Author Archive: Revraney

Let Them Take Advantage

By Joe Jaggers

Okay, picture this. It’s a beautiful spring afternoon in a small town and you are out for a walk down Main Street. As you are walking down the street looking into shop windows you come upon a man sitting on a bench next to a liquor store. You notice that this man looks a little bit intoxicated and by the way he is dressed there’s a good chance he is homeless. The closer you get to him the more you struggle within yourself how to deal with this gentleman. Do you pass him by? Do you make eye contact and say hello? Or, do you quietly move to the other side of the street acting as if you needed to go that way in the first place? All of these options go through your head but today is different. Today the words of the missionary that spoke at your church the week before ring in your head. Today, you decide to sit down next to this gentleman and witness to him about Jesus Christ.

As you sit with the gentleman for a few minutes telling him about Christ, you are able to push past the nerves that you are feeling at the beginning. The words that are coming out of your mouth must be from God because you really didn’t know you knew so much about the Bible that you could explain it to somebody. And on top of all of this the man you were speaking to seems like he is truly interested in what you’re saying. Everything seems to be heading in the right direction for you to bring this man into the kingdom of heaven but that is when it happens. You ask him if he wants to pray and he says sure. But as you are praying you take a quick little peek to see if he is truly with you. As you wrap up your prayer you look at him and say, “Jesus truly loves you. You need to continually look to God to supply your needs.” And that is when the man tells you he is hungry and then he asks you for some money. You can smell the whiskey on his breath, and he is sitting next to the liquor store he spends most of his time in. You think to yourself if I give this man money there is a 98% chance he will drink it away and the thought of him taking advantage of you really ticks you off. What do you do?

I tell this story because something similar happened to me recently. There is one big difference between my experience and the one I wrote about above. And that is, that I had a previous relationship with the gentleman that I spoke with. I already knew some of this man’s history and I knew that not everything he told me about himself was true. So when he asked me for money I had to come to a crossroads that I had faced once before. In college, a man stopped me in the Wal-Mart parking lot and told me a sob story about how he could not make it home and he was hungry and was out of money. I knew in my heart that this man was lying to me so I made him promise me he would not by liquor with the cash I gave him. He promised me, so when I watched him walk away, my heart and trust were broken as he entered the liquor store with the cash I just gave him. So, do I give this man standing before me now the money he is asking for knowing that he may be taking advantage of me?

Here’s the lesson that I’ve recently been learning myself. Sometimes God will call you into a situation that you willingly allow yourself to be taken advantage of.

“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Be as wary as snakes and as harmless as doves. But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and beaten in the synagogues. And you must stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. This will be your opportunity to tell them about me – yes, to witness to the world. (Matthew 10:16 – 18)

When you go out into the streets, people are looking to take advantage each other. Because Christians are supposed to have a good nature, we are seen as easy prey. But Christians have come to realize the situation and have stopped letting themselves be taken advantage of. Now I’m not saying that Christians should walk around with a kick me sign on their back and give out wads of cash to everyone who asks. We are to use to servant and lean on Holy Spirit’s guidance. We are to be “wary as snakes.” We are to be aware of the situations that we are in and the possible intentions of the person to whom we are speaking. But Jesus also calls us to be “as harmless as doves.” When being held in someone’s hand, a dove is at the complete mercy of the one holding it. The dove could possibly fly away, but instead puts its trust in the one holding it and that means it could be easily killed.

“But I say, don’t resist an evil person! If you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other, too. If you are ordered to court in your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow. (Matthew 5:39 – 42)

The dove and the snake could apply to this passage in Matthew 5. The dove is called by God to turn the other cheek but the snake knows that when he does there is a very good chance that he will be slapped on the other side as well. But once again, Jesus calls us to give what is asked for but then double down and give what was not.

Being taken advantage of hurts our pride, makes us feel dumb, and strips us of our rights to stand up for ourselves. But we have to think about who we represent when we step out on the street as a Christian. What did Jesus do for us when he came to earth? What rights can the one and only son of God cling to? Do our rights compare to the ones Jesus holds?

                Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5 – 8)

When Jesus went to the cross he knew that there would be people who did not deserve the blood he was going to shed but he willingly went anyway. Jesus knew that for the rest of time there would be people begging him for what he had, only to wander back into the darkness they were in before. But Jesus willingly went anyway. Jesus knew that there would be people that would live their entire lives on their terms only to accept his gift at the very last second of their life but Jesus willingly went anyway. Jesus knew that all of humanity is like the beggar on the bench. He knew all humanity was going to take advantage of his ultimate gift through his blood. Jesus knew that none of us deserved what he would do for us and he knew that we would make him promises we wouldn’t keep. But Jesus willingly lets us take advantage of him because of his love for us. Always follow Christ’s leading but know that at some point you will be taken advantage of.

Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as day. (Isaiah 58: 10)

Resist or Relinquish

Chris was feeling pretty good.  Here he was, on his way to look at the house of his dreams.  It was one of a kind; as if it had been made just for him. If things went well it would be his. He knew there would be others there to look at the house as well and only one of them would get it. Chris’s anticipation had grown daily as the appointment approached.

He had an hour to get there. “Shouldn’t be a problem”, he thought.  After all, he had a personal guide to take him. Jesus was riding in the passenger seat and giving directions.  He lived in the neighborhood where the house was located.  Jesus had offered to drive but Chris insisted he drive instead.  So Jesus climbed into the passenger seat and gave directions.

Things were going smooth as they drove through the city.  Jesus told Chris to turn left at the light and he did. About one hundred feet later there was a small alley, barely visible, on the right and Jesus told Chris to turn into the alley.  Chris looked at the alley.  It was small and dark. He wasn’t even certain his car would fit. “Who knows what is down there?” thought Chris.  He told Jesus, “I’m going to go on up to the light and turn right.  It’s only another hundred feet.” He drove right on past the alley and turned right at the light, just as he had said.

Within a few seconds of making the turn Chris knew he was in trouble. There was construction on the road and traffic was at a complete stop.  A couple hundred feet ahead there was a detour sign going off to the left, but with the traffic not moving it may as well have been miles ahead.  On top of that, who knew where the detour went?  There was no room to turn around so Chris was stuck.

Two hours later Chris had finally made it to the detour where he could turn left but he had long ago come to the realization that this turn was taking him even further away form the small alley that Jesus had told him to turn down and he had resisted. The decision to turn at the next light and onto the street was just a guess in the first place.  He had been afraid of the alley and followed his gut in hopes the street would be a better alternative. Now he was forced to make another turn with no knowledge of where it went.

Chris found himself already hours late for his appointment and with no idea where he was now headed.  He could see the house of his dreams slipping away.  Surely he had no chance of getting it now. Chris had long ago come to accept that he should have trusted Jesus and gone down the alley.

“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!”   Acts 7:51

Design and the Educated

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” John 1:1-3

It is amazing how many educated people refuse to accept the existence of God as the creator. Education, especially for those who study the sciences and engineering, emphasizes organization, design, and process. Even when writing a paper, the student is taught to organize their thoughts and material into an outline.  Scientists and engineers are trained in the mathematics, techniques and rules of design.  Experiments are set up and executed in orderly fashion on purpose.  Even those who study the cosmos do so using mathematical ‘rules’ of order.

Yet in the midst of all this culture and dependence on design, order and organization, many of those same individuals believe the world around us is the result of chance. Intelligent people design and plan roads, buildings and much more in their process of ‘creating’ them, and then reject the idea that the same went into the creation of the universe.

This denial is not based in science, but rather in the sinful pride of the human heart.  “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools”.  Romans 1:21-22  Man was not made void of a knowledge of God.  Man willingly chose to reject that knowledge in favor of setting themselves up as gods.  To accept God as the sovereign creator requires that we also accept him as sovereign Lord over that creation, including ourselves.  To accept Him as sovereign Lord (absolute authority and master) over ourselves requires submission and obedience.  The sinful pride of the corrupt heart will not allow such submission.

The only answer is a repentant heart and surrender to the Lord himself, Jesus Christ.

