What Now? It’s Time to Take Care of Your Business!

02/20/2015 § Leave a comment

It hurt my heart to find out yesterday that a person that I selected to work with me turned out to have a very stormy past–legal troubles–that still need to be reckoned with.  If you fail to disclose your past to a potential employer who intends to hire you, it is highly unlikely that you will be hired.  This is a test of your integrity and it’s also about facing up to your responsibilities, as well.

This job search cycle will continue over and over again unless you take ownership of your situation and deal with it.  You can’t ignore it or pretend that it will go away.  It will never go away completely.  You cannot leave this matter to chance.  Ongoing denial–failure to face and deal with the truth–will only hurt you and others around you.  You can’t be your best.  It robs from your potential for the future.

This is water under the bridge for the person who I wanted to join my team, but it is very, very important that any legal issues are addressed once and for all even though they may have happened many years ago.  Court records will follow you everywhere because many notable employers will run background checks.  The job application asks an applicant to disclose any information about the past (convictions or felonies), and if you do it and it matches up with your background check, you will stand a much better chance of getting the job, provided that you have resolved all open legal issues.  You need to also be honest about any misdemeanors, as well (anything that will show up on a background check).

If your past is catching up to you in your job searches, you can either settle for jobs that are much less fulfilling (personally and financially), or you can take and make the strides needed to live up to your true potential.  Take true ownership of your life!  If you can take a hint, then you need to get your business taken care of.

Finally, a good dose of self-examination is in order.  You had a difficult past, and you had moments of immaturity.  I get it, and most people get it.  We are in a nation that gives a lot of second chances, but they’re not always handed to you.  You need to put some elbow grease into some of them.  You absolutely need to be your own advocate to get these matters resolved.  If, for example, you were supposed to do community service, make sure that you complete it in its entirety and don’t blow it off.  Make sure that you get someone to sign off on its completion and keep a record of it.  Your goal, if you’re dealing with a first-time offense, is to get your records expunged.  Don’t squander your opportunity if it is in front of you.  If your court issue is something that you need to revisit, call the court and take ownership of your situation.  There are people there who genuinely want to help someone who is willing to help themselves.  On a personal front, surround yourself with people that support you and want to see you succeed, and (I shouldn’t have to say it, but I will) stay away from those people who are not going to help you in this area.  Bad company will negatively affect good people.  Drama also follows drama, if you get my meaning.

Once you decide that it is time to grow up, what are your plans to move ahead to the future?  A good plan is a target for you to aim for.  The target may move from time to time and change its size or shape, but at least you still have a target to shoot for.  Not having a target means having no plan.  Sit down quietly and make a plan.  It may begin with dealing with your past and getting it fixed, and doing what the court or the authorities tell you to do.  It’s not about liking it, but it is about getting matters to a place where you don’t need to explain your life to complete strangers over and over again when you apply for work.

Many will tell you to forget the past in order to move forward, but that’s not completely true.  You will need to deal with the past (and get some things fixed where you can) in order to move forward.  A lot of this has to do with looking at who you are and how you see yourself.  There is such a thing as reconciling with others, but there is also a need to reconcile within yourself.

There are many aspects of faith and trust in Jesus Christ that, first and foremost, deal with you personally.  If you sincerely regret your past, just tell Him about it and ask for forgiveness.  He promises that He will no longer remember your sins (Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12).  Once you are confident that He loves you and that you are forgiven, you can begin to be your best before others.

There is hope for the future, but it involves a lot of hard truths.  The work is long and hard for those of us who have really messed up, but at least you still have a road to travel on.  Start from the beginning today, and keep moving forward.  Move forward with the knowledge that you have an Advocate who, as you trust in Him, will move with you (1 John 2:1).

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

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Rest in The Lord

12/13/2011 § 4 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 7:9

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

Psalm 119:102-105

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 31:6, 8

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

Psalm 55:22

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

Psalm 27:13-14

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

in the land of the living.

