11/24/2017 § Leave a comment
Presented at this year’s Akron Alliance Fellowship Church Ladies Brunch Conference, Saturday, October 7, 2017:
I’ve come to a place in my life where I have determined, beyond any doubt, that I don’t suffer fools very well. I don’t. I’m not proud of this statement. In some ways, it is an admission of guilt; however, I will do everything in my power to make sure that the fool that I run across will never be insulted or belittled. There may be comments in my mind that I will need to take to God for forgiveness later on, but I will speak to that person with kindness and courtesy, and then later on pray for that person to get it right. I am wary of making sure that I watch what I say–or even keep my own mouth shut–lest I be called a fool, as well. Proverbs 17:28 says that “even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent, discerning when he seals his lips.”
All of us have encountered people who can be considered as fools as referred to in the book of Proverbs. In addition, Scripture refers to some who take foolish actions, or people who lack sense or understanding. We won’t cover all of those verses here, but you get the idea. The psalms and proverbs of Scripture cover a lot of ground in this area, and the general theme that pertains to a fool involves a lack of wisdom or discipline (Proverbs 1:7), performing acts of wickedness (Isaiah 35:8) or having poor judgment (Proverbs 10:21), or even deserving to be chastised or corrected with a baseball bat–I mean, a rod (Proverbs 26:3)!
Well, the truth of the matter is that those psalms, proverbs and other Scriptures are written to describe me–especially when I am being hard-headed and disobedient. When I’m trusting in anything and everything besides Jesus Christ. I wish there were more occasions where I could say that I was a fool for Christ more than just being a plain old fool, but I don’t think I can because I know that I needed some heart surgery to take place.
One of my new favorite singers, Ms. Crystal Jackson, has a song that refers to this heart surgery. It begins as you listen to the words and sounds of the Holy Spirit as He speaks to you about your life. The Spirit is kind and cool, but He also can cut right to the chase. His Word cuts bone and marrow (Hebrews 4:12) like a hot knife through butter, and it convicts you of the life that you are living. Even with all of this cutting, paring and pruning, you can still see the character of Christ at work in your life, who declares in Matthew 11:30 that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Sin in your life weighs you down to the point that you don’t want to carry the burden anymore. Thankfully, the burden can be lifted once you decide to turn from your life of sin (because you no longer want to disappoint God) and acknowledge your need for a Savior in Jesus Christ. The heart surgery begins there, and the Spirit joins you in your fight–but now it’s the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7)!
The words “heart surgery” are not unique. The act of heart surgery means that a surgeon is repairing damage to the heart to return it to a place where it is beating and performing as it should in order to sustain life within the patient. I’m thankful that Jesus Christ performs this surgery for me on a regular basis, because I know that I sin and fall short of His glory, and I need His Spirit to make those repairs in me. I know, in spite of my position, that I am a work-in-progress in my goal to be a faithful, loyal servant of Jesus Christ.
I’m getting better at it. I don’t take as many trips down Fools Lane as I used to. I still have a ways to go. I am still receptive to the Holy Spirit continuing this surgery that removes the heart of stone and turns it into a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26-27 says “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
I want the stubbornness and impatience to be thrown off for obedience, gentleness and compassion, and I want people to see my life as a testimony–in my obedience, gentleness and compassion–living a life of thankfulness in Christ.
Now, that’s my short story. I don’t need to remind you what it is to be the wrong kind of fool now, do I? There are examples of being this type of fool everywhere you turn. Let me give you a quick quiz as an example. An NFL (National Football League) player, who will remain nameless, has 11 children from 10 different women. If they were running a race (the player and the women–all eleven of them together) for Top Fool, who do you think would win? And they’re off! The player is running hard, but look at the speed of the other women! It would be stride for stride all the way to the finish! And it’s a photo finish! You can’t tell who won this race, because there is no such thing as a winner in this type of race. Everyone loses, and the children involved are also on the losing side because of the lives that they now have. Being a fool has consequences that affect others in a very negative manner, and only God Himself can rescue and heal those who suffer from the fallout. His love, grace and mercy prevails over selfishness, pettiness and evil. Praise the Lord!
