All posts filed under: Teaching

The power of miracles

Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. — Acts 8:5-8 By Rick Renner On April 12, I told a bit of this story, but it so impacted my life that I want to share it in greater detail today and give you the reason why miracles often occur on a massive scale, or among large crowds of people. It was the conclusion of five amazing days of meetings — the first large public meeting that Denise and I had ever conducted in the former USSR. Of the 32,000 people who attended the event, 7,000 people came forward to receive Christ and 926 people received water baptism — and we witnessed scores …

Controlling Cults: How do you get out?

Have you ever been in a cult? Do you know anyone who is, or was? The word “cult” is actually an insult and a label. It is shorthand for ‘stay away from them.’ Using the word “cult” too much is cult behavior. Telling people how to think, without explaining why, is controlling behavior, and that is what cults do. So, let’s find a better description. Who wants to control you? Who is telling you what to think, but not how to think? Are you doing this to yourself? Are you looking for a shortcut to the truth from some authority, with all the answers that you need? Our own laziness is an important part of the mix. Or are you doing this to other people? Is the truth so essential that they just need to agree? If this makes you think about religious “cults”, controlling groups are not always religious, as we understand religion. They are a “cheat” a short and easy route to some profound truth. ‘Someone else did the thinking, and I just …

Deal with fear by dealing with your worry

YouVersion, one of the world’s most popular Bible apps, has been downloaded 545 million times worldwide. And it just released its most popular verse for 2022, and it may be a sign of the times we live in as it deals with fear. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 The world is being shaken and there are a lot of things to fear. And if this verse in Isaiah is any indication, many people are struggling with fear. So how do you deal with it, well, we must cut it at its root? You must first deal with fear’s evil first-cousin worry. If you are worrying about little things, then you are creating the perfect seed-bed for fear to grow. Your first step in dealing with fear starts by tackling its underlying cause, worry, and anxiety. There are things you can do: Make sure it …

Supernatural Patience and Endurance

By Rick Renner

Here is an important fact to know about the apostolic ministry: God didn’t leave it to us to guess who is a true apostle and who is not! I’m thankful for that! In Second Corinthians 12:12 the apostle Paul wrote by the Holy Spirit about the signs that will help us discern correctly whether an apostle is in our midst. He said, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.”

Roman Catholic Doctrine: the veneration of Mary

The Roman Catholic Church’s veneration of Mary started centuries ago in the church’s battle with Gnosticism, a belief that separated the spirit of a man from his flesh. Flesh was evil, and the spirit was good. As part of this belief, a person could basically sin as much as they wanted in the flesh, because the spirit remained pure, a view hinted at and condemned by Paul in Romans 6:1. The Gnostics also believed that because of the Lord’s sinless life, Jesus could not have been human or born in flesh, and that He appeared on earth in spirit form. As this heresy spread in the early church, Christ’s humanity, became a test for the spirits; 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, (1 John 4:3 NIV) To counter this heresy, the church began to push and exalt Mary, Jesus’s earthly mother, as evidence of Christ’s human birth. But by the third and fourth century, it had …

Roman Catholic doctrine: Praying to the saints

When it comes to praying to the saints, the Roman Catholic Church knows it is walking a fine line, because of the repeated admonitions throughout the Bible against contacting the dead. Leviticus 20:6 explicitly warns that God will oppose any person who consults mediums (those who consult the dead) or familiar spirits (literally the souls of dead family members). Similar warnings are found in Leviticus 19:31, and Deuteronomy 18:10-11. So how does the Catholic Church get around these warnings? Well, first it states that people are not actually praying to dead saints, they are simply asking these saints to pray for them. Suggesting that asking the dead to pray for you is different from prayer is just a matter of semantics. In fact, they are praying to the saints, even when asking. To support their position of praying to the saints, Catholic theologians point to passages in the Book of Revelation that picture people in heaven praising, worshiping and even petitioning God (Revelation 4:10, 5:8, 6:9-11). They theorize that Mary, the mother of Jesus, can …

To the ‘Holy Ones’ in Corinth: Insights into How God’s See the Church

By Dr. Michael Brown We are often in the habit of reading the Bible without paying attention to what we’re reading. The words are so familiar that we just gloss over them. Or the biblical terminology has lost its meaning to us, so the significance of what we’re reading fails to register. In that light, we should revisit Paul’s words to the believers of Corinth. He wrote, “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people . . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:2, NIV, my emphasis). Or in the old English of the King James Version, “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints . . . .” Five more times in this letter Paul referred to the believers in Corinthians as “saints” (or “holy ones”) which was a common expression for God’s people in the Bible. Yet these believers were hardly saints (and I don’t mean that in the later, …

Roman Catholic doctrine: What is Purgatory?

