Tag Archives: Christianity

The Greatest of These


Some Christians put more emphasis on the spiritual gifts, like preaching, teaching, evangelizing, or in the charismatic circles, sign gifts like speaking in tongues, as if the gifts of the Spirit are more important than the fruit of the Spirit.  “I’m a preacher, Bible teacher, or missionary, so I am spiritually superior to you and more effective in spreading the Gospel and teaching spiritual things than you,” or “I speak in tongues, so I am more spiritual than you”.  After adding the poster to my Facebook page and receiving a few comments, I realized that the quote parallels 1 Corinthians 13, also known as ‘The Love Chapter’.  Basically, the gifts are meaningless without the fruit.  “And the greatest of these is love…”

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Where’s the Fruit?
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Divine Intervention and a Lesson in Logic

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A recent conversation with a friend concerning my blog post about anonymously receiving a large bouquet of balloons reminded me of a joke I had once heard from a preacher. The friend asked if I really believed the gift of balloons was the result of divine intervention as I had expressed in the post.

“Yes,” I confidently replied, then told him the joke.

There was a Christian lady who lived next door to an atheist. Whenever the atheist overheard the lady pray, he would mutter to himself that there is no God, and sometimes he would argue with her.

One day she ran out of groceries, and the atheist overheard her praying. “I’ll fix her,” he thought to himself, and he went out and bought bags of groceries, set them on her front porch, rang the doorbell and hid to see what she would do.

When she opened the door and saw the groceries, she shouted, “God did it! God did it! God did it! Thank you, Jesus!”

He jumped out and shouted, “God didn’t do it! I did! I bought those groceries and put them on your porch! See? There is no God!”

The lady started laughing and dancing and praising the Lord.

“Didn’t you hear me?” the atheist asked. “I bought those groceries!”

“I heard you,” she said. “I knew the Lord was gonna provide, but I didn’t know He was gonna make you pay for ‘em!”

Something recently said by a different preacher made me think of another joke. Well, not so much a joke as a cute analogy. The preacher had quoted the first part of James 4:8, which says, “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.” Unfortunately, he made a logical fallacy by stating that the contraposition must then be true— that if we draw away from God, then He will draw away from us.   So here’s the analogy:

A young man asked a girl out on a date. She accepted, and when he picked her up in his pickup truck, she sat as close to him as she could. They eventually got married, and they continued sitting close together. As the years went by, a space developed between them until one day, the wife lamented that they didn’t seem to be as close as they once were. The husband replied, “Well, honey, I ain’t the one who moved.”

The story reminds me of the parable of the prodigal son, who asked for his inheritance ahead of time, moved to the city, squandered it, and sought to return home as a servant and no longer as a son. All the time he was away, the father prayed and waited for his son’s return, and when he finally did, the father threw a huge party.

The father didn’t move.

It also reminds me of Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

If God draws away from us when we draw away from Him, He never would have pursued us nor sought to reveal Himself to us so that we could have a relationship with Him. Divine intervention? Yes!!

 

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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: 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)


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: 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)


Christian Life Coach Ministry

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Meet Lyle Newell, founder and ministry leader of Christian Life Coach Ministry. I met Lyle a few weeks ago while volunteering with a local fire department’s biker’s breakfast fundraiser, a breakfast held before the annual toy run to benefit The Shriner’s Hospital. He was one of the bikers riding in the run.

He told me a cute anecdote related to biking. While gassing up his motorcycle one day, a van drove up and he heard a child say, “Mom, look! A biker!”

“Where?” thought Lyle as he looked around and realized the child was talking about him.

Since I also had the privilege of riding in the Toy Run, I was able to spend some time getting to know Lyle through the event as well as through Facebook. He is the husband of a lovely wife and father of two sons. He has a lot of energy and seems to have a genuine love for God and people.

CLC.logoChristian Life Coach Ministry provides services to individuals, couples and groups on a donation basis. It is based in northern Vermont, but provides online services as well. Services include: spiritual and personal growth, career planning and development, effective communication, motivation, stress management, time management, transition management, finances and budgeting, relationships, intimacy, family and parenting, household management, health and fitness, lifestyle, and self-care.

You can find out more info or contact Lyle through the Christian Life Coach Ministry Facebook page.

Serving others – One life, One moment, One step at a time.

 

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Read Between the Lines

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Harmless As a Dove

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Book Review: Revelation: Four Views – A Parallel Commentary

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Have you had nagging questions even after hearing several teachings on the book of Revelation and the End Times?  Although I am still reading Revelation: Four Views, Revised and Updated – A Parallel Commentary by Steve Gregg, it has answered some of those nagging questions I have had for years.  Things that I had been taught just didn’t seem to square up with Scripture.  Some things seemed to have been forced, like trying to push a square peg into a round hole.  I’m not saying I understand it all now, but I feel like the dimmer switch has been turned up and opened my understanding regarding more than just the subject of the End Times.

The book is set up in four parallel columns, presenting the four most commonly held views of interpretation.  It is easy to read, so it’s a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about the book of Revelation and end times theology.  It might even answer some nagging questions you have.

 

Disclosure:  After stumbling upon it, I bought the book myself, and although the link above is an affiliate link, I am not required to give a favorable review.  This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.   I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 


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