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Death does not have the final say

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In this post I want to speak about a subject that we all try to avoid thinking about: the subject of death. As I am sure you would agree, there isn’t a more unlikely or unwelcoming topic for a blog. Yet because death affects us all, and it has been front and center with me as of late, I felt it important enough to address in this post.

Over the past few days I have found myself in the unenviable position of having to deal with the subject of death far more than I care to. From the recent deaths of three brothers in Christ to the impending deaths of a couple more, it would seem that death is running unabated among my small circle of influence.

One of the men who recently passed was a millionaire many, many times over. His homes and incredible possessions spoke volumes as to his great wealth, and the exorbitant medical care costs associated with prolonging his life for a few months more meant little to him.

The other two men were about as far from wealthy as one could get I suppose. For these two, there were no millions of dollars from which to buy expensive medical treatments in the hopes of buying a little more time. The only thing they had to look forward to was to be released from the excruciating pain of an incurable disease.

It’s a peculiar thing, this thing called death and dying. It spares no one. It does not discriminate according to your wealth, or lack thereof. It plays no favorites. Leaving this life a pauper or a multi-millionaire makes no difference in the end, for death has a 100% success rate.

Should the Lord delay His coming, everyone reading this post will have their date with death. There’s no use in pretending otherwise, and while it is certainly not an uplifting subject, death is nonetheless coming for us all.

When it does, the only thing that will matter then will be whether we have prepared ourselves for what waits on the other side. You see, the Bible makes it clear that after we pass on, there is a judgement from which no one is excused. [1]

How we have lived in this life will dictate where we spend eternity. If we have lived our lives in service to the Lord, we know that Heaven and all of its splendor awaits us. Conversely, if we have rejected the Lord and chosen instead to live our lives selfishly without regard for others, we will spend eternity separated from God in a place of unimaginable suffering.

The greatest news of all however is that although death awaits us all, every born again child of God is assured that upon our last breath here on earth, we will take our first breath in Glory. In other words…death does NOT have the final say!

Jesus paid it all. His blood redeemed us from every curse, even the curse of death. For you see, whom the Son sets free is free indeed, and that includes freedom from the bondage of death. [2]

All of the men I have spoken about in this blog loved the Lord. All of them had made their preparations for eternity and are now enjoying a peace that I cannot even begin to fathom.

That’s what real freedom is. It’s knowing that death has been defeated at Calvary, and that life eternal awaits all who have surrendered their hearts to Christ. A life free of pain, discouragement, depression, tears, and any other thing that would not bring joy to us.

Sounds like the life for me, how about you?

Ron

[1] Acts 17:31, Hebrews 9:27

[2] John 8:36

O that I had wings like a dove…

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Have you ever wished you could just fly away to someplace where the cares and burdens of this life could not reach you? Or perhaps have your own remote island, far away from the noise and vitriol that envelops us today?

I must confess that escaping to such a place, where evil and hurt  cannot be found is becoming an all too frequent wish of mine. 

When I think of the fear, anguish, and overwhelming anxiety so prevalent in the world today I am drawn to thoughts of a place that Jesus said he had gone to prepare for us.

In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.   [1]

That sounds like exactly the place I’m longing for. Truthfully, I don’t even care about the mansion part, it’s that last part that has me captivated.

Trouble, pain, and fear don’t only come calling to the average person like you and me, of course. The Psalmist David also knew what it felt like to have the world come crashing in all around him.

Having fallen from the lofty heights of the throne of Israel when he committed adultery and murder, David was surrounded by his enemies, including those of his own family.

Out of his anguish and distress he cried aloud “O that I had wings to fly like a dove, for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness”. Selah  [2]

I cannot begin to tell you how compelling it sounds to be able to wander far away and remain hidden, away from the evil turmoil of this age. Can any of you relate?

Of course, one does not have to commit adultery, murder, or any other egregious sin in order to feel the pressures of life weighing heavily upon them.

Life, all by itself, is often more than enough to cause us to become weary and discouraged. The oppressive isolation brought about due to the pandemic for example has left many of us drained and stressed. Who among us hasn’t felt this way?

Thanks be to God, however, that we can rise above the feelings of hopelessness and despair. David himself reminds us that God is our sustainer and burden bearer.

Cast your burden on the Lord,
And He shall sustain you; 
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.   [3]

It’s true, many of us would rather take to the air and fly away from all of the problems this life presents to us. Unfortunately, the last time I checked that was not an option. Instead, we can look to Scripture for support and encouragement.

Paul, in his wonderful exhortation to the Ephesians, tells us the position we must take when facing the storms of this life. He told them no less than three times to “stand”.   

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.   [4]

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.   [5]

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,   [6]

Indiana Audubon Society

So, rather than wish we could fly away like the beautiful doves that are always at my house, God has called us to make our stand with Him.