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

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

Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

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

Philippians 4:6-7

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

Psalm 107:28-30

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

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

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

Matthew 7:7

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

Matthew 21:22

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

Mark 11:24

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

John 14:13-14

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

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

1 John 5:14-15

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

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

Psalm 32:8

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

Proverbs 3:1-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

Emerging From a Spiritual Dry Spell

11/12/2011 § Leave a comment

When I’m called upon to present a sermon, I always pray for guidance as to what will be presented on the appointed date.  Even in the midst of prayerful consideration, sometimes the subject or topic turns out to be difficult to execute in the form of a message.  More often than not, the messages that I have presented are related to issues of life or circumstances that guide me in my writing.  This message is guided by more of a mindset than any one topic or issue.  The mindset comes from being in a bit of a spiritual dry spell.  It is a learning experience, and, as I have learned, it’s not a bad thing, either.

First, all of us have been through moments of what I would call a spiritual dry spell.  It is not necessarily an experience that one would go out of their way to be in, nor is it something to look forward to.  The dry spell is the perception that you are somewhere within a great moment in your spiritual life and a lousy moment where you experience all-out defeat.  The phrase “dry spell” implies a period where there is a thirst for something, or a need for a quenching of that thirst.  You can fill in the blank for what this means to you, but without putting words in your mouth, I describe a dry spell as a period where you’re moving through life, coming and going, but nothing extraordinary seems to be happening.  Again, this is a perception more than it is reality.  Things SEEM to be rather ordinary.  If you were to stop and pay attention to the different elements of your dry spell, you might be surprised at what you find, or perhaps you may not even realize how you, in your ho-hum moments, are actually still performing in a Christ-like manner as others observe your behavior or actions.

If you get nothing else out of this, please note that a spiritual dry spell is an opportunity for growth and for learning…learning about yourself, learning more about Jesus Christ and the workings of the Holy Spirit, and learning about how can respond effectively when things don’t seem quite right.  There’s no special trigger that causes these dry spells, but the foundation of a dry spell is a lack of spiritual moisture…not necessarily like that of a desert or wilderness experience, but it should be noted that the symptoms of the experience may be similar, which we will discuss in a moment.  A dry spell may be, for example, evidentiary in your daily experiences moving so fast and furious that your body, and especially your mind are traveling faster than you can keep up with the pace of life.  When this occurs, your spiritual experiences can get lost in all of the movement.  Even the most saintly believers in Jesus Christ need to adapt to the daily challenges of life.  Now, please understand that this is a unique experience for me, and it may not apply to everyone.  In fact, a dry spell can mean different things to different people.  What all believers do have in common, however, is that each of us has an understanding of what it is to have faith and trust in God through Jesus Christ.  We also know the importance of trusting in the end results and not rest in the immediacy or difficulty of the moment.  This is especially true for those of us when going through a spiritual dry spell.  Faith and trust in Jesus Christ means that we serve a God that never changes.  He is always consistent and always present in all areas of our life.

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. 6Therefore, we may boldly say:

    The Lord is my helper;

    I will not be afraid.

    What can man do to me?

The key to this verse is always remembering it to be the truth, even when things seem completely crazy.

If you haven’t already picked up on this, you may see that a spiritual dry spell is often rooted in the attitude of the host.  Sometimes we’re not at our best when our attitude is not so great.  It’s little wonder, of course, that your perception of the world changes when your attitude about life changes; therefore, a spiritual dry spell may require an attitude adjustment.  That is not meant to be a negative comment, but the result is still the same…we need to be mindful of the things that affect our outlook on life and pay attention to what God has done to bring us where we are today, and that He is without limits and has no restrictions as to where we can go as long as we have faith and trust in Him and in His Word.

Numbers 11:23

The LORD answered Moses, “Is the LORD‘s power limited? You will see whether or not what I have promised will happen to you.”

In fact, even in the midst of our dryness, our faith and trust in God surpass our limits of human reasoning.

Isaiah 55:8

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
[This is] the LORD’s declaration.

Whether you are experiencing a spiritual dry spell or if things don’t seem to be going right, it is always a good idea to do a self-assessment as to what is not quite right with your attitude and take the steps to make it right.  This would apply in virtually every area of our spiritual life.  There must always be the focus and approach as to how we can best be obedient to God and His Word, and remain in His will.

