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American Idols

Message transcript of September 13, 2015 from Melvin Gaines:

On the hit television show, American Idol, people audition from all over the United States to earn the opportunity to face-off in a singing competition for the chance to win it all and be referred to as The American Idol.

The American Idol is more than just a television singing competition. It can also refer to an ongoing competition that you are involved in more often than you realize. You are not competing against another hopeful for a prize, but you are involved in a competition where the stakes are much higher. Your competition involves what you hold as important versus your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Who will win the competition? If you are honest with yourself, you will see that it is hardly a slam dunk that your relationship with Jesus Christ will come away as the winner. There are many obstacles that will hamper your efforts to remain in fellowship with Him, and that is because you also hold someone or something as one or more of your American Idols.

What is an idol? An idol, by definition, is a cultural icon, specifically a popular person, or it is an image or representation of anything that is revered and perhaps even regarded as having some sort of spiritual power. As you can see, an idol can be a person, a thing or even a god for some. In the King James Version of the bible, the term used is “graven image,” which is something that is engraved and revered in a form of worship. The Hebrew word for graven image is means literally “idol.”

In the event that anyone believes that an idol has some sort of spiritual influence, God has a very clear command about worshiping such images:

Exodus 20:4-6 ESV

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

 

Deuteronomy 5:9a ESV

You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.

 

Isaiah 42:8 HCSB

I am Yahweh, that is My name;

I will not give My glory to another

or My praise to idols.

As God clearly declares that He will not give honor or praise to idols, then neither should we.

Worshiping idols is known as idolatry, which is worship and excessive devotion to a person or thing that effectively replaces God.

So, what’s the problem here? You may be saying to yourself right now “this idolatry thing does not describe me. I don’t have any carved images or statues in my house, and I don’t get into all of that silly stuff.”

Really? Let’s consider that there are many things that are going on in your life right now that not only replace God as being first in your life, but they also minimize Him in the same way that you can minimize a window on your computer and you would not even see Him, and maybe even forget that He was there. If this were a competition, you would have voted, even already written God off.

In the book Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller presents three different things that are idols that we can put before God: love, money and power. There are many more than these three, of course, because, by definition, an idol is ANYTHING that a person views as important and replaces the role of God in one’s life. These three, however, are significant in that they not only are substitutes for Him, but they can also cause serious damage to the people you know if they are unchecked and out of control. Keller notes, “An idolatrous attachment can lead you to break any promise, rationalize any indiscretion, or betray any other allegiance, in order to hold onto it. It may drive you to violate all good and proper boundaries.”

I. Love and Sex

There is certainly a difference between love and sex, but as we have often seen within our present culture, the two often go hand in hand, especially when it comes to how a person views love in his or her own way. The worldly view of love is not even close to the agape love that is the essence of God’s character (1 John 4:8). The worldly view of love values the relationship with a person over and above a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ—so much so that a person’s values and ethics are often compromised for the sake of preserving the relationship. For a believer in Jesus Christ, this should be especially troubling. Keller notes that “Making an idol out of love may mean allowing the lover to exploit and abuse you, or it may cause terrible blindness to the pathologies in the relationship.”

A single woman named Clarice has attended a church for several years where the biblical values of dating, relationships and abstaining from sex before marriage have been presented. Clarice, however, felt as though her biological clock was ticking, and decided to visit nightclubs or other social events in order to find a “good Christian man” that had values similar to her own—namely, settling down and getting married. Upon finding a potential suitor, even upon declaring him as a boyfriend, she began sizing him up to check all of the boxes in her mind. Is he employed with a future career potential? Is he able to provide for me? Is he sexually compatible? Note that none of these questions are crosschecked with what she was taught within the church. Of course, after reviewing these and other questions, Clarice decides that her present boyfriend won’t be a suitable mate; therefore, she breaks up with him and moves on to search for another that will check all of her boxes. This pursuit often leads to emptiness and dissatisfaction, and it is a disappointment to God when the efforts of finding security in a person give way to obedience, trust and reliance upon God’s method of provision. God is left well into the background. Her pursuit of love was her American idol.

Jonathan was always searching for the “girl of his dreams.” The problem was that each prospective woman would never meet his expectations. He also could not maintain a long-term romance because he lacked confidence in himself and did not trust that the women he tried to date would continue to find him appealing. In between these relationships, he would visit strip clubs or watch pornography. Jonathan never married. All of his relationships turned out to be empty and unsatisfying, but his expectation that something better was out there kept his focus away from relying upon God to be his ultimate matchmaker. His desire for romance above everything else was his American idol.

