Comfort zone…

We all have one,or maybe several.

Our comfort zone is that place where we are most comfortable and can live in a way that pleases us.

There are comfort zones at work, comfort zones at church, even comfort zones within our own homes.

They’re places where we can just be ourselves without fear of judgment or backlash from anyone.

And we all LOVE our comfort zones, don’t we? And we HATE the notion of being uprooted from them!

Having been involved in church ministry for over 37 years now I know a thing or two about comfort zones at church. There can be great comfort in working alongside others who are all a part of the bigger ministry team.And there is a lot of comfort in knowing that every Sunday you will be delivering a sermon to (mostly)friendly people who share the same values as you do.

But what happens when our comfort zone begins to become a place of discomfort? Like when going to church every Sunday hearing the same music and listening to the same sermons and seeing the same faces no longer seems to satisfy our soul?

Ever been there? I certainly have,and in fact I have been in that place of discomfort for nearly a year now.

I’ve grown stagnate.I’m not growing.The rituals of religion are choking the life from me.

Being a minister I know all the stock answers to this dilemma because I’ve handed them out to others for many years.

I know all of the scriptures that we use to lift up and encourage the faithful.

And I still believe in every one of them.The answers are found within the pages of God’s word and I have never doubted that for a moment.

I still read…I still pray…I still encourage the discouraged….I still desire to extend the mercies of Jesus to the hurting.

Yet my comfort zone has been swallowed up with a yearning for something more than religion or even church as we know it.

Within my heart burns this thought that God did not save me from the life of Hell I was living to simply spend the rest of my days as a “Sunday Performer”.Turn it on.Turn it off.

Enough already!

I’ve been reading through the Old Testament and today began reading the story of Moses in the book of Exodus,and was reminded of his battle with his own comfort zone.Here are a few verses of the story:

1Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
2And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
3And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
4And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. Exodus 3:1-4 KJV
Moses’ life started out in a way that could hardly be called comfortable.Born at a time when all male children were supposed to be killed at birth,his mother instead placed him in a small ark and placed him at the rivers edge,choosing to place her baby in the hands of fate rather than see him killed.
Being rescued from this predicament,Moses was raised in the house of Pharaoh.Along with that came the many privileges of education and training alongside every other Prince of Egypt.Moses certainly enjoyed the good life for quite a while,yet there burned within him a different spirit.An unquenchable yearning for something more.
A spirit that manifested itself one day when he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew kinsman,and in defense of this man he killed the Egyptian and buried his body in the sand.
So long Comfort Zone!
Moses made a fateful decision that day,a decision that would forever alter the course of his life.In an instant he was transformed from a prince of Egypt to a man with a price on his head.It was this event that turned Moses’ life upside down as he became the hunted and fled for his life. He who had enjoyed the perks of royalty had been humbled to become nothing more than a tender of sheep, which is where we find him in the verses above.
While this is just the beginning of the story,I want to focus your attention on the first verse where we find Moses on the back side of the desert. No where’s ville. The other side of the tracks. A place where only the worst of the worse go to hide out.
Now consider the disparity of his former life and the life he now lived. A life of pleasure has become a life of solitude and hardship.A life of tedium and danger. A life so far removed from his former existence that the two can hardly be compared.
From the ultimate comfort zone to the back side of the desert. Worlds apart.
Of course,we can all agree that Moses is far worse off than he was before.
But is he really? Let’s look at this from a different perspective.
From a simply materialistic point of view Moses has made a left turn and is headed the wrong direction.Say good-by to “Your Best Life Now” Moses!
Yet I happen to believe that in his heart Moses had reached a point to where he could no longer look past the status quo. He had to stand for something or continue to march along side everyone else’s cookie cutter life.I mean, why be different when we’ve got it made,right?
So let me get to the point with this thought: right where you are,right now,in whatever comfort zone you happen to be in….are you pursuing the God of heaven with passion and fervor?
Or are you like the masses simply going along with the crowd content to just be in that number?
I have many more thoughts about this man Moses and his divine purpose which I will share later,but for now let me close with this thought;
We can stay in our comfort zone and be content that we’re doing all we can,or that we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.Follow the program…Don’t deviate…Dress the part…Act the part….Eyes on the prize.
Or we can take a look at our lives from a broader perspective and ask ourselves: is this really all there is to this Christian walk? Is following God really just about Sunday attendance, an offering, a prayer, and see you next week?
Am I really that content? Should I be that content?
Think about it!
Be blessed,
Ron

Take it to the Lord…

Posted: February 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

You’ve been there,haven’t you?

