Like many others,I’ve been following the unparalleled carnage taking place as a result of the Syrian civil war. In one of the bloodiest and most horrific civil wars in modern history,the world has been witness to the unspeakable carnage of a demonic dictator bent on murdering his own citizens.

Sadly,now that the fighting is for all intents and purposes over, the major world powers and the Church have chosen to remain relatively silent about the plight of those unfortunate enough to be trapped in and around the battle zone of Aleppo.

According to the United Nations and the World Health Organization,over 700,000 people are trapped in these areas around Syria.Trying to imagine the magnitude of suffering for these people is all but impossible. A catastrophe of the highest level is playing out before the eyes of the world.

But wait, it gets worse I’m afraid.

Want to hear the real shocker in all of this? Of these 700,000, it is estimated that 300,000 are children.That’s right,nearly half are children!

syria-1

blogs.reuters.com

As incredible as it sounds however,in the midst of so much human suffering,the Holy Spirit is hard at work drawing thousands to Christ.

Even though thousands of Christians have been martyred for refusing to renounce their faith,God is still adding to His church daily,just as He has been doing since the birth of the Church.

Many Christians have refused to leave this war ravaged area,preferring instead to stay behind to help others and to witness to the many thousands who have no hope. Out of this latter group are coming thousands of Muslims who are looking for help in coping with the effects of war. And finding Jesus!

Praise God that the Christians in that area who have chosen to stay behind are witnessing to them,praying with them,and leading many to Christ.These are “book of Acts” Christians,showing them love and compassion.

This is nothing short of the handwork of God! To a war torn people who have lost everything,the Holy Spirit is reaching out to them to reassure them that hope is not lost after all.

Indeed,having lost all their worldly possessions,these people are finding a new treasure in Jesus Christ! How incredible is this! On the one hand they lost everything,yet on the other hand they have now gained Everything!

This is revival God’s way! No speeches,no programs,no celebrity preachers,just God doing what He loves to do;using His people to express His love to those so desperate for it. I find all of this amazing!

We serve a wondrous and mighty God,and from this war torn corner of the planet He is moving.He is saving the lost and offering hope to the hopeless.Souls who had been enslaved by a religion that cannot save are now enjoying new found freedoms in Christ!

Could it be that these Christians have tapped into something that we in N.America do not understand? Think about the current state of Evangelicalism in N.America, with our great churches and cathedrals boasting of members numbering in the tens of thousands,our huge bank accounts,programs for every member of the family,weekly agendas and calendars full of religious activities.

Lot’s of activities to be sure. But no fruit.

I would not trade all of that for the loving,caring examples of Jesus in action in war torn Syria! We in N.America have perfected the art of doing church,while those in Syria are perfecting the art of BEING the Church!

This is why N.America can never have real revival! We aren’t BEING the Church! Oh sure,we plan the annual spring and fall revival meetings.But what results can we show from these meetings? Are lives changed? Have hearts been regenerated? Do we leave our meetings with a renewal of our first love? Not often,but we sure do know how to do church though,don’t we?

I say away with these man made,powerless gatherings of like minded men who want nothing more than to promote their own agenda.There is no deliverance to be found in these committees who exist solely for the purpose of self preservation.God may be on their billboard,but He is nowhere to be found among the haughty,proud,and arrogant.

We in N.America are desperate for real revival.Revival that stirs our hearts to repentance.Revival that permeates our communities,not just the confines of the local sanctuary.We need the kind of revival born out of the war torn hell of Aleppo.

This is life changing revival.This is soul winning revival! It’s desperation that brings real,true,revival!

My prayer for N.America is that we will not have to experience the ravages of war,death,and the destruction of all we hold dear in order to experience the kind of revival we need.That is my heartfelt prayer.

My fear,however,is that N.America will have to be shaken to it’s core before we return to God.Perhaps we are nearer to such a shaking than we realize? After all,only God can make N.America great again.

I have included a few links to information regarding the persecution of Christians in Syria,as well as persecution in general.I trust these will be of benefit to those hungry to know what is taking place in the world regarding the persecution of our Brothers and Sisters.