I encourage everyone to spend an hour or two this week searching the Scriptures for examples of how that our God is a helper and sustainer to those who call out to Him.

I believe you will come away strengthened and encouraged by what you find.

Be blessed in Jesus name!

Ron

[1] John 14:2,3

[2] Psalm 55:6,7

[3] Psalm 55:22

[4] Eph. 6:11

[5] Eph. 6:13

[6] Eph. 6:14

In spite of the insanity, God still has a plan

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For the past several weeks I have been preoccupied with a certain thought and I’m wondering if it’s just me, or if there are others who are wrestling with these very same thoughts.

Watching the riots and violent demonstrations unfold, it seems to me as though this nation is teetering on the brink of insanity. How else could you describe the systematic dismantling of a society in favor of anarchy?

Does anyone else feel this way, or am I all alone on this island of misfits?

Consider the following if you will:

  • Municipalities are discussing the defunding of their police departments. Yes, some prefer the words “reallocate resources”, but the meaning is the same. [1]
  • The city of Seattle WA. is under siege as violent protesters have taken over city hall. [2]
  • Christopher Columbus statues are being taken down across America.  [3]
  • NASCAR has ordered that no more Confederate flags may be flown at it racetracks. [4]

As I said, we are teetering on the edge of insanity as a nation. OK, maybe the NASCAR thing isn’t such a big deal in the big picture of things, but you get my point.

Granted, we have many areas in this country that are in dire need of attention. Racism, bigotry, hatred, and rage are but a few of them. These issues are brought about by man trying to elevate himself above his fellow men, which is what men do when they no longer submit to the moral authority that God has ordained.

These issues however cannot be solved with another brick through a window. A better place to start would be with a conversation with the Lord.

Along with the inequalities and injustices now making headlines worldwide, I’d personally like to see the same amount of “focus” being placed on child hunger, child sex abuse, and affordable health care.

And while we’re at it let’s not forget the systematic murder of 60 million babies in the womb. Which, by the way, makes Hitler look like a Sunday School teacher. But I digress…

Now, lest you have started to wonder if I’ve lost it, consider this if you will.

No matter what is going on around us, God is still commanding the sun to rise in the East every morning, and every evening just like clockwork I get to watch the spectacle of the setting sun in the Western sky.

He is still in control. Man may tear down and destroy in his feeble attempts to rewrite history, but God’s plan for man cannot be altered. What is this plan of his?

God’s plan is for man to be saved. Plain and simple, God wants to save you and me from an eternity separated from Himself. Despite man’s best efforts to destroy himself and the community he lives in, God Almighty has given us his only Son Jesus Christ as full payment for our personal salvation.

Even while this nation is ablaze with hatred and violence, Jesus is still fulfilling God’s plan of salvation because God, not man, not any “movement”, but God alone is still on the throne.

Our ideologies, apart from God’s plan, are just that…ideas. 

God, however, has a plan for your life, and as part of that grand plan he has created you to soar above the ideologies of mankind. You were not created to rob, kill, and destroy. Those are the works of the devil, not God’s grandest creation. You were created in the image of God to excel!

God has a plan for you that includes you and your loved ones spending eternity with Him. Yes, the heathen may rage. Nothing about that will take God by surprise. Trust me, He’s seen it all before!

Take heart, for despite the insanity enveloping our nation, God still has a plan, and that plan my friends includes the saving of your soul. You belong to Him, and don’t ever let the devil tell you otherwise.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

 

[1] For a look at what happens to communities that defund their police force, look no further than Camden NJ. While some call it a model for police reform, the facts speak differently.

 [2] Demonstrators have since set up occupancy in a six-block section of downtown and renamed it “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ).

[3] It seems Christopher Columbus, he of the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria fame treated indigenous peoples he encountered rather poorly. Who knew?

[4] What is odd about this decision is that NASCAR has its roots deep in the South, where there are a great many people still flying the Stars and Bars. One wonders if NASCAR will not boycott Coca-Cola next. After all, its founder was Lt. Colonel John Pemberton, he of the Confederate Army’s 12th Calvary.

 

Sorry America, but your rage is misplaced

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Coming out of the recent pandemic that saw a near complete shutdown of our society along with critical shortages of many essential items, I am struck by the things we now seem to have an abundance of.

Anger comes to mind as something we have in abundance. And hatred, let’s not forget the overflow of hatred in America. Oh, and I don’t want to forget one other thing we have in great abundance today; finger pointing. Can’t forget that now, can I?

Almost beyond belief, it would seem that the cataclysmic virus that had doomed us all to certain death really wasn’t the apocalyptic event prophesied by the media after all. How could it be, when hundreds of thousands are marching side by side not wearing a mask? Imagine that would you?

