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God is Calling You

Text of today’s message from Melvin Gaines:

The body of Jesus Christ has many moving parts…in the same way; a church also has many moving parts.  The movement of these parts consists of its people, which are church members or its attendees.  It is the church’s community that makes up this local body, and it regularly adds or subtracts people over time.

The people who come and go within the church is a mirror of life itself, and change may be either welcome or unsettling to us.  Change is also inevitable.  It seems that as soon as you get settled in to a routine, something happens to change it.  Our greatest challenge in these changes is how we respond to them.

Change is less apparent in a larger church, but in smaller churches (like ours), it is impossible not to notice when they occur, especially if the people involved are very active within the church’s ministry.  When a person or a group of people leaves a small church, there is an obvious hole in that church’s ministry that needs to be filled.  What we need to understand about these situations are some key elements that often are centered on the attitudes of the people who remain in the church:

1.) A key member’s departure may be an initial distraction, but it is not an unmitigated disaster.  Things are not going to fall apart…it’s a time to find solutions.

2.) When someone leaves the church, the new opening brings about a new opportunity (more about this word later).

3.) Every church member is important, but not irreplaceable.

4.) The change and the resulting ministry is mysterious to us, but not for God.  For Him, it is all in a day’s work.

When a member leaves a church, the change will move people to start asking questions about what will happen next.  The answers are often as simple as looking at not what others can do, but, in fact, starting with yourself.

It begins with self-inspection and evaluation of your relationship with Jesus Christ.  It begins with a sincere look at Him and where He should be in your life.

Matthew 22:36-39

36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”

37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Without love, you will be unable to have a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ or with anyone else.  Love is paramount and a necessity.  Your love for Jesus Christ creates the environment and the desire to please Him with an obedient heart–first in following His Word and His precepts, and then in carrying out His Word in service for others.

Matthew 20:26b-28

…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”

When a person leaves the church, your focus on what Jesus Christ will have you to do promotes the following positive responses:

1.) Your fellowship with Christ takes the emphasis off the other person’s departure (with the appropriate conclusion that God is well aware of the change).

2.) You are readily seeking God as to where you fit in this change.  Your prayers and petitions to Him will help you to see where your service is needed (Remember–it is not necessarily about replacing the other person who left, but it very well could mean filling in at a different area where you can be of service.  There should be an inherent trust that God will put in place the right person in the right place at the right time).

Our humanity makes this far from a perfect process, but we trust that the perfection of the process will be in God’s involvement. God allows the freedom of movement of His people from place to place within the body of Christ.  It becomes an imperfect process when people are not seeking God wholeheartedly in this area or when their “personal pride” gets in the way.

1 John 2:16

For everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world.

This is why everything that we do in seeking the Lord’s will involves an ongoing process of humbling ourselves before Him and being more sensitive to the words of the Holy Spirit speaking to us. It all started with Jesus Christ dying for each and every one of us, and by living our lives in acknowledgment of what He did for us.

Galatians 5:24

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Romans 6:10-14

10 For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to God. 11 So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. 13 And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. 14 For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.

In business, the problems of the day are looked at as opportunities to get better or to right the wrong that has occurred.  In the same way, a big change within a church can be looked at as either a problem or as an opportunity.  This is an attitude check, for sure.  Your positive approach in this matter will define the direction that you decide to take.  In reality, there are always going to be opportunities, and that’s because God is the author of these opportunities as a way to challenge us to action (Hebrews 12:2)!  So, with all of this in mind, each of us needs to rely less upon the circumstances of a person or group of people leaving a church, and rely more upon how God is challenging you to respond within this “opportunity.”  Let’s not dwell upon what you cannot do, or what the church can’t do–instead put your focus on what you can do.  If you’re doing this, what the church can do will take care of itself.

Is there something that you can do for Jesus Christ and the church that you’re not already doing?  Is there a place where you can expand upon your skills and abilities beyond what you are naturally accustomed to?  According to Scripture, each of us has been given a gift of some sort.  Let’s start there…are you using it?

1 Peter 4:10

Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.

If each of us is in tune with the Holy Spirit and truly seeking Him, we would be very sensitive to His call to us to serve Him.  We already have the talents and abilities that we are born with, and we now also have the spiritual gifts that he gives us once we are born again.  We have amazing power and ability through the enabling of Jesus Christ!

Romans 12:1-2

1 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

1 Corinthians 12:4-14

4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person. 7 A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial:

8 to one is given a message of wisdom

through the Spirit,

to another, a message of knowledge

by the same Spirit,

9 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.

12 For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 So the body is not one part but many.

Knowing that we have the talents and gifts does not guarantee that we will use them.  Why?  Because in our own selfishness, self-focus or self-righteousness, we can waste them by not using them.  This is even detrimental within the body when we lack confidence in who we are and what we can do (out of fear of reprisal or condemnation).  We must have a greater focus on what the Lord Jesus Christ thinks of us and rely upon His strength instead of our own strength.

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not rely on your own understanding;

6 think about Him in all your ways,

and He will guide you on the right paths.

As simple as this verse is, it is also the hardest thing for many people to do, for in this acknowledgment is the evidence of one’s success or failure in his or her active participation in the body of Christ.

It is up to each one of us to be aware of our talents and gifts and actively participate in the use of them within the body.  Our active participation of our talents and gifts is the true unity in the body that is referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14.  The evidence of our faith is in our action and in our activity within the body, and not just sitting around waiting for someone else to do something.

James 2:14-18

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him?

15 If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food 16 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? 17 In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works.

Your attitude in this change will go a long way in listening to how God is speaking to you in this transition.  Do you hear God’s calling to you?  Do you know what He would have you to do right now?  Are you praying for wisdom and guidance in this situation?

Matthew 7:7-8

7 “Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

James 1:5

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.

As you seek God in this matter and in your obedience to His Word and to His will, He will give you insight into what you are to do next.  You are always seeking Him in finding out what you are to be doing, and, just as importantly, doing what you are doing now even better than before.  You are always seeking Him in your growth and improvement.  You will grow as you continue to grow your love relationship in Jesus Christ.  It begins then and there.  As you abide in Jesus Christ, He will give you answers to your questions and everything that you need to serve Him as He has promised He would.

John 15:9-17

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

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

Your service for Him in the church and in the body will show the love that you have for Him as He has for you.  It is this love that builds up the body and even wins people over personally for Jesus Christ who do not know Him.

When change occurs in the church, are you calling for someone else to step up to the challenge, or are you calling on Jesus Christ for wisdom and answers?  Are you listening to your own desires to play it close to the vest, or are you listening to God’s call to you?  He is readily calling on each of you to take action as an active member of the body.  Listen to Him carefully in faith and respond to His call, and He will give you the desire and the direction you will need to be of service for Him.

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

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Your Faith On Trial–Are You a Good Witness?

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.