Admit it. We all do it. We’re always looking in our rear-view mirrors.Looking behind instead of forward.Haunted by the past that doesn’t want to let go of us.

Or choosing to hang onto it ourselves,somehow more comfortable with a broken past instead of an uncertain future.Choosing to continue on down the same familiar paths,rather than exploring the road less traveled.

We all know that the past is the past. It is unchangeable. None of us can take even one step in time backwards to repair the damage from our past mistakes and poor decisions.But we want to,don’t we?

If only we could remind ourselves of what Isaiah said: Don’t remember the former things; don’t dwell on things past.   Isaiah 43:18   ISV

Or if we could just remember the encouraging words of Paul: Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead…Philippians 3:13   HCSB

I struggle in this area. Big time.Maybe you do as well?

I have a tendency to want to retreat to the past,when my faith was strong and no challenge seemed too difficult.Back to a time when I would wear out the binding on my Bible and have to buy another one.To a time when the future seemed like it would offer endless opportunities.My spiritual Comfort Zone. Maybe you have one as well?

Funny thing about the past though.It really was never as grand as we like to remember it.For example, there are things in my past that haunt me and cause me to think of myself as “less than”,even to this day.

Can you relate? Do you ever hear those taunting voices of doubt? It’s no wonder that James described those who doubt as one who “is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind“.    James 1:6   HCSB

It’s kind of hard to stay on track when you’re being tossed around,isn’t it?

Our enemy is always trying to convince us that we are not good enough.That in God’s eyes,we just don’t measure up.He knows that one sure way to sidetrack our faith is to get us to doubt ourselves.And keep checking that rear-view mirror.

I don’t know about you,but it seems to me that Satan never misses an opportunity to dredge up some past failure at that exact moment when we let our guard down.It’s like we have a built in spiritual barometer. When the barometer is rising we know good weather is ahead.When it starts to fall we know that storms are on the horizon.

So it is with our walk with Christ.When we’re up it seems the world is ours for the picking.But when we’re down,that’s when we start hearing those not so gentle reminders about past sins and failures,and doubt begins to creep in.

So,what are we to do?

The obvious answer of course is to pray,read the Word,and stay close to God.No one can go wrong by following that advice,and I dare say most if not all of us would do well to heed it.

Listen and accept wise counsel from those invested in your life,particularly from those who may be in a mentoring role.God has placed them in your life for a reason.

My wife recently told me of a quote she heard about people who live in the past,and while I may have shared this previously,it bears repeating once again.”If you don’t make peace with your reflection,you will always be at war wilast-chapterth yourself“.

She went on to tell me “we can’t change our past but we can leave it at the cross and move beyond it…and have peace and thrive.Stop living in your rear view mirror.Do not allow the enemy to steal any more of your dreams”.

I saved that and read it from time to time as a reminder that the enemy can only steal from me what I allow him to take.

Living in the past is a no win situation. Plus,when we allow the enemy to drown us in the guilt of the past we are forgoing the wondrous Grace of God!

STOP looking in your rear-view mirror so often! Look ahead to the future God has prepared just for you.You may be surprised at what He has planned for your life!

Be blessed,

Ron

It’s a New Year,time for those one year Bible reading ads to pop up all over the web.

  • “Download your free Bible reading plan”.
  • “Read the entire Bible in just one year”.
  • “Walk through the Bible in one year!”
  • “Helping you read through the Bible in one year”.

These plans are very popular.I know many people who follow one of these plans and read through the Bible every year.I even did it once myself,just to see what all the fuss was about.

There is a plan for everyone,no matter your preferred reading style. Let’s see, there’s the Chronological plan,there’s the Old and New Testament each day plan, there’s the Old and New Testament plus Psalms each day plan.You get the picture,right?

These plans provide a guide to assist in keeping our reading on track. One glance will quickly tells us if we’re on target or if we’ve slipped a little and have some catching up to do.They are perfect for that.

I remember when these first showed up.Christians everywhere were quick to grab hold of this new method of Bible reading,and pastors soon began encouraging their members to find a plan they liked and stick with it.Can’t go wrong there.

By the time the end of December rolled around you had read the entire Bible through.WOW! That was quite an accomplishment!

