Top 5 Christian Acronyms that will Inspire You

1) ICHTHUS (Christian Fish). You see these on bumper stickers and car emblems. It was the ancient symbol Christians used to identify one another. We are called to be “fishers of men.” The Greek Letters form an acronym that speaks to Jesus as the Christ, God, only begotten son, and savior. So when you see the icthus symbol know that is represents our Lord. Early Christians would draw half the fish on the ground and then a Christian passerby would see it and complete the fish and they would connect. They did this because if they were open about their faith then they faced persecution. This symbol was a powerful one for the early church.

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I- Iesous (Jesus)

CH- Christos (Christ)

TH- Theos (God)

U- Uios (Son)

S- Sotier (Savior)

 

2) HOPE– hope is the culmination of our faith. it was what we lean all in on. Hope can serve as an acronym to remind us of what is our hope. Life becomes meaningful and fulfilling when you have strong hope.

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H- Holding

O- On to your

P- Promises

E- Each Day

 

3) FAITH– there is no salvation without faith. There is no abundant living without faith. Faith is the one action every Christian has to be about. Faith is what it is about for a Christian.

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F-Forsaking

A- All other things

I- I

T- Trust

H- Him

 

4) PRAY– if you are like me, your prayer life could uses a boost. I tend to pray quickly and ritualistically at certain times. We need to see prayer as having several functions in speaking to our God.

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P- Praise

R- Repent

A- Ask

Y- Yield

 

5) GRACE- Because of our sin God could have responded in a lot of ways. He could have wiped us out or judged without any hope. Instead He gave grace. Grace is unearned and undeserved favor. I love this acronym to remember what God has done for me.

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G- God's

R- Riches

A-  At

C- Christ's

E- Expense

 

 

 

What Hurricanes Teach Us About Sin

 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.  Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:22-23

If you read the title and thought this would be an article on how hurricanes serve as a judgment against America for immorality and ungodliness, then you will be greatly disappointed. What these hurricanes, and the devestation they bring, do is remind us of an absolute truth… this world is broken. I mean the physical earth itself is dying, just like us. The world we live in is groaning, as the Bible says, in need of divine repair. Natural disasters are a sign of its brokenness. Devastating natural events are a painful reminder to us that this all started millennium ago. When sin entered the world it effected creation just as much as it did humanity. Natural disasters are not God’s “lightning bolts,” hurled down upon us but rather a symptom of the Fall, effecting both the righteous and the wicked.

By “Fall,” I refer to the disobedience and subsequent dismissal of Adam and Eve from the garden. It was not just Adam and Eve who were affected but the very ground they once tilled for food with ease would now fight back. Weeds, insects, drought and many other obstacles would become the new reality because of sin.

What has happened in last few weeks in Texas and Florida is devastating. One bright spot to all of this has been how so many people in our country are rallying to help. Rallying around those hurting is humanity at its best. The loss of life has been tragic and the destruction of infrastructure is on a massive scale. I hope the church is one of the leaders in responding and showing love  to those hurting. How can we proclaim to care if we don’t help those in need when tragedy strikes?

This is a time for Christian leaders to step up and be a voice of hope and direction.  I pray not one pastor gets on TV or writes a blog or article and personalizes this to some kind of divine act of judgment against a certain person or group. What we do need to hear is these events are a sign of a creation in pain from sin. They can happen at anytime and anywhere as a reminder that sin effects everyone and doesn’t pass over anyone.  It should remind us of the redemption to come; that one day Jesus will return to not only redeem us but creation itself. Like us, our world is broken by sin.

Sure we should work hard to do our part to be good stewards as the keepers of this earth but brokenness runs too deep for us to fix by our own efforts. Our world needs divine intervention…. our world needs divine healing… our world needs the hand of Jesus, the same as us.

So let us pray for those affected by these recent hurricanes. Let us all also give out money and time to help them. Let us remember that tragedies like this exist because our world is broken and needs redemption by the grace and goodness of Jesus.

Seeing Guests as God-Sent Gifts


My wife and I were newlyweds and had just moved to a new city. We were looking for a church to call home. We wanted a church where we could get connected. We had already visited a few churches, but we just didn’t have the “warm fuzzies” about any of them. We decided to give one more church a chance. That Sunday, the music was probably good. The sermon the pastor gave probably kept our attention. But what we remember the most is how they treated this pair of newcomers to their church. We were treated as their welcomed guests rather than their unwanted visitors.
Every Sunday, God sends guests to churches to be welcomed. It is unfortunate that so often we do not prepare to welcome and receive these God-sent gifts. Pastors and church members, the guests God will send your way this Sunday are gifts and they deserve to be treated as such.

