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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Who We Become in Christ

06/22/2015 § Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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.

A Heart of Reconciliation

10/21/2012 § Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

Galatians 5:22-23

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

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

James 1:19-20

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

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

1. To reestablish a close relationship between.

2. To settle or resolve.

3. To bring (oneself) to accept

4. To make compatible or consistent; to adapt.

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

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

Psalm 51:12

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

Philippians 4:6-8

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

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

Romans 15:13

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

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

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

Romans 6:6-7

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

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

Matthew 6:14-15

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

1 John 1:8-9

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

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

Romans 5:10-11

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

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

Isaiah 43:25

“It is I who sweep away your transgressions

for My own sake

and remember your sins no more.

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

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

Matthew 21:14-17

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

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

You have prepared praise

from the mouths of children and nursing infants?”

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

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

2 Corinthians 5:16-19

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

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

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

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

Life Beyond Salvation

03/23/2012 § Leave a comment

The evidence is overwhelming and unmistakable.  God’s presence in our lives is easy to see.  Unlike the contentions of those who doubt His existence or make claims that there is no God, there are many facts that we can point to that refute or cancel out the views of the atheist or agnostic.  This is not, however, about proving God’s existence to the non-believer, for a non-believer ultimately takes a position that is similar to that of an atheist or agnostic.  To deny that God exists is to ignore the evidence of His presence.

God’s presence is evident in the miracles of nature.  Only He can orchestrate the perfection of the earth, its atmosphere, its rotation, its distance from the sun that allows for optimal life for humans on earth, and the perfect balance of resources that sustain and promote overall population growth.  Seeing the miracles of God from a distance is one thing, but knowing Him on a personal level is a completely different thing.

To have a personal relationship with God requires more than just knowing who God is, because even Satan knows who God is.  An atheist or agnostic has no concept of a personal relationship with God.  A non-believer must make a decision to accept who Jesus Christ is in order to begin the journey of having a personal relationship.  A believer in Jesus Christ, as a result, must continue to grow and develop in his or her understanding of God to have a fulfilling relationship with Him.

Successful growth in a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ is not a certainty for the believer.  It requires the believer to do what is necessary to promote the relationship.  Please note that God is always ready and always willing to develop a relationship with you.  He is not fickle in the same way that you and I are about our fellowship with Him.  We have to make the effort to meet Him where He is as we develop our personal relationship with Him.  Why is this such a difficult thing for us?  Answer:  He is God and you are not.

The essence and nature of God, summed up in a brief phrase is eternal love and holiness. There are many, many verses that support God’s love.  In addition to John 3:16-17, here are just a few:

1 John 4:9-11

9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.

Galatians 2:20

…and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

The essence of God’s love is aptly described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

4 Love is patient, love is kind.

Love does not envy,

is not boastful, is not conceited,

5 does not act improperly,

is not selfish, is not provoked,

and does not keep a record of wrongs.

6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness

but rejoices in the truth.

7 It bears all things, believes all things,

hopes all things, endures all things.

 8 Love never ends.

But as for prophecies,

they will come to an end;

as for languages, they will cease;

as for knowledge, it will come to an end.

Romans 5:8

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!

Romans 5:8 should always remind us who we are in comparison to who God is…we are sinners; nevertheless, God loves us!  The talking points that describe God’s love in 1 Corinthians are certainly achievable as long as we are practicing humility in our actions.  We have to practice humility because we are fleshly, which is in conflict of God’s nature.  We are unable to love in the same way as God’s essence of love without the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  Without the Spirit, this is who we are:

Ecclesiastes 7:20

There is certainly no righteous man on the earth

who does good and never sins.

Romans 3:10-12

10 as it is written:

   There is no one righteous, not even one.

11 There is no one who understands;

there is no one who seeks God.

12 All have turned away;

all alike have become useless.

There is no one who does what is good,

not even one.

This is why it is foolish to rely upon your salvation, through God’s grace, of course, to be sufficient in the development of your personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Your desire to develop a personal relationship with God should go hand in hand with your desire to learn about Him.

Proverbs 1:7, 22, 29-33

7 The fear of the LORD

is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and discipline.

22 “How long, foolish ones, will you love ignorance?

