Step Back to Step Forward in Christ

08/18/2014 § Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

James 4:10

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

 

Exalt you in what way?

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

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

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

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

James 4:1-10

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

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

But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says:

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

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

 

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

Ecclesiastes 5:1-3

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

 

1 Samuel 15:22-23

22 Then Samuel said:

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

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

 

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

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

Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)

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

 

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

Isaiah 64:6 (ESV)

We have all become like one who is unclean,

and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.

We all fade like a leaf,

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

 

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

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

Jeremiah 13:1-11

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

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

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

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

 

Without obedience, your works amount to nothing.

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

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

Matthew 6:1-4

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

John 15:1-8

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

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

 

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

Hebrews 13:5-6

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

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

 

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

Without Him, you cannot bear good fruit.

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

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

Hebrews 12:3-11

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

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

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

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

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

 

John 15:9-17

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

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

 

Colossians 3:17

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

 

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

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

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Spring Break 2013 is in Stow Ohio April 19-20

04/18/2013 § Leave a comment

We’re just a day away from Spring Break 2013!  Join me this Friday afternoon at 5pm at the Hampton Inn in Stow OH for what promises to be one of my best relationship conferences ever presented!  If you want to see your relationship with Jesus Christ really take off and become a strong testimony before others, then this is where you want to be this weekend!  We will meet tomorrow evening and Saturday morning with tips and strategies to help you on your way.  Best of all, the event is free and open for singles and couples.Spring Break 2013 is Here! (and it's free, too!)

Spring Break 2013 is Here! (and it’s free, too!)

Spring Break 2013 is April 19-20 in Stow OH

04/02/2013 § Leave a comment

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

Melvin Gaines, Host

Seasoning with Brightness!

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 19 and Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hampton Inn, Stow OH

4331 Lakepointe Corporate Drive   •  330.945.4160

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

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

Tim Tebow and the Gospel

12/21/2011 § 1 Comment

Tim Tebow (photo courtesy of USA Today)

Audio:  Tim Tebow and his revolutionary ministry…a reason for all believers to support him, rally around him, and lift him up in prayer.  http://t.co/ftqM7C9s

 

A Fat Pitch For Believers To Swat Out the True Gospel

05/26/2011 § Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

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.

A Special LeBron Summer: Marriage

06/09/2010 § Leave a comment

LeBron James

This summer, in Cleveland, Ohio, has been officially decreed as the Summer of LeBron.  Ever since the Cleveland Cavaliers were eliminated from the playoffs, the questions about whether or not LeBron James would return to the team or opt for free agency have intensified to a near fever pitch.   All of the attention that LeBron gets is because he is a bonafide hometown superstar, born and raised in Akron, Ohio, just a half-hour from Cleveland.  Every move, gesture, and comment that he has made has been scrutinized and over-analyzed, and it will continue in this way until he becomes a free agent on July 1.  The Summer of LeBron is in full swing.

Now that free agency is weeks away, and with rumors swirling everywhere about a new coach and a general manager for the Cavs along with where LeBron will wind up, it should be pointed out that this type of media and fan attention is exactly what LeBron and the NBA wanted.  With the number of free agents this year, all of the talk for basketball fans, both young and old, has been all about who is going to play for what team.  At times like this, sometimes the anticipation of a big event is greater than the event itself.  We’ll soon see if that’s the case.

All of this attention makes way for a golden opportunity.  For once, I would like to see such a media frenzy be capped off with a tremendous announcement that would be refreshing for everyone to hear as well as reassuring.  If LeBron James wants to stay in Cleveland and play with the Cavaliers, he could announce that he is committed to Cleveland with a long-term deal, and also make a grand declaration that, along with this commitment, that he is even more committed to his longtime girlfriend and high school sweetheart, Savannah Brinson, by proposing to her in marriage.

What a wonderful announcement, and testimony, that it would be for LeBron fans and fans of doing the right thing!  LeBron can tell the world that he wants to win a ring for Cleveland and put a ring on Savannah’s finger!  Awesome!  Amazing!  When their two (maybe three) children grow older, there will be less of a need to explain their relationship with Mom and Dad James joined in holy matrimony.  Common law marriage is a shadow of the real thing.

This is all wishful and prayerful thinking, of course.  I wish it would be more than just a dream.  While I am a huge sports fan, I’m an even bigger fan of marriage and success stories of families growing together.  It is little wonder that successful families are characterized with happy marriages and strong family support.  God ordained marriage for the purpose of joining a man and woman together (Genesis 2:18-25) and to create a family (Genesis 1:28).  The family grows and develops as a husband and wife grow in their love relationship, and they share that same love as they teach and instruct their children.  A family that recognizes God’s love for them is united in service for Him (Joshua 24:15).  Families that are fractured with divorce or broken relationships can still experience success, but odds are that they will have a tougher road than those families unified in marriage.

For all it’s worth, the Summer of LeBron is only an event for the moment.  His life, with all of his talent and God-given ability, is much more than where he decides to play for a championship.  I would be happy to see the day when he is more than “King James.”  I’ll be most satisfied to call him a father—and a husband.

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

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