
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 

In order to fulfill the requirements of being salt and light for Jesus, there must be an active, aggressive and persistent approach to building your relationship with Jesus Christ.  The desire to live for Jesus must be at the forefront of your way of thinking, and God will always reinforce your sincere efforts to seek Him with affirmation of your desire (Psalm 37:4-6). 

Psalm 37:4-6 Take delight in the Lord,
and He will give you your heart’s desires. 

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in Him, and He will act,
making your righteousness shine like the dawn,
your justice like the noonday. 
Your growing relationship with Jesus Christ, through seeking His wisdom and guidance in prayer, provides a supernatural benefit to you as a person—before you even reach the first person in ministry. 

Believers are Salt and Light 

Jesus refers to the people who follow Him as disciples, as in “those who He is teaching.” Jesus was often referred to as Teacher, or Rabbi, which is the Jewish word for a teacher or instructor in the law. As His disciples or students, followers of Jesus Christ are also referenced in scripture as being the “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” 

Matthew 5:13 “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.”

Salt is best known as a composition of the mineral sodium chloride, and while it is widely used on a daily basis as a seasoning for food, it was also used as a preservative for thousands of years prior to refrigeration. The oldest known reference of harvesting salt from a lake in China, for example, goes back to approximately 6000 BC. Even the use of additives within salt, such as iodine and fluoride, has provided additional health benefits for generations of users. Most people know about salt and pepper as seasoning for food throughout the entire preparation process and its flavor enhancing benefits for the end user.

So when Jesus speaks about believers being the salt of the earth, what does He mean? 

Discuss. 

Jesus also calls His believers “the light of the world.” 

Matthew 5:14-16
“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.  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.  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.” 

The word light is a noun and a verb, and both parts of speech are used as such in this verse (the first reference to light is that of a noun, and future uses are verbs which communicate action. A light is a powerful reference as to the sheer importance of believers in the world, which many people have concluded is a world of darkness. There is a clear difference between light and darkness beyond the obvious. Scripture often portrays light as being associated with “good” and “righteousness,” while darkness as something that is associated with “despair” or “unrighteousness.” 

Job 10:22 
“It is a land of blackness like the deepest darkness,
gloomy and chaotic,
where even the light is like the darkness.” 

Psalm 18:28-29 Lord, You light my lamp;
my God illuminates my darkness.
With You I can attack a barrier,
and with my God I can leap over a wall. 

Matthew 8:11-12 “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 

John 1:5 
That light shines in the darkness,
yet the darkness did not overcome it. 

So, after reviewing Matthew 5:14-16 and referring to these verses about light and darkness, discuss what Jesus Christ means about the role that believers have as “light” in both uses as a noun and as a verb. 

Why are we to be the Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World? The simple reason that we are to be salt and light is because we are being obedient and responsive in our relationship with Jesus Christ in communicating the gospel to the world. 

Matthew 28:18-20 
Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Even though Jesus commands us to go into the world and preach the gospel, it should be our desire to willingly speak to others about the love of Christ whenever we are called upon.

2 Corinthians 5:6-9 

So, we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.  For we walk by faith, not by sight, and we are confident and satisfied to be out of the body and at home with the Lord.  Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him.

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

The Prince of Peace

05/17/2013 § Leave a comment

Text from message presented at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, March 24, 2013:

In order to win friends and influence people, you need to be friendly, courteous, and good-natured.  It is much more difficult to convey friendliness when you are mean-spirited.  Your messages to others are best received when there is an underlying calm instead of those delivered with nervousness and tension.  It’s true that words used that are normally perceived as being courteous can have their meaning changed if they are spoken with forcefulness and with a negative intensity.  In order to have a positive influence on others, you need to show yourself as peaceful and approachable.  True, effective leadership rules with love and not with tyranny.

Jesus came to earth because He loved His greatest creation—mankind.  He wanted to reach them and culminate His plan of salvation and create the opportunity for everyone to have fellowship with Him for all eternity.  He would do so with His message of love and peace.

Luke 2:10-14

10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people He favors!

His plan was to bring peace to those persons that recognized Him as Lord and Savior.  This is exactly what the gospel message is all about.

Fast forward to just a week before Jesus rose from the dead after His crucifixion, He was traveling with His disciples to Jerusalem at the culmination of His ministry on earth.  One of His comments as He approached Jerusalem, the main city of the Israelites, reflected His love for the Jewish people, the chosen nation, and at the same time His frustration with the people because of their inability to recognize who He was to them—their Savior of peace.