First, it takes recognition that something needs to change in your daily routine.  How often have you found that you have done something that is not necessarily helpful to you, and yet you continue to do the same thing from time to time.  The only way that you will stop doing the same thing is to make a point to make a change.  How true is this when it comes to sin, for example?  The Holy Spirit will readily point out when you sin, and you will readily sin again unless you make it a point to pray for strength and seek the Lord to resist temptation to commit that sin.

Psalm 39:1

I said, “I will guard my ways
so that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth with a muzzle
as long as the wicked are in my presence.”

Psalm 119:10-12

10 I have sought You with all my heart;
don’t let me wander from Your commands.

    11 I have treasured Your word in my heart
so that I may not sin against You.

    12 LORD, may You be praised;
teach me Your statutes.

Making a change requires the need to bring oneself out of the malaise—and taking the action steps to implement the change.

Next, let’s examine those action steps that need to be taken.  It’s important for each of us, once we recognize the need to change, to allow for the Holy Spirit to speak to you and allow Him to be your Compass—your Guide for direction.  The steps that may occur for each individual may be different, but the essentials for each person involve the following:

  • God’s Word in the form of daily devotions and readings
  • Prayer to God to reflect upon what God is saying to you

In this, you will see the importance of making sure that your attitude is not being compounded with issues of sin or spiritual indifference.  This goes back to what the verse of Psalm 119:11 presents as you allow God’s Word to move you out of your spiritual dry spell.  Please note that this needs to be a consistent effort that should occur over a period of days, and perhaps even weeks, in order to truly see some progress.

Note that the devotions and prayer time force you to slow down long enough to hear God speaking to you through His Word.  Your best “listening” experiences are when you are not being distracted by the noises of the world.

There are key elements of your action plans that will help you to overcome your spiritual dry spell.  These keys to success are simple to remember if not always easy to implement:

Faith

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.

Luke 8:24-25

24 They came and woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to die!” Then He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves. So they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?”

Never underestimate the importance of faith in your action plans.  Faith is what will move you forward.  It is a healthy dependence upon Christ, and at the same time, you live day by day in confidence.

Luke 17:6

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,” the Lord said, “you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

Focus

Colossians 3:2

Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth.

Psalm 1:1-3

 1 How happy is the man
who does not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path of sinners,
or join a group of mockers!

    2 Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction,
and he meditates on it day and night.

    3 He is like a tree planted beside streams of water
that bears its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Patience

Romans 12:12

Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.

Psalm 37:7-9

7 Be silent before the LORD and wait expectantly for Him;
do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way,
by the man who carries out evil plans.

    8 Refrain from anger and give up [your] rage;
do not be agitated—it can only bring harm.

    9 For evildoers will be destroyed,
but those who put their hope in the LORD
will inherit the land.

In our effort to be patient and wait on the Lord, He knows that our weaknesses and intercedes for each of us.  We are comforted in His ever-present nature.

Jeremiah 29:11

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.

Persistence

1 Peter 3:14-17

14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be disturbed, 15 but set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Galatians 6:9

So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.

In conclusion, the ability to emerge from your spiritual dry spell requires the following:

  • Knowing that you need to change your routine and take action
  • Seek God’s Word and pray consistently for direction
  • Respond to God’s direction with faith, focus, patience, and persistence

Your efforts will reap the rewards of God’s blessings as you strengthen your relationship with Jesus Christ, grow in Him, and learn from the experience.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

God Provides Comfort in the Midst of Uncertainty

09/25/2011 § Leave a comment

Except for some tweets and posts on the Akron Alliance Fellowship Church blog, I’ve been quiet on my own blog pages for a little while.  It’s been a busy summer—busier than I can remember for the summer months—and my wife and I were overdue for a break for a couple of weekends in September.  With the break, there was time to reflect on the blessings that my wife, my family and I have, and how God has been more than evident in His presence in our lives.

