How to Minister to the Dying / Personal Loss of a Loved One

12/02/2014 § Leave a comment

Ministry to any person, let alone a person who is terminally ill or who has lost a loved one, requires extra sensitivity to the person or people involved in the relationship. In order to remain sensitive, it requires the following:

1. Yielding to the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit guides all discussion, the proper words, when they are uttered, will be timely and well received.

A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples on a silver tray. (Proverbs 25:11 HCSB)

“Although there are many dos and don’ts regarding visiting the sick, I will mention only one here. Don’t engage in theological speculation. We don’t need to explain why a person got cancer. We don’t know the answer and anything we say about that is likely to be unhelpful. Point people to the promises of God. Let the Word of God do its work.” [1]

2. A humble approach. The Spirit will always have His way when you humble yourself before Him and before others. It is not that you are doing anything special–it’s actually God ministering to the person or group in your humility.

1 Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love. (Ephesians 4:1-2 HCSB)

3 Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5 HCSB)

3. Being a great listener. Sometimes the best thing is just being there and providing comfort from your presence. Words can be helpful but sometimes they are unnecessary and even inappropriate, especially when saying things that may be truthful but come across as trite or insensitive. It’s better to just extend grace, and sometimes silence, with your presence (James 1:19a).

In ministering to a person whose death is imminent, there are many verses that can be used in the midst of ministry at the appropriate time:
• Psalm 23, 27, 46, 91, 103
• Matthew 11:28-30
• John 11:25-26, 14:1-6
• Romans 8:31-39
• 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
• Revelation 7:9-17, 21-22

“God alone can lead us through death to eternal life. Death casts a frightening shadow over us because we are entirely helpless in its presence. We can struggle with other enemies—pain, suffering, disease, injury—but strength and courage cannot overcome death. It has the final word. Only one person can walk with us through death’s dark valley and bring us safely to the other side—the God of life, our shepherd. Because life is uncertain, we should follow this shepherd who offers us eternal comfort.” [2]

For the person who does not know Jesus Christ, a very good verse to share along with the gospel of Jesus Christ is Hebrews 9:27-28:

27 And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment— 28 so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. (Hebrews 9:27-28 HCSB)

Salvation is the key. Even if it means a deathbed conversion, it will always be my prayer that God will reach out for these persons in this situation.

For the person that is losing or has lost a loved one, words are also less important than providing comfort with your presence. If you overthink situations like this, you will wind up saying something that may be awkward or impolite. Avoid any communication that points to the reason for something like this happening as being “God’s will.” Even if it is true, such comments are inappropriate at a time of mourning and insensitive.

It’s better to say very little, for your presence alone shows that you care about the other person. It means so much more than any words you can say. A person in need should only see the reflection of Jesus Christ in your presence.

15 But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16 HCSB)

 

1 Weblog – Ray Pritchard (n.d.). Giving Hope to Those Facing Death. Copyright © 2014, Crosswalk.com. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from
http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/dr-ray-pritchard/giving-hope-to-those-facing-death-11577804.html

2 Neil S. Wilson, Ed. (2000). Death. pg. 133. The Handbook of Bible Application, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream IL

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

Advertisements

Step Back to Step Forward in Christ

08/18/2014 § Leave a comment

A message text presented Sunday, August 17, 2014 at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church:

This past week, I was able to take the opportunity to use a paid day from work as a volunteer at a charity of my choice.  I selected The Emergency Assistance Center in Northfield Center OH, which is the largest food pantry in northern Summit County.  I was able to meet Joyce Hunt, the Executive Director, Lori, one of the staff members, and a group of volunteers.  The ministry there has grown in the last couple of years since Joyce came on board, and they have extended their footprint beyond the Nordonia Hills area.  They also serve the needs of residents in Twinsburg, Richfield and Boston Heights.  The need has grown over the years where they are servicing over 700 clients per month who are in need of food, clothing or even hygiene products, and they always serve every person who comes through the door with a smile and the love of Jesus Christ.  A person can select what they want according to guidelines established, and they also get free meats and bread.  The Emergency Assistance Center has partnerships with churches in the area and businesses throughout Greater Cleveland—and all without one dollar of government grants or assistance.  It is all done through donations and the selfless efforts of 60 volunteers.  They are making a difference in the community to thwart hunger and provide a lifeline to overcome poverty.  Joyce and the staff readily admit that without all of the volunteers, they could never keep up with the demand and maintain the ministry, and they absolutely believe that God is in the midst of all of it—and that He is to be glorified.

