Archive | October, 2012

Is Sarcasm a Spiritual Gift?

30 Oct

Proverbs 29:8, “Scornful men bring a city into a snare: but wise [men] turn away wrath.”

Scornful people.  I purposely chose a verse for this post that is not the one about sitting in the seat of the scornful.  We may know that one too well and miss its impact.

The modern term for a scornful person is a sarcastic person.   And many of us have realized that sarcasm can be a double-edged sword, as it is just so stinkin’ funny!  So while we realize that it can be spirit-killing when directed against other people, we find it hard not to laugh.  We may go almost an entire lifetime without realizing the damage we do with that laughter . . . until someone directs sarcasm against us in an open way.

How can sarcasm be used in a way that is not scornful and doesn’t kill the spirits of the people around us, many of whom are also blood-bought believers in Jesus, just like we are?

I think we can use it in a general way to comment on society and the immense number of contradictions we see in it.  If we don’t single people out for sarcasm, we will hopefully not kill anybody’s  spirit.  It is a real danger.

We ourselves are often big packages of contradictions, so we need to keep that in mind, too.  Our sarcasm makes fun of the frailty and contradictions of human flesh, but we, too, inhabit that flesh.

We can also use sarcasm against ourselves.  One of my best friends is a master at this.  He is hilarious, but he rarely makes fun of anyone but himself.  And when he does make fun of someone else (like me!!!), he makes sure in advance that it is someone who understands his humor and will take it for what it is.

I think he has taught me that the people who have the ability to be the funniest also have the responsibility to master that gift and to not use it in a spirit-killing way.

As I learn to use humor to make fun of myself mostly, I realize that there is always the danger that someone will take me seriously and think I really am a loser!

But I am also learning to leave that to the Lord.  The people who know me well know where I am coming from.  Hopefully others will get to know me or will give me the benefit of the doubt, if unsure.  But . . . in all truth, it is a small price to pay to have others, here and there,  think I am a loser because I have learned to make fun of myself instead of them.  That way, I guarantee that my humor will not kill the spirits of others, even those who may regard me as a loser (ironically).

I know the Lord is pleased with all of us who purposefully decide to only use humor in ways that affirm others and uphold life.


Strawman Monday: Heads, I Win; Tails, You Lose

29 Oct

Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:”

A particularly hostile type of strawman argument I have seen comes up when a person is, well, just plain in the throes of a grudge against another person so that nothing that other person could do would ever please her.

This type of strawman argument is often used against people in ministry, in my experience as an onlooker for 54 years so far.  Person A will have an invisible list of demands that she thinks a person in ministry should fulfill in her life and . . . the ministry person/people are, of course, blind to that invisible list of demands.  So they proceed, as human beings, loving Person A as best they can (but, of course, imperfectly, because they are human beings) and Person A goes off on them with a strawman argument that can’t be won because its terms are invisible!  And if, by any chance, the ministry person does make a valid point, Person A will turn the argument completely around so that it seems as if she expected something completely different anyway.

Sometimes Person A will argue both sides of an issue within the same discussion.

Like this (seeing as I am on the East Coast and we are in the midst of a hurricane today):

Person A:  I was really surprised you didn’t ask me to stay at your house during the hurricane.  You know I am a single woman, alone.

Pastor and his wife:  We did call you three times during the storm, but you didn’t seem to be picking up.

Person A:  I was leaving my line open for emergency updates from work.  But you could have texted.

Pastor and his wife:  Actually, when we couldn’t reach you, we did text.

Person A:  That text came in at 9:31 PM.  I don’t take texts after 9:30.

Pastor and his wife:  We weren’t sure what to think after we tried to contact you four times and couldn’t get you.

Person A:  Well, I am a very private person so you shouldn’t really keep me under a microscope like that!  (reminder:  this is the person who two minutes before had said she wanted to be under the same roof with them during the hurricane!!!).

Okay, that is a bit of hyperbole, but I have seen conversations take similar tacks many times when people have grudges and want to grind a mental ax.

Sheesh!  Sometimes people, especially ministry people, can’t catch a break no matter what they do!

The Story That Never Grows Old!

29 Oct

“For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure [unto him].  The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.  He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”  (John 3:34-36)

I just love to hold the above words in my mind and heart and turn them over and over, like taking a delightful mouthful of hot apple pie and vanilla bean ice cream and chewing on it slowly.

