This morning I was looking forward to service and hearing an encouraging message from God’s Word. Not having been in church for a few weeks due to vacation and other things, it felt good getting ready for church again.

Church is one of those things that I love and it’s been a central part of my life for almost forty years now.I love the Word.I love reading it and hearing again and again the many ways that God is for us and not against us. I love the encouragement I get from God’s word and know that I can go in the strength of that word many days.

I wish I could write that the service was fantastic,that the sermon was inspiring,that the music took me to new heights of worship.I wish I could.Oh,how I wish I could.

But I can’t.Because it was just “OK”.

Actually…it was a carbon copy of nearly every other service.

Forgive me for saying this….but it was boring.

Singing,or praise & worship, accompanied by Meet & Greet.

Offering.

Message.

Prayer.

Go home.

Leave the same way we came. Still longing for encouragement.

Smiling faces,yet no joy.

And before you say to me “hey Ron,did you ever think you’re the problem?”,let me assure you I’ve thought that for a long,long time.

But not any more. I think I finally figured it out.Or perhaps it’s more likely that I am finally ready to accept what the Lord has been saying to me through His word for some time now.

Why is church boring? Why is service almost the same every week? Why are lives never changed, or why are hearts rarely encouraged?

It’s because the Church has detached itself from the Vine.

Consider this from God’s Word:

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.   John 15:1-6 NKJV

Why else are our services so fruitless except that the branch (that’s us folks) is no longer attached to the Vine(Jesus)?

We think we have this all figured out don’t we? We model our churches after Wall Street.Our church business plans are nearly indistinguishable from any major corporation in America.Instead of depending upon God we enslave ourselves to debt and interest to build ever larger churches,all the while proclaiming God’s favor upon our efforts.

Oh sure,we have churches that attract thousands every Sunday. Our buildings are often the grandest in town.We have programs that are the envy of any secular program out there.We have developed a system of self reliance second to none.

“Without ME,you can do nothing”! When was the last time we consulted HIM about anything?

We have structured our services to the point that God Himself would have a hard time getting our attention! And the horror of it all is that the church in America doesn’t even notice that God is not even present! How is this possible you ask? It’s because we must follow the script, and the script does not allow time for God to interrupt our programmed services so that He can break our hearts!

Sunday morning Christians who week after week raise their hands as if in humble worship,yet whose Facebook writings from the night before are filled with filth and vulgarity. Detached from the Vine yet still playing the part.”Repeat after me”salvation’s that cannot change the heart.Withered branches cut off from the only Source of Life there is.

We are the church of the Laodiceans, rich and in need of nothing (God). We have created in our own image a form of Godliness,but deny the power thereof.We are ensnared by the very system we have ourselves created and cannot break free of it. And we dare ask ourselves “what about that abundant life Jesus promised us”?

15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’–and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked– 18 “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.   Rev 3:15-18 NKJV

Oh God,if only! If only our eyes were opened to allow us to see ourselves even as You see us!

Our feeble attempts to bear fruit of ourselves apart from God are doomed to complete and utter failure.We do not love one another with the love of Christ.We make time only for those in our inner circles,and too bad if you aren’t one of the “chosen ones”because you will be left on the outside looking in.outside-looking-in

Father in heaven; surely there are hungry souls still on this great planet of yours,souls hungry for a touch from on high.A people whose lips have been touched with a coal from the alter of God.Just as Elijah learned there were yet seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal,my heart’s cry is that there are still multitudes yearning for an encounter with you.

Count me in that number.

Ron

All of us stumble and fall.

Every one of us.

Saints.

Sinners.

All of us.

Where is God when we stumble and fall? Does He turn a deaf ear to us and say that “you’re on your own”?

As all of us who have stumbled can attest,God is faithful to restore us again and again should we come to Him with a repentant heart.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.   Psa 34:18 KJV

But have you ever wondered whether or not you were important enough to the Lord that He would seek you out? Have you ever thought to yourself “am I even worth it”?

I mean,it’s one thing for me to acknowledge my sin and turn to the Lord asking for mercy.As a Christian I know that I must do this if I am to be restored to a right relationship with my Creator.

But what happens if we choose to continue doing that thing that displeases Him? Does the God of the universe wash His hands of us as if to say “well,I guess you will reap the rewards of your actions so you’re on your own”?