The Roman Catholic Church has several beliefs that differ from Protestant doctrine. One of them is purgatory. The American Heritage Dictionary defines purgatory this way: In the belief of Roman Catholics and others, a place of purgation in which the souls of those dying penitent are purified from venial sins, or undergo the temporal punishment which, after the guilt of mortal sin has been remitted, still remains to be endured by the sinner. Catholics believes purgatory is a place where the souls of Christians will go after death in order to pay the penalty for their ‘venial’ sins. Though the punishment can include fire (though some Catholic theologians disagree), it is looked upon more as a purifying process than a punishment, which is what hell involves. Nevertheless, it is a place where people will receive punishment for their sins, and once that punishment has been paid, they will be allowed to enter heaven. The idea of purgatory, which comes from the Latin word purgatorium and means to cleanse, was officially incorporated into Roman Catholic doctrine …

Prove all things

By Rick Renner

I once bought a violin that I was sure was an authentic Stradivarius violin. Of course, if it was real, it was worth several million dollars. Before I purchased it, I studied documents about how to recognize a real Stradivarius compared to a well-made copy. After convincing myself that I had found a real Stradivarius in a remote antique shop in Russia, I purchased it. But after an examination by a violin expert, it proved to be nothing more than a very old, fabulous fake.

Why forgiveness is like an onion

According to a recent survey conducted by the American Bible Society, Americans who regularly read their Bible are more able to forgive others than those who don’t. In its survey, ABS asked people to respond to this statement: “I am able to sincerely forgive whatever someone else has done to me, regardless of whether they ever ask for forgiveness or not.” The survey found that 94% of those who considered themselves to be scripturally engaged agreed with that statement, compared to only 6% who did not. Scripturally engaged people were defined as those who believe the Bible impacts their daily lives and relationship with God and others. In comparison, only 59% of the people who were not scripturally engaged agreed with that statement. As believers, we understand that we must forgive those who hurt us. This was one of Christ’s major messages, we have to forgive, because we have been forgiven. But I would like to point out one important point about forgiveness. You may need to forgive the same incident more than once. When …

Forgiveness

Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. — Luke 17:3 By Rick Renner When I was a young boy, I had a baseball coach who really disliked me. No matter how hard I tried to please him, he poked fun at me and tried to embarrass me in front of my teammates. His words and behavior would hurt me deeply, but I can remember my father telling me to forgive him. My dad would gently urge me to “grin and bear it” because these things happen in life. So when my coach insulted me, I’d do my best to forgive him and then muster the strength to wipe away my tears and walk back onto the ball field. It was wrong of that baseball coach to treat me in that way, but his negativity provided a good learning experience to help prepare me for life. I’m so thankful my father taught me to forgive, get back on the field, and not let the words …

Forgiving ourselves

Though we are exhorted throughout the Bible to forgive others, perhaps the biggest challenge that believers face is forgiving ourselves when we have done wrong. Maybe our actions, intentional or otherwise, caused harm to others or maybe we failed to help, and we just can’t seem to shake these feelings of failure and condemnation. Though the Bible does not directly state that we must forgive ourselves, it is implied throughout the scriptures. We start with how God treats our sins by tossing them into the deepest part of the ocean, which some have described as the sea of forgetfulness: He will again have compassion on us;    he will tread our iniquities underfoot.You will cast all our[a] sins    into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19 ESV) Isaiah describes God putting our sins behind His back, so He sees them no more (Isaiah 38:17). God has chosen to forgive and completely forget our sins, but many of us struggle with seeing ourselves as God sees u. The Jews understood the importance of this and actually developed the tradition …

What is Christian nationalism?