God didn’t give the Spirit by measure to Christ.  He gave the Spirit without measure to Christ.  Even in His earthly flesh, Jesus had full access to God the Holy Spirit, whose role is to glorify Jesus, whose role is to obey God.

Trinitarian truth.  I just love it.

And God didn’t just give the Spirit without measure to Christ.  He gave all things into His hand.

So Jesus, who was with God and was God from eternity, agreed to come to earth and put on flesh, still fully God but also fully man.  And God the Father withheld nothing from Him at that time that He was on earth.

What lovely grace!

And a God like that, a God so good as to put on flesh in order to redeem us, certainly has the right to say what verse 36 says.  He who has the Son has everlasting life.  He who doesn’t have the Son will see everlasting death because God’s wrath on him can only be abated by the death and resurrection of the righteous God-Man Jesus Christ.

If we want nothing to do with Jesus Christ, we must carry the weight of our own sin.  And that will sentence us to eternal death.

If there is anyone reading this who doesn’t understand what Jesus did for him or her, please let me know.  I would be overjoyed to share with you further.  This information is the most important information of our lives!


Stuck Home in a Hurricane, I Am Reading the Best Abraham Sermon Ever!

28 Oct

We all know Abraham’s story pretty well, after we have been saved for a decade or so . . .

But how do we apply it?  This is the best application sermon of Abraham’s life I have ever read.  If you are home with the hurricane today like me, I strongly recommend it.


Which Way the Wind Blows (or Human Choice in Salvation)

28 Oct

John 3:8, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

Yesterday, I left my usual form of discourse and addressed an issue directly and sharply, probably leaving little room for argument (at least I hoped so).

Today’s post will also be different in that it involves a series of questions I can’t answer.  Some of the questions may not be answerable in this world.  I am not sure.

The discussion might be fruitful, however, as we strive to know God and discover His ways in the world He created.

In the above verse, Jesus challenged Nicodemus about not understanding earthly things.  He said if Nico couldn’t understand earthly things, he should not expect to understand heavenly things.

Sometimes I think we are in a similar bind when we try to explain how God’s election/choice interacts with our choice in the process of salvation.

I know there are two extremes in belief, the extreme Arminian belief (now usually referred to as “open theism” in which it is taught that God Himself doesn’t know the outcome of all events) and Hypercalvinism, in which man is drawn to God by irresistible grace without seemingly having any choice at all in the process.

There are many shades of belief in between the two extremes, usually clustered around five points called either the Five Points of Calvinism or the Five Points of Arminianism.

Smarter people than me have studied and debated these ideas for centuries.  Some of these debates have been, and remain, rancorous.  My aim is to take apart these ideas and present them in a way that the layperson can understand.  Sometimes important issues are at stake.  I try to identify those.

Talking with a friend of about my same age today, we remarked how much the world has changed in our lifetime.  We mentioned my career as a female naval officer and her husband’s career as a nurse.  When we were young, it was rare to have a female naval officer or a male nurse.  There were centuries when such people would have been non-existent.

The question became, “Did God change His will as the human race changed?  Was He not calling any women to be naval officers or men to be nurses in the 1800’s?  Or did He have such a calling upon people all along, but it took a while for the human race to catch up to His will?”

You see, that may seem like an exercise in semantics to some, but the question truly encapsulates God’s movement in this world.

People have wills, too, and groups of people have collective wills and, somehow, whole societies willed for centuries that there would not be female naval officers or male nurses, though both of those roles exist now and people are doing wonderfully at them.  How do we explain that?

Hmmm!  I can’t even explain God’s will in earthly things.  How can I explain it in heavenly things (in the process of salvation)?

Another thing I have noted is that almost no one says “yes” to God the first time he hears the plan of salvation.  So right there the idea of “irresistible grace” has to be modified.  If it were truly irresistible in the sense the Hypercalvinists use, no one would be able to withstand it at all, even for five minutes or a couple of weeks.

So, it can take a while for an individual to understand what salvation is, and to accept it.  Doesn’t it seem then like it might be a bit hard for we humans on earth, caught in time as we are, to see the overall view of how salvation looks from eternity?  I fear we get caught up on facets of it and argue those, in the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debates.  The entire product probably can’t be comprehended nor explained completely while we are still in earthly bodies.