How long will you mockers enjoy mocking

and you fools hate knowledge?

29 Because they hated knowledge,

didn’t choose to fear the LORD,

30 were not interested in my counsel,

and rejected all my correction,

31 they will eat the fruit of their way

and be glutted with their own schemes.

32 For the turning away of the inexperienced will kill them,

and the complacency of fools will destroy them.

33 But whoever listens to me will live securely

and be free from the fear of danger.”

Proverbs 2:1-6

1 My son, if you accept my words

and store up my commands within you,

2 listening closely to wisdom

and directing your heart to understanding;

3 furthermore, if you call out to insight

and lift your voice to understanding,

4 if you seek it like silver

and search for it like hidden treasure,

5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD

and discover the knowledge of God.

6 For the LORD gives wisdom;

from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,

and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 19:27

If you stop listening to correction, my son,

you will stray from the words of knowledge.

Psalm 119:66

Teach me good judgment and discernment,

for I rely on Your commands.

When you grasp the nature of God, His grace to you and His unconditional love for you in spite of who you are (Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 5:8), you can’t help but WANT to know more about who He is.  And there’s the rub…your desire to know Him and grow in your personal relationship with Him is based upon how serious you are about God.  In other words…”Do you take Him and His Word to heart?  Do you take God seriously?”

We already have the assurance of eternal life by trusting in Jesus Christ because His Word promises this to us (Acts 16:31).

1 John 5:11-13

11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

 12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

There has to be a foundation as you build your relationship with Jesus Christ.  He is the foundation of your faith, your development, and your growth.  A strong foundation begins with a Cornerstone:

1 Peter 2:1-8

1 So rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation, 3 since you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 Coming to Him, a living stone—rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God— 5 you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it is contained in Scripture:

   Look! I lay a stone in Zion,

a chosen and honored cornerstone,

and the one who believes in Him

will never be put to shame!

7 So honor will come to you who believe, but for the unbelieving,

   The stone that the builders rejected—

this One has become the cornerstone,

 8 and

   A stone to stumble over,

and a rock to trip over.

  They stumble because they disobey the message; they were destined for this.

Your growth in your personal relationship starts with Jesus Christ and continues with a key phrase—obedience to His Word.  We will only grow in Christ in our ability to maintain fellowship with His Word.

Psalm 1:1-3

1 How happy is the man

who does not follow the advice of the wicked

or take the path of sinners

or join a group of mockers!

2 Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction,

and he meditates on it day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted beside streams of water

that bears its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers.

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,

and do not rely on your own understanding;

6 think about Him in all your ways,

and He will guide you on the right paths.

When you remain obedient, God blesses your obedience with His faithfulness—remember that it is in God’s nature to be faithful because of His love for you (Galatians 5:22).

God also responds to our persistence in seeking Him, our patience in waiting on Him and in our desire to know more about Him:

Philippians 4:6-7

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.

1 John 5:14-15

14 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.

Finally, in building your personal relationship with God, it is to be done with humility.

Luke 18:9-14

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: 10 “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’

   13 “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me—a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Salvation through Jesus Christ is sufficient for eternal life, but not enough to experience the abundant life…

John 10:10

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.

The abundant life that Jesus refers to comes from developing your relationship with Him through the following:

  • A desire for His Wisdom
  • Obedience to His Word
  • Persistence with patience
  • Reverence to Him in humility

Pray for His wisdom and focus upon these things each and every day.  It starts in His Word and builds you up as you trust in Him and rely upon His presence.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

Rest in The Lord

12/13/2011 § 4 Comments

For many of us, there is no such thing as a slow time of the year, and the holiday season is no exception to that.  Everything that we are involved in seems to move at a rapid pace.  There are timelines and deadlines, ever-present breaking news events, instant communication through emails and social media, and ever-increasing expectations to do more with less, even when we aren’t at work.

As busy as we can be, our moments of leisure, such as a vacation, or even a day off from work, are very precious to us.  These are the times when we can rest our bodies, take a deep breath, and enjoy the change of scenery or surroundings, or even get a nap or two in when we need it most.  If only those moments wouldn’t go by so quickly!