Things were so bad that we were strictly forbidden to go to church for fear of spreading this death defying virus, yet somehow or another congregating in crowds of tens of thousands doesn’t pose any health risks at all.

I mean, who knew?

Honestly, I’m thinking the wrong crowds are filling the streets of America. I’m thinking we awful, disease spreading, unenlightened Christians ought to be the ones pouring out into the streets of America to protest the theft of our Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of worship. [1]

Speaking of pouring out into the streets, I have lived on this earth for just over 65 years, and in that time I have seen many instances where people took to the streets out of frustration and anger over issues beyond their control.

I was just a boy of eight years of age when Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.

I was thirteen when the infamous “Chicago Seven” were arrested for their anti war activities during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

Just two years later when I was a 15 year old, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a crowd of Vietnam War protestors, killing four and wounding nine. Living just a couple of hours from Kent State University, it seemed like it was in my backyard.

Since those tumultuous times of decades past, there have been several other noteworthy examples of citizens taking to the streets to protest for one reason or another. Abortion, LBGTQ, Environment, Guns, Women’s rights, Anti-war, and the Million man and Million woman marches have all made their mark on the fabric of American society.

Today, as our nation once again seethes with anger in the wake of the brutal, heinous murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, millions are again taking to the streets in a show of indignation and defiance of the status quo.

Of course, the violence that has erupted during the peaceful marches is the result of a well planned and well funded attempt to destroy the fabric of American society from within. There is only one word that most aptly describes what is being played out before our eyes: EVIL.

We can dress it up any way we like to, but it’s still EVIL. We can call it racism or bigotry or any number of other names, but it’s still EVIL. And this is what those marching and protesting in the streets do not understand. This is NOT an issue of race. It is an issue of EVIL. Even those violent criminals that have been unleashed upon our society are completely misguided. The issue here is not one group hating another. It goes much, much deeper than that.

What we’re dealing with here is of the spiritual nature. Don’t believe that? Read what the Apostle Paul had to say about the subject of EVIL.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (emphasis mine)

Did you understand what Paul meant? Our battle, your battle, is not with mankind. It is NOT with your neighbor who is of a different skin color than yours. It is NOT with those whose belief system differs from your own. No, the battle is against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

In other words, the battle is against the spiritual forces of darkness that exist in high places. Who is leading the charge of these forces of darkness at play in our society? Why, it’s none other than Satan himself. That’s right, and every person storming the streets today is being played by the devil. Not a popular sentiment, is it?

Why do you suppose racism still exists at the level it does today? Why haven’t supposedly educated, enlightened individuals been able to come up with a permanent cure for racism? The answer is so simple that its almost too simple. The reason racism still exists at its current level is because the cure for racism is the love of God, and the world has largely rejected the Source of this love.

It’s like the old adage about taking a knife into a gunfight. You can be the very best at using a knife, but against a gun you have virtually zero chance of success against your adversary. Fighting systemic racism by protests, even violent protests does nothing to address the root of the problem! To be sure, these marches have gotten the attention of the entire world. They have no doubt spawned new discussions (or soon will) on how best to deal with the problem.

But not one thing is being done to address the root of the problem: we have forsaken God.

And that, dear readers, is not something that can be corrected by marching down Main Street USA. It can only be corrected at an altar.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

 

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? Psalm 2:1

 

[1] The Bill of Rights: Amendment 1

This Little Light of Mine

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How many have heard the old gospel song “This Little Light of Mine”?

It’s a song recognized around the world as a favorite of children. Many of you may have first learned this song in Sunday School or children’s church.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

Oh this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

 

Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine,

Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine,

Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine,

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

 

Won’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine,

Won’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine,

Won’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine,

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Though originally written as a song of love, hope, and devotion to our Savior, This Little Light of Mine was also sung as an anthem of hope and courage during the American civil rights movement of the 1960’s. In fact, it’s still being sung today during times of civil unrest.

America could sure use a little hope right about now, wouldn’t you agree? And we certainly need to shed some light on these times of uncertainty, when it seems that this present darkness is overpowering what little light remains.

Thinking about all of this as I watch the carnage unfolding across the landscape of America, about how desperately we now need the Church to be a beacon of light and a sanctuary of love, I can’t help but be reminded of the words of Jesus when he told the Disciples to let their light shine.  

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.   

15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand , and it gives light to all who are in the house.   

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. [1]   

The Church, that is You and Me, has the answer to the cancer that is racism. We have the antidote within us to calm the fears of a nation bordering on collapse.

The love of God is that light of the world. It is shed abroad in our hearts so that men might see Christ in us. It is given to us that men might see our good works and give praise to God for them.

