Randomly Selected? Somehow, I Don’t Think So

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Have you ever had an anonymous, random act of kindness done to you? Yesterday as I was getting some work done in and around the house, I was feeling a bit like Cinderella, and I started talking to our heavenly Father about how I was feeling. You know those times when you feel like God is far away, but in your head you know He’s always close by, because Jesus said He would never leave us nor forsake us? That’s how I was feeling.

To my surprise a car pulled up, and a lady came out and asked, “René?”

“Yes, I’m René,” I responded as I looked on with curiosity.

She opened the back door of her car and pulled out a HUGE bouquet of balloons. “Are those for me?” I inquired with bewilderment.

“Yes, they are.”

I was so touched, tears welled up in my eyes, and I had to keep myself from crying.

“Is there a card?”

“Yes, on one of the top balloons.”

The card read, “Rene, You have been randomly selected for a happy Saturday Bouquet! Please pay it forward.  — [name of local balloon shop]”

“Wow! Who could I pay it forward to?” I wondered, “And is this something [the local balloon shop] actually does, or did someone I know send it anonymously?”

I thought of a friend, who has been homebound and in pain, and after taking pictures and posting what happened on Facebook, I loaded the balloons into my car and took them over to her. She was so surprised and happy, not only to receive the huge bouquet of colorful balloons but also to have some company, so I was doubly blessed!

Thank you, Father, for putting it on someone’s heart to send the balloons to me and brighten my day when I was feeling a bit lonely. Thank you, too, Anonymous, not only for such a wonderful gift, but also for prompting me to pay it forward, so that someone else could be blessed as well. What a great idea!

 

 

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Three Phrases Christians Should Never Use

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There are three phrases some Christians use when talking about sin that should never be used. They often cause people to feel condemned and discouraged rather than loved and encouraged. Not only that, but the phrases are lies.

  1. God cannot look upon sin.

Christians have taken part of Habakkuk 1:13 and twisted it to make people believe that God cannot look at sin. It makes people think that God must be so disgusted with them when they mess up that He can’t even look at them. That is far from the truth. If Christians who use that phrase would just read the whole verse, they would notice that the rest of it actually reveals that God does, indeed, look upon sin, but the implication is that He cannot watch it happen without doing something about it. Yeah, I know it sometimes seems like God is blind and doesn’t care about the evil in the world. That was Habakkuk’s question, and God answered him. If anything, God is full of patience, as well as compassion, mercy, grace and love toward His children, not disgust.

  1. God can’t use you if you are in sin.

I’m not sure what verse or verses are used for this one, but it is another phrase that can make people feel condemned and discouraged. Usually, when the phrase is used, it is used in reference to ‘big’ sins or things the person speaking has strong convictions against. What of the gossip or the glutton? I’m sure they sin daily, but does that stop God from being able to use them to bless people as well, or to work with children in the church, or to sing in the choir? That God cannot use us because we sin or struggle in an area is a lie that the devil wants us to believe to keep us from actively reaching out to others, because it makes us feel unworthy. Intentional sin may interfere with our intimacy with God, but as in the parable of the prodigal son, the Father stands waiting with open arms for our return.

  1. You need to get right with God.

What makes us right with God? According to the Bible, we are declared right with God when we accept Jesus as our Savior for redeeming us from sin and rising from the dead. So to imply a Christian is not right with God because of a sin she is struggling with is to imply a works-based system rather than a faith-based one. Which is it? Are we or are we not saved by faith? I am reminded of something my friend, Randell, said in a Sunday school lesson based on a study from Hebrews 8.

He said, “It is unfortunate that many Christians think they are saved by grace but still must fulfill their Christian life according to the Old Testament law. They want the New Covenant for salvation, but they want the Old Covenant for sanctification.”

If we feel the need to approach a Christian brother or sister about something in their lives, then we need to focus specifically on the issue and not imply that the person is not right with God. What if they agree with God about the thing they are struggling with, and we come along and accuse them of not being right with God? We will leave them feeling condemned and discouraged rather than loved, encouraged, and strengthened.

We really need to be careful that we do not parrot what we have heard other Christians say without really considering the validity and impact of those things. These three phrases have done a lot of harm by hurting people and misrepresenting God, so let’s throw them out.

 

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The Prayer Journal – A New Road

The final installment of my son’s online fiction series.  If you are just joining, click here for the previous chapters.

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May stepped out from the schoolhouse into the summer sun, tipping her sun hat to shade her eyes and avoid the blinding transition from inside to out. She breathed deeply the early fall air and savored the fresh scent. Her body had finally recovered from the Spanish flu after having been imprisoned on her bed for weeks. Now being in the open outdoors, she relished the life that had come back to her body, savored the smell the warm breeze carried from the wooded hills. “It’s a beautiful day you’ve made, Lord.” May smiled and headed home.

“May I join you?”… (Read more)

 


The Prayer Journal: Weathering the Sunshine

The 19th installment of my son’s online fiction series.  If you are just joining, click here for the previous chapters.