It has become more evident that change is, more than ever, a prominent part of life.  There has been unexpected change at my workplace (new boss), my wife’s workplace (yep, new boss), and at church (an elder resignation).  Even with all of this, there is still cause for praise and worship for how God has given us the grace and ability to manage all of the changes and the surprising events. When my wife and I have talked about this, we readily agree that we don’t care much for change, let alone sudden ones.  While we’re both thankful to be working and making a living, the changes are still unsettling and can be downright stressful!  It’s often necessary for us to bring our work home and use “downtime” to still be productive and keep pace with everything that comes our way.

With everything moving so quickly, I have discovered that we need to remain continually focused on God and His Word every day, and remain open to the words and direction of the Holy Spirit everywhere we go, whether it is at work or in the car or at the grocery store.  In fact, there is not a moment when we should feel comfortable without the input of the Holy Spirit, especially when things seem to be going well (Psalm 51:11).

When circumstances have taken place that you don’t always understand right away, it is always best to trust God for direction when you are unsure of your response (Psalm 3:5-6, 56:3-4).  He is our comfort in the midst of uncertainty.

Now Available – My New eBook!

05/19/2011 § Leave a comment

My new eBook, Faith & Fundamentals For Living a Healthy, Christian Life, is now available on Barnes & Noble’s website, BN.com and also for your Kindle on Amazon.com.

It is a book of essays on various topics pertaining to your faith and life development.  Do you know your life purpose, and if so, are you passionate about it?  The key to your success is in the development of your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Listen To His Voice

02/22/2010 § Leave a comment

The following is a summary and commentary of a sermon that I presented to Akron Alliance Fellowship Church in 2006.

Last week we were in Hebrews Chapter 3 learning about the relationship between Jesus Christ and us.  We learned that Jesus Christ was appointed by God to be in charge of His household, which refers to all of us within the body of Christ, and His church.  God created all of us, and Jesus was put in charge of us by His divine appointment.

Hebrews 3:3-6

Therefore, holy brothers and companions in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession; He was faithful to the One who appointed Him, just as Moses was in all God’s household. For Jesus is considered worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder has more honor than the house. Now every house is built by someone, but the One who built everything is God. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s household, as a testimony to what would be said [in the future].  But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household, whose household we are if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.

There is a role for all of us within God’s household that we must be mindful of, however, and that important piece of our relationship within Jesus Christ is revealed here beginning in Hebrews 3:6 where it states “But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household, whose household we are IF WE HOLD ON TO THE COURAGE AND THE CONFIDENCE OF OUR HOPE.”  Some manuscripts add the words “Hope in Christ” or “firm to the end.”  So it is our responsibility, as members of God’s family, in the body of Christ, within our church and in our Christian community, for us to hold onto the courage and confidence of our hope for the rest of our lives in Christ Jesus.  It is by doing this that we remain as members in “good standing” within His household.  What do I mean by members in “good standing”?  Well, you can be a member of an organization, but as a member there are certain things (at the very least minimum requirements must be met) that must be done within the organization in order to fulfill the terms and conditions of your membership.  Members that do these things are regarded as members in “good standing.”  If one fails to meet these requirements, it does not mean that your membership is automatically cancelled or that you were being kicked out of the group, but it does mean that you may be a member “not in good standing.”  You can also be a member of the body of Christ, God’s family, and yet you are not doing the things that God would have you to do.  Here is where your relationship with God may be tenuous.  God has one standard for all of us to meet, and if we fail to meet that standard, our membership is classified as “not in good standing.”  God does not cancel our salvation or break His promises to us.  If we are not in good standing it is because we have failed Him or broken our promises to Him when we accepted Christ.

We fail God, and yet He does not fail us.  We fail Him because all too often we succumb to the temptations of the flesh, the world we live in, and we put God in a place far removed from first place in our lives.  We fail to obey His laws and precepts and we fall victim to our own selfish desires…pridefulness, jealousy, envy, anger with sinful behavior.  No, we don’t lose our membership in God’s family, but we systematically remove ourselves from God’s fellowship because we find the ways of the devil as more attractive.  All of this occurs because we fail to listen to what He has to say to us.

