L.A.D.I.E.S. Brunch Conference 2017 – Saturday, October 7 feat. Kelly Parker!

09/26/2017 § Leave a comment

Ladies, join us for our third annual L.A.D.I.E.S. Brunch Conference (Living as Devoted in Every Sense)! Saturday, October 7, 2017 will be a great morning of inspiration and encouragement with our special guest speaker, Kelly D. Parker.

About Ms. Parker:

Kelly Parker is a Bible teacher, speaker and blogger. Her desire is to see women embrace the victory and freedom that come from a life wholly submitted to Christ. She finds great joy in conveying biblical truths in a straightforward way to help women apply God’s Word to their everyday lives.

Kelly is the founder of When the Gals Gather, a movement focused on empowering women with tools and resources for authentic biblical living. Kelly is a native of Cleveland, Ohio and a graduate of Kent State University. She holds a degree in Marketing and Public Relations and has more than 10 years of professional marketing experience.

In her spare time, Kelly enjoys writing, reading and calligraphy. She is married to Luvirt Parker, Lead Pastor of Christ Community Church in University Heights, Ohio.  They have three children, Gabrielle, Marcus and Nia, and reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Ms. Parker is a wonderful, dynamic speaker who has a message for ladies of all ages!  Feel free to invite your daughters, neighbors and friends to this event!

Along with a delicious brunch, admission is FREE for this “can’t miss” event, and there will be door prizes, too!  If you or a group are interested in attending, let us know as soon as possible (we need a head count!).  Please call our church office at 330.376.4654 or call Melvin Gaines at 234.206.0345 or 234.221.8125.


L.A.D.I.E.S. Brunch Conference 2017 – Saturday, October 7 feat. Kelly Parker!

08/05/2017 § Leave a comment

Save the Date: Saturday, October 7, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Ladies, join us for our third annual L.A.D.I.E.S. Brunch Conference (Living as Devoted in Every Sense)!  Saturday, October 7, 2017 will be a great morning of inspiration and encouragement with our special guest speaker, Kelly D. Parker.

About Ms. Parker:

Kelly Parker is a Bible teacher, speaker and blogger. Her desire is to see women embrace the victory and freedom that come from a life wholly submitted to Christ. She finds great joy in conveying biblical truths in a straightforward way to help women apply God’s Word to their everyday lives.

Kelly is the founder of When the Gals Gather, a movement focused on empowering women with tools and resources for authentic biblical living. Kelly is a native of Cleveland, Ohio and a graduate of Kent State University. She holds a degree in Marketing and Public Relations and has more than 10 years of professional marketing experience.

In her spare time, Kelly enjoys writing, reading and calligraphy. She is married to Luvirt Parker, Lead Pastor of Christ Community Church in University Heights, Ohio.  They have three children, Gabrielle, Marcus and Nia, and reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Ms. Parker is a wonderful, dynamic speaker who has a message for ladies of all ages!  Feel free to invite your daughters, neighbors and friends to this event!

Along with a delicious brunch, admission is FREE for this “can’t miss” event, and there will be door prizes, too!  If you or a group are interested in attending, let us know as soon as possible (we need a head count!).  Please call our church office at 330.376.4654 or call Melvin Gaines at 234.206.0345 or 234.221.8125.

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

Discernment is a Godly Attribute

07/15/2012 § Leave a comment

In an election year, there are dozens of radio ads and television commercials that air to provide information for the voting public.  The commercials are a blend of opposing views that run early and often on a daily basis up until Election Day.  The intent of these advertisements is to do one thing and one thing only…to persuade the listener or viewer to choose the side representing their position.  These ads are never vague or unclear as to what side is represented because the information tips the scales in the favor of the group who is sponsoring the commercial.

In the midst of these commercials are elements of truth and areas where the truth is stretched in varying degrees.  Remember, the sponsor of the commercial is trying to get your vote or even affirm your vote for their side, and there is often a creative license that is taken in order to make their position more appealing or to convince you to despise the opposing view, which inevitably brings you back to their view.