Now is not the time to hide our lights. It is for such a time as this that God has given you this light, that those stumbling in the darkness may see.

While the politicians and the media are consumed with finger pointing and spewing forth their poisonous venom, the Church must be the Church.

Whether your church’s doors are open or closed has no bearing on who you are in Christ. What God has placed in your heart is not regulated by politicians, but guided rather by a higher Power.

The command to “let your light so shine before men” is in essence the marching orders of every Christian. The light within you is the antidote for hatred, and it must not be hidden from society.

I encourage everyone to pray for the situation in America. Pray that men would desire peace, and that the Lord would send peace that “passes all understanding”. [2]

I know that many today hold to the opinion that prayer doesn’t work. The Bible, however, tells us that “the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”. [3]

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

Oh this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Don’t let anything stop your light from shining. America and the rest of the world need to see it!

Ron 

[1] Matthew 15:14-16    

[2] Philippians 4:7  

[3] James 5:16 

 

In Minneapolis the Mayor will give you a mask while you riot, but you can’t attend church

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In what has to be one of the most blatant, shocking examples of just how far Satan has infiltrated the hearts and minds of governmental authority in this country, the Mayor of Minneapolis Mn. has decided that giving masks to the criminals destroying his city is safer than permitting the citizens to assemble for public worship.

Attending church, it seems, is more dangerous than the incredible violence now on display in Minneapolis.

Now, let’s try to understand this. In the state of Minnesota, any gathering of 10 or more people is strictly prohibited due to the pandemic. However, the government has NOT stopped the gathering of 10 or more looters, thieves, and other criminals who are plundering the city of Minneapolis.

The dangerous Christians though must be kept from assembling together lest they spread the COVID virus. So, we can steal, set fires, over turn police and emergency vehicles, and in the process shut down an entire city, yet we cannot attend church.

To put this scenario into even plainer words, what is happening right now in Minneapolis is that criminals are being given masks to protect them from COVID-19 while they are gathered in groups of hundreds to destroy the city, but Christians are considered too dangerous to permit them to gather in a church.

All of this is eerily similar to a certain Roman Emperor who allegedly set the city of Rome on fire and blamed it on the Christians. You might have heard of him, his name was Nero.

So while Minneapolis is burning, instead of stopping the violence and throwing the criminals in jail, do you suppose Mayor Jacob Frey is fiddling as his counterpart Nero was alleged to do?

Of course, he may be far too busy to be fiddling around, what with so many dangerous Christians wanting to attend a church service.

Here’s a thought for the good Mayor of Minneapolis. How about you do something radically different and open the churches this Sunday? As a matter of fact, how about you open the churches of Minneapolis and ask these churches to pray for peace over your fair city. I mean, it’s painfully obvious that your current plan to give the criminals masks and force the Christians to stay home on Sunday’s isn’t doing much for your citizens.

Mayor Frey, what do you have to lose by giving God a chance?

The actions of the Mayor of Minneapolis are indicative of just how far removed this nation is from the Godly principles that once guided her. The Church used to be the strength and guiding light of this nation as she worked hard to further the gospel around the world. Now, she is seen as a carrier of disease, too dangerous to be allowed to gather together.

Seems to me our nation is only too willing to follow in the footsteps of the dozens of other nations who are doing everything in their power to eradicate the name of God from their societies. That is, after all, what pagan societies do.

Let’s see if we are just as willing to endure the consequences of our actions, because it is an absolute certainty that consequences are coming.

Ron

 

If it’s all the same to you…

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Setting outside this morning, I am struck at how beautiful, calm, and peaceful it is here. The sun came up just as it always does, rising above the treetops in slow motion as it unveils an endless kaleidoscope of color. All around me butterflies are darting from flower to flower, gathering the nectar that ensures their survival. The colors and patterns of their wings give evidence that God’s imagination and creativity far exceeds our own.

Flying about are birds of all kinds, each singing their uniquely beautiful song. One can’t help but be envious at the incredible variety of sounds they make. It’s almost like attending a concert, where every song is different and if you hang around long enough, you will eventually hear that special one that thrills your heart. Occasionally, all the birds will start screeching at once, and we have learned that this is the signal that a Bobcat is hiding in the grass or under a shrub close by.

Squirrels, of which there are many, are chasing each other in an endless game of tag. Only the heat of the day slows them down, yet the evening finds them once again running all over my back yard.

In the dead palm tree that I intend to make a weathervane post out of, several birds have taken up residence in the holes the Woodpeckers have created in their search for insects. I’m pretty sure at least one nest has babies in it, so the weathervane post will just have to wait a while longer.

On top of that, a beautiful Red-tailed Hawk has recently taken a liking to the top of this palm tree. From atop this perch it watches for the slightest movement on the ground, and its arrival sends every playful squirrel on a mad dash to the safety of the thick cluster of gnarled Oak branches all of us have in our yards.