A recent survey conducted by Pew Research found that 60% of Americans believe that America was founded as a Christian nation. Nevertheless, only 33% believe that the US is still a Christian nation today. The survey also found that 45% believe that the US should be a Christian nation and 47% believe the Bible “should have a great deal or some influence on U.S. laws.” Meanwhile, 21% said it should have little or no influence. So this leads us to the broader issue of Christian nationalism which has become a topic in recent days. What exactly is Christian nationalism? In a nutshell, it is the belief that America, similar to Israel, is a Christian nation chosen and in covenant with God. I think we need to look at this issue in light of what happened under the Roman Emperor Constantine, which ironically took place on Oct 27, the same day the results of the survey were released. In his article, On this day in Christian history, Constantine saw a vision from God: “Conquer by this”, …

What is a Plague?

And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. — Mark 5:29 By Rick Renner Do you know anyone that has ever been subjected to a plague? Have you ever had a plague afflict you? Technically, what is a plague? We tend to use this word “plague” to describe worldwide pandemic outbreaks, but that is not the way it is used in Mark 5:29, which tells of a woman who had an issue of blood for 12 years. Specifically, Mark 5:29 says that when this woman touched Jesus, she was healed of her “plague.” Yet this woman’s sickness was not contagious, nor was it imminently life-threatening, since she had been sick with it for 12 years. So today I want to tell you about how I discovered the meaning of the word “plague” in the New Testament and why this was such an important discovery to me. As a university student, I suffered tremendously from allergic reactions. In fact, a simple …

The Real Mary Magdalene

By Eric Lyons

The name “Mary” appears 54 times in the New Testament. There is Mary, the mother of Jesus (Matthew 1:18), Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2), and Mary, the mother of James and Joses (Mark 15:40), who is likely the same as the “other” Mary (Matthew 27:56,61; 28:1) and “the wife of Clopas” (John 19:25).

When were you called?

The 700 Club recently shared the testimony of how a homeless drug addict came to Christ after Jesus appeared to him. And what struck me as much as anything were the words that Christ spoke to this man. Joseph grew up in a dysfunctional home. Both his mom and dad were drunks and drug addicts and continually fought. His dad was also physically abusive. By the time he was five, his mother’s memory was starting to fail, and it finally reached the point, she could no longer remember who Joseph was, and he ended up being raised by his violent father. As he grew older, Joseph turned to drugs and became addicted to meth and cocaine. He then turned to selling drugs, which proved quite profitable. But after nearly being killed at the age of 28 in a robbery, Joseph sold everything he had and turned to living on the streets. A few months later, in an act of desperation, Joseph cried out to God asking why his life turned out the way it did. …

Taxes and the Bible

According to a recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, the average American family spent more money paying their taxes, than they did to buy such essentials as food, clothing and medical care. According to the reports, that year the average American family handed over $16,729.73 for their federal, state, and municipal taxes while only paying $15,495.28 for their food, clothing and medical bills. Taxes, unfortunately, are a necessary part of government. And in the Gospels, we have an odd collaboration taking place when the Herodians and the Pharisees joined up to try to attack Christ on the issue of taxes (Matthew 22:15-22). The Herodians were a group of Jews who actually supported Herod and Rome, while the Pharisees were on the opposite end of the political spectrum. They believed in a national Israel, free from Rome. But that old saying my enemy’s enemy is my friend rang true here. The two had one common enemy, Jesus, and because of that, they could be friends for a few minutes. And the two …

Poll: Majority of American pastors do not believe Christians are required to tithe

A recent survey conducted by the research group, Barna, discovered that the majority of American pastors do not believe that the Bible requires Christians to tithe, Christian Today reports. The study, entitled, Revisiting the Tithe & Offering, found that only 33% of church leaders surveyed believed that Christians should give 10% of their income to the church. Of the 67%, who did not believe that Christians are required to tithe, 21% believed the amount given should be sacrificial and 20% believed that whatever believers donate, it should be an amount that they are willing to give As well, 70% believed that a tithe doesn’t have to be strictly financial. This was the same position that the ancient Jewish Rabbis took on the tithe that Jacob pledged to the House of God in Genesis 28:22. During the night, Jacob had a dream of angels ascending and descending on a ladder to heaven. He took the stone that he used as a pillow, declared it to be the House of God and pledged a tithe to it. …