The pursuit of love and sex is idolatry. It is more than just minimizing God—it is a separation from God. This can also lead to unwanted pregnancies and the undermining of a person’s family or career pursuits. In extreme cases, an emptiness, or false intimacy, can lead to sexual addiction, which according to Harry Schaumburg, is “the self-centered demand to be loved and accepted regardless of the consequences, and a loss of vital relationship with God” and it “is a complex result of sin and human behavior.” The idolatry of love and sex is sinful and destructive for every relationship surrounding the perpetrator.

II. Money

One of the most misquoted passages of Scripture involves money. Money on its own is not a bad thing; yet, the love of it has caused many to stumble under greed, and it is idolatry.

1 Timothy 6:10 HCSB

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

Anthony liked having money in his pockets. He wasn’t particularly wealthy, either, and he didn’t handle money very well. He desired to earn more money and become whatever it means to be independently wealthy, but his pursuit came through working three jobs and playing the lottery every day–sometimes twice a day and also buying dozens of scratch-off tickets. When it came to paying the bills at home, his wife had to bear the brunt of the mortgage and the utilities, because Anthony never had enough money to help out with the bills at home. He was driven through the enticement of a “get rich quick” mentality. Even when he hit the lottery for $10,000.00, he bought a new car for himself and never bothered to share his winnings with his wife. Anthony was controlled by greed over money, and it would never be satisfied, especially since God was not in his plan of obtaining wealth. His love of money was his American idol.

In Counterfeit Gods, Keller writes that greed over money “uses powerful sociological and psychological dynamics,” and that “Greed hides itself from the victim. The money god’s modus operandi includes blindness to your own heart” (Keller, 2009). He also relates that greed over money will create jealousy and envy over what other people have, which creates an even greater divide in a person’s relationship with Jesus Christ. It is one of the more deceptive means of idolatry, and it affects people who have little or a lot of it. God reminds us, as believers, that we can’t have Him in a relationship and hold a desire for money to the same standard:

Luke 16:13 ESV

No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

 

III. Power

In America, our culture elevates politicians, professional athletes, Hollywood performers and music pop stars as having the ultimate wealth, status and power. They are deemed by the vast majority of people to have success beyond measure. With such success comes a measure of power. If it is used in the right way, the evidence comes out of a person with a humble approach to life and the desire to serve and glorify God. If, however, a person uses power to his or her own advantage, it creates an environment where power usage can be abusive…and sinful.

Even the noblest efforts that are presented in the spirit of doing what is good can still be twisted into idolatry. Keller notes, “When love of one’s people becomes an absolute, it turns into racism. When love of equality turns into a supreme thing, it can result in hatred and violence toward anyone who has led a privileged life. We can look at our political leaders as ‘messiahs,’ our political leaders as saving doctrine, and turn our political activities into a kind of religion.”

The desire for power is the culmination of a thought process that is independent of God’s involvement.

The people who audition for American Idol have one goal in mind, and that is to be seen as the best of the best singers in a popularity contest before millions of people. It begins with the desire to get a big break, but for all but one person, the contest ends without realizing the dream. Some contestants on the show honestly believe that they can be famous–even if they cannot sing very well. Contestants have been known to quit their jobs and leave their families in order to seek fame and fortune. It is more than just trying to win a recording contract—it is a quest for fame and influence. The desire for such power is idolatry.

Fame, however, is fleeting, especially when compared with the presence of God in our lives.

 

Isaiah 40:6-8 HCSB

A voice was saying, “Cry out!”

Another said, “What should I cry out?”

“All humanity is grass,

and all its goodness is like the flower of the field.

The grass withers, the flowers fade

when the breath of the Lord blows on them;

indeed, the people are grass.

The grass withers, the flowers fade,

but the word of our God remains forever.”

It is our nature to want to accomplish something or achieve something on our own, when we, as believers in Jesus Christ, should be fully aware that we cannot accomplish anything without His input (His movement or His allowance of it).

 

Luke 18:27 HCSB

He (Jesus) replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

So who, or what, is your American idol? Are you following a person instead of seeking Jesus? Are you searching for something in your life that is unfulfilling and empty? Are you putting Christ aside in order to fulfill your own desires? What idols are you holding on to?

