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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Characteristics of Your IMAGE

04/24/2015 § Leave a comment

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.  (Genesis 1:26-27 HCSB)

When God created mankind, He created us in His image.  He did this with the intent of His creation to be in His likeness (James 3:9b).  His will for His people are to live in a manner that is praiseworthy and devoted in worship to Him.  Man’s image was to be the glory of God, and a woman, created as man’s helpmate, was intended to be the glory of man (1 Corinthians 11:7), and both, in this image and in worship, are to honor the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 8:23).   With this, man has a responsibility to live in a manner that is worthy of His creation.  With your belief in Jesus Christ as Savior, He restores you to the place where God intended for you to be—as a person who is under grace and as a new creation in Him (John 1:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17).  In the same way you were created in his image, it is His will for you to live in this manner as a new creation.  Christ’s sacrifice for you should compel you to put off your old nature of sin and put on the new nature and character of Christ (Romans 6:6-7, 11-12).  Your image in Jesus Christ is all about the change taking place in your spiritual character (Ephesians 4:24; 1 Peter 1:16).

A believer who is fully engaged in his or her relationship with Jesus Christ is going to be a dynamically effective witness for Jesus Christ.  It is the perception of the believer’s interaction with others that provides the impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ; therefore, a believer’s image is what people see (and need to see—whether you are interacting with non-believers as a testimony or with believers as a person of support and encouragement).  It is this image that is the complete makeup of a believer who wants to be more than just salt and light—a bright, seasoned witness for Jesus!

The believer’s image is extremely important in three different areas:

1.)  It builds and develops the person’s relationship with God

2.)  It builds and develops the person’s self-worth and self esteem

3.)  It builds and develops confidence to interact with others in multiple scenarios and circumstances

I will use the word “IMAGE” as an acrostic word comprising what a believer in Jesus Christ needs to do with a consistent fervor to grow in Christ and be a dynamic testimony before others.

There are five elements that we will study that make up the word IMAGE in this endeavor.  In order to develop and maintain your IMAGE before others:

I – Investigate the Word of God

The development of a believer must begin with the appropriate time and effort devoted to bible reading.  Even as you are developing a routine for bible reading each day, the proper development of the image of the believer must have progression in this process—the progression must continue in the achievement of levels to where you are no longer just reading the bible, but you are investigating what scripture has to say to you.

Your success as an investigator includes:

  1. Reading the bible daily
  2. Reading at a predetermined time as part of a regular schedule
  3. Using external biblical resources to complement your study (for example, using a Greek and Hebrew reference, concordance and/or study bible with commentary)

Investigate (v.) – to observe or study by close examination and systematic inquiry (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

M – Meditate on the Word of God

(Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10)

Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to become aware of and reflect upon the revelations of God.[1]  Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (such as a bible passage) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God. [2]

Meditation is reflection, consistent prayer and practice that promote greater understanding and wisdom in the application of God’s Word.

A – Act (Application of God’s Word)

The act portion of your IMAGE involves taking action upon what you have learned in your investigation and mediation of God’s Word.  Taking action or applying God’s Word involves four key lifestyle elements of your faith in Jesus Christ:

  1. Repentance upon acknowledgment of sin to restore immediate fellowship with Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:8; Acts 3:19)
  2. Compliance with God’s will in your life (John 7:17)
  3. A desire to improve and please God (Colossians 3:15)
  4. Greater consistency in Christlike behaviors (Psalm 119:101-106; Romans 12:1-2)

We act upon God’s Word and His will because we are His specially chosen people, and we desire to maintain a special relationship with Him (Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 37:23-24, 73:23-24)

G – Grow

Growing in Jesus Christ is the natural progression of a healthy, vibrant relationship with Him (Ephesians 3:17-19, 4:11-15)

Growth is measured in the following:

  1. Continuing achievement of maturity in Christ
  2. Hearing and knowing when God is speaking to you
  3. Increased sensitivity to matters of the Holy Spirit
  4. Greater focus and determination

E – Endure

Bearing all things that occur in the faith with an understanding of the big picture–the love of Christ is exhibited for all to see and that Jesus Christ is glorified (Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 13:7; James 1:2-4).

Jesus wants you to not only persevere but to remain steadfast in your faith and retain boldness in your faith (in words and in your demeanor before others). It is your steadfastness that makes the boldest statements of Jesus Christ’s presence in your life.