All of this brings me to a tragic story in the Old Testament book of Amos that reminds me of how far the Lord will go to recapture our hearts.The story is one that reveals the very nature of God’s heart and His longing for a relationship with His people.

1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, Who oppress the poor, Who crush the needy, Who say to your husbands, “Bring wine, let us drink!”

2 The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness: “Behold, the days shall come upon you When He will take you away with fishhooks, And your posterity with fishhooks.

3 You will go out through broken walls, Each one straight ahead of her, And you will be cast into Harmon,” Says the LORD.

4 “Come to Bethel and transgress, At Gilgal multiply transgression; Bring your sacrifices every morning, Your tithes every three days.

5 Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, Proclaim and announce the freewill offerings; For this you love, You children of Israel!” Says the Lord GOD.

6 “Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities. And lack of bread in all your places; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

7 “I also withheld rain from you, When there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, And where it did not rain the part withered.

8 So two [or] three cities wandered to another city to drink water, But they were not satisfied; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

9 “I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, Your vineyards, Your fig trees, And your olive trees, The locust devoured them; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

10 “I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; Your young men I killed with a sword, Along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

11 “I overthrew some of you, As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

12 “Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; Because I will do this to you, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

13 For behold, He who forms mountains, And creates the wind, Who declares to man what his thought is, And makes the morning darkness, Who treads the high places of the earth–The LORD God of hosts is His name.   Amos 4:1-13 NKJV  (emphasis mine)

This passage of scripture reveals clearly that our Lord will not just let us go to do as we will,but rather He will continually plead with His children to “return to me”. In other words,it isn’t as easy as we might imagine to “get away from the Lord”because as you can see,God will do whatever He needs to do to get your attention.

Why is that? Is it not because of your worth?

I once heard it said that for any soul to enter into Hell they would have to first get past Jesus,and I believe this to be true. The God who in times past sent armies to oppress His people in order to get them to return unto Him now has sent His only Son Jesus to stand between you and I and eternal separation from Him.

The God who in times past withheld even the rain from heaven to try to get His people to return unto Him now pleads with every soul to accept the Supreme Sacrifice that is His only Son,Jesus Christ as the only Way,the Truth,and the Life.

If you have fallen…get up. If you fall tomorrow…get back up.

You will find One reaching out to you with an unseen hand to pick you up,for He will not leave you broken and desolate.It is not in Him to abandon you in your time of need.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.  Psa 34:19 NKJV

He delivers him out of them ALL!

You can return unto Him!

Be blessed,

Ron

above the clouds

No,I’m not referring to a doctrinal kind of Eternal Security.I’m talking about an Eternal Security that can only be found in the God who reigns from heaven above….

Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?    Isa 66:1 KJV

In times like these we need to know that there is a God who reigns Supreme above any and all that claim to be God.All over the world people’s sense of security has been shattered by the sheer amount of terror that has been unleashed upon the earth.It’s as if there is no safe place to hide. Ah,but there is indeed a hiding place,and it’s in the Eternal Security of God’s love.

In times like these when evil abounds and many are fearful and falling away from the only One who can sustain them,we need to be reassured that our God reigns.Governments do not control Him,neither can they contain Him….. for He alone is God.

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,              Isa 46:9 KJV

Though the heathen rage against Him,yet He remains ever faithful…the defender of His people.No matter what comes to us in the form of trials or hurts,there is none like unto our God who can comfort us in the midst of the storms.His ear is open unto our cry……

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,                    Eph 3:20 KJV

If we would just look to Him we would discover One who is able to do the impossible. We would find in Him the answer we so desperately long for.If we would simply bow our hearts before Him we would know that in doing so we have brought Him into the battle!

Who but God can do such things as these?

Be blessed!

Ron

Our family just returned from 10 days of sunshine and rest and we are very thankful to the Lord for His provision.I’ve had a lot of time to actually think without the pressures and demands of life interrupting me, and it was good to be able to spend quiet time alone with Him.

I spent quite a bit of time reflecting upon my own journey with Christ.I’ve been a Christian for almost forty years now, and there are times when it seems a lot longer than that. I guess life sometimes makes time seem to drag on longer than it actually does. Wouldn’t you agree?