Perhaps it is time for you to do some real soul searching and make sure that you are not in a competition against God because of holding on to idols. It is a competition that you will ultimately lose, because idolatry is sin…plain and simple. The only way to renounce these idols is to humble yourself and turn from your sin directly to Jesus Christ, and recognize that God is the One who delivers us from our sins. He became sin for us with His death on the cross in order to become righteous before Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Philippians 4:13 NKJV

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

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Signs of the Last Days: The Intensity of the Day

Today’s message summary of March 15, 2015 from Pastor Gus Brown:

We are now approaching a time where even many Christians will want to get away from today’s tumultuous period. There will be difficult times ahead, but Jesus tells us to “be ready.” There has to be a thought process where a person will need to take a stand with Him and remain faithful. The power to stand will come through the Holy Spirit to take a stand. The challenge will take place where a person will be called upon to denounce Jesus Christ, and a person will need to make a choice.

When it comes to subjects such as having children out of wedlock, crime, vulgarity or horrific acts, these are intense times that we live in. It is happening more and more in society today, where we didn’t hear so much about these things when we were growing up.

There has to be something that deters the sin that is occurring within our society. We also understand that it is going to get worse.

There are acts of vandalism, loud and disruptive behavior, brutality and a general lack of gentlemanly behavior. There was a time when you didn’t hear a woman cussing (beautiful on the outside until they open their mouths).

You need to set boundaries for this and many types of behavior.

Things are getting worse and not getting better.

Ecclesiastes 1:9

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is that will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.

 

2 Peter 3:3-4

First, be aware of this: Scoffers will come in the last days to scoff, living according to their own desires, saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? Ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they have been since the beginning of creation.”

 

How long has the church been saying that Jesus is coming? For quite a while–since Paul’s time. We have to remember that this is a promise from God that remains to be fulfilled. What people need to understand is that God is still trying to bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 24:39

They didn’t know until the flood came and swept them all away. So this is the way the coming of the Son of Man will be.

 

Did the people really not know, or did they close their ears to the truth? Noah was preaching a message to the people to repent and turn to God. In essence, people chose to disregard him.

We can hopefully see that things are intensifying:

2 Timothy 3:1-5

But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people!

 

God’s power has the ability to change a person. You can deny his power by simply following your own way or the ways of the Devil.

There will be hard-pressing days, and you will only know relief when those days pass. In reality, there are many days that are difficult in the life of a Christian.

People will love themselves and lack respect for others.

Luke 16:14-15

The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and scoffing at Him. And He told them: “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight.

 

Philippians 2:3

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.

 

James 2:14-16

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it?

 

People will be lovers of money:

Mark 7:10-13

For Moses said:

Honor your father and your mother, and

Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death.

But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or mother: Whatever benefit you might have received from me is Corban'” (that is, a gift committed to the temple), “you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. You revoke God’s word by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many other similar things.”

 

1 Timothy 3:3, 6:10

…not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy–

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

 

People will be boastful (empty pretenders, giving oneself airs, in loud and flaunting ways–attention getting).

Matthew 23:5-7

They do everything to be observed by others: They enlarge their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people.

 

These are some of the attitudes of the people you will experience during these perilous times. Open your eyes and see if the temperature is going up. If you can see these things, you know that you are in the Last Days.


Walking By Faith (The Lord is Not Finished Yet)

Today’s message summary of December 28, 2014 from Pastor Gus Brown:

Walking by faith is not something that is done out of one’s own ability. It is to be done through the power of the Holy Spirit. In order to walk by faith, the Spirit leads, but we are to trust in Him.

We are not to believe that God brought us through all of the troubles of this world to say that we are finished. Lord, You’re not finished with us yet. Lord, you still have a work for this church to perform. You have a vital work that will have eternal value in the lives of people. It is Your work. It is Your church. The church was started by men who were being obedient to You, and Lord, You have sustained us and kept us. You have brought us a mighty long way, and we thank You. Amen.

God has not done what He has done in your life and said that it’s done. He is just beginning to work.

Satan wants to make things appear to be worse than they really are. Just believe in God and trust Him, He will show you some great and mighty things. The Lord asks if He will find any who are faithful when He comes. I pray that those that He finds here remain faithful to Him.

Satan wants to rob us of hope and keep you from looking forward. God, in contrast, wants you to dare to dream. He still wants to speak to you and dare people to dream beyond your present circumstances.