There is enough here to make this now retired country boy feel like there is no place I’d rather be. Unfortunately, I cannot stay here forever, as my increasing list of ministry responsibilities calls me out into the world to do what I know God has called me to do.    

Leaving this idyllic scene, I step out ever so cautiously into the world where I am immediately greeted by noise and chaos. I am confronted by people who are scared, angry, apprehensive, and uncertain. “When are we going to get back to normal” they ask. Shouts of “I can’t take any more of this” are heard on a frequent basis. The difference between my backyard and the outside world could not be more dramatic. I cannot wait to get back to my sanctuary.

Everywhere I go, the prevailing topic of conversation is COVID-19. For reasons I am not completely sure of, this virus has paralyzed most of the world. Yes, of course it is serious, however it does not mark the beginning of the end of the world as many in the media would have you believe.

If there is one thing this pandemic has revealed about us here in America, it is that we do not handle uncertainty well. Uncharted waters throw us into a frenzy of apprehension and uncertainty. We need to feel as though we are in control of our destiny, and right now control has slipped through our fingers leaving us dazed and shell-shocked.

Disease frightens us in ways that few things do, especially disease that there is no rational explanation for. The unknown tends to either frighten us or make us angry. We are fearful of that which cannot be explained to our satisfaction, angry at our inability to eradicate it by throwing vast sums of money at it, or even angrier at the level of distrust that exists among those who should be united in leading the efforts to solve this current crisis.

As I reflect upon the scene unfolding before us, I cannot help but think of the number of books I have read about other periods of hardship in America. Two World Wars, the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, Polio, Poverty, etc.

Any one of these events could have brought America to its knees and prevented this nation from ever rising to the heights of prosperity it has become accustomed to. 

Yet none of them did, and the question begs asking “why didn’t they”?

I believe it was because of two primary reasons:

  1. Americans come from the hardy stock of immigrants who asked only for an opportunity. They supplied the hard work and “can do” spirit that enabled them to overcome adversity and misfortune. These hard-working men and women forged a nation out of prairies, forests, and mountains, willing to pay the price of endless pain and suffering to make a better life for their families. In short, nothing would deter them from taking full advantage of the opportunities before them.
  2. During past times of severe crisis, Americans always turned to God for help. Acknowledging their own inabilities, they looked to the One who could pull them from the depths of despair and hopelessness that often attempted to crush their dreams. They knew, as did their own ancestors, that survival meant they had to stare down adversity and press forward.

Today, I hear very little in the way of pleading for help from the Lord. I hear no cries for mercy, no repentance for the way that we have rejected the Almighty. It is as if God has been erased from our consciousness.

What I do hear are the voices of fear and uncertainty. As if on que, the TV newscasters cannot wait to tell us of the next shortage of meat, toilet paper, or hand sanitizer. Followed immediately, of course, by a camera shot of an empty grocery store shelf to prove the validity of their story.

I see the fear in some of the faces of the elderly at Walmart. You can always tell which ones have endured hard times before. They quietly go about their business and get on with their lives. They don’t hoard because they’ve been here before. They understand that any extra, unneeded purchases mean someone else who is in need may have to do without.

Those who have lived a life of relative ease are just as easy to spot. They are the ones who buy as much of a given product as allowed, because fear of the unknown grips their hearts. They have never done without or had to ration what they had in order to make it last. They are the ones with a grocery cart piled high with toilet paper and frozen dinners.

These are trying times, of that there can be no doubt. As for returning to normal, whatever that is, I’m not convinced we will ever see that again. I feel as though we have turned the page in the book of God’s prophetic timetable. To be perfectly honest, I believe we are on the threshold of the days Jesus described as the “beginning of sorrows”.

Even though it’s not possible, if it’s all the same to you, I’d just as soon hang around my back yard and watch the coming events unfold. I much prefer the birds, butterflies, squirrels, and hawks to the anger and uncertainty “out there”.

Take care everyone, and remember: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble“. Psalm 46:1

Ron

 

 

Busy for the Lord

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I thought I’d give a quick update on what’s been going on with the Princess and I since my last post.

Like most churches, ours has been struggling with the aftermath of the pandemic. Because we haven’t been allowed to have services inside, we have had to adjust and find new ways of ministering to our congregation as well as the surrounding communities.

The previous four weeks has seen us move outside to the parking lot for what we call “drive-in church”. If you remember the old drive-in movies, that’s what we modeled our services after.

We had people pull into the parking lot and roll their windows down and listen to the service. Some would get out of their cars and sit on lawn chairs at least 6ft. from anyone else, but most stayed in their cars. Our service began at 9:00 am in order to beat the Florida heat. 