We need more people to become fools for Christ. This is an acceptable kind of fool. Why use the term “fools for Christ”? Because Paul spoke about this exact term in Scripture. He was giving counsel and instruction to the Corinthian church about what true leadership in Christ represents. He stated in 1 Corinthians 4:9-10 that he and his disciples were fools in Christ to the world because their message of the gospel has made them stand out in a peculiar way before others, and that they have been subject to ridicule, dishonor and oppression. There were even a couple of references in Acts (17:18 and 26:24) where Paul, in proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, was called crazy or insane. This is not hard to understand, because believers today are often referred to as “weird” or as “Jesus Freaks” (that’s an old term, too), or as “nuts.” More often than not, you are an outsider and treated differently among your friends or people you know because of your faith. It’s nothing that should catch believers off guard. I would rather be on the “weird” side than on the “wrong” side. I would rather be “left out” of a group because of my faith in Christ than be “lost” and without hope.
The passages in 1 Corinthians Chapter 1 are meant to be an encouragement to any of us who have been ridiculed or even mistreated overtly or even covertly:
1 Corinthians 1:18-19
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
1 Corinthians 1:21
For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
And there is a reason why Jesus embraced the children who ran to Him (they saw something in Him that some of the adults, with hardened hearts, never saw). He knew of their innocence, and declared that whoever becomes like a child and humbles himself before Jesus Christ will be great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:2-4).
Be encouraged, for God knows what you are going through. When we are down, He will lift us up! When we see signs that we are losing, He will remind us that we already have the victory! Even when we are ridiculed, He reveals to us His grace and compassion. He covets your prayers and your relationship with Him, and He will affirm you as you seek after Him and follow His instruction.
I sincerely pray that you will consider that being a fool for Christ is a much better way to live than being just another, everyday fool.
© Melvin Gaines
04/30/2015 § Leave a comment
Forgive and Forget?
Hardly. It’s difficult to get past the pain and trauma that occurs when someone hurts you. It’s something that each one of us has experienced, and it shapes our view of the world.
When we experience pain, our defense mechanisms kick in. Everyone responds differently when they have been hurt, but most often the response is proportional to the painful experience. It is manifested in both emotional and even physical responses, where the physical ailments are often the result of prolonged emotional difficulties.
The response in kind to the stimuli of pain and trauma experienced is similar to that of Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.  While the response may be equal to what a person has done to you, it is how you respond and manage this pain that is very important as you seek the Lord for ways to cope with your experience.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Pain makes it hard to forget the hurts. It’s hard to let go of the wrongs that you have experienced. It makes it difficult to conceive the nature of “forgive and forget.”
First, we need to note that forgive and forget is not found in Scripture. It is a term that comes out of a world view that proclaims a person can indeed forget the hurt upon forgiveness and move on. There are many verses that discuss forgiveness, and there is a reference to how God sees our sin once a person repents of it:
Isaiah 43:25 HCSB
It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more.
The concept of forgive and forget means to suck it up and move on with your life. Sure, you got hurt or you’ve been damaged, but now it’s time to let it go and face the next life challenge. The reality of this is that we never truly forget. We may indeed forgive, but we never forget. In fact, remembering the hurts can help you put the healing process into perspective.
With that in mind, does God truly “remember your sins no more,” or “forget” them as if they never happened? Well, if we consider the passage of Isaiah 43:25, we need to also note that Jesus Christ made a one-time payment that covered all of mankind’s sins–past, present and future.
Hebrews 10:14-18 ESV
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
God does not forget in the same way that we forget—He doesn’t forget anything. He is omniscient. He knows everything and forgets nothing, but, in the case of our sin, because of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, He chooses to not remember our sin. He even provides a visual measuring distance as to how far He removes sin from each of us:
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His faithful love
toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed
our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
Note that God’s choice to not remember our sins reflects His love for each one of us and how he has patience and compassion for His children. In order to experience true forgiveness, on either side, there must be love, compassion and humility within the process.
So, when we use the words forgive and forget, we must rely upon the power of God to give grace in forgiveness. True forgiveness is to move past the pain. While you don’t forget the sin or its behaviors, you have to choose to overlook them and extend the grace of forgiveness to the other person to move through and out of our pain. Knowing that Christ forgives us and remembers our sins no more is a reminder that grace does not need to stop with Christ. He gives you the ability to forgive and, not forget, but to choose to remember the other person’s sins no more.
But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.
This leads to the discussion about where forgiveness begins. True forgiveness comes with the understanding that it’s time to get right with God. It doesn’t matter if you are on the giving or receiving end of forgiveness. Your relationship with God requires a cleansing. In order for you to love God with all of your heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37), you need to give all of who you are and what you are to Him.