And that is why I maintain a holy awe toward such things.  I know Jesus came to save me and I am a saved woman.  I also know there are many parts of my salvation which I can’t explain but just accept by faith.  And for me, right now, that is enough.

Deleting People out of our Lives

27 Oct

Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

You guys know me and my way of presenting you with Scripture, ideas related to it, and some conclusions I have made, then . . . standing back and encouraging you to form your own conclusions.

If you belong to my Saviour, you are perfectly capable of doing that, with or without me along for the ride. I just like to write and I like to challenge people to keep exercising their critical thinking skills all life long. At my age, if I stop doing that, I will lose those skills!!! Ha ha!

So you are used to having a lowkey approach from my keyboard. Tonight I will change that up a bit.

There is a practice that is going on that is so ungodly and so juvenile that I am going to call it out. I am going to do that plainly.

I saw it start among the teens in my life. Especially the teens on Facebook. Facebook enabled it initially. Now it has become an epidemic.

What is worse, the adults who are supposed to set an example for the teens and call them to growth in their walk with Jesus are . . . starting to adopt this ungodly practice. I have seen it with my own eyes.

That practice is the use of the delete button and the block button on Facebook and other social media to control other people through fear and other socially manipulative tactics.

The Lord told us to avoid corrupt communication. That means we are to exercise sincere communication with each other. Yet, instead of going to brothers or sisters with whom we have issues that need to be talked out, as the Lord told us to do in Matthew 18, we delete them or block them from our lives, then gossip about them to everyone else.

This may start out on social media, but by the time it is full blown, it is not just a Facebook issue. There are people dropping out of other people’s lives without a word to them. People who have formerly been friends who just stop talking to someone else, with no explanation. Ungodly stuff that.

I have heard of cases where people moved and, as soon as they were several states away, blocked large numbers of people on Facebook who thought they were their friends. I can’t imagine what is going on in the mind of someone who would pull a stunt like that. I don’t know what is in their minds, but I will call it what it is, a huge emotional powerplay over those other people.

There is no excuse for this. No excuse that involves sincere Christianity anyway. If someone wants to admit to being an immature believer who likes to pull stunts for shock value, I will give him points for honesty.

You see, you can’t delete years of friendship with the stroke of a key. To pretend to do so is to show that you have every intent of wounding the other person in the most childish way you can find. Your action says, “We may have been friends for a decade or more, but you matter so little to me and the input God has made to my life through you means so little to me that I believe I can hit one key and dislodge it forever from my memory.” Make no mistake, that is a very cold and calculated move.

And then no one is content to just hit the delete or block key anyway. They always have to tell lots of other people about what they have done. And the quarrels grow and pull in innocent people to choose sides and sharpen their swords (and tongues).

If you are reading this and suspect that you may have done this to others, it is not too late to make it right. Don’t excuse the inexcusable. This is an action not even worthy of the critical thinking skills of a preteen. Don’t be swept into it by your emotions as an adult.

What would God have you to do? Go talk over your differences with that person. You may not need to have each other on Facebook, and you may not end up as best friends no matter what you do, but you do need to have a cordial relationship on this earth. You will dwell in heaven together forever. Let’s start to get the relationship right while we are here. We need each other, and we are all sinners, saved by grace alone.

College Friends Can Last Forever!

26 Oct

Hebrews 6:10, “For God [is] not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”

I have this verse, handwritten on a piece of construction paper, given to me in 1977 by a college friend.  Mary was three years older, getting ready to graduate, and wanted to encourage me that God was watching me and being blessed by the kindnesses I did in His name, at college and in our church community.

Ironically, life has come full circle now and we are back in touch via social media.  Mary may be reading this post now.  If so, “Hi, Mary, you have never ceased to be an encouragement to a younger sis.”

It takes so little to encourage another human being,  another Christian.  Just paying attention to that person, noticing her giftings and uniquenesses, remarking on where they intersect in a special way with God’s will.

And a person gets so much renewed energy to serve from such encouragement.  Truly, we do our good works as unto the Lord, as He has ordained, but we are built for relationships here on earth, too.  Those who can be “Jesus with skin on” to cheer us onward are very special gifts from the heart of God Himself.

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