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May shivered. She rolled her aching body under the piles of blankets draped across her bed. She swallowed and immediately regretted it since her throat felt like sand. An involuntary cough forced its way out of her lungs causing her body to double-over on the mattress. When the coughing ceased she tried to sniff but only one side of her nose would give. She felt awful.

She had been sick for a few days now and only getting worse. A good number of people were getting sick in the town; she was surprised the Bransons had not yet caught it seeing how they were taking such good care of her. May could tell they were getting worried about her, though. Yesterday they had called for the doctor. They never called for the doctor… (Read more)


The Prayer Journal: Comforts of War

The 18th installment of my son’s online fiction series.  If you are just joining, click here for the previous chapters.

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Tuesday, July 23, 1918 – Comfort

My name is James Samuels. I am a US Army chaplain here in France, behind the front lines where I assist with the wounded and dying. By this means I have obtained this journal as a dying soldier named Roger Adams passed it on to my possession. I know nothing of how he acquired it, but do know it must have impacted his life in the same way it has my own. I am happy to write that this man placed his trust in Jesus in his dying moments.

Over the past few days I have been reading this book, the entries herein and the requests that have been made by its various carriers. It has been a comfort to my soul here in this deathly place.

Our Savior promised us the Comforter before He left. How little did we understand the value of such a promise. As men, we claim grit and guts and no need to be comforted. Yet out here, as I see maimed men and exhausted soldiers, comfort is so desired, so needed. Comfort of home, of peace, of the routines we had all known and not appreciated, of a bed that is imprinted with years of our slumbers. And it is my job to comfort them with lack to all of these? My task has been hard indeed.

I have needed comfort but did not wish to admit it. The Lord knew my heart, and He used a lost and dying man to give me a book, and His Spirit would use it to rekindle my spirit. I so add my request, my thanksgiving, my plea for comfort that only He can give. Give it to us all, Lord, friend and foe. Comfort ye, comfort ye your people. Amen.

James closed the book and slid his pencil into his shirt pocket. He stood to his feet and, tucking the book under his arm, walked toward one of the infirmary tents. The sun was shining on the warm summer afternoon and the cool wind would have been pleasant had it not wafted the scent of both fresh and old blood. A little farther down the road he could hear shouting of a poor soul being treated for his wounds. James shuddered, shook his head violently to avoid gagging from the smell, and ducked into the tent… (Read more)


The Prayer Journal: Passing On

The 17th installment of my son’s online fiction series.  If you are just joining, click here for the previous chapters.

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It was early that morning in France on July 19. Pvt. Adams played with the bolt of his rifle as he sat in torturous anticipation. The cool night’s dew hung on the blades of grass and wheat around him as they peacefully waited to be graced by the beams of the approaching sunrise. Adams knew they’d be moving out soon. They all knew it. They’d been kept in reserves since they’d gotten to the battle the day before. They’d been woken early and told to be ready. It wouldn’t be long now.

“Hey, Adams.”

Adams turned with a scowl to see who had broken the sacred silence the soldiers shared before the charge. It was Rivers. Adams groaned as he turned back to fiddling with his rifle. “Whatcha want, Jack?”

“Gotta favor ta ask ya,” Rivers replied, either not recognizing Adams’ agitation or not caring.

“What?” he growled again.

Something plopped in Adams’ lap. He looked down. It was a book, an old one. He put his rifle down and picked it up. “What’s this?”

“Twas Brickman’s,” Rivers answered. “Ya know, that journal he’d always be writin’ in. Prayin’ and stuff like dat.”

“You picked this off his corpse?” Adams asked in shock. “What, you couldn’t let the guy rest with it?”… (Read more)

 


Just Do It, Because No One Else Can Do It For Us

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Photo credit: Martin Louis

This past Tuesday, I officially became a member of our local volunteer fire department. Although I am just a corporate member for the time being, I plan on taking an EMT course and becoming a responder. In the meantime, I can participate in some of the training sessions, one of which is a fitness program led by one of the firefighters free of charge. It has been great!

You know how you know you should be doing something, but put it off either because you just can’t get motivated enough or you feel like you’re too busy? After experiencing some knee pain earlier in the week that had nothing to do with the fitness training, I went to see my chiropractor. (They do treat more than back pain and back injuries.) He examined my knee, and knowing I have also had a history of hip pain, he raised his brow and imploringly said, “René, you have got to stretch. Everyday.” I had heard those words from him before. Then he explained that my muscles were too tight and were pulling on my kneecap whenever I put weight on it while it was bent. Needless to say, I was so grateful that last night’s fitness training was a stretching workout. I have been doing stretches everyday this past week, and although I am still experiencing some occasional pain, I have noticed a big difference. I had not been as diligent to stretch when it was just my hip, but having shooting pain in my knee when going up or down stairs, or simply squatting to sit on the toilet was a great motivator to start stretching daily. It’s better than having surgery, and I don’t want anything to hinder my new venture with the department and plans on becoming an emergency responder. Pain and strong desire are often good motivators.