Here is one more way that kingdom work is going on for the glory of God—and giving credit where credit is due…to God and for His glory and purpose.  The testimony to others is in the sharing of the love of Christ.

Notice how all of the heart and soul of ministry certainly begins with our collective efforts of service and duty for the kingdom, and yet we see how people sincerely attribute their efforts, and especially our successes, to God.  When we see testimonies like this, know that God Himself is at the very center of our Christian faith and ministry.

In order to be able to see God truly at work in your life, you need to take a step backward in order to move several steps forward.

James 4:10

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

 

Exalt you in what way?

By giving you fame and fortune? Maybe—but it’s highly unlikely.

By giving you a bigger house and car? Maybe—but it’s highly unlikely.

If you’re entertaining these thoughts, you are missing the point.

In the context of the verse, the act of humbling yourself in the book of James chapter 4 means having a serious approach to who God is when you consider your overall unworthiness before Him.

James 4:1-10

1 What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you?  2 You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.

Adulteresses!  Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy. Or do you think it’s without reason the Scripture says that the Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously?

But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says:

God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.

Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! 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.

 

God wants to see more from you than someone who talks a good game.  He wants to see how you are truly following Him, and it’s not in what you say or in how much you are doing for Him.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-3

1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Better to draw near in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they ignorantly do wrong. Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. For dreams result from much work and a fool’s voice from many words.

 

1 Samuel 15:22-23

22 Then Samuel said:

Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?

Look: to obey is better than sacrifice,
to pay attention is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and defiance is like wickedness and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He has rejected you as king.

 

Note that your success in Christ has nothing to do with your own thought process, your own ways of thinking or reasoning—all of these originate in the flesh.  In order to take steps forward in your faith and in your ministry before others, you need to take a step back and humble yourself before Him.  If you choose not to humble yourself, you render yourself useless within His kingdom.

Here’s a point of controversy, for sure—I’m not saying that you can’t do anything without Jesus.  You can do a lot of things without Jesus.  In fact, you can do many things and even see results, but be sure that you understand what those accomplishments mean according to His ways and His standards.  You may have your own standards, but how do they stand up to God’s standards?

Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

You can do something without Jesus, but in the end, it amounts to nothing.

Isaiah 64:6 (ESV)

We have all become like one who is unclean,

and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.

We all fade like a leaf,

and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

 

Isaiah wrote about these so-called righteous deeds of the Israelites but he was stating, in reality, that they were nothing more than junk before God because of their hypocrisy.  This verse is commonly known as the “filthy rags” verse.  Gotquestions.org notes that the word filthy is a translation of the Hebrew word iddah, which literally means “the bodily fluids from a woman’s menstrual cycle.” This is how we are to see how God sees our self-centered approach to the good things that we think we are doing—namely, they are as useless to Him as a soiled feminine hygiene product. [1]

The things that we think we are doing for the Lord amount to nothing that is worth keeping around.  It all comes down to thinking more of yourself than you really are when you are outside of God’s will and live in disobedience to Him.

Jeremiah 13:1-11

1 This is what the Lord said to me: “Go and buy yourself a linen undergarment and put it on, but do not put it in water.” So I bought underwear as the Lord instructed me and put it on.

Then the word of the Lord came to me a second time: “Take the underwear that you bought and are wearing, and go at once to the Euphrates and hide it in a rocky crevice.” So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me.

A long time later the Lord said to me, “Go at once to the Euphrates and get the underwear that I commanded you to hide there.” So I went to the Euphrates and dug up the underwear and got it from the place where I had hidden it, but it was ruined—of no use at all.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “This is what the Lord says: Just like this I will ruin the great pride of both Judah and Jerusalem. 10 These evil people, who refuse to listen to Me, who follow the stubbornness of their own hearts, and who have followed other gods to serve and worship—they will be like this underwear, of no use at all. 11 Just as underwear clings to one’s waist, so I fastened the whole house of Israel and of Judah to Me”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“so that they might be My people for My fame, praise, and glory, but they would not obey.

 

Without obedience, your works amount to nothing.

If Jesus is not in it, it isn’t worth doing it.

If Jesus is not in it, you’ve received your prize for your effort.

Matthew 6:1-4

1 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

 

God proclaims that your fleshly works, on their own merit, amount to nothing more than soiled products or ruined underwear.  Your works are only justified when you are justified in your humble relationship with Jesus Christ.  Your works will be seen as fruits of the Holy Spirit when you humble yourself before Him.  Only then will He exalt you, and it will be in such a way where you will see His fruits in your efforts and all that you will be able to do is proclaim, “He did it!”