If this church will have it in its mind to pray and storm the doors of heaven, God will respond. He has not finished His work.

We may not have a lot, but we are rich in Jesus Christ, and we have each other. God is the One who started this church, and He is the One who has given the provision to pay the bills and sustain this church.

As long as we honor God, God will honor you, and He will bless you and keep you.

Genesis 15:1

After these events, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield; your reward will be very great.

 

God wants us to remain faithful and not fearful of what is to come. Don’t be afraid! We are to trust that God is the One who achieves great things–mighty things in spite of the number of people involved. Remain faithful to Him and to the task that God assigns to you.

Acts 10:19-20

While Peter was thinking about the vision, the Spirit told him, “Three men are here looking for you. Get up, go downstairs, and accompany them with no doubts at all, because I have sent them.”

 

If you spend too much time reflecting on God’s vision, you will wind up not acting upon it. God will give the direction and you need to take it and follow it towards the accomplishment of your goal. His will is in the midst of all of His promises. When you believe what is being accomplished is of God, don’t hesitate. Be ready to step out and move forward.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.

 

Proverbs 29:18

Without revelation people run wild, but one who listens to instruction will be happy.

 

Of course, we need to remember hope:

Proverbs 23:17-18

Don’t let your heart envy sinners; instead, always fear the Lord. For then you will have a future, and your hope will never fade.

 

We are to be co-laborers with God. He wants you to be involved in the midst of your hope that God remains firmly in control. He is a sovereign God, and yet He will work His will through you, as you remain willing.

Believe, as a church, that God has a future for you. Your hope will not be cut off.

This church has always been about teaching and providing instruction. The most important thing of the church today is that we are to be teachers of the Word of God. When the psalmist declares that He will hide the Word in his heart that he may not sin, it is a constant reminder of obedience to God and to be pleasing to Him. The only way to really hide the word in your heart is to be a teacher and to allow yourself to be taught. The learning comes in being challenged by God’s Word and allowing it to build within you. There are things that God has planned for your life that have not yet been revealed to you, and yet God, through the Holy Spirit, wants to show these things to you. All that we need to do is seek Him, ask Him and be willing to hear Him speak.

This church is holy only because of the presence of God in our midst. Be mindful of this as you act in obedience to Him and live in such a way that you are striving for holiness.

It is important to separate what is man’s vision and what is God’s vision. (Don’t assume that they are the same.) In that vision, we want to show people who look upon the church as a people who are different.

Psalm 71:18

Even when I am old and gray, God, do not abandon me. Then I will proclaim Your power to another generation, Your strength to all who are to come.

 

Even when you get older, you are still called to teach the younger people coming along in order that they can grow in Jesus Christ. Have a heart to always be ready to teach the next generation. In order to do this, you need to be teachable. Keep learning. It is not about being in agreement with everything, but it does mean that you can be challenged to learn and grow in Christ.

I pray that you will always be ready to let people know the truth of what God has done for you. Whatever we have received from Him is a gift.


Our Great God (A Letter from Heather Abernathy)

Here is a recent letter (dated September 1, 2011) from Heather Abernathy, who is serving as an international worker for the Christian & Missionary Alliance in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  The testimony is an encouragement to all of us to trust in God and His timing in everything:

Dear friends,

So you know that God has challenged me to be more like George Mueller and not necessarily share when there is a financial need.  You know God has challenged me to walk on the water with Him.  You also know I have been struggling in it, just not sure if I could really not share my financial needs.  One day last week, I was going through my tuk tuk expense calendar and adding everything up.  I discovered that while I have budgeted $100, the actual cost has been closer to $150 each month 😦  I was amazed to see the numbers added up and in print, and wondered how I have been able to keep going.  The numbers just don’t add up; it doesn’t make sense, but each month it has worked.  I knew my money was once again getting low, BUT, I knew the 25th was coming.
See, each month, on the 25th, I get my deposit from the CMA, from all those who partner with me, through them.  Usually, it is that deposit that pays my rent, utilities and internet and then have a little left over to apply toward food, tuk tuk, or phone card.  The 25th was Thursday, but did not get to check my account til Friday night.  In that deposit, I was expecting it to be enough to cover those things needed for the first and low and behold, it was a deposit of under $200.  OK, so I know I did not respond well; it sort of knocked the breathe out of me and I broke into tears and cried myself to sleep that night.  It had already been a REALLY HARD week, and then I open my account to see not even enough to pay rent…I had no clue where the money was going to come from. So from the 26th on, I have been stressing about money.  And yes, I know, in my head, that God promises to provide, but I really struggled!  I mean, how in the world was I going to come up with the money to pay for my three “big” bills?!?  I had gone to visit the school, where the preschool position is, and basically, the job is mine for the taking.  But, as I have prayed through this, I have had no peace at all about accepting, so…Sunday, I sent an e-mail to the principal and told him that I had to decline the job.  It terrified me to do so.  I mean, here I am with rent coming due and not enough in my accounts to cover it.  Monday, Tuesday Wednesday…all days in which I wondered how I was going to pay my rent and utilities today…Thursday.  Actually, had to pay interent on Tuesday and wondered, “Do I pay with my credit card, or with the little bit of cash I have?!?!”.  A friend challenged me to pay it with cash and to keep trusting.  I paid with cash…  Another friend reminded me that God ALWAYS comes through, right on time and never a minute sooner 🙂  Wednesday, I knew it was too late for anyone in the States to even send through paypal for me to get in time to pay rent today, the first.  So, as I am still thinking how in the world is this going to happen, I am thinking of all the things I might possibly be able to do, but have no clue…  Then, I come home from school and my crown (on my tooth) falls out 😦  ugh…just one more thing that I don’t have money for 😦  I told my friend, the one who every day comes into school all peppy asking, “So had God provided yet?!”, that I felt like I was drowning and I just couldn’t seem to reach Jesus’ hand as He was reaching out for me.  Oh my goodness, the last couple of weeks have been hard!
BUT THEN…I get home from running errands with her, and before I left for the dentist, I checked my e-mail…you know where I am going, don’t you?!?!  I had an e-mail from someone offering me a lump sum of money (but not an amount) to help cover my greatest need right at the moment.  Oh, my goodness, did the tears roll.  Even as I write, I am awed at our great Provider!  When I actually received the money, it was more than enough to cover the rent, so I got home from school and paid my rent and utilities and have a bit of money left over!  God truly does work above and beyond anything we can ever imagine!!  He has provided in a way that I NEVER would have thought.  This has been huge for me, and actually huge for my one friend, too.  When I told her, she shared that every day she just wanted to hand me money, but kept sensing God telling her “NO”, it was His job to provide for me, not hers…(ok, so not in those exact words, but still…).
OH, and the dentist…yep, I went and got things taken care of.  Thankful to have one friend to come and watch the girls for me and another to actually go with me…hehe 🙂  Glad she was with me, too, since I was $20 short and she was able to cover me.  Today, I have it to pay her back…God is so great!  It has definitely been a test of my faith…  It has been a challenge to trust Him to provide, but He did provide, right on time and not a minute before 🙂  He promised to meet and supply all our needs…maybe next time I will not stress quite so much 🙂
Serving our Provider,

Heather


A Fanatic For Christ

As the holidays approach every year, first Thanksgiving, and then the Christmas shopping season, you would have to have lived in a cave to have not seen the change in television commercials promoting sales, early hours of bargain hunting, and even stores open on Thanksgiving Day and midnight on Black Friday.  The national retailers look to finish strong after a mediocre sales year with a flurry of activity, and they already know that the time and money spent in advertising is going to reach consumers that are ready, willing and able to make excuses to spend money!  It’s time to go Christmas shopping to get out of the doldrums.  I want to save money, so I need to spend money!  You know the drill.

The retailers spend money for advertising because they anticipate that their potential customers will resemble the woman in the red jump suit who is working out at the store lifting packages with one arm as if they are barbells, circling the dates on a calendar in anticipation of Black Friday for an early morning shopping fest while she flexes her muscles.  She also screams with delight as she reads the circular loaded with deals.  The stores want to see you spend money during the Christmas season as if you are in a state of frenzy.  They want shopping fanatics.

A fanatic, by the way, does not mean that you have to have a screw loose or that you are missing a few cards from the deck.  A fanatic means that you are a person who has a significant or even extreme amount of enthusiasm for something, such as in politics, or even, of course, religion.  We have seen extremism associated with both politics and religion, and most of us know when that extremism goes beyond reasonable sensibilities.  This is also evident when we look at fans (which is short for fanatic) of sports teams and the behaviors that are associated with being a fan.  Many sports fans will readily associate alcohol with being a fan, and we know that it doesn’t often end well when there is too much booze for sports fans.