Discouraged…

Rejected…

Unsure of what to do next…

Do I turn right or left…

So confused…

I’m certain we’ve all felt those same emotions from time to time.

Come to think of it, I don’t know a single person who hasn’t felt the full range of these emotions.Comes with being human I suppose.

Aren’t you glad however that as a Christian you don’t have to languish in situations like these?

I happen to believe that God has a better plan for us and all we need to do is reach out to Him in prayer and He will reveal it to us through His word.

That’s right…the Word of God that proclaims in Hebrews 4:12…

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

That Word.

The Word that is powerful and sharp.

That Word that cuts coming and going.

That Word that cuts away the world’s ideology and in it’s place gives us a calm assurance that there is One who is in control.

And sometimes we just need to be reminded that Someone far greater than ourselves has this whole thing in control-even when at times we wonder if that is really the case.

David was a man who knew something about taking his many problems to the Lord,didn’t he?

One of my favorite stories in all of scripture is when David and his men returned to the city to find it had been burned and all their wives and children taken captive,yet in the end God prevailed once again.

God does that a lot,doesn’t He?

Upon returning to the city and finding such carnage, it was only natural that everyone began to weep at the thought of what has just happened.In fact they endured so much grief that they reached the end of how much a man can grieve!

Many of us have been there,done that.

The resulting loss of their loved ones had a devastating,crippling effect upon these fierce warriors and left them stunned and confused.

Something had to be done.

A decision had to be made.

The people that were with David made their decision,a decision to stone David to death. After all, he was their leader and he had obviously failed them.

But thank God,David made a different kind of decision.

Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.”   1Sa 30:6 NKJV (emphasis mine)

David made the only decision he could. I mean,what else could he do except turn to his God? For certain he was about to be killed by his own men,and when faced with that he did the only thing he could do and that was to take it to the only One who could rescue him.

There’s a great lesson here for all of us.The next time we find ourselves doubting, confused,rejected,or whatever…take it to the Lord! David strengthened himself in the Lord….and you can too!

Now, I don’t pretend to know what David said to his men to get them refocused on the task of rescuing their loved ones because the bible doesn’t say.But wouldn’t you love to have been there to hear that speech?

What we do know is that David inquired of the Lord his men must have heard him because the next thing we find is David and his six hundred men charging off to rescue their loved ones! warriors

How marvelous that the end of this story is so different than the way it began.

But wait a minute…isn’t your story the same?

Your end will be much greater than your beginning if you take it to the Lord and strengthen yourself in Him!

Be blessed this day!

Ron

Your church…My church

Quiet church…Loud church

Wealthy church….Poor church

Proud church……Humble church

Denominational church……..Independent church

Everyone’s church is “THE” church.Just ask someone.

“There’s good people in all churches”we say.

Do “good people”qualify as His church?

And what about HIS church?

Has it breathed it’s last breath? Is it on fire for the Lord doing the work of an Evangelist?

Would Jesus recognize it if He were to show up at your church on Sunday?

But you say “He shows up every Sunday at my church”!

Really? Then your church must be bursting at the seems for all the people trying to get inside.

Every hospital around your church must be empty if Jesus comes to your church every Sunday.

Your community must be the most loving community around.

You probably haven’t had a need for prayer meeting in a long time since Jesus shows up every Sunday.

Unfortunately,most everyone else hasn’t experienced Jesus in their church in so long they have forgotten what it’s like.

We still have His name on the building,but no one’s seen Him around in a long time.

How sad that we go through the motions,yet we leave the service exactly as we came.

No change….no encouragement….no joy

Just more of the same church.

So close to the cross…

Yet so far from the Christ.

Yes…what about HIS church?

Either we’re in or we’re out. There is no “middle ground”,no fence straddling permitted.

For Me.

Against Me.

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.   

“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,I will vomit you out of My mouth.   Revelation 3:15,16 NKJV

Just give me the real thing….please!

Be blessed,

Ron

Running on empty…

Posted: February 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

Have you ever felt that way?

I dare say nearly all of us have felt at times like our tank is running on fumes.

Between running errands, taking the kids to one practice after another, getting dinner ready, plus the burden of working to make all of this possible. No wonder we’re tired!!