Luke 19:41-42

41 As He approached and saw the city, He wept over it, 42 saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.

His entry into Jerusalem in what we recognize today as the celebration of Palm Sunday.  It was a day of great celebration for the people who acknowledged Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah—the Savior of their people; yet, Jesus lamented that those who saw Him yet chose to ignore Him as the Messiah were already suffering from spiritual blindness.

Isaiah had already made the same declaration about Israel in the midst of His prophecy of Jesus’ coming.

Isaiah 42:18-22

18 “Listen, you deaf!
Look, you blind, so that you may see.
19 Who is blind but My servant,
or deaf like My messenger I am sending?
Who is blind like My dedicated one,
or blind like the servant of the Lord?
20 Though seeing many things, you do not obey.
Though his ears are open, he does not listen.”

21 The Lord was pleased, because of His righteousness,
to magnify His instruction and make it glorious.
22 But this is a people plundered and looted,
all of them trapped in holes
or imprisoned in dungeons.
They have become plunder
with no one to rescue them
and loot, with no one saying, “Give it back!”

Note Jesus’ words to the physically blind man who had previously spoken to the Pharisees about Jesus’ healing power, and the response of the Pharisees:

John 9:35-41

35 When Jesus heard that they had thrown the man out, He found him and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 “Who is He, Sir, that I may believe in Him?” he asked.

37 Jesus answered, “You have seen Him; in fact, He is the One speaking with you.”

38 “I believe, Lord!” he said, and he worshiped Him.

39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, in order that those who do not see will see and those who do see will become blind.”

40 Some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and asked Him, “We aren’t blind too, are we?”

41 “If you were blind,” Jesus told them, “you wouldn’t have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see’—your sin remains.

In spite of Israel’s continual inability to maintain a relationship with God all throughout their history and even see the true Messiah with their very eyes, Jesus still declared His love for His people.  He came to them in peace because He knew that those who would follow Him would do so with His message of peace.  He also knew that those who would not accept Him would cause division.

Luke 12:49-54

49 “I came to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already set ablaze! 50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how it consumes Me until it is finished! 51 Do you think that I came here to give peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52 From now on, five in one household will be divided: three against two, and two against three.

53 They will be divided, father against son,
son against father,
mother against daughter,
daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law,
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Jesus came to us in peace, but the results of His ministry were anything but peaceful.  He reached many people with His message of peace beyond human understanding, and he also brought change that stirred the people towards a true worship and fellowship with God—much to the consternation of the Jewish religious leadership.

Matthew 21:1-11

1 When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you should say that the Lord needs them, and immediately he will send them.”

This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

Tell Daughter Zion,
“Look, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
even on a colt,
the foal of a beast of burden.”
 (Isaiah 62:11; Zechariah 9:9)

The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt; then they laid their robes on them, and He sat on them. A very large crowd spread their robes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of Him and those who followed kept shouting:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
He who comes in the name
of the Lord is the blessed One!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!
 (Psalm 118:25-26)

10 When He entered Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds kept saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee!”

There are several items of note to consider with Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem.

1.  The donkey

Jesus chose the donkey because it was a humble way to enter the city.  It was an Eastern tradition that the donkey was an animal of peace.  Most kings or noblemen used horses in the day, which symbolically represented a declaration or presence of war.  The donkey was more of a communication that Jesus came in peace with a message of peace.  He came as the Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor,
 Mighty God,
Eternal Father,
 Prince of Peace.

2.  The clothing and the palm branches

In many lands in the ancient Eastern region, it was customary to cover the path of someone who was worthy of honor.  This honor was bestowed upon Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, in 2 Kings 9:13.  In Jesus’ case, there were people putting their clothing on the ground along with cut palm branches (from the Greek word phoinix).  There was an existing Jewish tradition—the Feast of Tabernacles—that involved the use of palm branches as part of the celebration (Leviticus 23:40).

In Greco-Roman culture of the Roman Empire, the palm branch was also viewed as a symbol of victory and triumph.  In ancient Egyptian religion, the palm was carried in funeral processions as a representation of eternal life.  It later became a symbol of Christian martyrdom as a symbol of spiritual victory over death.  Take a look at Revelation 7:9 for another significant use of palm branches:

Revelation 7:9

After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands.

Jesus entered the city with humility and the people responded to Him as royalty.  Imagine His presence with the showering of clothing and palms with the joyous shouts of the people.  What a glorious moment it must have been for the people!  It was a celebration, and He was the reason for the celebration.

3.  The use of the word “Hosanna”

Hosanna comes from the use of similar words in both Greek and Hebrew to mean “save” or “rescue” (possibly “Savior”).