I’m a sports fan, for sure.  I also love to watch college football, and I also love roller skating, and I’m a big fan of my wife, of course!  But all of those subjects, even my wife, have to be viewed from the proper perspective.  My passion for life itself must be derived from the one that gives the reason for me to be passionate for life…this is the zeal for Jesus Christ that every Christian should experience.

My point to all of this is that you do not have to be crazy to be a fanatic.  You can be a fanatic for Christ, for example, and not be characterized as a Bible Thumper, or as a Holy Roller, or “Goody Two Shoes,” or some other term that implies more of what are perceived as negative character traits than positive ones.  You can be a fanatic for Christ by living enthusiastically, positively, and pointedly for all of the things that Christ represents.

Please note that, while I have nothing against the word “fan,” the shortened version of the word “fanatic,” the two words come across with different interpretations.  To be a fan of something is OK, such as a fan of a musician or of a sports team, while being a fanatic implies even more of a commitment and a passion for something.  Given this conclusion, is your commitment to Christ more of that as a fan, or is it more like a fanatic for Christ?

When you have a healthy relationship with God through Jesus Christ, you can begin to see what it really means to be a fanatic for Christ.  Our challenge, especially as we are reminded over and over during the Christmas season about how Jesus is the reason for the season, is to see Christ in such a way where, to the average Christian, He means more to that person than just that of a favorite football team or sports figure…more than a favorite band or artist…more than an actor or performer.  The name of Jesus should fire you up in such a way where His name truly is above every name!

How do we capture that zeal, that passion for Christ that is missing at times?  The answer is in our relationship with Christ.  Our relationship with Christ will determine how we live and breathe for Christ, which others will see in our actions as we live for Christ at a high level.  Our life for Christ, in our relationship with Christ, helps us to build and develop relationships with others through Christ, and wins people over to Christ!  It is all accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit, but we must always remember that the Spirit works through the believer that trusts in Him and relies upon His wisdom.  The love and trust for Christ is a magnet that attracts others who want to know more about Him directly to you!

To be a fanatic for Jesus Christ requires repetition and practice of an effective Christian lifestyle.  It requires practice because we have natural opposition to this effort because of our own fleshly nature, and because Satan does not want us to be successful in this lifestyle.  We have to overcome the things that are not healthy for us, especially sin, and move towards the things that create a bond with Jesus Christ.

First, being a fanatic for Christ means that we must forsake sin.

Romans 13:12-14

The night is nearly over, and the daylight is near, so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk with decency, as in the daylight: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires.

Forsaking sin means more than just turning away from it.  Our attitude should be the same attitude that God has about sin.  He hates it.

Psalm 5:4

For You are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil cannot lodge with You.

Just as God has nothing to do with sin, He also wants us to have the same mindset.  Remember, because we are in the flesh, we must have an attitude that hates sin, because our flesh desires it greatly.  We can’t have a zeal for Christ if we do not forsake sin.

Next, a fanatic for Christ must have a heart of forgiveness.  Just as God has forgiven our sins because of our faith and trust in Him, we also must have a heart of forgiveness for others.

Matthew 6:14-15

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

This includes treating others the way that Christ would have you to treat them, without malice or holding grudges.

Ephesians 4:32

And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.

After forsaking sin and having a heart of forgiveness, a person who is a true fanatic for Christ is one who relishes in fellowship.  There is a desire to seek out others to share the passion that you are living out in Christ.  After all, it is God’s desire that each and every one of us shares the gospel with others (Matthew 28:19-20).  Our fellowship in Christ through the Holy Spirit gives us the confidence and the ability to fellowship with others.  Your message that you communicate to others is in line with the verses from 1 John 1:3:

1 John 1:3

What we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

The fanatic for Christ does not chase persons away in fellowship; on the contrary, he or she draws people nearer to where they are comfortable in relationships of friendship.  Friendship is what allows for sharing, caring for others, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work deeply in the lives of those who are seeking the Lord.

A quick recap—a person who is a fanatic for Jesus Christ must readily forsake sin, forgive others, fellowship with others, develop friendships, and finally, focus on the strength, direction, and power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit enables us with the ability to withstand pressures and difficulties, and also fortifies us with energy when it is most needed.  Our focus, in order for the Spirit to work through us, is to listen to remain obedient to Jesus Christ’s commands:

John 14:15-16

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.