In Hebrews 3:7, this is exactly why the voice that we are to listen to, in the form of the Holy Spirit, makes a strong and firm declaration.

Hebrews 3:7-11

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested Me, tried [Me], and saw My works for 40 years. Therefore I was provoked with this generation and said, “They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways.” So I swore in My anger, “They will not enter My rest.”

We need to listen to His voice, and not just listen, but also trust in His voice.  We get ourselves in trouble because of our inconsistency in trusting in Him and our failure to truly believe in Him.  We are distracted all too easily by the flesh.

Why do we fail to believe in Him?  We show a lack of courage versus the world.

Courage is the ability to act on what we know is right and good, and to dare to do what we should or must.  While fear paralyzes, it is courage that helps us move ahead.

Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom should I be afraid?

Isaiah 41:10

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.

We lack confidence in God and who He is in our lives.  Confidence has many meanings.  It also can imply our level of faith, our level of hope, and our level of trust in Him.  Note that I refer to having confidence in Jesus Christ and not just confidence in us, which is completely different.

The other reason why we don’t listen to His voice is that we listen to other voices.  We have been studying in Sunday school about our first enemy who is all-powerful…the flesh.  We can never allow the flesh to get the upper hand.

Romans 6:12-14

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.

Pride creates an adversarial relationship with God.

Psalm 95:6-11

Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.  For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep under His care. Today, if you hear His voice: “Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in the wilderness where your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they had seen what I did. For 40 years I was disgusted with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray; they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My anger, ‘They will not enter My rest.’ ”

Anger must be subdued.

Genesis 4:3-7

In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also presented [an offering]—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why are you downcast? If you do right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

We are to avoid these failures and heed the warnings in Hebrews 3 and 4.  Notice the emphasis–in triplicate–within these Scriptures to bring the point home:

Hebrews 3:7-8, 14-15, 4:7

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the desert…For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start. As it is said: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion…again, He specifies a certain day—today—speaking through David after such a long time, as previously stated: Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.

In Hebrews 4:7, the emphasis is not to put off listening tomorrow (which is the response that the flesh will always present to you when it is time to make a decision).  The importance of doing it today as referenced means “DO IT NOW!”  Today is the day, not tomorrow, not next week, not when you get older and more settled in…today!!!

We run away from God when our life is not right.  Look at the evidence of this in Genesis 3:8-11:

Genesis 3:8-11

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” Then He asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I had commanded you not to eat from?”

God ignores no one.  He knows each and every one of us, and we cannot and will not escape His judgment.

Hebrews 4:12-13

For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart. No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.

Psalm 139:1-4

Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord.

Watch your thoughts and heed your actions.

You can fool others with your false sincerity.

You can even try to fool yourself.

God will not be fooled.

Turn your heart to Him, and give it all that you’ve got!

Deuteronomy 4:29

But from there, you will search for the Lord your God, and you will find [Him] when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul.

What about overcoming a lack of courage or the lack of confidence?

Joshua 1:9

Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

We are commanded by God to do this.  Listen to His command.  Remain faithful to the end.

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

Measuring Progress in the Quality of Your Christian Life

02/13/2010 § 1 Comment

The following is a summary and commentary of a sermon that I presented to Akron Alliance Fellowship Church in 2005.  It features a review of the blind man who was healed by Jesus Christ as narrated in the book of John, Chapter 9.

As our church is embarking upon a revival this coming week, is participating in an extended book study in Sunday school on The Purpose-Driven® Life, and has adopted the “Growing a Healthy Church” motto, it only makes sense that each of us who attends our church on a regular basis who is concerned with the scope and direction of our church will have a natural concern with where he or she is in their own relationship with Jesus Christ.

It also makes sense for the person to look at their own relationship with Christ as a natural way to measure your progress in your faith in Christ, and in your relationships and daily interactions as a believer in Jesus Christ.  Have you recently reflected as to where you are right now in your relationship with Christ?  Scripture strongly implies that it is a natural progression if you are growing in your relationship with Christ according to Hebrews 5:12-14:

Hebrews 5:12-14

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God’s revelation. You need milk, not solid food. Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature—for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.