Keep your attention on Jesus Christ as risen from the dead and descended from David. This is according to my gospel.  I suffer for it to the point of being bound like a criminal, but God’s message is not bound. This is why I endure all things for the elect: so that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.  This saying is trustworthy:

For if we have died with Him,

we will also live with Him;

if we endure, we will also reign with Him.  (2 Timothy 2:8-12a HCSB)

1 Christian Meditation for Beginners by Thomas Zanzig, Marilyn Kielbasa 2000, ISBN 0-88489-361-8 page 7

2  An introduction to Christian spirituality by F. Antonisamy, 2000 ISBN 81-7109-425-5, pages 76-77

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

Your IMAGE and Forgiveness – Free Seminar – April 17-18, Stow OH

03/27/2015 § 1 Comment

Spring Break 2015 Flyer Quick Text

Your IMAGE and Forgiveness – Spring Break Relationship Conference 2015 – April 17-18

02/24/2015 § Leave a comment

Your Hosts: Melvin and Lynn Gaines

Your Hosts: Melvin and Lynn Gaines

The act of forgiveness is very difficult.  An unforgiving person may experience extreme anger, anxiety or hopelessness…or all of these emotions.  Unforgiveness can cause others a lot of pain, as well—people may tend to avoid you.  What about you?  These unresolved issues are spiritually debilitating and can even make you physically ill.

There’s no need to avoid dealing with forgiveness any longer!  If you are harboring animosity, resentment or dread over past hurts or injustices, then this two-day seminar is for you!  We will discuss and share how forgiveness, with the healing power and grace of God, is the best way to conquer the past, free your mind and soul and experience true rest in Jesus Christ!  Join us for lively conversation, prayer time and fellowship!  The seminar is free (hotel stay extra)!

Friday, April 17   ·  Saturday, April 18

Hampton Inn Stow

4331 Lakepointe Corporate Drive  •  Stow OH 44224  •  330.945.4160

Special room rate for overnight stay (April 17) only $85.00 plus 15.25% tax.

When booking ask for the Akron Alliance Fellowship Church rate.

Book your reservation by Friday, March 20 (up to 4 guests per room).

A free hot breakfast is available for hotel guests

Free internet  •  pool  •  fitness center

  comfortable and relaxing amenities  •  shopping and restaurants nearby

Availability will go quickly!  Be sure to register today!

Questions?  Call Melvin Gaines at 234.206.0345 or visit akronalliance.org

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

The Moral Compass

07/28/2013 § Leave a comment

If you watch television for any length of time, you will see commercials of full-length movies that feature many of the super heroes you grew up with from the world of DC Comics and Marvel Comics.  Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Iron Man, The Wolverine, and coming soon to a theater near you, The Flash, Captain America and The Justice League of America.

There is little wonder as to the huge popularity of these movies, beginning with the appeal of the spectacular special effects that bring the comic book characters to life right before your eyes.  In addition to this, all of these movies have similar compelling story lines.  The heroes of our childhood on the big screen are now a little edgier and cooler for this generation of viewers, but all of them are on the side of righteousness and good, and they battle the opposing forces of evil.

We use the movies as a way of retreat.  They help us to relax and unwind from our day-to-day routine, even with all of skirmishes and explosions that take place.  While we can relate to our super heroes battling through madness and mayhem, our personal daily experience is a similar struggle of good versus evil–except we are far from super or even heroic.  We are fallible and vulnerable, for we live in the reality of a fallen world surrounded by sin and transgression.

The news and events of each day reinforce that we are in a fallen world.  Our own behaviors are challenged with conflicts, distractions and temptations to sin.  God’s Word provides ongoing support and guidance to avoid sin, but it is up to each of us to remain consistent in this endeavor with a constant effort to seek Him and His truth.

Psalm 119:9-11 (HCSB)

9 How can a young man keep his way pure?

By keeping Your word.

10 I have sought You with all my heart;

don’t let me wander from Your commands.

11 I have treasured Your word in my heart

so that I may not sin against You.

A few years ago I presented a message on the role of your conscience in determining and discerning right from wrong.  It was noted that it is not just reliance upon your conscience to make the right decisions but it involves your inclusion of the Holy Spirit within your thought process to provide guidance.  Both the Holy Spirit and your conscience will make up what we will call today your moral compass.  For the benefit of those of you who are of Generation-Y, a compass is the ancient, old-timers version of today’s GPS system.  It provides direction and guidance to successfully travel from one point to another.  In this way, your personal moral compass guides you to make the proper response to outside stimuli based upon your morals or value system.  A compass of any type is subject to deviation and sometimes need to be corrected for accurate readings; similarly, a person’s moral compass is only as good as his or her value system, which means that the Holy Spirit is not a factor when a person’s decisions reflect poor morals or values.  It is safe to conclude that one’s poor decision-making is the result of not relying upon godly wisdom.

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.