Psalm 118:25

Lord, save us!
Lord, please grant us success!

Mark 11:8-10

Many people spread their robes on the road, and others spread leafy branches cut from the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed kept shouting:

Hosanna!
He who comes in the name
of the Lord is the blessed One!
10 The coming kingdom
of our father David
 is blessed!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!

The people who saw Jesus were making a public declaration—with a loud shout—that He was the Messiah that brought salvation to their people.  He was the provision, and it would be less than a week from that time when Jesus was the One who would sacrifice Himself for their sin in order to them to receive eternal life.  He was the Lamb without blemish who was slain for all of us.

John 3:16-17

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.

When we look at Palm Sunday, the traditional beginning of Holy Week, let us remember the symbolic significance of the events of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem—the very nature of who Jesus is to each of us and how much He gave to us:

  • The One who loves His people unconditionally
  • His example of humility
  • His deity as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (clothing dropped before Him)
  • The representation of eternal life (the palm branches)
  • His presence of peace that surpasses all understanding

John 14:27

27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.

In a few short days, the joyful celebration experienced that day would be a distant memory because of the shocking development when Jesus went to the cross.  No one, at that time, would understand why it happened or that it even had to happen the way it did, but we all know today that it had to happen in order for Him to provide salvation from our sins.  His holiness, through the sacrificial blood of Christ, covers our sins.  He saves His people.  It all started with how Jesus loved us, and He still loves us—each and every one of us.  It is a reason to celebrate Jesus Christ for everything He has done for us.  Hosanna in the highest!

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

A Heart of Reconciliation

10/21/2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve learned a lot about myself as I have matured in both age and in demeanor.  One of the things I have learned is that I have grown to be more protective of myself when it comes to interpersonal relationships.  There is no one closer to me than my lovely wife, Lynn, and I have often called her my best friend.  Outside of our marriage, I can honestly count on one hand the number of close friends that I have, and it’s all because of my life experience with friendships and close relationships.  I have always proceeded with caution in these types of relationships because of a latent fear of my friendships dissolving instead of evolving.

My concern about friendships or close relationships is probably not justifiable, but everyone will acknowledge that it is very tough when good friendships come to an end.  The end can be abrupt because of a blowout argument, or they can be very agonizing and painful as they deteriorate over time.  Some are blessed to have friendships last a lifetime; however, many of us know all too well of relationships when they go bad.  The memories of both good and bad relationships impact our lives, and they can have a lasting effect.

Interpersonal relationships come and go, and they sometimes change because we move, our environment changes, or we change as people.  We learn to adapt even during relationships, and we sometimes make choices to compromise or acquiesce in order to make situations or circumstances work out.  When this happens, we learn from experience that healthy relationships can evolve into unhealthy relationships, which can lead to ongoing misunderstandings, disagreements and defensive behaviors.  Friendships are more pressurized and marriages can be strained.

Instead of finding yourself gearing up for the next blowout or confrontation, or even making dire predictions that things are not going to work out, it is necessary for all of us to remember the importance of selflessness in these relationships instead of the practice of selfishness.  Exercising forbearance instead of frustration—humility instead of hostility.  Each of the positive traits that keep relationships strong and intact involve patience, persistence, and even practicing love for the other person when you don’t feel like loving them.  In order to live in this way, consider the attributes that God provides for us to follow when we operate through the Holy Spirit:

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

What I have learned from the good and bad relationships in my life is that I needed to grow personally and develop my communication skills—to be a better listener and to be patient, especially with my children.  I didn’t start out as patient, but with God’s help, it became easier and easier over time to be patient with them and more attentive to them.

James 1:19-20

My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.

The character traits in practicing effective communication with friends, family members, and close acquaintances require one to have a spirit of reconciliation.  The spirit of reconciliation results from having a heart for reconciliation.  It means you are always seeking ways to bring a relationship to an even keel—finding ways to resolve issues or problems.  To be clear on the meaning of reconciliation, here is a definition of the word reconcile from The Free Dictionary by Farlex, © 2012 Farlex, Inc.

1. To reestablish a close relationship between.

2. To settle or resolve.

3. To bring (oneself) to accept

4. To make compatible or consistent; to adapt.

5. To reestablish a close relationship, as in marriage.

All of these meanings require some sort of effort or undertaking by one or more persons to come to an agreement that reconciliation is necessary or even possible.  If one person makes the effort, there is always hope for progress within the reconciliation process.  There is no promise that reconciliation is an easy process; in fact, it can be a very long, arduous, and painstaking endeavor.  It can require a great deal of prayer, longsuffering and patience.  The Spirit must often take the lead in this process because God must be the catalyst in the repair of a troubled relationship.