And then there are times when it seems like only yesterday when I knelt in my kitchen and accepted the Lord into my heart.Serving the Lord,basking in the glory of it all,somehow seems to make the time fly by. Agree?

I should mention here that due to a family medical trait I really never dreamed I would live to be as old as I am.Even though I’m still 16 in heart and mind(just ask my wife!), my body however has a way of snapping me back to reality pretty quickly.

Which kind of has me thinking about endurance,and how we manage to hold to the Lord’s hand through the storms of life.My thoughts are that I could never had held on through some incredibly stormy seas unless I had a sure foundation.Which brings me to the title of this post: Upon This Rock…

In Matthew’s gospel we find Jesus is speaking to his disciples,and in particular Peter about this foundation.

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14 And they said, Some [say that thou art] John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.    Mat 16:13-20 KJV

Now,this is not a post about who/what Jesus was referring to when speaking about this “Rock”. I stand firmly in the corner of those who believe Jesus was referring to Himself as being the Rock,or Foundation of the church……and thus of me. You may think otherwise of course.

What I know for sure is this: there is no way humanly possible for anyone but Christ to have sustained me through the past forty years.No church,pastor,leader,denomination,etc…could do what He has done for me.

Nope. None but Christ. And I know that I know this to be true. Christ is my Rock.He alone is my foundation.

It is Christ alone that makes a way when there seems to be no way.

It is Christ alone who speaks to the storm and brings about a peace that passes all understanding.

It is in Christ alone that I place my hope for a future.A future without pain and disappointment.

There is none like Him. He is the One and Only Son of the Most High God.

The One that at the mention of His name “every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord,to the glory of God the Father.”

My Rock.

Your Rock.

THE ROCK that even the gates of Hell cannot defeat.

Think about this: what hasn’t Hell,or Satan,defeated in this world? Actually,no matter where you turn there is evidence that Satan is hard at work.Hard to think of much that the devil hasn’t impacted in a seriously negative way through the centuries,isn’t it?

Except Jesus Christ.And His Church.

That’s why I know without any doubt that He is the Rock of my salvation.

How about you?

Be blessed!

Everywhere I look it seems that there are more and more people struggling in this land of plenty. Did you ever wonder how this can be,especially when there is so much prosperity to go around?How did it get this way,and more to the point…how did it get so bad?

Now,maybe you live in an area where everyone is doing very well.Maybe your circle of friends are all enjoying the good life and everything seems to favor you and yours.If that describes you,then this post will not resonate with you at all. For the rest of us however,read on.

The downtrodden and poor have always been a part of communities everywhere,as have the rich and well to do.Fact is,even Jesus acknowledged this when he said:

“For he have the poor always with you,but me ye have not always”. Matt. 26:11 KJV

So the reality of life is that there will always be the poor among us. I get that. I see it all the time. Perhaps you live that reality every single day.

So I wonder,in my own simplistic way,does it really have to be this way in America? In this world? Do we not have enough resources to effectively combat this problem,or is the real issue one of the allocation of those resources?

Before I go any further with this I need to make sure a few things are understood regarding my personal thoughts on this matter.

I do not believe continual handouts are the answer. History has proven that to be true. I know of many multi generational recipients of that type of “support”,all of whom seem to like the system just fine thank you.

Nor do I believe we should take the “Robin Hood” approach and take from those who have worked so hard to suceed in life and give to those who are lifelong “takers”. Sorry if that offends you,but that’s how it is.

So back to this resource thought. It is clear by anyone’s measurement that we have an abundance of riches in this country unlike any other nation on earth. And as such we have a responsibility to use those resources wisely,to allocate them in such a way as to help those who are struggling to reach the next rung on the ladder.

We have an abundance of natural resources such as coal,oil,natural gas,and alternative energy sources.

We raise enough food in this country to be able to export huge amounts of it,even while we pay out billions in subsidies every year to farmers so they will not plant too much(and yes,I like farmers).

Talk about an abundance!!!!

We are told by the media that the working poor suffer the greatest as they are caught in the middle. The don’t make enough to get over the hump,but make too much to qualify for certain assistance programs.It’s a lose lose for them and I feel their pain,as I too was once caught in that trap.