You know the saying, “When the cat’s away, the mice will play?” Working out and being self-motivated reminded me of something the Apostle Paul had said in his letter to the Philippians. People, who believe we have to earn brownie points with God by being good and religious in order to get to heaven, often use what he said to prove their point. In Philippians 2:12, 13 Paul wrote, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” It’s kind of like that phrase about the cat and mice. Sometimes it’s easier to be motivated to do the right thing when we’re around people who can motivate us. Sometimes when a good leader or boss dies or is away for an extended period of time, things can start falling apart. Paul was saying that the Philippians had always been good at following God while he was with them, but he was encouraging them to continue following God even though he wasn’t there to hold their hand. They needed to work out or exercise their own salvation, to exercise their own faith, because no one could do it for them. At the same time, he reminded them that God was still with them and working in them, so they were not actually alone.

Just as we will never reach any goals by waiting for someone else to do it for us, we can never be reconciled to God and be with Him in heaven through someone else’s faith. Sure, Jesus paid the penalty for us, because we can never earn enough brownie points, but we still have to accept Him as Lord and Savior. No one else can do it for us.

 

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The Prayer Journal: Give and Take

The 16th installment of my son’s online fiction series.  If you are just joining, click here for the previous chapters.

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May’s sun hat shaded her eyes from the bright summer beams as she walked home from selling bonds. The breeze was crisp and clean, filtered through the trees that lined the dirt roads. The scene felt sadly familiar; it was June 18, a year to the day that Richie had told her he was enlisting. It was the same beautiful weather, the same warm breeze, the same summer scent it had been on that day that seemed forever ago. She breathed in the warmth of the day and sighed. It was a lonely, reminiscent sigh.

She had her bag over her shoulder that she carried most places. In it she carried a few items including the journal the Branson’s had given her, as well as one of the letters she’d received from Richie. This one was the one he had written on her birthday. He told her how he’d been growing closer to God, how he had finally begun to understand what faith on the battlefield was all about. He’d told her how much he missed her, how her face was one of the only things that reminded him that there was still something beautiful in the world.

Though a little late, that letter had been the best birthday present. May missed him so much.

Tired from work, she finally arrived at the Branson’s. It was evening and she knew Mrs. Branson would be diligent in the kitchen preparing dinner for Mr. Branson who was certainly still out in the field. When May walked in the door, however, she was surprised to see them both sitting at the table… (Read more)

 


The Prayer Journal: The Woods

The 15th installment of my son’s online fiction series.  If you are just joining, click here for the previous chapters.

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Monday, June 10, 1918

Richie could see the jagged silhouette of the woods straight ahead. It was dark, early morning before the sun had risen, about 0400 hours. They’d left Verdun for a couple weeks now. No more quiet; this was it.

There was no doubt of it, either. His battalion, the 1/6, they’d been lucky so far. They had taken a reserve position while most of the others had been storming the woods to route the Germans back. The Huns had been making an attempt on Paris but were stopped by the AEF, and now the Americans were set to push them back. Them Germans dug up in the woods, dug deep in the trees and rocks with Maxim machine gun nests all over. Shells crashed overhead day and night, shellfire so intense it made Verdun seem silly. Little water and almost no food for days. They said whole platoons had been wiped to only a handful of survivors.

And now it was his turn… (Read more)


The Prayer Journal: Different Kind of Trust

The 14th installment of my son’s online fiction series.  If you are just joining, click here for the previous chapters.

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Saturday, April 13, 1918 – Trust

The 74th got hit by gas shells early this morning right where they were sleeping. They’d been pulled back to reserves, too. A few poor souls had a shell land right in their barracks. Heard it wasn’t too bad for the others at first, the boys could hardly smell it and were allowed to take off their masks less than an hour after the shelling. As the day’s gone on, though, more and more pass us on their way to the infirmary, blisters all over and choking. It’s been an awful sight.

“Hey, you, Jack,” a marine Adams addressed Richie. “Where be Rivers? I ‘aven’t seen ‘im.”

“He headed over to the delousing station first thing this morning,” Richie replied.

The features of Adams’ face scrunched together in disgust. “Cooties?”

“Yup.”

Adams shivered. “Nasty blood-suckers, them lice. Thanks, Jack, now I’ll be itchin’ all day.”

Richie laughed to himself and turned back to his book. As the thought about what next to write, an artillery gun boomed from across No Man’s Land. He hardly flinched now that he’d heard them a few hundred times. From his experience, cowering didn’t help much if your trench was hit.

Faith is different out here. It’s not the same as it was back home when it was going to church and helping out the neighbors. That doesn’t help much when we’re dealing with shrapnel and gas. I remember the preacher’s sermon once, how our war isn’t “against flesh and blood.” But what about when you’re in a war that is?… (Read more)


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