The Holy Spirit is always available to the believer in Jesus Christ.  The more that we focus on the Spirit, the more we learn about the abundant life that we truly have in Jesus Christ.  It is that life of abundance that creates the fanatic for the one who loves Jesus and lives for Jesus.

Are you a fanatic for Christ?  Is your zeal for the One who gave everything for you?  Think about what it truly means to live a life of enthusiasm for your Lord and Savior.  It should be a life of passion where you turn away from the things that ruin your fellowship with Christ and trust in His Word.

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


A Nation In Trouble

Why are Christians losing their zeal for the Lord? It can be argued that the church, specifically the body of Christ in America, has lost its way. We need to remind ourselves of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for all of us. Unfortunately, today, we’re having a hard time making our way to Calvary, let alone picturing Christ being on the cross. As a church, and as a nation, we need to find our way back to Calvary.

Whether we care to admit it or not, we’re in trouble as a nation. Its people are also in trouble. We’re in trouble because of the lack of church leadership in bringing forth persons to serve in leadership positions in government for our country. We have relied on today’s government to provide this leadership, but this is only part of the problem.

As a nation, we’re spoiled. On our worst day, we are doing better than three-fourths of the rest of the world. We consume a lot of food, and we also waste food. We spend a lot of money, but we also create a lot of debt. We need to realize, however, that our lifestyle has plunged us into debt as a nation. The US raised its debt ceiling to $14.3 trillion in 2010. Our nation owes money to China, Japan, India and Russia.

Over the course of history. nations have failed and civilizations met their demise for three basic reasons: a lack of military strength, a lack of morality and poor standards of behavior, and a lack of financial viability and/or capability. The United States is presently suffering through visible symptoms of all three of these issues. All of these problems will ultimately have the greatest impact in our youth, as they will be the ones most affected in the future. Note that prices are still increasing (inflation) while wages are decreasing, and we are in debt, as a nation, by $13 trillion, with no relief in sight.

What reference to Scripture is there about our nation going into debt?

Deuteronomy 15:6

When the Lord your God blesses you as He has promised you, you will lend to many nations but not borrow; you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.

The United States began to borrow money from other countries in 1963. In addition to this, a change took place culturally in this nation with our lifestyle.  Note the conditional verse just before Deuteronomy 15:6:

Deuteronomy 15:5

–if only you obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow every one of these commands I am giving you today.

If we are honest about where we are as a country, it is clear that we have lost sight of God and His commands.

Proverbs 22:7

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.

Once you are in debt, someone has control over you. You lose out on the freedom of your life because of the debt you incurred. This is the state of our country today. Essentially, we are servants to other nations because of the debt we owe to them.

When you forget who you are as a nation and as a people who God is and how He has blessed us, we bring ruin unto ourselves. Christians that become “satisfied” with their life tend to forget where their blessings have come from. There should not be debates over issues amongst believers that are clearly defined within Scripture; yet, this is a symptom of our growing satisfaction and pride that tends to draw us towards the things of this world rather than pursuing what God would have you to pursue. Who gave you the ability and wisdom to work each day and to make a living? Who brought you out of your previous circumstances to where you are today? How many different ways has God blessed you and enabled you?

Deuteronomy 8:10-20

When you eat and are full, you will praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you. “Be careful that you don’t forget the Lord your God by failing to keep His command —the ordinances and statutes —I am giving you today.  When you eat and are full, and build beautiful houses to live in, and your herds and flocks grow large, and your silver and gold multiply, and everything else you have increases, be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.  He led you through the great and terrible wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, a thirsty land where there was no water. He brought water out of the flint-like rock for you.  He fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers had not known, in order to humble and test you, so that in the end He might cause you to prosper.  You may say to yourself, ‘My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,’ but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm His covenant He swore to your fathers, as it is today.  If you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods to worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will perish.  Like the nations the Lord is about to destroy before you, you will perish if you do not obey the Lord your God.

Have we forgotten how God has blessed us? As an example, while you may not have participated in the civil rights movement of the 60s, many of the blessings that you receive today came through God’s leadership through the actions of those civil rights leaders. We are able to achieve what we have today because of God’s blessings working through those who came before us and through the sacrifices and prayers of the participants, their families, and their supporters. God gives us the ability and perseverance to handle everything that we encounter as we trust in Him.  When it comes to our finances, we need to pray for direction on how to spend the money we earn. If we fail to follow God and forget about Him, we are removing from ourselves His covering and protection.