How connected are you with your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?  Just as we cannot live without an air supply, we cannot be fruitful in the world, and even within the body of Christ, without the presence of the Holy Spirit.  One of the best examples of this is the study of the verses in John, chapter 15, of the vine and the branches.  It reflects the necessity of one very important element in our actions as we exist within a loving relationship with Jesus Christ, and it has everything to do with our obedience to His Word, His commands, and His will.

God wants you to see that He values your relationship with Him much more than your service.  Yes, the service is important, but not more important than Him.

If you choose to “do good with works” over a relationship with Jesus Christ, you should know that, at some point in the future, you can’t be fruitful without Him.  There is no substitute for Jesus Christ.  Your ministry depends completely upon the fruitfulness of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who enables you to minister to others.

 

John 15:1-8

 1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.

 

Whether you remain in Him (or not)—he will not desert you or forget about you—He encourages us, and even fortifies us with His very presence.

Hebrews 13:5-6

Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you. Therefore, we may boldly say:

The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

 

Jesus is the vine that allows you to be fruitful in your ministry.

Without Him, you cannot bear good fruit.

Jesus will also prune you in order for you to be fruitful.  Pruning sounds a little painful, doesn’t it?

When was the last time that Jesus used His pruning shears on you?  Was it a moment of discipline?  Believe it or not, you should be encouraged by the fact that you were indeed shown the way to repentance, for repentance means that God loves you and desires to draw you back into fellowship with Him.  Your return to fellowship means that God is pruning you to return you to fruitfulness.

Hebrews 12:3-11

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons:

My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly
or faint when you are reproved by Him,
for the Lord disciplines the one He loves
and punishes every son He receives.

Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. 11 No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

What work does Jesus need to do in your life to make you more fruitful?  Does he need to do some minor pruning—or more than that?

With the knowledge that obedience to Jesus Christ keeps you fruitful, you can now see God working in your life of fruitfulness by showing the love of Christ to others.  He chose you to do the work.  What an honor it is to serve the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

John 15:9-17

“As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. 10 If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.

11 “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.17 This is what I command you: Love one another.

Your work in Christ will show the love of Christ to others.  You were selected to do the work for His glory.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.

 

Colossians 3:17

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

1 “Why are all of our righteous acts considered filthy rags?” (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2014, from http:// http://www.gotquestions.org/filthy-rags.html

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

With Change Comes Opportunities for Ministry

09/29/2013 § Leave a comment

One of the most difficult things that my wife and I have had to do recently is to be involved in the process and decision to put down my father-in-law’s dog.  The decision came after the realization that the dog could no longer walk on his own without assistance, and it was causing Dad a great deal of stress and strain from the lifting and moving of the dog from indoors to outdoors, and back again.  The dog was suffering from degenerative nerve damage from his spine, and the medication that he was taking was not working anymore.  For the first time that I can remember, I saw Dad become emotional because he knew that the dog was suffering and had to go (he couldn’t use the words “put down” himself), and that he was losing his friend and companion of just over 15 years.

Deep down, I knew that we would be involved with Dad managing the health care of his dog this year, and we knew that the end was approaching, but we just didn’t know the exact day or time.  Even when you know it’s coming, it’s tough to prepare for it, and knowledge that it will eventually happen doesn’t make it any less emotional or painful.

Each of us has had moments like this one where the inevitable becomes evident, and there is an adjustment process that we must go through during the transition.  Life is a series of transitions within groupings of situations and circumstances, and our challenge is successfully navigating through these transitions with steadiness and grace, and not just from our own perspective, but in reflecting a positive demeanor and presence before others.  If you are looking at this from a selfless perspective, you will certainly understand the value of living a Christlike existence and as a Christlike example before others who do not know Jesus Christ as a personal Savior.

This message is about developing your ability to deal with the many changes that you will experience throughout your lifetime.  With the recognition that not everyone handles change in the same way, or even very well, there are valuable lessons that are embedded within these experiences.  It’s up to each of us to recognize them.  I will present information to support facts that the more you rely upon God’s perspective through these changes, the more that you will feel His supernatural presence in the midst of the change and the extraordinary ability to see and successfully navigate through these changes with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

So what does this mean for those of us who have a difficult time with change?  It’s one thing to be completely surprised and caught off guard with a situation, and it’s another to see it coming, but our responses can be strikingly similar in both instances.  Whether you know something is coming or not, we are to draw upon the peace and comfort of Almighty God as we meet these challenges.