1 Article – Newton’s Law of Motion. (n.d.). From Wikipedia. Retrieved March 25, 2015 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton%27s_laws_of_motion#Newton.27s_3rd_Law
Copyright © Melvin Gaines
11/30/2014 § Leave a comment
Many people, without any definitive understanding of what it takes to get to heaven, believe that they are indeed going to heaven after death.
“People have different ideas about heaven. Many have no understanding of God at all, but still like to think of heaven as the ‘better place’ where we all go when we die. Most people don’t give heaven much thought until they attend a funeral or a loved one dies. It is popular to refer to heaven as the place where ‘the good people go.’ And of course, everyone they know and love is included in the category of ‘good people.'” 
“According to a recent news poll from a major news organization, 85% of people who believe in heaven but are not necessarily Christian believe that they will go to heaven. Even more surprising is the fact that 77% of people who claim no religious affiliation feel that they are good enough to go to heaven because they feel they are a ‘good person.’” 
If this is true, then there would be little need to talk about heaven and hell at all; however, we need to remember our true state before God and that the way to heaven is hardly a multi-lane expressway:
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)
Being a “good person” also indicates a belief that what you do in life and how well you treat other people will tip the scales towards one going to heaven instead of hell. What people fail to take into account is the sin in one’s life that prevents a person’s ability (or inability) to fellowship with God.
Without the atonement of sin, man cannot enter into a relationship with the holy presence of God. Even when Jesus was on the cross, He lamented over the deep separation and abandonment that He experienced when He took the world’s sin upon His body:
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)
The words uttered by Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophetic message of Psalm 22:1, but His sacrifice on the cross was the only remedy over the power of sin and death.
“2 Corinthians 5:21 says, ‘He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.’ It is possible that at some moment on the cross, when Jesus became sin on our behalf, that God the Father, in a sense, turned His back upon the Son. It says in Habakkuk 1:13 that God is too pure to look upon evil. Therefore, it is possible that when Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), that the Father, spiritually, turned away. At that time, the Son may have cried out.” 
It is the power of sin that prevents one from fellowship with God; moreover, it presents the eternal dilemma as to how a person can become righteous before God. The answer is that no one is righteous (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10-12) and all are unable to come anywhere near God’s standard of holiness and righteousness (Romans 3:23).
The difference for man between heaven and hell is only realized through God’s provision of grace in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and in the recognition of the need to accept His saving grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). He has promised that He forgives all sin as it was left on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). The power of sin cannot be overcome by anything that man does on his own (Isaiah 64:6). It is faith in the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ that cleanses the stain of sin (Isaiah 1:18; Psalm 51:7; Ephesians 5:26-27).
In the same way that “Abram (Abraham) believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6), man must believe in Jesus Christ as Savior in order to have fellowship with God in heaven. Even the thief on the cross received Jesus’ eternal promise because of faith in Him and recognition as to who He was (Luke 23:42-43).
Anything less than faith in Jesus Christ means that man cannot be righteous before God, and man is subject to the consequence of spiritual separation from God. It is not God rejecting man, but man rejecting the saving grace of Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:8). When God is rejected, there is no other place for man to go than hell. Again, while those who practice lawlessness without repentance will go to hell, so will those who believe they are “good enough.”
Consider the doctrine of Oprah Winfrey, who was elevated to the status of a spiritual icon by USA Today:
“Oprah speaks less about salvation through Christ than she does Christ-consciousness. Likewise, she describes heaven not as an eternal destination but an inner realm of consciousness. And she dismisses the idea that there is ‘one way’ to God, when she says, ‘There couldn’t possibly be just one way. One of the mistakes that human beings make is believing that there is only one way to live,’ she said. Instead, ‘there are many paths to what you call God.'” 