Stay in the Fire

Years ago a Pastor paid a visit to a gentleman from the congregation.  This man’s participation in the life of the congregation had become more and more erratic and diminished to where it was almost nonexistent.

It was a cold winter evening when the Pastor knocked on the door.  The older man opened the door and invited the Pastor inside.  There were two chairs sitting next to an inviting fireplace.  The old man sat in one of the chairs and gestured toward the other with his hand for the Pastor to join him.

As they sat together, enjoying the fire they exchanged some small talk about the cold weather and the short days.  They were both old enough that they did not need to fill every moment with chatter.  Through their years they had learned to be comfortable in silence.  After a little bit the Pastor asked his host why he was no longer interested in being a part of the spiritual life of the congregation.

The man thought for a minute before answering.  He didn’t feel the need to make excuses or feel threatened by the question.  After a moment he finally told the Pastor, “I guess I just lost interest. Nothing happened nor did anyone do anything to make me mad or hurt me. I just lost interest.”

The Pastor thought about that answer sincerely.  He appreciated the older man’s honesty.  But he was also concerned about his spiritual well-being.  After sitting there for moment he took the small ash shovel standing next to the fireplace and grabbed a red hot coal from the fire.  He placed the coal on the rock hearth.  He didn’t say a word as both men sat and watched the red hot coal.  After a few minutes the coal lost some of the intensity in its color.  Gradually and slowly the coal continued to lose its color and heat until finally it sat there on the hearth, nothing more than than a black and grey pile of ash, completely cold to the touch.  Being removed from the fire it gradually lost all of its brilliance and heat and became a worthless pile of ash.  Good only to be thrown out.

The Pastor didn’t have to say or explain anything.  The somber look on the older man’s face clearly showed that he understood what he had just been taught.  The Pastor then had a gentle but serious time of prayer for the man and his soul.

Once removed from the fire we begin to lose our spiritual brilliance and heat.  We no longer absorb or provide any light or heat. In order to continue to burn bright and hot we must stay in the presence of the fire.  We need to remain immersed in the Word of God, in prayer, and the fellowship of the believers.  The Holy Spirit works through these to build us and each other up in the Lord.  Do not neglect the gathering of yourselves together, nor the instruction in the Word, nor the communion in prayer.  It is easy to let the tares choke out the life of the plant. Once the plant has has withered it is worth nothing. Once the coal has lost its fire, it is fit only to be thrown out.

A Response to Tracy Moore

Recently an article written by Tracy Moore was brought to my attention.  The article is titled “Godless Parents are Doing a Better Job” ( one shouldn’t be surprised at the conclusions in the article considering it comes from a site named  The article starts off poorly and goes downhill form there.  The bias of the author is made clear in the very first sentence; “Hate to break it to you, Bible thumpers”.  The writer’s credibility is dismissed when she starts off her article using a derogatory term to insult Christians.  She defines Christians as people who use their Bibles to thump other people.  I know for certain that I have never once in my life thumped someone with my Bible.

The author then states the overall premise and conclusion of the article that children raised by parents who do not profess a belief in God do just as well and possibly even better than those raised by parents who are believers.  The criterion for such an assessment? “Overall, not believing in God seems to make people and their offspring more tolerant. Less racist. Less sexist. Enviro-friendly.” Wow! First, lets take a look at that claim and the inherent problems.  Such measurements are incredibly subjective.  So what is the definition of ‘more tolerant’ or less sexist’? The writer does not provide us with any information to help us understand those conclusions.  She simply makes the assertion and then points to an op-ed written by sociologist Phil Zuckerman. Phil Zuckerman is an agnostic who wrote the book, “Society Without God.”  To make matters worse, the op-ed by Mr. Zuckerman grossly misinterprets the material of Vern Bengtson, whose study he references quite extensively.  For more information on this read about Vern Bengtson’s study regarding Families and Faith.

So how does the author, Tracy Moore, determine that children raised by parents who are not believers are more tolerant? Far too often tolerance is measured either by standing up for nothing or by “do you agree with me?”  If I stand for nothing I can be viewed as someone who is tolerant when in reality I am simply someone who wants to remain disengaged.  On the other hand, to many in the progressive movement of today one is often considered intolerant if they believe differently than the progressives do, especially regarding the litmus test of social issues such as abortion, homosexuality, etc.