We had a good turnout, even some visitors. We even had the neighbors sitting on their front porches listening. Funny isn’t it? People won’t come inside the church but will sit on their porch and listen. Oh well, what matters is that they have the opportunity to hear the gospel.

Like so many other churches, we’ve been doing the Facebook Live thing as well. From what I understand we’ve received favorable comments on the services. We recently purchased a new camera so we will be producing better quality videos, and we will soon have our own YouTube channel where the services as well as the radio broadcasts will be available.

I’ve been doing a weekly radio broadcast for the past six weeks(I think it’s been that long), and this has been a very interesting project. I used to do a radio broadcast a long time ago, so the format was not that unfamiliar to me. The biggest difference between then and now is that I’m not doing a live broadcast like I did years ago. If I make a mistake now, it’s easy to do that part over again and no one will know. I like that!

At first I had my doubts about radio because I didn’t think that many people still listened to it. I figured since everyone used their cell phone and Bluetooth to listen to podcasts and Pandora, that radio had gone the way of the dinosaur. Turns out I was wrong because a fair amount of people actually still listen to the radio here.

This has turned into something I look forward to each week. For one, it keeps me studying and praying, and two, it gives me the opportunity to reach people who would otherwise never come to church and hear the word of the Lord. Somewhat incredibly, a major donor of the broadcast is not even a Christian but is a local truck driver who told us there was a need for a gospel program that would appeal to his fellow drivers. This man was raised in a Christian home but today is far from the Lord.  Nevertheless God has touched his heart and he is faithfully supporting this radio ministry.

Debbie and I continue to use our musical talents in the church each week. Speaking of musical, I just have to share this news with you. When we moved here from up north, we donated our piano to a nursing home ministry that didn’t have a piano. We prayed then that the Lord would provide us another piano when we got to our new home in Florida.

Well, we’ve prayed and prayed, told a lot of people what we were looking for and asked them to help us pray as well. Several times I wanted to just go buy a piano, but the Princess was adamant that if it was God’s will, He would provide us a piano. Not only that, but it would be the white piano that she wanted.

After 3 1/2 years, I am thrilled to report that there is now a brand new piano in our home. A couple of weeks ago I received a call from someone asking if I could help them “set something up if they brought it by our house”. Figuring it was some type of electronics gadget I said sure I would and they came over that evening. Imagine my shock to find that the thing that he needed help with setting up was a new piano! A new, white, piano!”

After many tears of gratitude and happiness, my Princess is once again filling our home with music and we couldn’t feel more blessed. God is good, and He is most certainly faithful.

This morning I was asked to preach the Mother’s Day message, which just happened to coincide with our being able to be inside our sanctuary. We had to make a lot of accommodations in order to meet the required guidelines, but we gladly did so. I must say, it was a glorious occasion! If you’re interested, my sermon text was from 1st Samuel chapter one, the story of Hannah. Thankfully, it was well received.

Well, I think that covers most of what’s been happening with us. I want to wish all of you Mothers a happy Mother’s Day and pray the Lord blesses all of you who are fighting the good fight.

Be strong in the power of His might!

Ron

What Are You Anchored To?

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Things have been moving along at a fairly good clip recently in spite of the quarantine/lock-down we’ve been under for the past month or so. I’ve been busy with church work, hospital visits, and recording radio broadcasts. Our church is busy acquiring new camera and recording equipment so that when we are able to make use of our sanctuary again, we will be able to produce top quality material to upload to YouTube, Radio, and our own Podcasts. We are working hard, using this “downtime” to better equip our church to reach our community and far beyond.

Speaking of hospital visits, there is nothing normal about visiting someone in the hospital now thanks to the Corona virus. As a matter of fact, my pastor was hospitalized for several days recently and he was not permitted a single visitor, not even his wife! Imagine having to communicate by phone while looking at each other through the window. These are strange times indeed.

A couple of days ago I received a call early in the morning from my pastor asking me if I wanted to go to the hospital with him to pray for someone. This wasn’t a member of our church or someone we knew, which of course doesn’t make a bit of difference to us, so of course I was happy to go along.

I didn’t realize until we arrived at the hospital that they weren’t going to allow both of us to see this person, so while pastor had his temperature taken and filled out the lengthy questionnaire, I decided to spend the time speaking with the family members gathered outside.

It has always amazed me what you can learn about people if you will just take the time and listen. During a crisis, especially when it is life and death, people are also more prone to listen to what you have to say as well. It makes for a good opportunity to talk with them about eternity, in fact I found this family very willing to talk about spiritual things.

So, for the next 20 minutes that’s just what we did. I learned that this family knew quite a bit about God yet were living their lives far from Him. I listened as I was told of how they used to attend church a long time ago, and in fact two of their daughters still attend church. Interesting, isn’t it, that the parents who used to take their kids to church many years ago now no longer attend, yet their children do.