Scripture warns of false prophets and false teaching (Romans 16:17-18; 2 Peter 2:1-3), for they will only confuse people from knowing and hearing the true gospel that is rooted in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
1 Article – S. Michael Houdmann (n.d.). Who Will Go To Heaven? © Copyright 2002-2014 Got Questions Ministries, Colorado Springs CO. gotquestions.org. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from http://www.gotquestions.org/who-will-go-to-heaven.html
2 Article – Jack Wellman (2012). Who Goes to Heaven? Do Good People Go to Heaven? Copyright © 2010-2014 Telling Ministries LLC. whatchristianswanttoknow.com. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/who-goes-to-heaven-do-good-people-go-to-heaven/
3 Article – Why did Jesus cry out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, Nampa ID, CARM.org. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from http://carm.org/questions/about-jesus/why-did-jesus-cry-out-my-god-my-god-why-have-you-forsaken-me
4 Article – Steve Rabey. Oprah’s ‘gospel’- Entertainment mogul preaches ‘many paths’ to God. (2008). Christian Examiner® El Cajon CA. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from http://www.christianexaminer.com/Articles/Articles%20May08/Art_May08_02.html
Copyright © Melvin Gaines
11/26/2014 § 1 Comment
The St. Louis County Grand Jury’s decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department, who is Caucasian, for the shooting death of Michael Brown, who was a young African-American, was not surprising to me at all. I’m confident that the rule of law (a term that was used a lot in reviewing this case) was upheld in the review of the evidence. I’m also not surprised by the variety of responses to the decision. Some were in favor of no indictment, while others wanted to see Wilson tried as a criminal. Those that believe an injustice has taken place will take the streets in protest and even overturn cars, burn down buildings, and steal from people who are not even involved in the case or the decision. Of course, the response to the response will largely condemn such behavior, but it does little to address the real issue. If anything, rioting creates a greater divide of the races and establishes imposing boundaries that surround any future dialogue about race.
This is true for evangelicals, as well. Ed Stetzer’s blog post about this issue is absolutely worth reading (I reposted it on my blog) because it does strike at the core of the deep-seated issues of race that go back to the days of slavery and the entrenchment of mistrust between the races throughout American history. Stetzer is right that evangelicals should not jump the gun and merely condemn the violence that comes from this decision. He’s also right that people do need to talk less and listen more to blacks about their own experiences. There is a need for unity within the body of Christ and we are to reach out to others to hear the other side of America from a largely oppressed and misunderstood race.
But once people do these very things, which can and will create greater understanding, what comes next?
These messages are certainly helpful and are meant to be an encouragement to evangelicals and to anyone who wants to gain understanding, but I also think it’s too much to ask people to completely ignore the bad behaviors or foolishness in the aftermath of the grand jury decision that create even more conflict, and yet require someone to have a dialogue about race. The vast majority of people, regardless of race, do not think it is appropriate to trash cars or neighborhoods to get attention. In fact, racial conflicts have often perpetrated the excuse for mobs to steal from others in some sort of Robin Hood-like entitlement. This has nothing to do with race, or even anarchy. This has everything to do with unrighteous justification of a philosophy–it is all about personal sin. Even during the Civil Rights Movement, arguably the most volatile time of unrest within this country, the overall message perpetrated by Martin Luther King and other leaders was non-violent protest, even in the face of the most extreme racial hatred and bigotry. I would not advocate for people to dialogue with those who blatantly sin and use justification for doing so. It won’t work because they won’t listen anyway. It certainly didn’t work during the Hough riots in Cleveland or the Watts riots in Los Angeles in the Sixties. All it did was irreparably harm innocent people and destroy neighborhoods. Neighborhood rioting didn’t solve any problems about race, and it won’t do it in Ferguson, either. We need to find the right audience for such a dialogue. That is the challenge for all people in this discussion, and especially for the evangelicals.
Truthfully, we don’t want to talk about sin in this discussion. We won’t even talk about it as we should among ourselves. We can readily point to others about their behaviors but we fail to acknowledge our own sinful behavior. We certainly won’t see it or bring it up in the media. We barely cover it within the walls of the church. Can we be honest about what creates the racial divide and start with our own sin? Our own need to be humble before God? Our own need for repentance?
Has their been injustice perpetrated by whites over blacks throughout history? Absolutely. Has there been white collar crime? Of course. Has there been black-on-black crime? Undoubtedly. Have people been swindled of their life savings? Have people been treated unfairly and suffered loss? Life is filled with injustices. God addresses these and all such injustice perpetrated by any man or woman, and it’s all the same to Him–it’s all sinful behavior:
But we know that the law is good, provided one uses it legitimately. We know that the law is not meant for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral and homosexuals, for kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and for whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching based on the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was entrusted to me. (1 Timothy 1:8-11 HCSB)
And this is the area that needs to be addressed after all of the dialogue takes place–the acknowledgment of sin. As tragic as the Michael Brown case is, Michael Brown was far from innocent. If anyone is being brutally honest about this case, the tragedy is not the perception of injustice from the lack of an indictment. It is the loss of a young man’s life who was clearly not following the Lord.