I will cover four points about change today.  Two of them are obvious to each of us, while the last two are dependent upon the response of the individual.  Before exploring these, consider Solomon’s writings in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.  Change is rooted within the passage of time.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

1 There is an occasion for everything,

and a time for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to give birth and a time to die;

a time to plant and a time to uproot;

3 a time to kill and a time to heal;

a time to tear down and a time to build;

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn and a time to dance;

5 a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;

a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing;

6 a time to search and a time to count as lost;

a time to keep and a time to throw away;

7 a time to tear and a time to sew;

a time to be silent and a time to speak;

8 a time to love and a time to hate;

a time for war and a time for peace.

With these verses in mind:

1.  Change is inevitable

2.  Change is necessary

3.  Change is perspective driven

4.  Change is an opportunity

First, change is inevitable.  Without it, nothing can occur.  From the time of God’s creation of the world through the passage of time to the world that we see today, the world has changed.

Psalm 102:25

Long ago You established the earth,

and the heavens are the work of Your hands.

God is the author and orchestrator of all change.

James 1:17

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

From your own perspective, you have changed physically from the time you were born and through your stages of childhood into adulthood.  You have acquired knowledge as a preschooler through kindergarten, elementary and high school and through your job or profession.  All of this involved change.  Even most importantly, all of these changes had to occur to make you into the person that you are today.  The verse that shows the wisdom and value of seeking knowledge speaks for itself.

Proverbs 18:15

The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge,

and the ear of the wise seeks it.

Next, change is necessary. When you are young, you need to grow in knowledge and learn about life in order to function well and survive. Many achievements over time are based upon performance, and require focus and effort in the short and long term.  Note the biblical truths that convey this message, especially when it comes to your growth as a believer in Jesus Christ:

1 Corinthians 13:11

When I was a child,

I spoke like a child,

I thought like a child,

I reasoned like a child.

When I became a man,

I put aside childish things.

James 4:2b

You do not have because you do not ask.

Growing up is a requirement if you plan to be successful, and growing in your relationship with Jesus Christ is absolutely necessary in your spiritual growth. When change occurs, your growth and maturity will equip you with the ability to trust and rely upon the Holy Spirit with confidence.

Stop here for a moment–let’s deal with the reality that many people simply do not like change. What does change represent for those individuals?  Change represents a different, and sometimes uncomfortable movement to a place that may be uncomfortable and unfamiliar.  This has nothing to do with the end result of the change being good or bad for the person…it is the unfamiliarity of the situation that causes the discomfort.  This can be a big deal for some because there is a comfort in things that you are familiar with, and that’s even if you don’t necessary like it.  What we need to see in this discomfort is not the feeling itself, but the dependence that we truly have for God.  This discomfort should spark a desire in us to seek God in prayer, for direction, for peace in our discomfort, and–most importantly, trusting Him in the results through faith.

Hebrews 11:1-2

1 Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. 2 For our ancestors won God’s approval by it.

Romans 4:20-24

20 He (Abraham) did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 because he was fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 Therefore, it was credited to him for righteousness. 23 Now it was credited to him was not written for Abraham alone, 24 but also for us. It will be credited to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.

Philippians 4:6-8

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

8 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.

Philippians 4:19

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:7

For we live by faith, and not by sight.

This is where change, whether it is positive or negative, is all about your perspective.

If you are unable to reconcile with the reality of change and its inevitability, you may get stuck in the moment without seeing the blessings that occur during and after the change.  I can’t stress enough that in moments where change is taking place, and there is movement from one situation or circumstance to the next, the believer in Jesus Christ must continually seek God in the process beyond the mere change to receive the full effects and the benefits of God’s place and position in the midst of the development.  Ask God to show you, in the midst of change, what He wants to you to see in it instead of focusing only on your own perspective.

Psalm 145:18-19

18 The Lord is near all who call out to Him,

all who call out to Him with integrity.

19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him;

He hears their cry for help and saves them.

Romans 8:28

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.

Our responsibility in the change we experience is to remain loyal and faithful to God, and He will make known His presence in all things.

Micah 6:8

Mankind, He has told you what is good

and what it is the Lord requires of you:

to act justly,

to love faithfulness,

and to walk humbly with your God.