What the advertisers count on with these ads is that the casual observer will not go through the trouble or the burden to educate oneself and do research to see if the information has merit.  They know very well that their ads are effective in their impact with the public because many people will either rely upon the information as being true or a close match with their ideology, and that many will not go through the fact-checking process.  The civic-minded voter, however, readily assumes the responsibility to take the time to review any available information about the candidates and issues at hand.  He or she desires information and education as to what is at stake in the election.  After all of the information is gathered and disseminated, exercising discernment that leads to the final decision in the voting booth.  Discernment is the key word…it is the ability to judge well.

Discernment is more than simply possessing good judgment or referring to your conscience.  It, for our purposes today, also means to have the ability to review something and determine its truthfulness or its viability.  It is something that each of us should possess within our evaluation process, but you may know someone who has the uncanny ability to “see through” and make conclusions about situations with what seems to be the least amount of information.  It is not something that should be seen as “mystical” or as being something that someone would have in a special sense when it comes to ability.  All of us can discern and make judgments.  Let’s instead focus on the importance of discernment when it comes to recognizing truth and error in the presentation of God’s Word.  Are you able to discern what is being presented?  In the same way that political ads work well, especially with their repetitive nature, many people are ill-prepared to deal with false doctrine or false presentations of the gospel because they don’t take the time to review the information properly.  It’s like taking a test in school without studying for it…it often doesn’t go well in the end results.

If you lack the appropriate information, you are unlikely to be able to make the appropriate conclusions in your discernment efforts.  This leaves one wide open to deception and someone telling you anything that can lead you astray, which is very, very dangerous.

Hosea 4:6

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. 

Colossians 2:8

Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.

Proverbs 15:14

A discerning mind seeks knowledge, 
but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.

Acts 17:11

The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

OK…so discernment is important and some of us seem to have a better time of it than others.  These are the people that can readily provide us with godly advice when it seems to matter most.  You may be asking yourself…”What if I am lacking in my ability to discern?  What can I do about it?”  The answers lie in understanding some truths about discernment.  Discernment is a godly attribute, and it requires God’s participation within the process.

  • Discernment requires godly knowledge…knowing the Bible.

Philippians 1:9-10

And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment10 so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.

  • Discernment requires prayer and actively seeking God

The more that you are seeking God and being prayerful for wisdom and insight, the more that God will make plain to you those things that seemed to be elusive to you in the past.  You can develop your ability to discern, but it requires completeness in your trust that God is giving you exactly what you need when you need it.

Some have made the argument that discernment is a spiritual gift, and by reviewing Scripture, we can make a case that it is not a “special” gift in itself, and we also can find in Scripture that some persons have a special ability to discern, or judge, about certain spirits:

First, the example that people who possess the Holy Spirit already have discernment capabilities:

1 Corinthians 2:10-16

10 Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. 13 We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.14 But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. 15 The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. 16 For

who has known the Lord’s mind,
that he may instruct Him?

But we have the mind of Christ.

Second, here is a passage that shows how God can enable some of His saints to possess a gift of discernment:

1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial:

to one is given a message of wisdom 
through the Spirit,
to another, a message of knowledge
by the same Spirit,
to another, faith by the same Spirit,
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
10 to another, the performing of miracles,
to another, prophecy,
to another, distinguishing between spirits,
to another, different kinds of languages,
to another, interpretation of languages.

11 But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills.

To have discernment of distinguish about spirits is necessary in the growth and maturity of a believer in Jesus Christ.  Here is a how-to guide as to what all of us should be able to do if we are paying attention to the Holy Spirit that speaks from within:

1 John 4:1-6

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now.

You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.

We are counseled throughout Scripture, in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, to test the spirits (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).  We need to test them because they certainly test every believer.  They come in all forms from the opposition, and it is nothing to joke around with or play with.

Ephesians 6:11-13

11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.12 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. 13 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.