By the way, you’d be shocked to learn how many people who are long time church members have never read the entire Bible through.More on that in a bit.

If there is a shortcoming with the one year method,I think it’s that they don’t go far enough.Once you’ve read through the Bible in a year,what’s next? You did it,you read the entire Bible in a year,and that’s it? I earned the Bible reading badge,so now what?

In my opinion where these plans fall short is that they fail to teach you how to take that next step,to actually study the Bible,which is very different from simply reading the Bible. What they do really well however, is introduce you to the discipline required to read a very lengthy and occasionally dry (keeping it real here,remember all those “begats?”) account of God’s Word.

Following a daily reading plan is great. If you actually do follow the plan! It will acquaint the reader with the books of the Bible and introduce some of the core foundational truths of God’s Word.Again,you have to actually follow the plan though!

They are not designed however, to take you to a deeper level where we begin to grow and mature in our walk with Him.

That takes time. A lot of time.I mentioned at the beginning that I followed one of these plans once just to see what it was like.I read the Bible through in a year by following the plan.An accomplishment,to be sure.

Since that initial complete reading of the Bible,I have read it through several more times as well.But none of those were accomplished in one year.In my Bible study, I have spent weeks on a single chapter! There is no plan for that,other than to keep faithfully plugging along.

I guess what I’m really saying here is that it’s great to use one of these Bible reading plans as a starting point to reading the Bible. Just don’t get caught up in the idea that “I did it,I’m done”,because the statistics are not very encouraging concerning Bible reading in America.

According to a survey that the Barna Group conducted for the American Bible Society, over 50% of Americans think the Bible is not influencing our society as much as it should be.Yet this same survey revealed that only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis.

Let’s see..too little influence caused by too little reading…Well DUH!!

Interestingly,we Americans think very highly of the Bible.Per this same survey,88 percent of those surveyed said they own a Bible, 80 percent think the Bible is sacred, 61 percent wish they read the Bible more, and the average household has 4.4 Bibles.

This raises an interesting question,does it not? If we in America believe that the Bible is so important to us, why isn’t it having more of an impact against the unrestrained moral and social decline we are witnessing? If you’re paying attention,I already gave you the answer!

We have all these Bible,but we’re not reading them! Plan or no plan!

Doug Birdsall, president of American Bible Society, said he sees a reason for why the Bible isn’t connecting with people.“I see the problem as analogous to obesity in America. We have an awful lot of people who realize they’re overweight, but they don’t follow a diet,” Birdsall said. “People realize the Bible has values that would help us in our spiritual health, but they just don’t read it.”

If they do read it, the majority (57 percent) only read their Bibles four times a year or less. Only 26 percent of Americans said they read their Bible on a regular basis (four or more times a week). Am I the only one shocked by these statistics?

But is that the result of a faulty reading plan? Uh, no, it isn’t. What good is the best plan in the world if we don’t follow it? The fault dear reader,is with us. You. Me.

We aren’t staying with the plan! Any plan!

I encourage everyone to find a plan that will help you to develop good reading habits.Just do me a favor will you? Please stick with it!

And once you’ve accomplished your goal of reading through the Bible in a year,commit yourself to a serious study of the Word.It will take you farther and deeper in your journey than you could imagine.

Be blessed!

You’ve been there,haven’t you? You’ve carefully planned things out down to the smallest detail. You’ve selected the career path that you believe will bring you security for theplan rest of your life. You have researched and chosen the best school to receive your education.

Looking even further ahead,you begin to envision the man or woman of your dreams. You see the two of you dancing through life,living in a comfortable home where your children can grow up safe and content.

A fairy tale existence;isn’t that what we all plan for,what we all dream about?

That is until the harsh realities of life begin to chip away at our hopes,our dreams,our best laid plans. Suddenly,what was once sunshine and rainbows gives way to the raging storms of divorce,sickness,abuse,or worse.shattered-dreams

Some of you have been there. Are there now.

Your world has fallen apart,and no amount of pleading,begging,or deal making can restore what was. Where do you turn when you’re out of options?