Often churches feel that guests will be welcomed because they are friendly and welcoming to the people that they know. Often a church’s approach to welcome guests is summed up in a set time for greeting in the worship service. While nothing is wrong with these things, these things alone will most likely leave a guest feeling like an isolated outsider.

Here are three things every church can focus on in order to treat newcomers as welcomed guests:

The Pre-Service

Invest in adequate signage, keep your property looking maintained and inviting, and have friendly and informative greeters at the doors.

The Service

In the worship service genuinely greet your guests. Without calling our your guests by name, greet them from the stage. Also, in the worship service you will want to make it easy for your guests to give you their contact information. A guest might feel welcomed by a small gift of appreciation for visiting the church. This could include information about your church, as well as future connection opportunities.

The Post-Service

You hope a first time guest becomes a second time guest. If your attitude of hope does not translate into action this may never happen. The time between the end of the worship service one Sunday and the start of the worship service the next Sunday is time that must be used to continue to connect with your guests. I would recommend making contact with your guests during the week in two ways: Send a personal note to each guest in the mail and call/email each guest.

Welcoming our guests this, and every, Sunday with the love of Christ we will be connecting people to Him. This is our greatest priority.

Written By: Nate Williams, Pastor of Discipleship and Connection, Heartland Church

Top 5 Arguments Skeptics Give Against the Christian Faith

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Whenever you find someone who believes strongly in something, there will be those who also doubt it. As Christians, healthy questioning of what we believe is needed,  as holding to a set of beliefs only because they were passed down to us makes our faith shallow and weak. I have no respect for untested faith, where someone is unwilling to let their faith be questioned out of fear or laziness.

Now that doesn’t mean everyone who questions your faith deserves a voice. Apostates lurk the blog world, looking for Christians they can attack. Jesus spoke about these kinds of people. He told the disciples to “shake the dust off their feet” if the apostles encountered someone not willing to listen. It is not my responsibility to convince a bitter and angry skeptic to believe in the faith. Because they want you to enter their arena of attack, they will guilt you with words like “the burden of proof is on you” or “if you are a Christian then you will stay loving and humble,” while they have the freedom to curse, demean and berate you. They lure Christians to enter dialogue where their fellow antagonists wait to attack. They are not our targets to evangelize. We should heed Jesus’ words and feel no guilt for their faithlessness. The Lord will be their judge.

With that said, we should still be aware of what skeptics are saying, especially in the questions they raise. Not all skeptics are close-minded and antagonistic to the faith. Here are five questions I see skeptics raising:

If God is a good God, how can He allow so much suffering and evil in the world?

shutterstock_492404062.jpg    One thing we cannot deny is evil exists in our world. Atrocious things happen to people that are seemingly undeserved. Yet, God is working in suffering; some of the most powerful testimonies have come from those who have endured great tragedy. God often raises beauty from ashes. It is God that gives us the hope that things can be better. We also need to remember that sin entered the world through disobedience and tainted all of humanity and the world. Disease, pestilence, drought, natural disasters, murders, bigotry, and all other catalyst of suffering are the result of sin. Some shake their fists at God, but it is we who brought this upon ourselves.

How could I come to church or believe in what you say when the church is full of hypocrites?

shutterstock_388569646.jpg   This is not totally false. Many hypocrites come to church every Sunday. I would argue it comes with the way a church is set up. Church welcomes all to come, including hypocrites. I wonder if anyone has been a part of any gathering, social club, or civic group where some didn’t poorly represent the greater identity? Poor examples don’t necessarily undermine the core as being strong and faithful. While the church should preach against hypocrisy and hold those accountable who practice it, people choose how they will live. There will always be those who confess Christ and live opposite of Him. The problem with this argument against the faith is it fails to acknowledge those who do live out their faith well. Not all live hypocritically, and as long as there are faithful servants of Christ, then the church is not lost. This argument is simply an excuse to justify their own unwillingness to set foot in church and to deny the faith. God transcends His followers as He is perfect and they are flawed and broken. Every Christian will make mistakes and be hypocritical in some manner.

Isn’t Christianity a crutch for people to avoid facing the realities of this world?

shutterstock_327126659.jpg    Karl Marx claimed that religion is “an opiate of society.” Skeptics argue in the same vein that faith is “pie in the sky” thinking, an unwillingness to deal with injustices in the world honestly. For a Christian, hope is found in Christ. It is not wishful thinking but the only reality that we can cling to that is consistent, loving, and pure. It is not a crutch or an escape; rather it is hope. Claiming that Christians are weak because they cannot face the harsh realities is a skeptic’s way of denying hope. What is life without hope? Faith is believing there is hope beyond what you can see. Some the most courageous people who have ever lived have been so because they clung to there faith. They faced incredible obstacles because God gave them strength to do so. They were not in denial of their sufferings but found hope in them through Christ.