Therefore, we are to be smart about our encounters with the opposition—not in a way that diminishes your testimony for Christ; instead, using the power of the Holy Spirit to do the work while you speak.

Matthew 10:16

 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Final point—

  • Discernment also comes from the counsel of others when seeking advice.

Proverbs 19:20-21

20 Listen to counsel and receive instruction
so that you may be wise later in life.

21 Many plans are in a man’s heart,
but the 
Lord’s decree will prevail.

It’s wise and just plain smart to get advice from people who are knowledgeable, especially in subjects where you don’t have it.  The Spirit even guides you in this area.  It’s also wise to seek the counsel and take the other person’s sound advice.  It’s silly to ask opinions over and over again and never take the advice.  As you obtain knowledge, you should be able to come to a satisfactory conclusion as you discern what the appropriate outcome or ending should be.  When God provides you with wise counsel, take it.

Discernment is the essence of wisdom and understanding in Jesus Christ.  Here are some important takeaways:

  1. It is provided through the power of the Holy Spirit for every believer
  2. It requires a healthy understanding of the Bible
  3. It requires prayerful consideration and appeals to godly wisdom in the process
  4. It relies upon the testimony of wise counsel

All of this leads back to a proverb that is well-known and recognized…the Spirit provides the guidance that all of us need, and we choose to follow His leading rather than let our way of thinking keep us from using the proper discernment.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

Easter Still the Annual Church Tryout Day

04/25/2011 § Leave a comment

When I was very young, I didn’t go to church except for once a year since my parents were unchurched and weren’t especially motivated to seek a regular church fellowship. The once-a-year trip was to the neighborhood church in the Lee-Harvard area of Cleveland, and it was on Easter Sunday. I was too young to have a clue about church except that it was a place to go on occasion where you could wear your best light blue pastel suit and sit for a couple of hours on a hard bench and get overheated very quickly because of the lack of ventilation. I felt relief when I finally left the church and got outside, where the cool breezes would call attention to my perspiration under a steamy, polyester-like suit.

I did pay attention enough through the heat, however, to see that church was not such a scary place after all. I had already experienced the screaming, sanctified woman at the colorful, inner city church where the women dressed as nurses would carry the wounded yellers out of the sanctuary. I had to learn over a few visits that the screamers was not a regular part of church (thank goodness).

Now that I am older and a little smarter about the church experience, I realize that, many years ago, I was part of a large group of people that go to church once a year, and that group still exists today…the Easter Sunday once-a-year church goers.  As I checked through my Facebook faith posts and Twitter faith tweets, I noted that there were many efforts to get people to go to church services on Easter in large venues–even stadiums–in different parts of the country, or there were multiple services at large churches to accommodate the crowds.

There must be a sense of duty behind the magnitude of people compelled to attend Easter services.  It is a movement that occurs on the one day that Jesus Christ is given honor by the secular or unchurched people…and that’s just fine with me.  It is my hope, however, that the people who do visit church will actually come to the understanding that visiting church once a year does not earn brownie points or good favor with God because of the effort.  While God sincerely appreciates the visitation, I have found that many once-a-year visitors often slip into church and sit in the back row at the start of the service only to duck out the door before it ends…these premeditated escape artists put Houdini on notice.

Not to be overly critical, I must point out that the once-a-year tryout people have a latent curiosity, if not an outright need for understanding, of how the other half lives–in other words, how can these church folk stand to go into churchdom (AKA boredom) every Sunday?  What is the attraction that one can have to maintain such a regular routine as going to church every week…wait, sometimes even twice a week…or even (heaven forbid) go to Sunday school???

There is no single answer for this phenomenon of regular church attendance, but the reasons all circle back to one simple thing…there is a strong likelihood that many of the people who attend church once or twice a week (and even Sunday school) have a greater understanding about what it is to have a healthy relationship with God.  The regulars are far from perfect–and share the same flaws that the once-a-yearers have–but they acknowledge these shortcomings by recognizing that God provides forgiveness and healing…missing commodities in today’s world of artificial fixes.