Here are questions that you should honestly ask yourself…

  • Can you honestly say to yourself that you are making progress in your relationship with Jesus Christ?
  • If others were to observe your behavior, or even comment on it, would they see a progression in your relationship with Christ?

If you have not reflected on either of these questions, then how do you know where you are?  As a member of the body of Christ and Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, there is a natural hindrance to getting anything meaningful out of bible studies, or being an effective part of a fellowship if you are having a prolonged personal struggle with who you are in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

As our church is moving forward, our ministry is taking shape in different areas, and as change occurs, you must prepare yourself for what your defining role is as a member of the body of Christ.  In determining your defining role, it is not enough to ask yourself if you are merely a participant.  Some believers may go their entire lives trying to determine what their role is, and even what their spiritual gifts are.  If you do not know what your role is and what your gifts are, then how can you possibly know who you are in your relationship with a church, with other members in the body of Christ, and as to how much you have progressed as a believer?

It is time to start asking ourselves the questions that maybe we have avoided until now.  Fear of the unknown will sometimes keep us in a paralysis of not looking at where we are and how we can improve ourselves.  Perhaps we are fearful of what others will say about us…who knows?  I do know that Satan would prefer that each of us never reach our full potential as believers.  I also know that Satan is the greatest liar of all time (John 8:44).  Is it easier for us to believe Satan’s lies, or to trust in the Lord?

If we are to accurately assess where we are in our fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, we need to be able to measure our progress in the quality of our Christian life.  It is not a difficult process to measure where we are, as there are basic tenets that we must use in determining where we are in this area.  You may add some points within these basic doctrines, but I have examined three particular areas that should be at the forefront of any measurement of our assessment.

1. Your level of obedience to God through His Word

2. Growing with the knowledge of God through His Word

3. Peaking with understanding of God and His Word

Notice that all of these points refer very specifically to God’s Word in your life.  How do we know about God, and how did we learn about God in the first place?  We had to have some sort of exposure to God’s Word.  How did we come to know Jesus Christ as personal savior?  We learned about the Good News through exposure and reflection upon God’s Word.  How do we learn more about what God’s Word has to say to us?  By reading and studying God’s Word on a regular basis.  This is how God communicates with us…through His Word.  We reciprocate to God by communicating with Him in prayer.

2 Chronicles 7:14

…and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.

How does this correlate with the quality of your Christian life, or as some would say, the abundant life?  The answer may seem overly simple to you, but think about this regarding point number 1…all that God wants from us is our obedience to His Word.  The only way that we can love God is to be obedient to His Word (Exodus 20:6, Deuteronomy 5:10, Psalm 1:1-2, Psalm 25:10, Psalm 112:1).

If you are regularly practicing obedience to God’s Word, it stands to reason that God will respond to you with blessings as a result of your obedience.   The bottom line is that your obedience to His Word assures you that you are in fellowship with Him.  Your prayers are likely to be heard by him and answered by Him.  The residual effect of this obedience and the resulting ongoing fellowship with God is that God’s love for you, which has already been declared in his creation of you and His love for you in Jesus Christ in His plan of salvation for you will become more and more visible in your daily walk in faith.  You will, as a result of His love, love Him in return and have a greater desire to want to be obedient to Him.  It is a love relationship that can grow, as long as we do not inhibit it with sin or other forms of disobedience, beyond any sort of words or description that we can possibly come up with.

God’s desire for us is to be obedient to His Word.  That is where the process of beginning to measure progress in the quality of your Christian life begins.  Let’s examine the process take place in Scripture by looking at the man who was born blind.  The points mentioned before are demonstrated in Scripture in John 9:1-41.

John 9:1-5

As He was passing by, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples questioned Him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him. We must do the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Please note that God uses situations involving His people specifically for His glory and fulfillment of his purpose; a matter of His sovereignty.

John 9:6-7

After He said these things He spit on the ground, made some mud from the saliva, and spread the mud on his eyes. “Go,” He told him, “wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means “Sent”). So he left, washed, and came back seeing.