I’ve been there. I have survived abandonment.I’ve made it through the gut wrenching agony of a divorce I did not choose to be a part of. I know what it feels like to be left for dead on the side of the road,to be made to feel as though you have no worth. I understand completely how debilitating and life altering divorce can be to every person it touches.

I have been to the brink. To that place from which many never return,that place where death seems a welcome relief from the agonizing pain of losing everything you once held dear. Having lost family,home,and in the eyes of denominational Christianity my ministry,I am well acquainted with loss.

Beloved,when you have lost it all,when there are no options and no help to be found,life no longer seems worth living.Such is the reality of hopelessness. It is the embodiment of the scripture that says the enemy comes to steal,kill,and destroy(John 10:10).

Ah,but there is hope after all! I know because I’m living proof!hope

Those plans you made? The dreams you had? They might all be a distant memory by now. Many of MY plans have failed.A great many of MY hopes and dreams have been shattered. Those were MY plans and MY dreams.

The purpose of the Lord however,stands eternal.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. Proverbs 19:21   ESV

God has a plan for you. God has big plans for you. A purpose. Thoughts of good,to give you a great finish to this life you live.And his plan for your life supersedes everything else you have already endured or may be enduring at this moment.When you get right down to it,His plans,His purpose,trump all of your heartaches.

When your world crumbles all around you,as it surely will at some point in this life,what’s your survival plan? If you don’t have one,may I suggest one for you?

I would lay hold of the promises of God. Of the One whose purpose stands forever. Lets face it, nothing we can come up with on our own is better than the plans God has for our lives. Why not place our hopes and dreams in His hands?

I can tell you this,it works. When we make Him priority “A” in our lives instead of “plan B”,we may still go through seemingly insurmountable difficulties.The difference is that we are not walking through them alone.We are walking through them with the One whose purpose will stand.

Now that’s what I call a survival plan!

One of things I struggle with in writing this blog is how to condense topics that I could speak about for hours into a few hundred words,all while maintaining the integrity of the subject matter. I suppose everyone who has a blog struggles with this.

Such is the topic I want to tackle today:how to know what God really expects of us.Of course,I’m aware that a great many people,even some who attend church regularly,do not believe God expects anything of them.

Sad as it is,for many people God is seen as a type of cosmic genie who is supposed to be at their beck and call should a need arise.

The Bible however,paints a very different picture.You see,scripture points us to the fact that God desires to have a relationship with us.

As with any relationship that you might be involved in,it is a two way street.There are expectations,are there not? And if those expectations are not met on a frequent basis,the relationship suffers.

So it is with our relationship with God.He expects certain things from us and when we don’t deliver on our end,this relationship suffers.Think of it this way: God will not bless a relationship He is not involved in. Let that sink in for a minute.

So lets look at a few of those expectations,beginning with a question that the Lord posed to Israel:

He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?   Micah 6:8

act-justly

Jonathonsigmon.com

At the time of Micah’s tenure as a prophet in Israel,God had a problem on his hands with this people.

They had developed a malady not unlike us today in that they suffered from a serious case of ingratitude.

So deeply embedded was this ingratitude that the Lord even asked them “what have I done to you”?(v.3).

In telling them that He has showed them what is good,God is reminding them that for centuries they have had the Law and the Prophets to instruct them in how they should live.In other words,don’t even act like you don’t know what is expected of you.

He then gets to the heart of the matter by telling them three things He requires of them.

  1. to do justly,or to exercise Godly,righteous judgement in their dealings with one another
  2. to love mercy,to willfully and joyfully extend love and compassion to others
  3. to walk humbly with your God,meaning to acknowledge Him in all your ways

Notice something missing here? God did not require them to offer a ram,or a goat,or a calf.No,what He required of them was a different kind of sacrifice.One that came from within their hearts.

What He required of them necessitated a renewed heart.He wanted relationship.The same relationship that He desired when He delivered them from Egyptian bondage,and when He delivered to them His Law.

God has always yearned to have a covenant relationship with His people. Now lets take a look at this question as it was asked in Jesus’ day.

There was a certain lawyer who in trying to tempt Jesus,asked him what the requirements were for him to inherit eternal life.