Psalm 51:12

Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit.

Philippians 4:6-8

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

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.

Romans 15:13

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In order to have a spirit of reconciliation, you must make an effort to reach out to the other person and “forget” the things that brought about the conflict in the first place.  You don’t really forget the past, but you find a way to move beyond the past.  In fact, you may be the only person that talks about working things out or moving forward when the other person is not talking about it at all.  It takes a concerted effort to do this (you and the Holy Spirit), for sure, and it starts with forgiveness.  A sincere effort of reconciliation cannot begin without a sincere effort of forgiveness.

This is a very key part in the process of reconciliation.  Forgiveness is a necessity.  Forgiveness is a release.  It releases you from the burden of the pains and hurts related to the conflict.  You don’t forget the pain, but forgiveness relinquishes the burden from the pain.  Think of the burden that sin carries.  Without a release from sin, the burden is the guilt—the bondage that we experience.  We are released from the bondage of sin because of the forgiveness of sin that comes from our acknowledgment of the transgression before the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 6:6-7

For we know that our old self was crucified with Him (Jesus Christ) in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims.

The repentance is the first step.  Without it, the burden of sin remains in place.

Matthew 6:14-15

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

1 John 1:8-9

If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

God’s forgiveness is the beginning of the reconciliation process that we experience with Him when we seek Him in repentance.  Our sin separated us from Him, for God hates sin and does not fellowship with sin, but, thankfully, it is our repentance and recognition of who Christ is brings about reconciliation.

Romans 5:10-11

For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!  And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have now received this reconciliation through Him.

Sometimes we are harder on ourselves than others are on us…in other words, we have a hard time forgiving ourselves for things we have done to others.  This is also a major obstacle to reconciliation.  If God says that we are forgiven, we need to believe in the forgiveness process and forgive ourselves, too, just as in the same way we are to forgive others.

Isaiah 43:25

“It is I who sweep away your transgressions

for My own sake

and remember your sins no more.

The words ”remember your sins no more” is best understood as “put aside” what we know and move forward.  The positive relationship that you have with others, and even with God, is much more important than keeping score over issues from the past or any issues that come up.  The world’s approach is to maintain conflict at every opportunity, and even get back at the other party with a spitefulness or even revenge.  In stark contrast, a person who possesses a spirit of forgiveness opens the door for humility and a heart of reconciliation.  How welcoming is it to have a person in your midst that is kind and considerate, and operates with a peace-loving nature to work through issues and solve problems!

A heart for reconciliation requires a child-like faith—not child-like as in immature (1 Corinthians 13:11), but in a faith that is much like that when you first believed in Jesus Christ.  Jesus loved to see the children that were brought before Him.  There is something to be said about the innocence of the children seeing Jesus for who He really was.  Their desire was to be near Him because they knew that He had a genuine love for them and wanted them around, and they praised Him openly before everyone when they witnessed His healing powers.

Matthew 21:14-17

The blind and the lame came to Him in the temple complex, and He healed them.  When the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonders that He did and the children shouting in the temple complex, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?”

“Yes,” Jesus told them. “Have you never read:

You have prepared praise

from the mouths of children and nursing infants?”

Jesus refers to His followers throughout Scripture, both young and old, as His children.  He speaks lovingly of His children and desires to have a relationship with them, but He wants His children to seek Him with a childlike, sincere enthusiasm.  To do anything other than this is a hindrance to the relationship with God, and it is certainly a hindrance to understanding the importance of reconciliation with others.

It is also important to point out that for those of us who know Jesus Christ as personal Savior, the Spirit that indwells us gives us the extra-special ability to understand the need for reconciliation.  The Holy Spirit is the foundation of our desire to be obedient to God and His will.  His desire for us is to have a heart for Him and a heart of reconciliation, for He has reconciled us to Himself.

2 Corinthians 5:16-19

From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way. Even if we have known Christ in a purely human way, yet now we no longer know Him in this way.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.  Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us.

We don’t know anyone in a purely human way because of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  We no longer operate as the world does because we have the power of Jesus Christ within us that guides us through the steps that need to be taken in the reconciliation process.  The presence of the Spirit leads to a heart for reconciliation.  If we really want to please God, we will seek Him throughout the process of reconciling with someone or with others.

God desires for each of us to have a heart for reconciliation.  It is this ability that makes a divine difference in a world of conflict, and our obedience to His Word as we work through issues and problems can truly change lives and win people over to Jesus Christ.  What a powerful and wonderful testimony!

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

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