To recap, we acknowledge that change is inevitable, it’s necessary, and it is perspective-driven.  Now let’s explore the opportunity that is in the midst of change.  With change, there is the opportunity to see things from a new perspective that you would not have observed without change, including how you see others that are also part of the change that you are experiencing.  This can lead to opportunities for discussion as to how God has been in the midst of everything that has occurred.

In Acts, chapter 8, Philip listened to the direction of the Spirit and spoke to the Ethiopian about the Scriptures he was reading as to their meaning, and he was able to use the opportunity of that moment to lead the Ethiopian to Jesus Christ.  The key points here are not just the conversion, but how Philip was listening to the Spirit and his availability to hear the Spirit’s direction.  Don’t miss the lesson of hearing the Spirit speaking to you during change.  It may not necessarily lead to converting someone to Christ, but it does mean that God will show, in your obedience to His Word, how you can be viewed as a person.  Your greatest attributes will shine as you remain faithful to God.  Your words of encouragement and affirmation will be well received, and it lays the groundwork for a opportunities to witness, both in the short and long term.  This is all the more reason that we, as believers, need to be ready for those very moments.

1 Peter 3:15-16

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

To summarize, change is constant and inevitable, and it can be good or not very good for the person who is going through it; however, it is not to be feared or dreaded.  Your perspective of change goes a long way in your ability to manage it, and it starts with seeing the change through God’s perspective.  If you trust in Him completely, He will show you where you need to go and provide you with what you need to grow, learn and endure the experience.  He will also show you how you can be a positive testimony for Him before others.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines.  For more content, please visit melvingaines.com or melvingaines.blogspot.com.

The Ministry of Communication

06/16/2013 § Leave a comment

A message presented at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church on June 16, 2013:

My wife and I presently go twice a week to the place where she had to go through physical therapy after injuring her back last year.  Thankfully, she’s healed from the injury, and we go there to exercise and stay loose through what is termed a “wellness” program.  Along with both of us at these workout sessions using the treadmill, sit steppers, weight machine and stationary bike are other people presently in therapy from recent injuries.  The difference between wellness and physical therapy is that wellness means you work out on your own, while a certified instructor closely monitors those under physical therapy.

Physical therapy requires a close monitoring of the person who is in rehabilitation by the instructor.  There has to be a clear communication of what exercises need to be done in order for the injured person to heal as quickly as possible, and especially because there are a fixed number of weeks that the person can receive treatment under a doctor’s care.  The instructor must give instructions that are easy to follow and understand, and the patient also needs to be clear as to the limits of what they can do in their recovery.  Both persons need to communicate well with each other in order to ensure that the recovery is timely and effective.

When we look at this type of communication, we see that there are positive results when both persons are cooperating and responding to questions and comments.  This is the optimal level of communication that each one of us would like to have in our personal and work relationships.  With this in mind, we readily acknowledge that this is sometimes more of a goal than reality.  The art of communication is a skill that needs to be developed over time.  It requires not just the ability to speak clearly, but also the ability to listen to the other person or persons, interpret the comments, and make a response.

I mention all of this because we need to keep in mind that our best opportunities for relating the gospel of Jesus Christ to others is in how we develop our interpersonal relationships.  The development of these relationships starts with effective interpersonal communication.  As we are each called by Jesus Christ to preach the gospel, we will explore the science of interpersonal communication.  This review of the process will help promote consistency in the ongoing development of relationships, and will hopefully provide a spark for those of us who believe they aren’t the best at communication.  For those who make that statement, I must present you with the challenge that your perceived lack of skills in communication is no excuse for not going out and speaking the gospel at the appropriate time.  Remember, this is Jesus Christ’s command to each of His followers.

Matthew 28:18-20 (HCSB)

18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Here is Moses’ conversation with the Lord about going to speak to Pharaoh on behalf of the Israelites.  Moses was not confident of his ability to speak at all.  Many of us may feel the same way, but God wants us to see where He works in your communication.

Exodus 4:10-15

10 But Moses replied to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent—either in the past or recently or since You have been speaking to Your servant—because I am slow and hesitant in speech.”

11 Yahweh said to him, “Who made the human mouth? Who makes him mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, Yahweh? 12 Now go! I will help you speak and I will teach you what to say.”

13 Moses said, “Please, Lord, send someone else.”

14 Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses, and He said, “Isn’t Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, he is on his way now to meet you. He will rejoice when he sees you. 15 You will speak with him and tell him what to say. I will help both you and him to speak and will teach you both what to do.