The Pit and the Path

In Nehemiah 2:12-16, there is an interesting story. After arriving at the ruins of Jerusalem, Nehemiah desired to inspect the damage. At one point, he must have got off his sure-footed donkey, because of the rubble “Then, I went on to the Fountain gate, and to the King’s Pool, but was no room for the animal that was under me to pass.” (Nehemiah 2:14 NKJV) Nehemiah wanted to check out the damage to the walls himself. He needed eyes on the problem and did it secretly without others unduly influencing his survey. He soon learned how bad it was. Before you can enjoy the blessings and refreshments of the Fountain’s Pool, you must clear away the rubble. This was an ancient problem, played out many times and in many ways. The word in Hebrew for rubble means, ‘ashes, dust, earth, ground, mortar, rubbish.” The root word literally means ‘to be dust.’ Nehemiah understood that the issue was more than just a physical one, but it was also about people. Sometimes, the path to our call …

Do ‘big’ dreams make a difference?

“All things are possible to him who believes!” (Mark 9:23 ESV) Does believing for big things make a difference in our walk with God? Well, a recent survey conducted by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) has concluded that thinking big makes a difference when it comes to church planting and church growth, Christian Post reports. The ECFA conducted a survey of new church plants in order to determine the best strategies for growth. Many of these involved plants by larger multi-site churches and other denominations. One aspect that the survey uncovered is that the group’s vision of success does seem to make a difference in how successful the church will ultimately be. The study came to this conclusion after comparing the end results of those groups who expected their church would multiply by ten times in five years, with those who did not believe their church would multiply in five years. The survey found that those who had big dreams grew ten times faster than those who didn’t While the big-vision churches reported …

Did the Levites serve as police in ancient Israel?

According to the Mosaic Law, the tribe of Levi did not receive an inheritance in the Promised Land, instead the 11 remaining tribes set aside 48 cities across Israel where the Levites were allowed to live. The Levites were also given pasture land around those cities, but did not actually own the land themselves, as the ownership remained with the tribe. Though the Levites filled an important religious role in Israel, it is important to note, that not all Levites could work as priests, only those who were descendants of Aaron, Israel’s first High Priest were allowed to fill the role. Spread across Israel in this way, the Levites were responsible for teaching the law, setting up and maintaining the tabernacle and later the temple. They undoubtedly helped with the logistics of the sacrifices and also played musical instruments and sang in choirs as part of the worship. But one little-known role that the Levites held in Jewish society was that of police. We see the first indicator of this in Numbers, when we are …

Short-Term Gratification vs Long-Term Satisfaction

By Dr Michael L. Brown

A few years ago, I was buying some new clothes to wear on a series of episodes on Christian TV. The salesman, a seasoned pro with a very good eye, picked out some blazers, slacks, and shirts, and after trying them on, I made my final selection. It was only then that I discovered the prices on these items, expressing my surprise out loud. In response, the salesman said something that stayed with me. Allow me to share it with you here.

Being kind to one another

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. — Ephesians 4:32 By Rick Renner Today I’d like to begin by telling you about an amazing event that occurred when Denise and I were in Greece some years ago — an experience that taught me a lot about the impact kindness has on others. While visiting the ancient city of Corinth, Denise and I decided to take the long walk up the rocky road that led to the acropolis where the Temple of Aphrodite once stood. Having taught on the book of Corinthians for many years and knowing the historical influence that this location once had on the people of Corinth, I wanted to ascend that arduous peak to see that ancient site with my own eyes. But as we walked higher and higher, we understood that this would take far more time than we had planned, so we turned around and headed back down the mountain, descending the same slippery slope we had …