And he answering said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.   Luke 10:27

Once again we see the answer to the age old question of “what does God require” to be something other than rules,sacrifices,or tradition.Jesus made it as clear as it could be that what the Lord requires must come from the heart.

Loving God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself is only possible when the heart has been transformed.It cannot be done from the mind,or because it’s the morally right thing to do.

No,the expectations set forth by Jesus bespeak intimacy with God,and that can only come with spending time with Him in prayer and in the Word.Which brings me to the title question of this post:”how to know what God really expects of us”.

The answer is found within the pages of God’s Word.The two examples I shared with you are representative of the content found within the sixty six books of the Bible,nearly all of which contain an abundance of instruction and admonition for our spiritual development.

My hope,my earnest prayer is that we first understand that God does indeed expect something of us.He expects US. Not our things,not our money,not our deeds or even our sacrifices,but rather our hearts.

Secondly,that we regularly read His Word,because the Word of God is alive and more relevant for today than most can imagine it to be.It will keep and sustain you in the darkest hours you may face.It will compel you onward as you draw near unto Him.

since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God“.   1 Peter 1:23   ESV

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!

Ron

 

 

I’ve never been to war.I would have been,except that as a wild and angry young man 18 years of age, God intervened and prevented what surely would have been a catastrophe when I tried to enlist in the Army towards the end of the Vietnam war.

As an out of control teenager bent on finding a release for the pent up rage within me,a God that I did not know stepped in and saved my life.Unbeknownst to me,in a few more years He would step in and save my life again when He saved my soul.

So while it is true that I have never been to war on a military battlefield,I have however been on a battlefield of another kind.A spiritual battlefield.In fact,for the past forty years I have been in the middle of an all out war for the control of my eternal soul.

It has been relentless,this battle.Like the old Wide World of Sports TV show used to declare, I can relate to “the thrill of victory,and the agony of defeat”. Though not defeated,I have felt that way many,many times.

In that vein,I thought I would share something very personal with the readers of this blog in the hopes that it might encourage someone who may be locked in a battle where the outcome seems in doubt.

Some time ago I came home from work one day,just as I did every other day.While tired from the long day,I was no more tired than any other day so to me it was just a normal day.I hadn’t been home but a few minutes however when a wave of drowsiness came upon me to the extent that I couldn’t stay awake.

Now,you would have to know me to know that that was not normal for me.So intense was this drowsiness that I went and laid upon the bed,thinking it would pass in a few minutes and I would resume the rest of my day.

The next thing I was aware of was that I was in a dream,or a vision,and I was kneeling at a large rock in a garden like setting.Sort of like the picture here.praying-in-the-garden

I actually saw myself praying there,and it was so real that in my dream I had no doubt that it was me.

In the next moment I saw on either side of me two figures.One was clearly good,and one was clearly the enemy.

I cannot say whether or not the “good” figure was Jesus or an angel,but I knew instantly that the other one was Satan.I remember having no fear at all,but what became very clear to me was that these two figures were having a discussion about ME.

I knew that because I clearly heard the enemy say that he would take me back.Just as clearly I heard the other saying “you can’t have him”. At that,the enemy made a comment to the effect that he would not give up the fight for me.Somehow,even in the midst of this dream or vision,I became acutely aware that Satan would never stop in his attempts to defeat me.Just before I awoke I heard the “good” figure say to me “you must pray always Ron”.

Now,if you’re still reading this I need to explain something.I do not believe every dream we have is a vision or revelation from God.And I am very aware that you who are reading this may think I’ve lost it. Or that”much learning hath made me mad”. Regardless, it was very real and it is something I’ve never forgotten about to this day.

The point of my sharing this very personal story is to show you that we are indeed locked in a spiritual battle with a very real and powerful enemy (II Cor 10:4). The scriptures are clear however that our battles are not with flesh and blood (Eph.6:12). No,our battle is with the devil himself.

prophecies-of-war

propheciesofrevelation.org

We must be careful to understand that the enemy desires to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He has placed before all of us roadblocks of discouragement so that he may steal our joy.In doing so he will then proceed to steal away our new life in Christ. Having accomplished this,the door is now open for destruction.