With this information, we can’t use our lack of ability in speech as an excuse, and let’s not exclude those persons who are young believers.  With the proper focus on God in the process, young believers can proclaim the gospel just as well as seasoned believers, and to some younger demographics, perhaps even better.

Your effective ministry, in general, requires preparation and the repetition of good habits to show yourself to be a qualified servant of Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 4:11-16

11Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you; it was given to you through prophecy, with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. 15 Practice these things; be committed to them, so that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Whether young or old, a believer will grow in his or her ability to minister to others with practical experience and consistency.  This review will look at five different areas that will promote effective interpersonal communication of the gospel to others.  The first area starts with something very important in the model of effective communication…your approach, which is reinforced by your attitude.

1.  Attitude

Your attitude each day is your daily perspective on the importance of the day.  Your attitude impacts your outlook on life, and it certainly has a profound effect on your ministry of communication.  Do you wake up each morning ready to take on the day with a fervor, or do you approach the day with dread and trepidation?  Let’s not gloss over your approach when you wake up each day…this is important.  Your day should start with a “thank you” with the understanding that God gives us each day that we wake up.  To be thankful has everything to do with your perspective about life itself.  Everything that you do each day, including your communication with others in a work or non-work environment, centers on your attitude.  Having a great outlook promotes a healthy interaction with others, while a negative outlook tends to keep you from interacting with others, if not outright repelling others away from you.  The only ministry that can take place here is a negative testimony about believers.

Your attitude is on display each day.  You don’t need to be perfect (that’s unrealistic).  You need to be a human being, but also be different in how people see your smile often, and your positive perspective even more often.

Ephesians 6:6-8

6 Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart. 7 Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord.

Selfish attitudes and behaviors are commonplace today.  While others are out for themselves, to be selfless and concerned for others is refreshing and seldom seen.  You can draw others near to you when you show yourself to be selfless and caring for others.

Philippians 2:4-6

4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,

6 who, existing in the form of God,

did not consider equality with God

as something to be used for His own advantage.

Your attitude each day is just the beginning of your ministry of communication.  Your next area for consideration requires a measure of focus on others:

2.  Attentiveness

Believers who are in service for Jesus are participants in the ministry of reaching people just like themselves.  While no one is created alike, the people that we encounter each day have similar hopes, dreams, fears, concerns, tragedies and triumphs.  It is the things that we have in common that help us to be able to reach others for Jesus Christ.  When people see your genuineness and your ability to relate to who they are, where they’ve come from, and where they want to go, you have immediate credibility where you can share the gospel message at the appropriate time…but let’s also consider some important parts of communication that require attention.

Your interpersonal interaction.  Your credibility in communication begins with your body, your posture and your method of addressing the other person with the appropriate tone.  For example, if you are turned away from a person when he or she approaches you, do you take the time to turn and face the person, or only make a partial turn?  Is your posture erect or are you slouching?  Are you speaking in soft and reassuring tones, or do you come across as if you are being bothered with the interruption?  Consider how you would feel if you received this type of negative feedback when you approach someone.  It is also important to note that many people are often hesitant to approach others with personal questions or issues because of the perception that those questions are an imposition on the other person.  A response of poor body language or a discouraging tone reinforces that same conclusion and will likely discourage any other opportunities for discussion.  Your body language and conversation should always be inviting to the other person–no matter how busy you may be.  It is very, very seldom that a person who approaches you will be completely sensitive to your sense of timing, but keep in mind that your ministry for Jesus Christ is not about your timing.  It’s about His timing.

Your eye contact.  This one is huge, everyone.  Have you ever spoken to someone who cannot look you in the eye?  The person is looking somewhere on your person other than into your eyes.  Somewhere on your forehead?  Your shoulder?  Your chin?  How did you respond?  Don’t underestimate the power of eye contact in communication.  Eye contact in communication reinforces your words with confidence in what you are saying.  A lack of eye contact, no matter how sincere the words are, tends to diminish their impact.  To be fair, successful eye contact is only making glances into another person’s eyes and holding it in place for a few seconds.  It is not about staring the other person to a point of creepiness.  If you believe you struggle with eye contact, you should consider practicing reading an article from a newspaper or a magazine to yourself in the mirror, and take your eyes off the material long enough to look into the mirror at yourself.  This will help you to do a couple of things—practice your focus on the person you are speaking to, and also develop good habits of making eye contact that will build your communication credibility.