In truth,we in America are all filthy rich by the standards of the majority of the human population.Think about these statistics for a moment: there are just over seven Billion souls living on this planet.Over half of them,or 3.5 Billion of them live in poverty making less than $2.50 a day.What’s even worse is that over 1.3 Billion people live in extreme poverty earning less than $1.25 a day.

Our lifestyles represent a quantum leap away from those of the poor in other parts of the world. Yet for all of that,not everyone enjoys the basics of life in this,the richest country in the history of the world.

So what’s the problem? Why on earth are there so many doing without in this land of riches?

And where is the church in the midst of this problem? Ah yes,the church…

Shouldn’t the church be leading the way in the efforts to build up those who are down and struggling? And yes, I am aware of the many programs that some churches sponsor in an attempt to make a difference in the lives of the unfortunate.

Why has the church been only too willing to allow this to become the problem of the government and not their own?

I know,I know,”we give to missions”is always the answer isn’t it? We support missionaries all over the world and somehow our conscious is appeased and we can sleep well because of it.

Meanwhile the family across town goes hungry,children are forced to eat subsidized lunches and on and on it goes…

Speaking strictly from a Christian perspective,what do we do with all of the money we collect each week? Is it being used for salaries,staff,more building projects,bigger and better programs? What are our priorities as Christians?

Seems like a good spot for a great big ol’ WWJD doesn’t it?

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that if the majority of a churches’ budget is being spent to pay salaries and mortgage payments to the bank then we are failing in our efforts to be good stewards of the riches entrusted to us. That’s not what real ministry is folks.

Yes,the poor will always be with us.

But that does not diminish our responsibility to do everything we can to ease their burdens. It does not take away from the fact that the church is responsible,not the government,to see that the poor,the widows,and the fatherless have the basic necessities of life.

On a plaque affixed to the Statue of Liberty is a quote from the poem “New Colossus”,written by Emma Lazarus that perhaps you have heard of:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Many today are tired, poor, and broken in spirit. It is up to all of us to try to make a difference. First,by stepping up to the plate and helping to provide those in need with the essentials.

Secondly,to speak the words of truth and life contained in the Word of God to each person we come into contact with.

Be blessed,and pray for those less fortunate.

Ron

If there is one thing that dominates the news today it is violence. Whether it’s the mass murder of Christians praying in their church or the slaughter of children by ISIS,it is clear that violence is quickly becoming the new norm.

So much so that the many violent acts being perpetuated hardly raise an eyebrow. I can remember just a few years ago how shocking it was to hear about a murder or other violent crime,especially when it happened to a child.

Now,we’ve become nearly desensitized to it all haven’t we? This is why I said it has become the new norm. What does it take to truly shock you today? Or does anything at all shock you,or have we come to the point of accepting things because “that’s just how the world is today”?

That is the mindset of many,I’m afraid.There is this sense of throwing in the towel about the worl we live in.

Fortunately,we have a source of unbiased truth that clearly spells out the direction that things are headed.

In his second letter to Timothy,The Apostle Paul said that as the coming of the Lord drew nearer sin would be on the increase.

2 Timothy 3:13 (KJV)
But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

No one who has spent any time in serious study of the word can say that we are not living this very scripture today. Not only is sin increasing but the severity of it is many times greater than what we are accustomed to.

Truly men’s hearts have become hardened to the things of God,and this allows them to pursue their evil intentions with no regard for anyone but themselves.

The bible also speaks of a time when “sin shall come to the full”….

23 And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. Daniel 8:23

Yes,things are going to get much worse. Transgressions are going to come to the full,which means evil on an unprecedented scale will become our new society,or our new normal.

All of this is happening to set in motion the things that are yet to be. Even Jesus himself spoke of a time when great tribulation,such as never has been seen,will come upon the earth.

Trouble is coming,and we in the church do not want to hear this. We want to be told that God is going to ride in on a white horse and rescue us from the coming persecution because after all,we in America deserve better.Of course,we say this while thousands of our brothers and sisters are killed every day in other lands.

The church,or the light of the world,should be the one voice declaring to the world that great trouble is soon to envelop us and that there can be no escape from it apart from Jesus Christ.

Instead we in the church set idly by,blinded to the truths of what is coming,willingly allowing ourselves to be deceived so that we can maintain our false status of somehow being above all of this which is to come. As if by doing so we can somehow distance ourselves from the evil that is all around us.