Deuteronomy 32:15

Then Jeshurun became fat and rebelled — you became fat, bloated, and gorged. He abandoned the God who made him and scorned the Rock of his salvation.

We are at the point where we have become so content with everything that we have, we have rejected the One who has provided all of the very things that we enjoy. We are likely forgetting that Jesus is coming back as He said He will do, and that we are paying attention to other people or circumstances that take our focus away from God (2 Peter 3:4, 8-9).

We need to remember the standards that we should use as a people, as a church, and as a nation.

Deuteronomy 10:12-13

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you except to fear the Lord your God by walking in all His ways, to love Him, and to worship the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul?  Keep the Lord’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good.

We need to live in such a way that Jesus is coming very soon, and to never forget it (Matthew 24:37-44).

There needs to be a fear, reverence and respect for God. As a nation, we have lost this, and it is even scarce amongst believers in Jesus Christ. In having a reverence for God, we are to walk with Him, love Him and serve Him. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). We need to love Jesus, and listen to Him through His Word and through our fellowship with Him in prayer. We show our love for Jesus by serving Him as He served us (Matthew 20:26-28). There are many ways to serve Him by just loving others and conducting yourself publicly as His faithful servant, for your work is not for men, but for God Himself (John 15:9-12).


Serving the Lord

What keeps you from serving the Lord more than you are already doing? Is there a lack of understanding about what you are learning about service for Christ, or are there matters that get in the way. We want to believe that it is a simple as making a declaration, “I will serve the Lord!” If only were it that simple.

In 1 Timothy, note that the hindrances that kept those in the church from serving the Lord was best described by the final verse of the chapter, “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding irreverent, empty speech and contradictions from the ‘knowledge’ that falsely bears that name. By professing it, some people have deviated from the faith. Grace be with all of you” (1 Timothy 6:20-21). The people being described here are those who teach false doctrine and who are greedy and selfish–those who are unrighteous and who are not content in their lives.

At the start of the chapter (1 Timothy 6:1-2), Paul talks about how one should work for another on behalf of the Lord and not just because one is a believer or a non-believer, or because of one’s status. God’s testimony before man is what is at stake, especially before non-believers (Colossians 3:22-23). After all, failure to work or respectful to those we report to is irresponsible and can have negative consequences (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12; Titus 1:16). In contrast, we who serve in our work are “to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

Paul also points out to Timothy about the prevalence of false teaching and the unwillingness of those who are beyond correction. Their motivations are suspect and selfish (1 Timothy 6:3-5). Their purpose may be in financial gain, unhealthy interests, or even controversy and strife. These individuals need to be content with where they are in life (1 Timothy 6:6-8; Philippians 4:10-13). In one’s contentment, you are more open to what God is trying to teach you. If you are constantly involved in controversy and strife, you can’t be receptive or open to His teaching. One should never equate riches with contentment. “But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:9-10). See also Matthew 6:24, 33-34.

Timothy was implored to flee from those with wrong thinking and to pursue Christ and righteousness (1 Timothy 6:11-12):

1. Pursue righteousness over controversy and quarreling.
2. Your actions are to be Christlike.
3. Show forth faith and not evil suspicion, especially if there is no supporting evidence.
4. Love others instead of creating friction between you and others.
5. Endure as you move forward. There is much to deal with because of ongoing pressures and conflicts. It is not about your personal gain. Persevere.
6. Be gentle in working with others.

Fight the good fight for the faith; take hold of eternal life, to which you were called and have made a good confession before many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12). We have to pursue our faith with boldness and not allow others to hinder the gospel with their selfish actions. Remember who you became when you accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. We are to “keep the commandment without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:14).

Paul’s command to those who have wealth (1 Timothy 6:17-20):
1. Not to be arrogant.
2. Not to put trust in money.
3. To do good with their wealth.
4. Not to lay up treasures for themselves.

Our work has value when we do our work for the Lord. At times, we have to overcome and persevere over those who give us difficulty with false teaching, false doctrine, and those that are contentious and uncooperative. Our source of contentment in all that we do comes from Jesus Christ. In our contentment, there is a confidence that we have through the Holy Spirit that gives us the ability to serve under the gospel of Christ.