Whenever you get in a conversation with folks who “used to go to church”, they always want you to know that. It’s a type of defense mechanism I believe, a way to let you know that they know all about God and church, so you don’t really need to go into all of that with them.

I think it’s called deflection.

At any rate, I gently reminded the person I was speaking with that what we used to do so far as attending church didn’t mean that we had somehow accumulated enough “points” with God to permit us to ignore Him today. I let her and her family know that God isn’t a genie that can be summoned to our rescue whenever it was convenient for us to do so.

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I find that a lot of people treat God this way. They live their life in whatever manner they choose and give little if any thought to eternal, or spiritual things. They can’t be bothered with religion, spirituality, or God. Those are things that one comes to terms with when they get old and are coming to the end of their days.

I used this family as an example as I was recording the radio broadcast yesterday. I was speaking from Mark chapter 4, the story of Jesus rebuking the winds, and how the disciples did the only thing they knew to do during this violent storm, which was to call upon Jesus.

The point I was making was that we cannot wait until we are in the storm to turn to God because there may not be time do so. The time to turn to Jesus is right now, before the next storm comes rushing into our lives.

And that is where I will leave this post. All of us have faced the storms of life, and it is for certain that storms will come again. The question we need to ask ourselves is this; “what are you anchored to”?

Will you be like the family I was speaking with at the hospital, with no anchor and no lifeline? Will the next storm find you tossed about, at the mercy of the wind and rain? Will you be forced to cry out to your “genie” to save you?

If you answered YES to these questions, then you need to turn your heart to Jesus. Don’t wait, don’t keep making excuses, just do it. NOW.

Trusting in His promise to never leave us or forsake us,

Ron

I guess it really is a small world after all!

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Since the quarantine has nearly all of us home bound and going stir crazy, I thought I would offer up a personal story that might put a smile on a few faces.

I recently came across a Facebook post of a lady playing a solo version of “The Lord’s Prayer” on her violin. From what I gather, she plays in a bluegrass band somewhere in Georgia, and this particular song was just beautiful. 

Through reading a few posts made by others who are her FB friends, I was able to determine that I actually know this person. Well, to be more precise, I used to know this person. Let me share the story with you. It’s going to take a while, so grab your coffee and settle in as I take you on a little journey.

Way back when I was in the second grade, our family home was nearly destroyed in a fire. I don’t remember the exact date, but it was in the middle of winter. I remember that because when the fire was discovered in our basement, we all ran out into the cold night.

Seeing as how we lived in the country, we were several miles from a fire department. By the time the volunteer firefighters arrived on the scene, there wasn’t much left of our home except for the exterior. Everything inside except for a few odds and ends was destroyed. All of our clothes, toys, and furniture was gone within minutes.

Most of the remainder of that night and the succeeding days were a blur, but I do know we all stayed at the home of one of our relatives for a couple of days. What a scary time that was for our family, but we were very thankful to be safe.

Within a few days of the fire my parents announced to all five of us kids that they had figured out a plan for us, since it was obvious we couldn’t live in our home any longer. My older brother went to stay with an aunt and uncle. My three sisters went someplace I no longer remember, and I was sent to the home of a coworker of my dads who lived a few miles from our house.

I’ll spare you the details but suffice it to say I was somewhat terrified at being separated from my home and family, especially as I was now living with a family I had never heard of until now.

As I was about to learn, everything in my life was going to change. Not only was I now living with a family I did not know, this family would turn out to be vastly different than my own. Let me try to explain.

Both of my parents worked in a local factory, which meant that we were by no means wealthy. Far from it in fact. I’m sure that’s one of the primary reasons why we raised our own beef, pork, and chickens. Combine that with about an acre of garden and that’s how our family was fed most of the time.

We lived on about four acres of land in a small three-bedroom house constructed mostly by my dad. We had a couple of barns which held our animals, and this comprised all our “wealth”. So, as I said, we were by no means wealthy, yet I knew that we had a lot more than some families back in the early 60’s. 

My new host family however had precious little when it came to “things”. Other than a few chickens and their own huge vegetable garden, I don’t remember them having all that much, at least compared to what I was used to.

For example, I was used to watching my mom prepare huge meals for the family after her and my dad came home from their factory jobs in the afternoon. In contrast, even though my new family was basically the same size as my own, supper at this new house was a bit sparse compared to what I was used to. Nothing wrong with that, and I had plenty to eat, but it was different.

Where our house had a TV that on a good night could pull in two or three channels, they had no TV. Where we had faucets and running water, they had a hand pump at their kitchen sink. Where we had a nice bathroom, they had an outhouse. 