Our time of rest is indeed precious to us.  God knows that this time is special.  While it is good for all of us to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10) and remain busy in service for Him, it is still a necessity that we make time for some down time.  In our time of rest, we are to use it to our benefit.  We need to regularly refresh and recharge our batteries, for it helps each of us to see life in a way where we can appreciate what we have instead of what we don’t have.  It is a time to focus on the peace of the moment and on where God is in your life.

The best opportunities of reflecting upon God come when we are less busy—it’s very difficult to do when we are very busy.  While we are to never put Him to the side while we are at work, we are best able to learn about Him during our moments of rest.  What you will find is that the moments of rest are His preferred time for each of us to rest in Him and in His Word.  The more that we see His best during our rest, the more we will see His presence at all times during our life.

God uses the time we spend in Him to communicate with us, and to give us a reassurance of His presence.  He gives us what we need, and when we need it most.

Deuteronomy 7:9

Know that Yahweh your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands. 

Psalm 119:102-105

I have not turned from Your judgments,
for You Yourself have instructed me.

    103 How sweet Your word is to my taste—
[sweeter] than honey to my mouth.

    104 I gain understanding from Your precepts;
therefore I hate every false way.

 105 Your word is a lamp for my feet 
and a light on my path.

In the same way that we need rest after a very long and busy day, we need God’s promises to bolster us and gives us encouragement through these moments, and even through those times when things are not going very well.  If we are being oppressed, falsely accused, or even persecuted, we are not going through those experiences alone.  God is aware of everything that we go through, sees it all, and provides encouragement that helps us to endure it.

Deuteronomy 31:6, 8

Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.  The LORD is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”

Psalm 55:22

Cast your burden on the LORD,
and He will support you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.

Psalm 27:13-14

13 I am certain that I will see the LORD’s goodness

in the land of the living.

    14 Wait for the LORD;
be courageous and let your heart be strong.
Wait for the LORD.

When we slow down from a busy life pace, we can best hear God speaking to us.  Our time of rest should also be a time of recovery, and a time of healing.

Matthew 11:28-30

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. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Jesus Christ encourages the state of being at rest, because, in His wisdom, He relates to us that He is the true source of our rest.  We readily need rest from our hectic life, our troubles, and our difficulties, and He encourages us to seek Him for that rest.  One area of that rest in Christ is communication with Him through prayer:

Philippians 4:6-7

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 your minds in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 107:28-30

28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and He brought them out of their distress.

    29 He stilled the storm to a murmur,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.

    30 They rejoiced when the waves grew quiet.
Then He guided them to the harbor they longed for.

Matthew 7:7

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

Matthew 21:22

And if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Mark 11:24

Therefore, I tell you, all the things you pray and ask for —believe that you have received them, and you will have them.

John 14:13-14

13 Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

In addition to prayer, your rest in the Lord is fulfilled when you have faith that God is responsive to your prayers and that you exercise complete trust…your trust and faith in the Lord is when you realize the true rest that Christ provides.  It is rest with confidence in Christ’s ability.

1 John 5:14-15

 14 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.

Another aspect of rest in the Lord is that He communicates with us in response to our prayers and provides insight to His will with guidance and direction.

Psalm 32:8

I will instruct you and show you the way to go; 
with My eye on you, I will give counsel.

Proverbs 3:1-6

 1 My son, don’t forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commands;

    2 for they will bring you
many days, a full life, and well-being.

    3 Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you.
Tie them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.

    4 Then you will find favor and high regard
in the sight of God and man.

    5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;

    6 think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.

Resting in the Lord is more than just a state of mind and mere relaxation.  It is actually our best opportunity to slow our life pace down to recognize His true goodness.  He gives us much more than just rest.  He gives us a time of reflection through His word.  We are assured of:

  • His very presence
  • His encouragement through His Word
  • His communication with us through prayer

With these things, we have a confidence that He responds to us and that He will guide us through each and every situation and circumstance.  Our true rest in the Lord is our complete faith and trust in Him.

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

Your Faith On Trial–Are You a Good Witness?

08/21/2010 § Leave a comment

This past week I had to take part in a court proceeding involving a former employee and the company that I work for.  The former employee is suing the company for wrongful termination, and I was her final supervisor when she was terminated.  This court proceeding has evolved into a significant undertaking for everyone associated with it, including our Human Resources group, where there has been ongoing gathering of emails, file notes, disciplinary action records and employee appraisals as part of the preparation for this trial.