The left-handed warriors of the Tribe of Benjamin

According to Sebastian Ocklenburg, Ph.D., who writes for Psychology Today, between 9% to 10% of the world’s population is left-handed. This amounts to about 700 million people worldwide. In his articles, Ocklenburg says that left-handedness is primarily genetic. For example, if both parents are right-handed, Ocklenburg says there is a 7% probability that their child will be left-handed. If one parent is left-handed and the other right, there is a 21.4% chance a child is left-handed, and that increased to 26% if both parents are left-handed. However, pointing to a Dutch study, Ocklenburg adds that other factors can play a role in determining if a child is left-handed, including biological and cultural. Left-handedness is more prominent in certain years, suggesting a cultural effect. Biologically, studies have shown that left-handedness is more prominent in children with lower birth weights. And we see the possibility that both genetics and culture are at work in the Bible’s three mentions of left-handed people. In their article in Biblical Archaeology Review, entitled “Biblical Views: Left-Handed Sons of Right-Handers,” Boyd Seevers …

Back to basics

Well, it finally happened, I got COVID. During a heat wave in August, I am well ….. sick! I now understand what the phrase ‘fellowship of His suffering’ means. So on my way to the Futon, I randomly grabbed one of my martial arts books off our bookcase. Just something to read and get my mind off the ugh… I have found it strange, that I have had very few prophetic words concerning direction during this pandemic, but I got a word for the church while reading this ‘random’ martial arts book. The book by Richard Kim, called ‘The Weaponless Warriors,’ is a series of stories about an Okinawan Karate master from the past. Reading a book, while your eyes feel like they are running with what appears to be gorilla glue, is not fun. But I randomly read one chapter and could not see past the goo to read anymore. I initially thought this would be a good story to share with my karate class. Then I felt like God saying, how about sharing …

Justice vs forgiveness

Several years back I stumbled upon a conversation a couple coworkers were having in the coffee room of the place I worked. One was asking the other who was a believer about a Bible discrepancy. How come the Old Testament talks eye for an eye and executing murderers and the New Testament talk about loving and forgiving everyone including our enemies, he wondered? These two commands seemed diametrically opposed to each other and from outward appearances a contradiction. It was a legitimate question. But we see the answer to this alleged contradiction in a recent story out of Alabama. On Thursday, July 28, 2022, Joe James was executed for murdering his ex-girlfriend, Faith Hall, in 1994. Faith, who was 26 at the time, had two daughters when she broke up with James after they had briefly gone out. James was found guilty and sentenced to death in Alabama for the senseless murder and 26 years later he had run out of appeals. But then a strange thing happened, Faith’s two daughters, now adults, petitioned the …

Reckless

By Rick Renner

Many years ago, Denise and I took our sons to Rome for a study tour of the ancient world with a special emphasis on early Christian history. As we stood inside the great Roman Coliseum, we listened as our doctoral guide spoke to us at length about the barbarism and atrocities that were so loved and cheered by the Roman citizens who packed that great stadium nearly 2,000 years ago.

The key to optimism

A recent study conducted by several researchers from Canada and the U.S. has concluded that optimists live longer, the Washington Post reports. The study came to this conclusion after tracking 160,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 for 26 years. At the beginning of the study, the women completed a self-analysis that measured their optimism, with those scoring the highest considered optimists and those on the lower end of the scale, pessimists. In 2019, the researchers then conducted a follow-up study with those who were still alive and also determined the ages at which the remainder had died. While accounting for other factors that contribute to a longer life span, such as economic well-being and ethnicity, the researchers found that those who scored high on the optimist scale lived longer than those who didn’t. Optimists were also more likely to live into their nineties, which the researchers described as ‘exceptional longevity” considering the average life span for women in their study was 83 years. Another study, conducted by researchers from Rochester University in …

Televangelist Creflo Dollar retracts his teaching on tithing

It was a surprising admission from one of the church’s more popular televangelists, Creflo Dollar, when he publically stated that he was wrong about tithing earlier this month. Creflo pastors Christian World Changers Church International, based in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. He has become known as a prosperity preacher, basically, the more people give, the more God will bless them. Of course, tithing was the main part of his message. Over the years, Creflo has come under criticism for what people describe as a lavish lifestyle, that included several homes and a private jet. But in a recent sermon, entitled The Great Misunderstanding, Creflo basically stated that his teaching on tithing was wrong. He told his congregation: “… I will say that I have no shame at all at saying to you throw away every book, every tape, and every video, I ever did on the subject of tithing, unless it lines up with this (held up his Bible).” “So why is this important? Because religion is sustained by two factors, fear and guilt. …