And now I’ll speak for me, one of the regulars, who did not come to a greater understanding of who Jesus Christ is until I was 26 years old, and when I accepted Him as my personal Savior.  It took a little interest, and then curiosity, and then an open mind to help me to understand that I needed Him in my life.  That’s what it ultimately takes for each of us who want to learn something new.  Sometimes we have to realize that it is the very things that we don’t understand that we are most afraid of.  It is all about overcoming our fears, which we often have to do to grow personally, and even spiritually.  We also have to be careful to not listen to someone else’s opinions about something that we don’t understand, which can keep us from seeking what ultimately is the truth.  That is what is really tragic about not trying something…when you make excuses not to seek understanding when you have everything in your power to make it happen.

It is my prayer that if you are a once-a-year Easter Sunday tryout person that you consider going back to church in a week or two, but don’t wait an entire year.  There are many wonderful bible-teaching churches with people just like you that are more than willing to welcome you for the second, third, or fourth visit (but you have to stay long enough after the service ends, of course).  You just may find that the friendliness and fellowship that you experience will be far from boring and will actually be refreshingly sincere, which just happens to be just the way Jesus Christ would have you to see Him.  Church is not really a scary place, but you’ll have to try it out more than once to see for yourself.

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

Searching For Truth

02/27/2011 § Leave a comment

Updated 03.02.2011 – mp3 audio file links for this message are available for download at my other blog, Psalm 37:4.

Do you recall the last time that you were searching around for your car keys?  Was it just the other day that you were hunting around for your cell phone because you could not find where you had last put it down?  Maybe it was your wallet, where you keep your driver’s license.  Don’t leave home without it!  For those times you misplaced your glasses, you really struggled finding them because your eyesight is the reason you had to get glasses in the first place!

All of us have lost something that we need to find as soon as possible in order to be able to continue with our day, or even just feel better because what you thought was lost was not really lost at all.  The process of searching for something can be a very casual search, or a frantic search where you are flipping seat cushions and bed covers, or something in between.

While none of us looks forward to searching for a lost item, we should relish looking for those things that reveal truth in the midst of a very confusing world.  The search for truth can be relatively straightforward, for example, it occurs to you while you are looking for your keys that you left them in your coat pocket, and while your keys are not yet located, you know where to go to find them.  Some searches for truth for some of us are not as simple.  There are still others where the search for truth is hampered by constraints of the world.  Their search is one of futility because they do not know where to go or which way to turn next.  The search process is now fraught with disappointment and despair.  The search for truth can be as simple as the search when you absolutely know where to look, or it can be utterly mystifying and confusing.

A search requires effort on your part.  Searching for truth requires effort, as well.  Jesus certainly knew that there would be many people today seeking the truth about Him or the truth about salvation and what it means to trust in Him as your personal Savior.  With all of this, He provides us with some guidelines as we search for truth in this world.  Let’s “search” the Scriptures in seeking his advice.

Matthew 7:7-8

“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. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

The search for truth has some basic components that are within the search process.  The first of these is relatively straightforward…to ask for information.  We must be prepared to ask questions in order to receive answers that will guide us into truth.  In the process of asking questions, we should always challenge ourselves to make sure that we are in the proper learning environment.  All of us would agree that we would want the best possible environment for our children when it comes to education.  We would not want to settle for anything less than a quality education for them.  If that is the case, then why would you settle for a church that is short on teaching ability and that does not provide that same quality for you?  You make the distinction and determination that you are in the best learning environment in church by asking questions.  Once you hear the answers, now you can note them and test their veracity as you are challenged to do according to God’s Word:

Acts 17:10-12

As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas off to Beroea. On arrival, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Consequently, many of them believed, including a number of the prominent Greek women as well as men.