And if we’re being honest, isn’t some of that self induced? I mean, whatever happened to just saying NO once and a while? Now,there’s a novel concept!

But what about your spiritual life? Have you ever felt so drained that your spiritual get up and go just got up and went?

If so you wouldn’t be the first one to feel that way.Many of us are feeling the pressure from the world to conform to their image of “Christian”. The doctrine of inclusion which says anything is acceptable and everyone is welcome to partake has permeated nearly every facet of the modern church.So much so that there is scarce mention of the word “standard” in the church today.

And the struggle to live according to God’s plan takes it’s toll on us.Many are struggling with this idea that what they’ve been taught all their lives is suddenly of no value. Or as one elderly saint asked me one day” “Ron,what has happened to the church”?

What used to be right is now wrong,or at the very least has been transformed into yet another shade of grey.Absolute truth as found in God’s word has been supplanted by “truth”as defined by a society determined to replace God with one of it’s own design.

Yet lest we think this is a new and strange phenomenon we need only to be reminded of the words of the prophet Jeremiah who said:

30 “An astonishing and horrible thing Has been committed in the land:

31 The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their [own] power; And My people love [to have it] so. But what will you do in the end?   Jer 5:30-31 NKJV

Our land is filled to running over with false prophets who speak after the imagination of their own thoughts.How do I know this? If anyone speaks a word that conflicts with the scriptures,that is a false prophet.Listen to what they say-then check your Bible to see if it lines up. Simple.

Pastors,Priests,Teachers,all rule by their own authority,and God’s people love it that way!

Have you ever wondered why that is so? I believe it is because the majority of people in church today do not care to know the truth.They are content to let a person do their reading for them. Content to allow someone else to go to God for them.In other words, too lazy and too indifferent to care.

That’s the Preacher/Priest/Teacher’s job.

And we wonder why our spiritual tank is running on empty?

But thank God we don’t have to be that way!

King David understood the antidote for our dry,empty condition.Read along with me in Psalm 23:

1 [[A Psalm of David.]] The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.     [Psa 23:1-6 KJV

psalm23-lg

I love how this psalm speaks of peace and rest.Everything that a weary traveler needs is contained in these few verses.

If your tank is running on fumes,He will lead you to a place of rest and peace.A place of restoration.

Be blessed,

Ron

Did you ever “go along” just to “get along”?

I think most of us do that because people generally have an aversion to conflict, and it just makes it easier for everyone if we all just “go along” for the sake of getting along.

I see it in the workplace all the time where someone will have an alternative point of view, but rather than be the lone dissenter in the group they just throw in the towel and go along with the crowd. We’re probably all guilty of that.

I see it in church meetings as well. The pastor or elder will have an idea about something and rather than speak up if there is disagreement, the group will simply just go along to get along.

How boring and utterly depressing that we would be like that! Is that how our Creator made us? I think not.

I remember a verse from the Psalms that addresses this here:

I will praise you, for I am fearfully [and] wonderfully made; Marvelous are your works, and [that] my soul knows very well. Psalms 139:14 NKJV (emphasis mine)

Did you get that? We are wonderfully made in His image! We were not created to simply remain mute while our hearts are stirring within us!

Does that sound like a cookie cutter type of Christian? Or worse yet…the dreaded “Bobblehead” Christian?

You know the type, right? They’re the ones who always just sit there and nod their head in agreement with anything and everything that goes on as if they don’t have an opinion or thought of their own.

preacher bobblehead

Well…..that isn’t me. I have no problem questioning things. Not because I enjoy conflict or somehow get a kick out of watching others squirm. Not at all, for I’ve been on both sides of this many times.

If we never question anything how do we learn? How do we know if there are other options out there that might actually be better than the one being proposed?

I think the Lord wants us to ask the tough questions and yet it’s almost funny how some feel threatened when you don’t “go along” for the sake of “getting along”.

Many, many times in my Christian walk I have questioned the Lord. Haven’t you ever done that? Haven’t you faced tragedy or extreme circumstances that have left you bewildered to the point that you simply want to know “God, where are you”?

In the midst of a season of deep despair I actually took my bible and opened it to Romans 8:28 and began to ask God “how can this verse be true”? I was so desperate for answers that I didn’t know what else to do but ask!