This is the process(there’s that word again!) that Jesus spoke to Peter about. And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.  Luke 22:31

As Christians we should understand that the devil desires to have each of us,and that he will never stop trying.To my way of thinking,this is Christianity 101. I also know that this battle will not end until the day that either death or the return of the Lord claims me.

What I’m trying to say here is that we should not be surprised at the enemy’s tactics or his devices.Expect them.Know they are coming.More importantly however,prepare for them so you are not caught unaware.

Jesus Christ is the devil destroyer.He alone conquered the enemy at Calvary,and He alone possesses the keys of death and hell (Rev. 1:18). Yes,the devil may roar,but never forget that he is already defeated and as such he has no power to defeat you!

He may try to sift you as he desired to do to Peter,but the same Jesus that prayed for Peter will also sustain you in the midst of the battle.

I pray these words will encourage and comfort someone.

Ron

 

 

 

 

Why are we Christians not content with where we are in life? In our relationships? In our walk with God? If you really think about that question for a while,it says an awful lot about us doesn’t it?

discontentment

gracefromhim4.blogspot.com

 

The Apostle Paul said he had learned to be content in whatever state he found himself to be in (Philip. 4:11). Do you know anyone like this? Are you like this? I must admit that I have not yet arrived at this place in my life.

Paul learned to be content,meaning it was not an instantaneous event, but rather a process he went through. A refining process. Being beaten, shipwrecked, starved, abandoned, stoned and left for dead will definitely refine a person to the point that things no longer matter.

Perhaps that explains our mindset today when it seems that we expect instant gratification in almost every situation. We just don’t want to endure the process required to get from point A to point B. The process can indeed become uncomfortable,and we try to avoid uncomfortable, don’t we?

You’ve no doubt heard the expression that a person has to pay their dues. Older  people understand that to mean you have to put in the time and effort to get the promotion,or the job,or the honors.

So it is with serving the Lord. Growing in the knowledge and grace of our Lord is a lifetime commitment.To be really honest, it’s also hard work. It requires discipline and much sacrifice on our part.The rewards however,are incomparable to anything we could ever hope to gain from this world.

That’s why we must be very careful when searching for contentment in places we have no business being in. Let me share a personal example with you.

Many years ago there was a time when I actually was content in just about every way possible.While I didn’t make a lot of money,I made enough to get by and I was OK with that.My spiritual life was soaring and I felt like I had it all.It was liberating to be in such a state!

At about this same time I started hearing about a new job,one that paid more than I thought I would ever earn. The more I thought about that job and what the extra income could afford me,the more I began to want it.Soon,it was all I could think about.

I began to look away from my life of contentment,searching elsewhere for what I did not know, somehow convinced that this new job would be a blessing from Him and that I would continue merrily on my way.After all,what difference could it make where I worked?

So I applied for the job and got it. Much to my great surprise I soon began to hjob-is-crushingate everything about it. The job itself,the people,the red tape,the long hours,the stress. You name it,and I came to loath every part of it. This was shocking to me as I had never hated a job before.

To say I was no longer content would be a huge understatement.Every part of my life suffered,especially the spiritual part of me.I was left with little time for prayer and study,and in short order realized I was in trouble.The grass was definitely NOT greener on the other side!

I spent four and a half years at that job,and when I was laid off I was probably the only person there who shouted for joy at the news! Those were the worst four and a half years of my life,and I say that with no exaggeration.I had suffered terribly for my mistakes,and prayed that God would forgive me and help me find the job He wanted me to have.

Which He did, on both accounts!

So I’m wondering,where are you with this whole contentment thing? Only you can answer that,but if you’re like me those closest to you probably have a pretty good idea.

Careers,titles,authority,money,all these are fleeting things that will disappear and may cost you more than you bargained for.

So what is it exactly,that we’re searching for? It’s taken a long time, but I now know the answer to that question.We’re searching for the very things that God is offering to us. All we have to do is accept them. It really is that simple!

I’ve learned (the hard way) that contentment can only come from a life grounded in Christ.I’m hoping you realize that as well.

Be blessed!

Ron