Here is a demonstration of an act of obedience…a simple act and yet here is how God began the process of using the situation for His glory.  It starts with our obedience to His Word, and our growth in fellowship with Him cannot help but grow accordingly.

John 9:8-12

His neighbors and those who formerly had seen him as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the man who sat begging?” Some said, “He’s the one.” “No,” others were saying, “but he looks like him.” He kept saying, “I’m the one!” Therefore they asked him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So when I went and washed I received my sight.” “Where is He?” they asked. “I don’t know,” he said.

Note from this text – here are the man’s neighbors asking questions about what really happened, and it appears that some of them were ready to report the matter to the Pharisees because of Jesus’ performing the healing on a Sabbath.

John 9:13-16

They brought the man who used to be blind to the Pharisees.  The day that Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes was a Sabbath. So again the Pharisees asked him how he received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” he told them. “I washed and I can see.” Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for He doesn’t keep the Sabbath!” But others were saying, “How can a sinful man perform such signs?” And there was a division among them.

This leads to our second point – Growing with knowledge (2 Peter 1:5-11 — contrast with Hosea 4:6, Romans 1:28-32).

Note the number of questions about Jesus’ legitimacy after the man described again what had happened.  Where is the confusion and division coming from here?  Satan wants to distract us from being obedient to God and getting us off track when others around us start shouting loud and long about the legitimacy of Jesus Christ.  A word to the wise – do not listen to those voices and stay focused, just as the man does in this text.  Only by staying focused can you continue on in the next step, growing with knowledge.

John 9:24-34

So a second time they summoned the man who had been blind and told him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner!” He answered, “Whether or not He’s a sinner, I don’t know. One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I can see!” Then they asked him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” “I already told you,” he said, “and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? You don’t want to become His disciples too, do you?” They ridiculed him: “You’re that man’s disciple, but we’re Moses’ disciples. We know that God has spoken to Moses. But this man—we don’t know where He’s from!” “This is an amazing thing,” the man told them. “You don’t know where He is from, yet He opened my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He listens to him. Throughout history no one has ever heard of someone opening the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He wouldn’t be able to do anything.” “You were born entirely in sin,” they replied, “and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.

The man was now speaking based upon his own experience and the knowledge and logic that he has about who Jesus is, and how he stood his ground in the face of the Pharisees, even though his parents were fearful (refer to verses 17-23).  God will give us the ability to stand our ground if we remain confident in Him and in the knowledge that he gives to us when we speak the truth about Him.  How confident are you in speaking up about Christ when you have the opportunity?

Acts 28:31

…proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance.

Hebrews 3:6

But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household, whose household we are if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.

With knowledge comes power.

John 9:35-38

When Jesus heard that they had thrown the man out, He found him and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is He, Sir, that I may believe in Him?” he asked. Jesus answered, “You have seen Him; in fact, He is the One speaking with you.” “I believe, Lord!” he said, and he worshiped Him.

Notice how Jesus finds the man and reaffirms him by asking him if he believes in Him.  This is much the same as how Jesus proclaims that he will never leave us nor forsake us.

Matthew 28:18-20

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The man now worships Jesus once he realizes who he is speaking to and who he is.  He now has greater understanding after being obedient and growing in knowledge through the experience.

Now comes point number 3 – Progress is made through greater understanding of who He is.  As you read God’s Word, you become stronger in your faith, and you begin to see God’s glory in all things.  The greater understanding now leads to growth and progress in your spiritual walk.  It is a natural progression of your faith if you will only act with obedience and gain knowledge.  With this progression in faith comes a peace and feeling of joy that is indescribable.

Psalm 29:11

The Lord gives His people strength; the Lord blesses His people with peace.

Psalm 32:7

You are my hiding place; You protect me from trouble. You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance.

Philippians 4:7

And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This gradual progression in measuring progress can be hindered if points 1 through 3 are not followed.  You cannot effectively get to the 3rd point if you are struggling with the 2nd point, and so forth.  Ask yourself about this three step process and determine if the quality of your Christian life can be improved.

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

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