What exactly does the author mean by less sexist? Does she mean if someone has a different view of the differences between men and women than she does they are sexist? Are children of Christian parents less ‘enviro-friendly’ because they may doubt the claims of global warming advocates.  A primary tenant of Christian teaching is good stewardship, including the world in which we live.

After reading the assertion that children of parents who are not believers are more tolerant, it is incredibly ironic to read the author’s tirade against the religious people of the small town she grew up in. “I would like to take this time to say directly to the small town I grew up in and its endless youth groups and Bible studies and Baptist churches and even grosser fundamentalist Church of Christ churches, and all the prayers before games, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the fear-mongering attitudes and pervy youth group leaders and gross, self-righteous, hypocritical, sexist, homophobic, racist, shallow, anti-intellectual, anti-questioning, anti-books, anti-music, anti-art, utter crass consumerism in place of actual Christian-ness: FACE. Big, stupid FACE in your FACE.” Does that sound like the voice of tolerance? She later writes, “(I almost exclusively grew up with Baptists and Church of Christ nutjobs)”.  Tolerant? She refers to God as the “Big Kahuna”.  I suppose another conclusion would be that these children are more respectful.

Tracy Moore makes it a point to highlight Phil Zuckerman’s assertion that Vern Bengtson says that non-religious families possess ethical values and morals. Zuckerman even writes in his op-ed, “Many nonreligious parents were more coherent and passionate about their ethical principles than some of the ‘religious’ parents in our study,” Bengston told me. He told you? Just like that? Two important things missing are 1) Many of the families Bengtson talks about are families that at a particular time are not associated with a specific church or religious organization.  He makes it clear that in many of these cases the people still consider themselves believers. 2) Bengtson points out that many of these families come back to their religious associations.  Bengtson’s study is actually about the transmission of faith rather than families without faith.

In addition it is always interesting to hear unbelievers refer to morals.  How do we determine what is right or wrong without a standard? You know someone is six feet tall because measure them against a standard composed of feet and inches.Where did the standard come from? Standards are absolute. God is absolute.  Only something absolute can produce something absolute. Subjective cannot produce objective.

As you read this article it becomes clear the author has an axe to grind against Christianity and she found a sociologist who held similar views to support her vitriolic hatred of Christianity and our God.  God loves Tracy Moore and died for her salvation.  He can save her.  The conclusions and assertions in this article are not supported by fact or data.  What this article is however, is one more example of the growing hatred of Christianity (and Christ) in our society today that will ultimately result in the persecution of the saints.  The good news is that God will be with us, even unto the end. Are you ready?




Maintaining Your Soul

A few years after I was first married I pulled one of the biggest bonehead mistakes in history with my car. We had recently purchased a Toyota Tercel.  This was the first new car we had bought and we were pretty excited.  I was still very young and growing up I had almost no experience working on cars.  I had done a few things on our old car, a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere.  As such I knew little about car maintenance or repair, but I had a character trait (most women would call it a flaw) – I was a man, so therefore I seldom, if ever asked for advice.

It was time for the first oil change so I set to work on the task.  I crawled under the car to begin my oil change.  The Tercel was a front wheel drive vehicle – at this time a fairly new thing.  When I looked up at the engine I was thrown for a loop as there was more than one plug.  Which one was the right one? Well I took a guess and removed one of the plugs and drained the fluid inside.  I did notice this fluid was red, but hey, this was a Japanese car, maybe it uses a different kind of oil.  I got all of the fluid drained and put the plug back in.  I crawled back out and got under the hood.  I found the oil cap and removed it and put in the first quart of oil.  After the first quart I looked on the stick and found that the oil level was already completely full.  Wow, these Japanese cars do not require much oil; this is great.  Yes, it is utterly amazing that I did not consider all of the clues up to this point of my error, not the least of which the amount of fluid drained from the car exceeded the 1 quart of oil I added.