How can you claim that Jesus is the only way to God?

shutterstock_218152.jpg     This is a big one. If God exists, why do Christians see their way as the only true way to God. Truth is, we don’t claim it. We do not exclude other faiths or deny their access to the true God. Jesus did. He said that He was “the way, the truth,and the life, and that no person comes to the Father but by Him” (John 14:6). Jesus made Christianity exclusive, and, as His followers, we do the same. It is through Jesus that one can be saved. It is not a popular belief, but it is the Gospel. Popularity has never been our goal. Narrow is the way and few who find it, says our sacred text. Many get tripped up by this, but we trust in the word of our Lord that says He alone is the way to God.

If God is real and Jesus is alive, then why doesn’t He do a public broadcast across the globe telling who He is and His intentions for us?

shutterstock_559280869       Silence is deafening for skeptics. They can’t get past the fact that God would be so “aloof” with His creation. At one time, God did walk among us. But through man’s disobedience, humanity was banned from His garden and presence. Now through Christ, we are reunited with Him by faith to one day see Him “face to face” again. When Thomas touched the scars after the resurrection, Jesus told him that he believed because He saw with his own eyes but “blessed are those who have not yet seen and still believe.” Skeptics are unwilling to acknowledge faith, but it is faith that saves us and brings us into right relationship with God. One day, God’s presence will be overwhelmingly evident to all. There will be no more skeptics on that day. “Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord”—from the most faithful to the vilest to the most bitter atheist.

This list is far from exhaustive, but these are questions I encounter often as I talk with those who doubt our faith. We will never be able to “talk” anyone into salvation, but that should not stop us from sharing our faith and doing all we can to answer their questions. Not to do so shows a lack of care and willingness to help them see. Yet, many skeptics have one agenda: to ridicule and belittle the faith. They do this because they must. They need to justify their doubt lest they are proved wrong and condemned. Show them grace, but do not waste your time. Instead, find those willing to listen and spread the Gospel!

Christian Response to Orlando Massacre


For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Infected saints, we live in a world polluted by hatred and evil. Again, we are confronted with senseless tragedy by radical individuals for no other purpose than to instill fear and reveal the depth of their hate. Many have died. Families are devastated. Orlando is in pain. All of us are affected and hurt for them. It doesn’t matter the lifestyle or beliefs of the victims here. They didn’t deserve this. No one does. We are not called to be judge nor executioner. Yet, so often, flawed individuals do heinous acts in the name of their god. Tragic…. Senseless…. A divine opportunity for the church.

I am a Christian. I hold to the morals as set out for me in God’s Word. I do not create them or have the right to pick and choose the ones I like. He sets the standard I follow. My calling, my passion, my life ― none of these are dedicated to getting others to follow those same morals. I am not dedicating my life’s work to getting people to act better. What would be the point? So they can live “cleaner” lives and still be dead on the inside? That is not my hope. That is not the goal of the church ― to reform the world to act better. We are to preach a different message than dead legalism.

I am an evangelist to both the world and the church. To the world, I preach love and grace. They need to know I care. That my agenda is pure. That I have their best intentions at heart. To the church, I preach the same message but not as ones who are to receive, but rather to give, love and grace. To the church, I say: “Quit ignoring. Quit staying in a bubble, loving those like you and not engaging the hurting all around you. It is not enough to just not hate. Not hating does not mean you care. That is not the Gospel!”

Love is active and messy. We need to reach out. We all should be looking for opportunity to show love and care to the LGBT community around us. This means engaging in dialogue and showing love by listening and praying and serving them. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with their lifestyle. It also doesn’t mean calling it out through hateful rhetoric either.

Too often, the church’s response is to retreat and not engage. Christ doesn’t want us to stand aside and watch. It is not enough to say we don’t hate. If we don’t engage, doesn’t that send the message that we don’t care? It’s tough work. It’s messy. Some will judge us for caring and call us compromisers. That’s okay. They did the same to Jesus.

This recent tragedy is horrible; yet, it is an opportunity for the church to show care. To give love. To be the Gospel lived out. It starts with words but does not end there. It’s time to step out and love, in action, those who are not like us or who do not believe like us. Jesus would be right in the middle of this, loving them and offering eternal hope. We should do the same!

God, Where is My Burning Bush So I Can Believe?

I am truly an infected saint. I doubt that God exists more than I care to admit. I have preached through much of the Scriptures. I have been through more schooling than should be allowed. I have dedicated my life to following Christ. Yet, I have times of doubt. Times where I wonder if it is real. “Is there anything beyond this life?,” is a question that whispers to me sometimes.