Proverbs 4:25-26

25 Let your eyes look forward;

fix your gaze straight ahead.

26 Carefully consider the path for your feet,

and all your ways will be established.

3.  Allowing the Spirit to Speak Through You

This is not as obvious or as practical as it seems to be.  Many people may get the first two areas correct but fail to impart the wisdom or information that God would have the person provide because of one thing getting in the way, and that’s pride.  Before you get all puffed up about someone coming to you for advise or for being that go-to person, remember who put you in that position to reach others.

Galatians 5:16

I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

Jesus Christ sent the Holy Spirit to be a helper for each of us to reach people.  We reach others through the power and wonder of the Spirit who enables us to speak His words.  He does His best work through us when we get out of His way.  If we allow Him to work through us, we receive the additional benefit from His instruction and guidance in how we conduct ourselves each day.

John 14:25-26

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

4.  Anticipate the Possibilities

To anticipate is to be prepared for the eventualities of a situation or circumstance and being prepared to take action when the time is right.  The application in your ministry of communication is to be ready for anything.  The first question that you may ask is “How can you be ready for anything?”  The smart-aleck answer is, “You can’t really be ready for anything.”  What you can do in anticipating the possibilities is to lay the groundwork for friendship first.  Your ministry of communication includes a considerable amount of discussion about those things that show you to be a genuine person, and it’s not exclusively discussions about faith or church; in fact, it’s about everything else.  Your anticipation is in the development of your relationship and ongoing prayer to God in allowing the Spirit to work as you learn more about the person you are interacting with.

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Your ongoing prayers will give you the ability to see God working in the situation, and to be able to anticipate every question and comment that will lead you to our final point…

5.  Act in God’s Timing

There will be opportunities to speak the gospel message to others, but you need to be prepared for them and be ready to act according to the direction of the Holy Spirit.  Even with your anticipation of the possibility of such a conversation, it can still occur very quickly when you may not expect it to.  If you are in prayer continually and earnestly seeking God’s help in this area, He will always provide it and never let you down.  When God selects the time, He will give you the words to say that will lead a person to make a decision for Jesus Christ.

Philippians 4:13

I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

A quick recap of your ministry of communication reveals five components that help one to fulfill their abilities as a believer in Jesus Christ:

1. Attitude

2. Attentiveness

3. Allowing the Spirit

4. Anticipate the Possibilities

5. Action in God’s Timing

You don’t need to be the best communicator for Jesus…you just need to be your best to allow the Holy Spirit to use you in your new and ongoing relationships.  Your ministry of communication is rooted in your kindness, thoughtfulness and a humble heart for others.  Pray about how God will use you this week in your role of carrying out His Great Commission.

Matthew 9:35-38

35 Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

Spring Break 2013 is April 19-20 in Stow OH

04/02/2013 § Leave a comment

Our Annual Relationship Conference Series takes an exciting approach that will not just grow but enhance your relationship with God through Jesus Christ!  You’ll be not just salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), you’ll be–

Melvin Gaines, Host

Seasoning with Brightness!

A special weekend retreat where you can rest, relax, renew and recharge!

Now, more than ever, it is vital to grow in your personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ!  Your growth in Christ will help you communicate with Him at a high level, and will also help you to make a greater impact in your daily ministry with others!  We are called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), but you can become more seasoned and brighter than ever as you grow into the best relationship with Jesus ever!  We will provide tools to hep you develop effective, daily habits of prayer and meditation to grow and learn much more of what God has in store for you!

With your participation, this relationship seminar promises to be a fun, relaxing and fulfilling experience!  Singles and married couples are welcome!  The event is free and open to the public.

Note:  You do NOT need to stay at the hotel to attend the seminar.  The seminar is free.  Call 234.206.0345 for more information and start times.

Friday, April 19 and Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hampton Inn, Stow OH

4331 Lakepointe Corporate Drive   •  330.945.4160

Special room rate for overnight stay only $79.00 plus tax.  If you are interested in staying at the hotel, please call and check for availability.  When booking your room ask for the Akron Alliance Fellowship Church special rate.  A free hot breakfast is available for hotel guests.  Don’t wait another day–be sure to register today!

Free internet  •  pool  •  fitness center  •  comfortable amenities  •  newly remodeled  •  restaurants nearby

Spring Break 2013 Seminar Coming This April

12/29/2012 § Leave a comment

Our Annual Relationship Conference Series takes an exciting approach that will not just grow but enhance your relationship with God through Jesus Christ!  You’ll be not just salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), you’ll be–

Seasoning with Brightness!