Now most of you are way ahead of me and if you have even the slightest knowledge of cars, realize I had drained the transaxle fluid rather than the motor oil.  So here is my new Toyota Tercel with no fluid in its front wheel drive transaxle but plenty of oil.

The next day I loaded up the car with myself, Marie and our toddler child and headed off to a church softball game. The car sounded a little bit different at the start, but nothing that turning up the radio a little bit couldn’t solve.  We got onto the highway and got up to full speed when the car started making this extremely loud, high-pitched, whining sound.  That sound didn’t last too long as it was replaced by an exploding sound and the car jerking almost to a complete stop in the high speed lane.  Fortunately we were able to get off the road safely and even got someone to tow us for free to the garage. The transaxle had blown up, a huge whole in the casing.

You see, cars do not run well and sometimes not very far when they are lacking something as important as fluid in the transaxle.

I often find myself amazed when people who see themselves as Christians seem honestly confused and surprised things are not going well in their lives when upon examination it is easily evident they have neglected their soul and its need for Christ.  Like my car, the soul does not run well and even sometimes explodes and comes to a jerking halt when it is lacking that which is critical.

We wonder why we make bad decisions or “luck” doesn’t seem to be on our side.  We do not understand why ‘God lets these bad things happen to us’.  We feel betrayed when relationships with our spouse, our children, our friends or others seem strained, even damaged.  Why would God allow such a thing?

Why is this such a surprise? When we neglect our soul and allow it to be drained of that which is critical and then try to replace that with the wrong thing it is expected that things will run smoothly.  We have removed ourselves from the influence of God upon our lives.  We are a ship floating on the waters with no rudder, no sail and no oars.  We are pushed along in every direction.  Sometimes God may indeed “allow” or even cause certain things to happen in our lives. This can really irritate us as we think “how can a loving God does such?”  Is it not love that would allow or bring into our lives something that would awaken us to Him that we might avoid something far worse and eternal?

We cannot neglect our relationship with God without there being negative consequences. You need the Word of God in your life.  You need prayer in your life.  You need Christian fellowship in your life.  You need to be proclaiming the witness of God in your life.  These things build and strengthen your relationship with God and you definitely need that in your life. Don’t let your life be drained of what is really critical and then try and fill it up with something different.

Good Thoughts or Prayers?

I’ve been hearing a phrase quite often lately and frankly it confuses me.  The phrase usually occurs when someone is experiencing something difficult and either they or another person will ask that “good thoughts or good vibes” be sent their way.  I’m not quite sure how one can do this.  How exactly do “good thoughts” get from one person to another and how do they help?

It is amazing how easily the world will so easily believe in some sort of ‘telekinesis’ while rejecting or at least diminishing an all powerful God. When I hear terms like this I am reminded of Acts 17:22-23 “Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”  Our society is indeed still religious, but at the same time is so hardened in their heart they cannot accept the one true God.  So they, by choice, remain ignorant of the truth.  Their gut tells them there are spiritual things out there so maybe somehow we can impact someone by sending our ‘good thoughts and good vibes’ to them. However their pride and self , will not allow them to acknowledge the true God of creation and redemption.

Maybe when this phrase is used some may mean we should give encouraging words to the one suffering.  There is certainly benefit in encouraging someone. When the scripture tells us to encourage others we are to do so by sharing the hope and promises of God with them.  While it can be comforting to know someone cares, how much more so to know that He who is all powerful cares? Oh how encouraging to know the truth of “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).  That truth can only be known by knowing God; not substituting some warm and fuzzy ‘good thoughts’ in His place.

The phrase of sending someone ‘good thoughts’ is often mentioned in combination with prayer; again as if to be sure and include all the different possibilities (you never know which one may work). They are not the same and only one of them really works – prayer.  Real prayer is not merely thinking of someone.  Real prayer reaches out to a living God in a personal way. Real prayer is an act of humility and confidence all at once.  It recognizes God for who He is and understands who we are in relation to Him.  Real prayer looks for His mercy and His help.  It seeks both His strength and His comfort. Think about someone all you want with good thoughts, but if their help comes from the Lord.