Honestly, I don’t like living by faith. I can see your face right now. It’s a look of disappointment. A pastor that doesn’t want to live by faith?! Shame on you, Dax. Yet, I really would like to know by visible signs. Not just trust and hope. I’d like for the Spirit to descend like a dove from the clouds and talk to me.Or a burning bush to start speaking to me in a divine voice and tell me to remove my Nikes because I am on holy ground. I want to know God is really there, that Jesus really walked on water and was raised from the dead.

I have staked my life on a God I cannot see, touch, hear, or prove. The skeptics laugh and ridicule.  They are willing to bet their entire existence on the idea that He does not exist. As John Ortberg said in his book, Faith and Doubt, “If God is there, why doesn’t He make more noise?”

Most people in our world believe in God. The minority who doesn’t believe in a higher power might dismiss the majority view as a logical fallacy known as argumentum ad populum, or “appeal to the people” —  simply because many people believe something to be true doesn’t make it true. But my faith is not based on the masses’ belief. It doesn’t hurt or help my faith that many believe.

I have faith because His word has been tested in my life. I cannot deny my own experiences. My salvation experience was supernatural. In that moment in 1992, I became acutely aware of my frailty and smallness in this universe. God revealed His glory and grace. It was beyond compelling… it was transformative. God is always there as I have faith to look. I see His hand working. I recognize His intervention in my life. Faith has been my rock and refuge in an unpredictable and often cruel world.

I even praise Him for the times of doubt because God has used it to strengthen my faith. These moments of doubt remind me why my faith is so powerful in my life.

What about you? Do you feel shame when you doubt? You shouldn’t. Doubt is part of being human. God is bigger than our doubt. Some of the greatest spiritual moments in my life occurred when I came out of a valley of doubt. Doubt makes my faith stronger. It causes me to question things and to seek Truth more. I don’t need a sign to be strong in my belief. Didn’t work for Israel. Wouldn’t work for me.

God is not easily found by our senses because He wants us to come to Him in the right way. Like Israel of old, miraculous signs and wonders would just leave us feeling entitled and wanting more and more sensational showings by God. We wouldn’t be satisfied enough to be fully devoted to  Him. It is in faith that we find our strength and resolve. For “blessed are those who have not yet seen but still believe.” John 20:29.

Happy Funerals

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He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

Being an Infected Saint means facing the reality that we are all going to die. Infected saints are positionally perfect in Christ but still battle with sin. Unless Christ returns first, death is inevitable. Rarely does anyone look forward to dying. As Christians we get much more excited about the thought of resurrecting with a perfect body. I can’t imagine me with a perfect body. That is Heaven! But seriously, you cannot know the joy of the resurrection without first knowing the pain of death.  It is only out of death that something beautiful resurrects.

I read an article in Christianity Today (March 2016) recently on Christian trend towards “happy funerals.” Christian funerals are encouraged to have a positive spin: they are in a better place;  they feel no more pain; you need to move on while cherishing the memories.  More upbeat songs are being played at funerals. There has even been a change in clothing. Dark suits have been replaced with something more upbeat and casual. The goal is more celebration, more moments of joy. I get that.  Jesus brings victory over death. Death is not the final word for a believer. That is cause for celebration. Yet, joy should not replace our grief. It is not only ok to hurt; it is necessary.

If not careful, we could be in danger of brushing over the truth about death. Death is loss. It is a time for grieving. Shortest verse of the Bible shows Jesus weeping over the loss of his friend, Lazarus (John 11:35). Was Jesus showing a lack of faith? Did Jesus not know death was not the final word for Lazarus? Why didn’t Jesus celebrate? Jesus knew that Lazarus would walk again in a few moments from then, yet He still wept tears of grief. Jesus felt great sorrow. His tears were not just for His friend but for the necessity of pain and death because of sin. Death is a constant reminder of the destructive nature of sin. Jesus wept for it.

Hope should be apparent in a Christian funeral. As the word says, we “grieve but not as those without hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Yet, we are no different than any lost person who loses someone they care about. In fact being Christian means we understand better how to love and so our pain might be felt even deeper than the nonbeliever. That pain should not be ignored. Not letting yourself feel or express the pain is not a mark of spiritual achievement but a denial of the reality of loss. We need to deal honestly with our pain. We hurt because we cared. We need to feel that, experience it, and let it come through in whatever way it wants. Grieving is not a sign of doubt, but serves as evidence that you loved deeply.

Death reminds us of the tension between living in this age and the age to come. Infected saints know that this world is not home. We look forward to the afterlife but face the reality that we have to pass through death to get there. Death is necessary for resurrection. Resurrection is our hope. Death might be imminent but it is not the final word!

We should celebrate our hope in Christ at a funeral but not to the dismissal of our pain. So if you lose someone you love, grieve deeply. It’s ok. Don’t lose hope while you grieve, but do not feel guilty for hurting deeply. Jesus did and so should we.