133. Gossip

I hear that their marriage isn’t going so well, lately,” commented Sherry
            “I wouldn’t doubt it,” replied Grace, “look at their faces when they walk into church on Sunday morning, they’re not exactly beaming at each other.”
            “It’s been going on for a while from what I hear,” added Sherry with a serious look on her face. “But I understand. I wouldn’t want to be married to him either. He’s got issues.”

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132. Living with the Pain

    Can I be open with you? The Christian life hurts. I’ve often found that puzzling. After all, God has “blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1) and has “given us his very great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1) and so on. I’m a child of God, born again, strengthened by the Spirit, and headed for eternal bliss with Christ. Yet, even knowing all this, the Christian life still hurts. Sometimes a lot. And I haven’t even begun to encounter the suffering faced by so many believers. I enjoy a relatively privileged, safe life.

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131. The Flipside

            One of the reasons that Sheila married Roger was that she admired the strength of his determination. He pushed back against obstacles and didn’t give up easily.  This gave her a sense of security and dependability.

            One aspect she hadn’t counted on, however, was that this also sometimes made him stubborn. Once he had his mind made up, it was hard to change. He could be inflexible. This maddened her at times.

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130. Life is Short

Henri Nouwen, I believe, once said that we live in the myth of immortality. What I took from that was this: it feels as though what we’re doing today will go on forever. Logically, we know that’s not true, but it often seems that way. And it’s easy to live that way as well – as though the future will stretch on, as it is now, forever.

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129. Pornography pt. 2

She gazes at you with warm brown eyes, a smile of delight and invitation on her face. “Come, spend time with me,” she seems to say. You feel desire leaping to its feet inside. It doesn’t hurt that she’s already pulled off most of her clothes and looks eager to take off the rest.

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128. Pornography pt. 1

When I was a junior high boy, one day, walking a country road, I spotted some magazines in the ditch which were to change my life. They were pornographic. Even though they would be considered “soft porn” I still remember the explosive effect it had on my hormones. I kept the magazines hidden for a while (I wasn’t following Christ at the time). This was a sort of unlucky happenstance back in the 60’s. I just happened upon them. Today pornography is far easier to get.

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127. Helping our children stay in Christ

             “I don’t know what to tell you, Dad,” said the young man awkwardly. Although the son had been raised in the church by loving, spiritually serious parents, he’d chosen to walk away from his faith – still a nice, respectful, hard-working guy who loved his family and lived an overall morally solid life. But he didn’t know what he believed anymore, and was definitely over the church thing.

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126. Godly Self-Acceptance

            A couple of months ago something new and strange happened in my spirit. Out of nowhere; unexpectedly, I felt something inside relax. This tension had haunted me for years, driving me forward, keeping me frequently dissatisfied with myself. Now, at least partially, it had let go, and I experienced a new measure of freedom. It was nice –a   gift from the Holy Spirit.

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125. The Christian and Psychology

           A number of years ago, a church I was in, invited a group of Christian therapists to come in and teach for several months (men and women were in separate groups to facilitate openness). Let me admit upfront that I like psychology and have often benefitted from its insights. Yet, in my class, the teacher made a statement that caught me off-guard.  He told us that, in counseling, we should never to use words like “should”, “ought”, “must”, “need to” and so on.

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124. The Light Grip

  Years ago, I was a violinist. One of my college instructors, Alan Heatherington, was a brilliant musician. During casual conversation one day he made a comment I’ve never forgotten. He said, “When I am playing triple forte’ (as loudly as one can play), if someone were to tap my bow it would fall out of my hand.” It turns out, as most instrumentalists know, that relaxed muscles are crucial in order to play an instrument well. A clenched muscle only fights the musician’s movements. A death grip kills the flow.

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123. Calloused or Mature? pt. 2

  Recently, a Christian friend of mine picked up the habit of swearing. The words he uses, at least in my presence, would be considered mild obscenities in our society and are quite common.  What’s interesting, though, is that this man is a committed believer, not a nominal church-goer. When I mentioned Ephesians 5:4, in which Paul warns, “nor should there be any obscenity”, he just sort of shrugged and kept on doing it. It seems like no big deal to him.

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122. Calloused or Mature? pt. 1

Does sin bother you – your sin or the sin of our culture? Are you ever saddened, shocked, dismayed, or angered by the disobedience to God you see in yourself and in those around you? We’re told in Acts 17:16:  “16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.”   Paul looked on the spiritual fallenness of Athens and was deeply troubled by it and the spiritual destruction it wreaked on the people there.  

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121. I'm Spiritual, but not Religious

  “I’m spiritual, but not religious”, said my new neighbor.  It was the first time I’d ever heard this perspective.  Since then, it’s become a familiar mantra. Oddly enough, there’s part of it I like.

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120. Weird Christians

  Have you ever noticed that Christians, when they’re portrayed on television, tend to come off as weird? This weirdness portrayal can be fairly mild – such as just making them seem old-fashioned, more abrasive – such as making them mean or brainwashed, or somewhere in the middle – making them seem irrelevant. To be fair, other groups also make the same charge about how they’re portrayed. It’s not just us.

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119. Cherry-Picking God

            “I don’t need to be a Christian to be a good person,” said the man. “I have a solid marriage. I treat other people fairly. I work hard. I participate in charities. Jesus doesn’t have anything to do with it. Furthermore, lots of other religions teach many of the same truths that Christianity teaches.”

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118. Patience vs Forgiveness pt. 2

    I couldn’t help it – the guy bugged me. We’d been thrown together in a situation and I’d come out of it feeling silly and a bit used. That’s all I’ll say. Yet whose fault was it? Had he actually done anything wrong? Not that I could clearly put my finger on

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117. Patience vs Forgiveness pt. 1

 “My husband’s not much of a mechanic”, said Joy, to the group of friends chatting after church. “It’s usually better to just hire someone.” Arthur, Joy’s husband, felt himself flush. It was true that he wasn’t mechanically gifted, but he wasn’t that bad, and, even worse, as a man, it made him feel stupid hearing this said in front of a group. He fumed.

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116. Spiritual Resiliency

Have you ever seen a believer implode spiritually?  This person, who seems to be a solid Christ follower suddenly steps off His path, behaving, uncharacteristically, in a spiritually foolish or ugly way. It may be a mean flash of temper, a bout with pornography, an unethical action, etc.  Recently I saw this happen with a believer for whom I had held a lot of respect.    

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115. Sorting the Essentials from the Extras pt. 2

    I may have given the impression, in the last column that the essentials of the faith are all that really matter and that those concerned with the extras of the faith are simply gnat strainers. I don’t mean to go that far. The extras, such as our denominational traditions and preferences can be beautiful, and part of what makes us “us”. They help us to find a good match; to savor our spiritual experience and our church.

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114. Sorting the Extras from the Essentials pt. 1

You serious church attenders, is your church the best around? I’m not asking if your church is perfect, but would you trade your overall church package (doctrine, liturgy, organization, etc.) for some other church’s nearby? Is there something, perhaps unspoken, or hidden deep inside you that says, “We actually have put together the Christian thing better than most churches”? 

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