I was told about three weeks ago that I needed to prepare for a deposition since I was a key witness in what had transpired leading up to the dismissal of the former employee.  It is interesting to be on the “defendant” side of a trial.  With all of the information gathering and the review of documentation, I had more than enough time to think about the case.  I tried to separate my emotional reaction from the facts, but my first impression was that the plaintiff’s attorneys were definitely looking for ways to discredit me and my abilities and capabilities as a supervisor, and I understood that because I was the opponent.  The first fifteen minutes of questions that I received during the deposition were much like those in an interview, for they discussed my past experience and my job history.  In discovery, the opposition will pull any available information about who you are, and will even do a search on the Internet to see what comes up.  In the scope of witness testimony, all of this is fair game.

I didn’t like it, of course, but I had to spend a fair amount of time in preparation for the deposition.  I was prepped on the facts of the lawsuit, the questions that would likely be asked, and the possibility that all of this would likely take the majority of the day.  All of this preparation and anticipation of being deposed made for a few days of stress and evenings of a lack of rest.

It made me also think about what it would be like to be summoned to appear at a trial pertaining to Christianity—how would I prepare, and what would I say?  That is a question for all of us.  If you were to be deposed in a trial pertaining to your support or defense of Christianity, how would you fare?  I learned a great deal about the deposition process, its level of preparation and the actual event, and my contention is that it is a significant test of your abilities and your energy as you go through the process.  Your answers to questions will have an important part of the outcome of the trial.  In a like manner, if you were asked questions about your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, your answers should reflect in a positive manner as to how you are walking with Christ and living for Him.

In order to be able to cut through all of the different religions and thought processes that the world presents to those who are curious about God, it is very important for believers in Jesus Christ to be articulate and well-versed when speaking about faith matters.  There is a verse in Jude that addresses believers about this very issue.

Jude 3-4

Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. For certain men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Here, Jude is making the point that all believers have salvation by the grace of Jesus Christ, but it is very important to make a demonstrated effort to contend, or speak up, about their faith to others.  When one is a contender, he or she is speaking up in opposition to someone or something.  Jude makes the statement to contend for the faith because there was an element of opposition—firmly established deceivers in their midst whose sole purpose was to deny Jesus Christ and to keep people from recognizing and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior.

Ephesians 6:10-13

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics (or schemes, or tricks) of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.

This threat of the forces of evil is ever-present today in that there are many different messages that continually pull unsuspecting people, who are searching for the truth, in many different directions, and most of them are far from the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ.  The deception comes in many ways, but the end result is that there is no need to trust Christ as Savior because one believes he or she is good enough to make it to heaven on their own, or there has to be more than one way to be with God other than through Christ.  People will forsake God for their own pleasures and desires believing that there is no consequence for their actions, while others will believe that there is no eternal punishment for their life after death.  In addition, for the believer who is weak in knowledge and in their faith, deceivers are ready to pull them away to the “flavor-of-the-month” religion that may look and sound good on the surface but turn out to be a disastrous road to destruction.

Those who are believers must not just rest only on God’s Word and claim that it alone speaks for itself.  God’s Word is indeed the last word, but today’s world needs more from us as a testimony on behalf of Christ.  With all of the mixed messages that come from the ongoing distortion of God’s Word due to contextual errors of interpretation, we need to be on the outlook to stand firm and contend for the faith, and, in doing so, have confidence that what we contend for is the absolute truth—the only truth that leads to one having an eternal destiny with Jesus Christ.

Even though the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ may be ever present today, always remember that the truth is elusive to those who do not know Jesus Christ.

John 18:36-38

“My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here.”

“You are a king then?” Pilate asked.

“You say that I’m a king,” Jesus replied. “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.”

“What is truth?” said Pilate.

The deception of Satan is effective—it prevents people from seeking the truth of Jesus Christ and asking the question “What is truth?” just as Pilate did, without finding the answer.  The truth starts with our message of the love of Jesus Christ. We must step out on our faith and proclaim the gospel of Christ to effectively counter the efforts of Satan.