They also had something else we didn’t have at my house. They seemed to spend a lot of time praying and reading the Bible. I had never been exposed to any of that and didn’t know quite what to make of it.

Supper time began with prayer, as did breakfast. They even prayed before they went to bed! Their only source of entertainment, at least that I could see, was music. And oh, could they play and sing!

This family had four children, three boys and one girl. The boys played guitar and mandolin, while the girl played…yep, the violin. They mostly played gospel music, something I had never even heard of before. At my house, the only music I had heard was country music. Again, it was different.

All of them were very good singers, and this was my first time ever hearing what we now refer to as ‘tight family harmony’. I had no idea that there were actually different parts when people sang, such as tenor, soprano, and alto. Whatever it was, these kids had it in abundance!

I don’t remember how long I stayed with this family, but it was a few months. I really can’t say I remember many details of that time either, except that I was very lonely, and I missed my family terribly.

I had seen them several times over the course of those months, usually on the weekends, but of course it was never for a long enough time. The end of our visits became a dread to me because I always had to go back to my temporary home.

I’m not ashamed to admit that this little eight-year-old boy shed quite a few tears then!

The long-awaited day finally came when they told me that I would be going home the next day, and of course I could think of nothing else. Seeing my family again (even my sisters) was such a joy. Living in our own home again was magical, and life quickly settled down and became normal.

Under most circumstances I suppose that most people eventually move on after a tragedy strikes. As much as possible, the pieces of life are put back together again and as they say, life goes on. New memories are made, and old, painful memories are relegated to a place in our minds where they are best left undisturbed. 

Except that it doesn’t always work out like that. Take my host family for example. Who could have imagined the impact they would have upon my own family? Who could have ever guessed that the father of those kids would soon lead my own father to the Lord?

Seeing the outpouring of love this family had extended to his youngest son, my dad was so grateful that he accepted an invitation to attend church with his coworker, who by now had become a true friend. 

All because of a devastating fire that caused his family to be separated, my dad’s youngest son just happened to end up in the home of a Christian family. This is turn led my dad to church where he accepted the Lord as his Savior. Just four years later, my dad would step into eternity, safe in the arms of Jesus.

Quite the story, isn’t it? Except, as Paul Harvey used to say, “now for the rest of the story”!

Fast forward to my teenage years and I was invited to play on a local church softball team. Seeing as how I loved softball, I jumped at the chance to play. The fact that it was a “church league” didn’t mean much to me, especially since I didn’t even go to church. I just wanted to play ball!

So I rode my bike several miles to attend that first practice, and imagine my shock to find that the guy heading up the team just happened to be married to, wait for it…., the girl fiddle player of the aforementioned host family I stayed with so many years before!

Not only that, but she was the pitcher! Now try to imagine this: I’m waiting my tun at bat and I hear all the other kids having to answer a bible question before they were allowed to bat. Some sort of church requirement, I thought to myself. Naturally, I froze because I knew nothing about the Bible. 

So, I stepped up to the plate, wondering how in the world I was going to answer her Bible question. Would you believe I still remember that question? She asked me “what are the names of the first four books of the New Testament”?

Of course, I had no clue and was totally embarrassed. I started throwing out common names but never did get any of them right. To make matters worse, all of those goody goody church kids made fun of me. Eventually though they felt sorry enough for me and allowed me to participate.

My career as a church league shortstop didn’t last very long however, as it seemed they were not quite ready to have a heathen on their team. Seems I was a bit too rough for their tastes, or so I was told.

That ended my church attendance as well. Why go if they won’t allow me to play on their team was my attitude. This was also the last time I saw the violin player turned softball pitcher. Until I saw that Facebook video, that is.

Of course, this lady has no way of knowing that my dad was heard to pray in church one night “Lord, please save one of my children”. She has no way of knowing that God did exactly that, as I am the only one of five children to be a Christian. She has no way of knowing that the kindness and generosity her family showed me would ultimately lead me to Jesus, and that for the last four decades I have served in just about every capacity there is in church.

As I sit here writing this, I am overwhelmed at how God had His hand upon me all those years. The most amazing thing about that is that I wasn’t even aware of it. How incredible is it that God would direct the steps of a total stranger to accept me as one of their own, and that that experience would one day result in me coming full circle to serve God and minister to His people?

I don’t know about you, but you cannot make this stuff up. Even today, should someone tell me they don’t believe there is a God, all I would need to do is tell them my story. Coincidence? Not hardly.

All of us have a story to tell. Our life has been one page after another that if they were put in book form would provide one incredible testimony after another of God’s mercy and grace. Honestly, I think that all of us are the product of an event or a process that ultimately led us to the feet of Jesus, where we are now connected to the great family of God.

I guess it really is a small world after all, isn’t it?

 

 

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