Asking questions during bible studies or Sunday school classes will most certainly confirm, with the proper scriptural fact checking, whether or not you are in the proper environment for seeking God’s truth in His Word.  The Spirit guides us into truth if we are paying attention to Him.  Jesus promises that when we ask, we will receive the answers that we need through the Spirit.

John 16:13

“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.”

Jesus also advises us to seek what we are looking for, and there will come a point where what we are looking for will be found.  Notice that Jesus does not immediately proclaim that you are to seek Him directly, but what you will find is that the more you actually search through the Scriptures, the likelihood is that you will come to the same conclusion:

John 5:39

You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me.

This verse points to the fact that while you may be studying scripture and asking questions, it is important to note that you could be looking directly at Jesus Christ and missing the important message that He is trying to communicate.  Matthew Henry’s commentary of this verse is that even though the Jews were scholars and believed that they had everything they needed because they had God’s Word in their hands, they still neglected God’s true message and had lost their love for God.  Many may believe they are very religious, and yet they sadly do not love or even know Jesus in a relational way.

It is important to not only seek, but to keep seeking—to continue to look for the truth.  It may take several attempts before you make the discovery, but the key to all of this is persistence.  Persistence requires a desire to get to a place in your search where you are completely satisfied with the results.  In order to get to that point, you must keep seeking…keep looking for answers.  The answers come from Scripture, and as we seek the truth, we should have the desire to seek it even more.

Psalm 1:1-3

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.

The search for truth requires asking for information, seeking answers to your questions, and another act of persistence, knocking.  The act of knocking, specifically in Matthew 7 on a door, is to create a sound that brings attention to the one who is creating the noise.  To knock on the door is to alert someone on the other side that you wish to obtain entry to a place that you cannot readily access without the door being opened for you.  Logically, if you could open the door and enter the room, there is no need to knock.

Why the reference of knocking and the door will be opened?  This is also an example of persistence and also endurance.  The door being knocked on is considered to be an obstacle.  The obstacle can be perceived as a small thing, or it can be a very great trial.  Of the commentaries that you may review in looking at this verse, there are references to the combination of prayer to God, persistence, and endurance with the act of knocking on the door.  You continue to knock on the door until it is opened.  Let’s look at the parallel verse, which gives a more detailed example of this:

Luke 11:5-9

5 He also said to them: “Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I don’t have anything to offer him.’ 7 Then he will answer from inside and say, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I have gone to bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he won’t get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9 “So I say to you, 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.

The opening of the door allows you to enter into a place of rest and security in the Lord.  An open door after persistent knocking brings on a sense of relief and satisfaction.  If you notice closely in the verse that the Lord promises that He will open the door…not that he might open it or could open it…He will open the door.  This is a promise that He gives to each of us who remain persistent in seeking Him, endure hardships to fellowship with Him, and look for ways to understand Him in the best way possible.

Notice that this is exactly what Jesus Christ wants you to do in your efforts to seek Him.  To keep asking questions, to keep seeking understanding, to continue to pray in earnest through your hardships until the time He responds to you.  Seeking the truth means that you are doing much more than just learning about Jesus Christ—you are learning that the actions of asking, seeking, and knocking mean that you are seeking a living Christ…the Messiah…the God who knows all about you while you are continually learning more about Him, learning how to love Him as He already loved you.

Romans 5:8

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

John 3:16

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

1 John 4:9-10

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (sacrifice) for our sins.

Seeking truth is all about seeking Jesus.  We are to never cease from seeking Him, for the more we learn about Jesus Christ, the more wisdom, knowledge, and understanding that we will receive from Him through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Proverbs 9:10

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

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

Your Faith On Trial–Are You a Good Witness?

08/21/2010 § Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

Jude 3-4

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

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

Ephesians 6:10-13

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

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

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

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

John 18:36-38

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

“You are a king then?” Pilate asked.

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

“What is truth?” said Pilate.

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

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

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

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

James 2:21-24

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

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

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

2 Timothy 3:12-17

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

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

Romans 1:16

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

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

John 14:16-17

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

John 16:13-15

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

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

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

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

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