Going back to my discussion on the deposition process, there are areas of importance that are strikingly similar to how a believer in Christ must make a case in contending for the faith.

First, a witness for Christ must have credibility.  In order to be taken seriously as a believer in Jesus Christ, you must live your life in such a way that your statements for Christ will not be called into question.  Your life must have evidence of being different than those who live in the world.  It is OK to be in the world, for that is our field of harvest for those who need to know Christ, but we are not to live as the world does.  If we live as the world does, our testimony for Jesus Christ has no teeth—it lacks credibility.  I would not be credible witness for Christ if I lived sinfully and was unrepentant in my behavior.  Your effort to win others for Christ begins with an effective testimony as a credible witness.

Next, along with credibility, there must be a presence of Christ in your life as you live in God’s will through the Holy Spirit.  The credibility of your outward testimony is reinforced by your actions as you operate in the Spirit.

James 2:21-24

Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected. So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Your true testimony to others is a Christ-like lifestyle, where people can see evidence of your faith as you navigate through a difficult and complex world each day.  The attributes of having respectful behavior, even in the midst of your enemies, reflects an attitude that some will not understand, while others will observe your actions in utter amazement and want to know how you manage to live in such a way.  When the time is right, the Spirit will give you the words, and the testimony.

After credibility and presence comes preparation.  To be an effective witness in a trial requires preparation.  In my case, it was a full six hours of questions, reviewing of documents, and role-playing with our attorneys.  It was long and tiring, but it was necessary.  Without it, I would not have been ready for the questions from the opposing attorney.  A believer in Jesus Christ can only remain effective in his testimony with ongoing preparation through prayer and study of God’s Word.  We are all still learning and living more about God each and every day, and we will continue to do so until we are no longer living.  We can only share our experiences with others on how God has blessed us, kept us, and preserved us for this ministry as long as we remain in fellowship with Him and His Word.  We never stop learning about Him and we never stop seeking Him and His truth for as long as we live.  This is our life preparation as we can truly share with others the wisdom of God through Jesus Christ and how we can successfully live for Christ—even when the world around us seems to be falling apart.  We need to be prepared for whatever comes our way…

2 Timothy 3:12-17

In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Evil people and imposters will become worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing those from whom you learned, and that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

In our presentation on behalf of Jesus Christ, it is important to focus on the leadings of the Holy Spirit. In a testimony, you need to listen very carefully to the questions of the opposing attorney.  You need to be clear with your answers by stating “yes” or “no,” and also speak clearly in order to be well understood by those present, especially the court stenographer.  If you are unsure of the question, you can ask the attorney to repeat or rephrase the question, or even ask the court stenographer to read back what was said.  All of this requires a lot of focus on what is being said.  This is quite an ordeal if your deposition takes five and one-half hours!  My point is that your focus on how God leads you is very important in your efforts to lead others to Christ.  Focus on the Holy Spirit, who has perfect timing in this area.  Your words are ordered through the Spirit, but it is God’s Word that is the key to salvation.  Our focus should always be on the power of God’s Word and proclaiming it with confidence:

Romans 1:16

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.  For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.

Finally, your testimony through the Holy Spirit will always come from the foundation of truth.

John 14:16-17

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you.”

John 16:13-15

“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you. Everything the Father has is Mine. This is why I told you that He takes from what is Mine and will declare it to you.”

When testifying in a court proceeding, you are asked to raise your hand and ‘swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.’ (Yes, they still do that.)  Your testimony in a courtroom is to always deal with the facts.  The facts are not subject to interpretation.  Facts are facts, and the truth is the truth.  Your credibility and believability are at stake when you are giving testimony, and truth should always be at the forefront of what is being stated.  When it comes to your living testimony of God’s Word, there is no better place to be than in the truth of the gospel and its message.

Your faith is on trial each and every day.  Remember that the enemy is counting on those who profess to be followers of Christ to be languishing in their sin and to be ineffective witnesses for Christ.  We can no longer afford to be ill prepared for battle.  We must operate in the full armor of God with credibility, presence, preparation, focus, and truth.  With all of these, in Jesus Christ, we will be victorious in life and in our testimony.  Thanks to God for the ability to serve Him in such a mighty way!

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

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