While many are bemoaning the recent SCOTUS decision regarding marriage they fail to see that this is but the tip of the proverbial iceberg.The descent into the depths of darkness we are headed for will go nearly unchallenged by the church,for we have become all too comfortable with sin.

We,the church,have become used to the dark.We are at ease there.What used to cause us to turn and run away from now draws us like a moth to a flame.

Abortion…prayerless churches and homes…courts that no longer recognize the authority of God…this is where we live…and we are comfortable with it. Do you suppose,just for a moment, that God might be wondering…….

Where are the churches calling for prayer? Where are the church leaders who should be calling their members to prayer meetings in hopes of stemming the tide of rebellion and sin in our lands?

Instead,we have hirelings whose only mission it seems is to attend their next great conference or build their next great building or write their next book. Prayer meetings? Not likely!

Where are the men of God today that ought to be standing boldly in their pulpits declaring what thus says the Lord?

Instead we have pulpiteers who are most adept at making sure you know how special you are, that you are made to feel good so you will return the following week,who would never dream of telling you what I’m telling you.

Violence and evil are the fruits of the seeds we have sown,and I am afraid that we will reap abundantly before the coming of the Lord.

I know in Whom I believe and trust. I am convinced that God himself will make a way for those who are prepared for what is coming,to stand. My hope is in the Lord,not man or any elected official. Where is your hope?

My prayer is that you who read this blog will understand that time is of the essence and begin to read,study,and pray like never before.

Ron

This is not a political post so if that’s what you were looking for you won’t find it here.Neither is it a post about gun control.No,this post is about something that goes deeper than racism. Much deeper.

This is a post about “WHY” people do the things they do,in particular why heinous crimes are committed in the first place.

The recent tragedy in the Charleston South Carolina church is one more reminder that there are those among us who will stop at nothing in their attempts to garner attention to their favorite cause.

Upon hearing the news reports of this act of violence the news media immediately branded this a hate crime.Specifically,a hate crime spawned by the racist mindset of a young man.

Here is where I completely disagree with the masses.

Oh,there can be no doubt that this young man’s mind had been poisoned by racist thoughts.Just as certain is the fact that he planned this murdering rampage to take place in a house of worship in order to get the maximum shock value.

Yet for all of his deliberate actions I believe the media and nearly all Christians who have spoken publicly about this have overlooked one very important thing.

You see,when something of this magnitude takes place society rushes to place a label on it so that by doing so it can be more easily understood.In this case it was immediately branded a hate crime perpetrated by a racist.

But what society,and in particular the media,doesn’t understand is that the root cause of such acts of violence is not born in the bed of racism.

No,racism is but one of many causal factors born out of something much more heinous than racism. Much more damming than hate and bigotry.

SIN

The underlying issue here,the root cause of the “why did this happen” is called SIN.

And it is understandable why SIN is never mentioned in situations like this. For you see we want to,need to,blame someone.

So of course we delve into every detail about the murderer’s life in hopes of uncovering that one detail that will help us make sense of it all.

And that is our undoing. Society today rejects the notion of SIN because to acknowledge that such a thing does exist would be to acknowledge our own SIN,and that just can’t happen,can it?

I mourn with my brothers and sisters who have suffered such needless tragedy and loss at the hands of a young man who by his own volition has thrown his life away.Their pain will never go away.

But let us not forget that racism has been with us as long as hatred,anger,violence,contempt and any other acts of abuse towards others has been around.

They’ve all been right here with us because SIN has been with us. So here’s the real question:

If society cannot fix its problems,and it is obvious it cannot,then what hope do we have?

And the answer is very simple: we have no hope apart from the saving grace of God who sent His only Son to die for our sins.

The government cannot legislate out racism any more than it can eliminate the drug problem.As we pour billions of dollars into one feeble attempt after another to create our own version of utopia on earth,evil marches on unfettered except by the efforts of those committed to a Christlike life.

SIN is a spiritual condition that can only be dealt with at the foot of the Cross. No law or ordinance can destroy it or even hope to control it.

You see, Racism is not our biggest problem.Neither is bigotry or hatred.

The rejection of Jesus Christ however,is.

Ron