There is certainly a need for overall sensitivity to what is going on (and not merely brushing this off as not affecting someone who doesn’t live in Missouri), but in my opinion there should be a greater call for moral accountability for everyone involved. This needs to happen with the police, and it also needs to happen with the people they are sworn to protect. The concept of mistrust is well earned on both sides, because crime is rampant and because police have struggled with public anger and even within their own ranks of those who lawlessly exercise too much authority. All of this is rooted in selfishness, which is the foundation for all sinful behavior. Rather than pointing fingers at the races, can someone take a stand for righteousness? It starts with one person. Can it begin with you?
The people in Ferguson (or anywhere else) don’t get a pass on this issue if they choose to ignore the truth about Michael Brown’s case. There is seldom a good outcome for a person who willfully commits sin–there will eventually be a consequence. Full blown sin can indeed lead to death (James 1:15). I believe that once we see people begin the effort to really address these issues personally and within the family unit, which means going back to the basics, we will begin to see a like-minded approach to unity and reconciliation between the races. The evangelicals need to take the lead in these discussions. Let’s not treat sin as the third rail to avoid in such dialogue. It’s too late for Michael Brown, but it’s not too late for those who humble themselves before Jesus Christ and seek his truth, wisdom and knowledge. We all have a responsibility to seek Christ and children of all races to raise and bring up in the right way under His guidance.
I’m thankful that we have a Savior that gives us everything that we need, including mercy and grace, to forgive me for my sin and to help me when I need it most. That is what everyone needs to talk about. That’s how we need to go deeper than just talking about race.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
…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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
05/25/2013 § Leave a comment
Text of a message presented at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, February 24, 2013:
There was a time in our lives when we lived for the moment. Many of us can point to the period of time and space when we moved away from the house we grew up in with our parents and went away to college, or when you got your first apartment. It was at that time you told yourself, “Now I can do what I want to do.”
Many of us did exactly that–lived for the moment and did what we wanted to. Some of the results of this “living” were good experiences, and some were not as memorable. It is from these life lessons that we eventually made the following statement (either to ourselves or out loud) in one of those infamous moments: “I’ll never do that again.”
A lot of our decisions early in life were based upon testing the wisdom of our parents or loved ones, or even going contrary to the advice of wise counsel. Even those of us who went to church at an early age heard good advice from a pastor or a Sunday school teacher. But did we take that advice when it mattered the most? No. The result of all of this, hopefully without enduring the harshest consequences of our actions, is that we really weren’t living as we thought we were. It was, in fact, an ongoing exercise in sinful behaviors that showed we weren’t really as grown up as we thought we were.
We noticed the harsh reality that maturity is not measured by how old you are…it is measured in how consistent your life decisions are towards personal growth and development. True maturity is when you take your college courses seriously and make a concerted effort to graduate. You show maturity when you start using language that will help you to make an impression, not just personally, but also professionally. You also show maturity in the type of relationships and friendships that you value…are your friends people who challenge your intellect…or are they just drinking buddies?
When you wake up one day and decide that you need to make the best choices to promote your maturity, then congratulations–you are making a commitment to be a better person. A commitment is more than just a single decision. It is a series of decisions that a person makes to support a position that leads to a goal. A commitment, even more specific–the level of commitment–is measured by how the series of decisions line up with it. For example, is a person doing the best that he or she can do to realize goals that have been set? The commitment must show some sort of progress as a person pursues a goal.
In the same way, a person who lacks spiritual maturity may come to a point where it is time to get serious about their faith and their relationships with God and with others. Sadly, there are some that never come to this conclusion. Just as there are people who are over 40 years old and never “grow up,” there are also people who do not believe that there isn’t anything that they need to do as far as a commitment to Christ.
The fool says in his heart, “God does not exist.”
They are corrupt; they do vile deeds.
There is no one who does good.
There are some that believe they have a close relationship with God, but their actions show something completely different. This is a more insidious deception that they are under because it is based upon a false sense of faith.
13 The Lord said:
Because these people approach Me with their mouths
to honor Me with lip-service—
yet their hearts are far from Me,
and their worship consists of man-made rules
learned by rote—
14 therefore I will again confound these people
with wonder after wonder.