A special weekend retreat for everyone where you can rest, relax, renew and recharge!

Now, more than ever, it is vital to grow in your personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ!  Your growth in Christ will help you communicate with Him at a high level, and will also help you to make a greater impact in your daily ministry with others!  We are called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), but you can become more seasoned and brighter than ever as you grow into the best relationship with Jesus ever!  We will provide tools to develop effective, daily habits of prayer and meditation to grow and learn much more of what God has in store for you!

With your participation, this relationship seminar promises to be a fun, relaxing and fulfilling experience!  Singles and married couples are welcome!  The event is free and open to the public.

Friday, April 19 and Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hampton Inn, Stow OH

4331 Lakepointe Corporate Drive   •  330.945.4160

Special room rate for overnight stay only $79.00 plus tax.  When booking your room ask for the Akron Alliance Fellowship Church special rate.  Please book your room reservation by Tuesday, March 20 (maximum of 4 guests per room).  A free hot breakfast is available for hotel guests.  Free internet  •  pool  •  fitness center  •  comfortable amenities  •  newly remodeled  •  restaurants nearby

Availability will go quickly!  Be sure to register today!

A Fat Pitch For Believers To Swat Out the True Gospel

05/26/2011 § Leave a comment

Harold Camping’s doomsday prediction for Saturday, May 21 generated much more media coverage for its boldness and confident certainty, especially with the persons out proclaiming “The Word” who had sold their belongings, quit their jobs, and waited for the big moment when they would be raptured into heaven with Jesus.

Saturday, May 21 at 6:00 pm (Pacific Daylight Time—although no one is sure to this day if the rapture was to occur every hour on the hour starting on the East coast at 6:00 pm) came and went…no evidence of a rapture…just a bunch of rapture parties and conversation about looting after believers disappeared.  As far as we can tell, none of the believers disappeared—except for Harold Camping.  He went missing and was apparently in hiding.  His followers were sullen and disappointed, for sure.  Where was he, and why are we left standing here?  A bigger question was what happened to all of the money sent to Camping and Family Radio for all of the doomsday publicity?  There were a few of his followers that were out of cash thinking that they were out of time.  They were just out of cash.

A “flabbergasted” Camping resurfaced a couple of days later, and he admitted on his radio program that he thought that May 21 was the right date.  He stated that he never asked anyone for their money to support this effort (Wow!) and that he was sorry that he was wrong about the date (never mind that he was wrong before in 1994). In the same breath, however, he declared that the real final date for all of mankind would be October 21, 2011.  10.21.2011.  This was a huge moment for those who are into numerology, or just playing the numbers.  Make sure that you ask to box it when you play while there’s still time.

While there have been numerous conversations, even with Harold, I’m sure, that no one knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32), that hasn’t stopped his predictions.  Maybe he believes that he has a special insight that even Jesus Christ Himself does not have, or maybe he believes that the third time is the charm.  There’s no need to ask him, because he is convinced that October 21 is THE BIG ONE for all of us.  Yes, Elizabeth, we’re coming home to join you…because Harold said so.

All of this discussion (and the accompanying fallout) garnered more than its share of media attention (frenzy) over the last few months as we got closer and closer to The Big Day.  Admittedly, Harold is doing all of us, the true believers in Jesus Christ, a huge favor.  It actually allows for each us an opportunity to get the real truth out to those who want to talk about it.  You have to admit that he has gotten a lot of people to actually crack open their bibles and look up some Scripture, and we are actually talking openly about Jesus Christ and the rapture…of all places…in public! 

Now that Harold has given us an additional five months of free discussion time with his newest declaration, we need to be open and ready to speak to non-believers about Christ and what the Scriptures really say about this event.  While you’re at it, ask them if they are indeed ready WHEN (and not IF) Jesus Christ does return.  That is the message that each of us needs to be ready to convey.  It can be done as part of casual conversation or as a serious Q & A session.  Whip out your bibles and bone up on some Scripture verses.  There’s no better time than now.  We only have five months to live anyway. 

In all seriousness, we don’t need to sell our possessions or quit our jobs…we just need to be ready and available to talk about the thing that really matters…salvation for those who believe and trust in Jesus Christ as personal Savior.  Use this as one of your best opportunities to be an effective minister for Christ.  Camping lobbed up a huge softball pitch for each of us to swat out of the park.  Don’t miss the moment.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with ministry at Melvin Gaines.