If you don’t remember that verse I’ll include it here:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose. [Rom 8:28 NKJV

Beloved, when your heart has been ripped out and you feel like giving up on life even though you are actively involved in ministry and believe you’re doing your best to serve God, it can be hard to believe that what you’re going through will somehow work out for your good!

Let’s be honest here can we? Don’t you find that sometimes it’s hard to “go along” with God’s plan, even though you know deep down that He has your best interest at heart?

If I’m being transparent here I must admit that I feel that way at times. I question God about many things, things that I should probably just give up asking about and accept.

But I wasn’t created that way, and neither were so many of you!

I have no doubt that there are questions I have that will never be answered this side of heaven, and somehow I’m OK with that because I know that my Father loves me and is looking out for me.

And you!

Be blessed,

Ron

The Cross

Posted: February 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

Really…as a Christian the Cross is both a sign of excruciating agony and an offering of forgiveness.It is a symbol of love and hate.Beautiful and ugly beyond words.

The Cross of Christ.

And only God could take something so heinous,so brutal,and so despicable and turn it into an instrument of His grace and love.

Before the time of Christ upon the earth,crucifixion had been employed for hundreds of years as a means of humiliation and death.It was by no means something that was seldom seen but was in fact reserved for those “deserving”of a special death.As a matter of fact, even the scriptures declared that if a man were to be crucified,he was considered to be cursed.

The Apostle Paul declared in Galations 3:13 “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:”

I’ve often wondered how many times Jesus had seen someone being executed on a cross in the Roman occupied land in which He lived. I think that surely He must have seen the agony of others,even if but for a fleeting moment before He looked away…..knowing that what He saw would one day become His destiny as well.

The Cross……

May we never forget the price which was paid for our sins.

May we never forget that the cross was not meant to be something worn as a religious symbol,but rather an instrument of inhumane torture.There’s nothing stylish about that.

May we never forget that while we were yet in our sins Christ died for us.Once and for all the price had been paid that would enable us to become sons and daughters of God Almighty.

The Cross……it is the key that unlocked the door to the splendors of heaven.

Be blessed,

Ron

We Just Never Know Sometimes!

Posted: February 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

Many no doubt are familiar with the biblical story of Joseph found in the book of Genesis and how that God used him through difficult circumstances to save his entire family.Just in case you’re not familiar with the story let me see if I can give you the micro version of it.

Joseph was the youngest son of Jacob and was one of several children born to him.Jacob had a tender heart towards Joseph and because of that there was much jealously in the hearts of his brothers.So much so that his brothers devised a plan to get rid of their younger brother.Did I mention they were jealous of him?

So they threw him in a pit and then sold him into slavery,thinking that was the last they would hear of him.But God had another plan

.joseph-300x232

His brethren went back to their father and told him that his favorite son was dead,apparently devoured by wild beasts.

Can you imagine the level of deceit that must have been in their hearts that they would do such a thing and break their father’s heart?

Jealousy is indeed a very powerful force! But what does any of this have to do with me you ask?

Have you ever endured such pain at the hands of another? Have you felt the sting of betrayal and abandonment?

It is difficult to think this but there are many people in this world that seem to take pleasure in afflicting others.I do not understand this mindset at all and often wonder what kind of life a person must have lived to be able to do this to another person.

Joseph’s brothers did what they did to him for very selfish reasons in the hope that once he was gone their father would look upon them the same way he did his youngest son.But as is often the case,there was more to this story than what it seemed to be.

For you see,God had another plan for Joseph.A plan that his jealous brothers were unaware of until many years later.

And it’s the same with you and I today!Often we are cast down and left to feel forsaken and all alone.But here’s the secret…

It’s all about the heart and it’s motives.Joseph’s kept his heart pure even though he knew he was completely innocent of any wrongdoing.He was falsely imprisoned and left for dead for refusing to give into the lust of the flesh.Yet he maintained his integrity through it all.

And so it is with you and I.Regardless of what life throws at us we must do our very best to maintain an upright and pure heart because God always has another plan for us!

Listen to what Joseph eventually told his brothers after having been reunited with them:

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; [but] God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as [it is] this day, to save many people alive.    [Gen 50:20 NKJV]

Did you get that?Joseph’s brothers thought they had hatched the ultimate plan to rid themselves of their kid brother…but God had another plan!

We just never know sometimes what God is up to in our lives,but if we keep our hearts pure it’s for certain that we will eventually know!

Be blessed,

Ron