The wisdom of their wise men will vanish,
and the understanding of the perceptive will be hidden.
7 Hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied correctly about you when he said:
8 These people honor Me with their lips,
but their heart is far from Me.
9 They worship Me in vain,
teaching as doctrines the commands of men.”
They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, and disqualified for any good work.
All of this represents a spiritual immaturity that reflects a separation from people who claim to be following and serving God with those who are serious about where they are in their relationship with God, and how they live their life accordingly. The person who makes the commitment to serve God is most likely to please God in His worship and service because it is all based upon a sincere practice of faith.
We are to be reminded that our actions alone do not merit or warrant God’s acceptance.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
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.
1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.”
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
9 “For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.
Faith requires a commitment to go beyond what you see and hear. It requires you to focus on God in ways that are beyond human understanding. It is this practice of faith that is often viewed as exceptional within a worldly environment. A consistent trust and faith in God allows the believer to be a part of those exceptional experiences where everyone present (both believer and non-believer) knows that there is no doubt about God’s presence in situations and circumstances.
In keeping this commitment to seek God and live for Him on a regular, daily basis, there are two key elements of practice for each person who is a believer in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. The commitment requires action steps in these two key categories:
The Seeking God Category
The Do the Right Thing Category
The first category involves personal preparation. It involves the commitment to read and study the bible more than you did in the past.
Reading and studying the bible is important because it is God’s Word to us in written form. It is His clearest form of communication to us.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
10 For just as rain and snow fall from heaven
and do not return there
without saturating the earth
and making it germinate and sprout,
and providing seed to sow
and food to eat,
11 so My word that comes from My mouth
will not return to Me empty,
but it will accomplish what I please
and will prosper in what I send it to do.”
Reading and studying the bible now requires absorption of God’s wisdom through understanding by way of the Holy Spirit. This requires a commitment to pray more each day. God’s Word communicates to us, and prayer is your communication with God. Effective prayers require practice and regularity.
26 In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. 27 And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
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.
1 Thessalonians 5:17
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. 6 But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
The second category, The Do the Right Thing Category, requires the committed believer to take the wisdom and knowledge acquired during The Seeking God Category and putting it to practice. Here are the elements of practice in doing the right things that are in line with the commitment to grow in Christ:
- To Sin Less
I have treasured Your word in my heart
so that I may not sin against You.
Thankfully, Jesus gives us the ability through the Holy Spirit to resist sin, and there will be struggles, but we can indeed sin less when we rely upon our faith.
2 Corinthians 12:10
So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
1 Peter 5:10-11
10 Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little. 11 The dominion belongs to Him forever. Amen.
- To Make Good Decisions More Often
With better information you will ultimately make better decisions. This is where the reliance of God’s wisdom, discernment and understanding promotes better decision-making.
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.
7 He stores up success for the upright;
He is a shield for those who live with integrity
8 so that He may guard the paths of justice
and protect the way of His loyal followers.
9 Then you will understand righteousness, justice,
and integrity—every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter your mind,
and knowledge will delight your heart.
11 Discretion will watch over you,
and understanding will guard you.
- To Become Selfless
Your commitment to Jesus Christ means developing a heart for God, which means that you will have a heart of concern for others more than you ever have in the past.
3 Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
2 Corinthians 4:5
For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus.
1 Peter 5:5
In the same way, you younger men, be subject to the elders. And all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because
God resists the proud
but gives grace to the humble.
- To Respect Others
Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.
Love Your Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect,therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Children and Parents
1 Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, 3 so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land. 4 Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
All of these actions require a foundational understanding of God’s Word for effective implementation. There will be greater success in doing the right things as noted here with a greater dependency on God’s Word and with supplemental prayer.
Your commitment to be a true believer in service for Jesus Christ requires a consistent approach to these things that we just discussed:
- Reading and studying God’s Word
- To Sin Less
- To Make Good Decisions More Often
- To Become Selfless
- To Respect Others
Each of these require a commitment to a closer relationship with God in Jesus Christ and to be obedient to His Word, which invariably will help you to do the right thing.
If you’ve been on the fence as far as your walk with the Lord, or if you haven’t been as serious about this matter as you know you should be, then make today the day that you make the commitment to be a better believer in Jesus Christ. It won’t be easy, but the rewards of doing so are far beyond what you can imagine.
Matthew 6:33 says all of this in the best, most concise way.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.
All verses from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.