The actual use of the term “moral compass” describes the foundation of one’s values and behaviors from a moral perspective.  I will now take poetic license to expand my definition of a moral compass as a person who gives the perception of demonstrating high moral character.  This perception, in addition, carries a high degree of influence with others who know the person. For example, you are a “moral compass” amongst your friends if you can influence others, just by your presence, to clean up the other persons’ colorful language.  A person known as a “moral compass” can have a positive effect, but he can also drive people in a different direction if the people he interacts with are of their own mind and don’t want to focus on godly things.  This should not be strange to a believer, for remember Jesus’ comments when He was in the midst of His earthly ministry:

Matthew 10:34-36

34 Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to turn

a man against his father,

a daughter against her mother,

a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

36 and a man’s enemies will be

the members of his household.

It is reasonable to conclude that the gospel message that you convey to others is either going to draw a person near to you, or it will push the other person away from you.  It’s the same consistent message, but it depends upon the heart of the respondent as to which direction the person will go.

Have you checked your moral compass lately?  Do you have the proper focus in looking to Jesus Christ in everything that you do?  When others look at you, do they see you as salt and light in the world, or do you just blend in with everyone else?  These are important questions for the believer, and they require honest answers.  A believer in Jesus Christ is compelled by the love of Christ and the love of other people to serve Him for His glory.  A believer, as a result, should never blend in.

Matthew 5:13-16

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

In order to glorify God through Jesus Christ, you, as the moral compass of your sphere of influence to others, must continually show yourself as a vision of hope before those who are seeking the truth.  The very meaning of hope is to create the expectation that good things can happen in one’s life.  According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, hope is a “trustful expectation, particularly with reference to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Hope, is the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God’s guidance–the confidence that what God has done for us in the past guarantees our participation in what God will do in the future.” Hope is a key element in the knowledge and understanding that comes in a love relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and how we are to love others, as well:

1 Corinthians 13:13

Now these three remain:
faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of these is love.

In today’s world, those who are sincerely seeking the truth will want answers; therefore, they will seek out the persons who have godly character and who demonstrate the practice of living in truth.  While some will reject the truth, believers in Jesus Christ will possess the mind of Jesus Christ and will strive to live according to His will.  A true believer will live in accordance to the Great Commission and want to see people saved for Jesus Christ.

Luke 19:10

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.

How does a person regarded as a “moral compass” convey this hope to others?  There are four points that we will cover today whose first letters will each spell the word “hope.”  You will stand out as a moral compass that provides guidance and direction with your daily approach in these areas:

1. Humility

James 4:10

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

Proverbs 22:4

The result of humility is fear of the Lord,

along with wealth, honor, and life.

Humility is the first step that every person must take when they first acknowledge the need for a Savior.  It begins there and continues throughout life as a believer as one grows and develops in the wisdom and knowledge of God’s Word.  This wisdom and knowledge begins with the appropriate reverence for God in your life–it requires a life of humility.

Psalm 111:10 (NIV)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;

    all who follow his precepts have good understanding.

    To him belongs eternal praise.

Humility leads to the next acronym–

2. Obedience

You cannot love God and show God’s love to others, without being obedient to His Word.

The evidence of your obedience will be apparent in your daily, consistent approach in how you remain obedient and convicted to God’s Word.  It is your daily walk as that moral compass that will show the importance of trusting God and His Word to others.  You will show that obedience to God’s Word really matters.

1 Peter 1:20-23

20 He (Jesus Christ) was chosen before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the times for you21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

22 By obedience to the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God.

Note that this obedience requires faith, which is a necessary component in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

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.

3. Prayer-filled

In order to be humble before the Lord and obedient to His Word, a life devoted to prayer must be in the mix.

Ephesians 6:18

Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.

Your prayers are not just personal, but also for those persons that you interact with on a daily basis.  Prayer is a mighty force when you petition God to touch the people in your life to make a decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  When people know that you are prayerful and are sincerely praying for them, it speaks a powerful message of your love, care and compassion for others.

4. Exemplary

To be exemplary is to set the best example of living before others.  It is when you exhibit a great demeanor, a positive presence, and exceptional behavior as a believer in Jesus Christ where others will be drawn to you.  To be exemplary is not about being perfect, or even being the best at everything you do–you still need to show yourself to be a human being that recognizes when mistakes are made and own up to them.  In sporting events or competitions, you are to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.  Your exemplary behavior will draw people near to you, and also to Jesus Christ, when you show your love and concern for others.  This is the essence of your life as a moral compass standing up for Jesus Christ and standing out while living for Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:12

12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation.

John 13:12-17

12 When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am.14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.15 For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you.

16 “I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

The “moral compass” has an important role in the body of Christ—both for the individual and for those he or she interacts with.  It starts with the reliance of the Holy Spirit in making all decisions, and it continues as you live for Jesus Christ in providing hope to others who need to make a decision for Him.  Your mission in the Great Commission is to show others the love of Christ through humility, obedience, prayer and exemplary behavior.  It is living in the best way that you can in being salt and light in the world before others, and it begins with your faith, hope and love in Jesus Christ.

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

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.

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