A typical week finds my email inbox filled with the usual plethora of junk mail,solicitations,the occasional plea for money from a Nigerian princess,and a host of other offers “too good to be true”. email pic

On second thought, it’s just about all junk mail these days.

I have noticed a trend however in the emails I get from various ministries,and that trend involves numbers.Lots and lots of numbers.

Here is a small sampling of what I’m talking about:

“Do you want to see your church attendance grow by 30%“?

Five Reasons Church Announcements Cause Problems”

Seven ways members can actively prepare for sermons”.

Six Components of a Strategic Church Communications Plan”

Ten Sentences That Make Pastors Cringe”

“Avoid These 5 Bad Habits that Kill Church Growth at All Costs”

35 Random Thoughts and Tips on The Reading of Books”

Seven Church Facility Trends”

Five Reasons Why the Large Single Site Church Is Declining”

Umm…I think you get the picture.

Numbers. Apparently that’s what it’s all about.

Lest you think these samples are fictitious let me assure you that they are all from nationally known ministries and various denominations.I’m really not sure why I even get some of these because I sure didn’t subscribe to all of them.Wait…that’s why it’s called spam,right?

I’m not sure what’s behind the church’s fascination with numbers,but I can tell you that it resembles the world’s obsession with growth strategies and expansion planning with an uncanny resemblance.

Coincidence maybe?

I think not. From where I sit on the front row I hear an incessant clamoring for more,more,more.

More people in the pew.

More money in the offering plate.collection-plate-370x280

More and bigger facilities.

More of everything.

Except Jesus and His love.I can’t remember the last time I heard the call go out for more of Jesus.

What’s driving this insatiable appetite for more and bigger everything in the church?

I am of the belief that our carnal,or sin nature is the driving force behind all of this.Our nature is to want more of the things of this life more than the things of God.

It’s a heart issue.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.    Luke 12:34 NKJV

The church’s treasure is no longer Christ and His glory.It is in showing to the world that it is on equal footing with it’s wealth,opulence, and abundance.

In doing so the church has aligned itself with another church we read about in Revelation chapter three,the church of Laodicea.

Long gone are the humble shepherds who care for the flock God entrusted to them.In their place are PhD’s from the business community who know how to obtain financing and create mammoth structures that reach toward the heavens,yet know precious little about matters of the heart.

I cannot help but wonder how our Lord must grieve over this present generation.He who has given unto the church the words of liberty and life surely must wonder why that is not enough.

Why is the church not satisfied?

Why must the church always have more of everything but God?

I firmly believe in organization and structure in the church.But do we really need someone to tell us how to increase attendance by 30%?

Why isn’t 2% or 4% or even 5% sufficient,especially if the growth is real growth and not yet another bunch of church hoppers looking to have their ears tickled?

Six Components of a Strategic Church Communications Plan”? Really?  How about this for a “strategic growth plan”…

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  2Ch 7:14 NKJV

Sounds to me like there needs to be a return to the old paths and cry aloud to a Holy God who said He would hear from heaven.

That is of course,if you’re all about the numbers….

Ron

According to the calendar it is Springtime.I said “according to the calendar” because around here you wouldn’t know it was spring by looking at the thermometer.Or my rain gauge,which had an inch of ice in it this morning!

Just a week ago we had 55 mph winds and lot’s of rain.This morning I awoke to the yard covered in snow.I would have taken a picture of that but the wind chill was a balmy 19 degrees,so I decided you would have to use your own imagination for that one.

So,yes it is supposed to be Springtime,but the weather doesn’t want to cooperate.In fact,as I look out my patio door right now it’s snowing again!

From watching the evening news I understand that millions of you are dealing with weather extremes all across the country,so I guess that means it’s just one of those years.

We’re all weathering the storms this spring.

Even the animals, for example.Right behind my back yard is a small pond that has an island in the middle of it.Like clockwork,every year about this time several Canadian geese fly in to do battle for this small pond in order to use it as their nesting sight.This year was no different as we watched several pairs of geese battle it out for this prime piece of real estate.Eventually,one couple reigned supreme and claimed the rights to the pond and the island,driving all other competitors away.

Within days the female was sitting on the island,just like every other year for the past 10 years or so that we’ve witnessed this annual ritual.She’s hard to see in this photo,but if you look closely to the left of the center of the island you can just make out her black head through the brush.

2016-04-09 14.17.48

This goose has weathered the strong winds,pounding rains,ice and snow,and the rising water that threatens the nest,and who knows what type of predators,all without ever leaving her nest.

She does this because nature has taught her that before she gets to experience the new life that will soon start pecking it’s way out of the shell,there are things to endure.

Freezing nights

Hunger

Loneliness

Storms that must be weathered

We’ve all heard the term “silly as a goose”or “they don’t have the sense that God gave a goose”,whatever that means.Yet I’m convinced that there is much we Christians can learn from these “silly geese”.

Things like Endurance

The female goose will not leave her unborn for any reason,and once the goslings are born she becomes even more protective.She stays right there through the fiercest of storms because she somehow knows that if she were to abandon the nest her unborn have zero chance of survival.So she patiently endures whatever nature throws at her,because a happy day is just around the corner.Branta_canadensis_-Calgary,_Alberta,_Canada-8

Maybe we should remember this: For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.   Psa 30:5 NKJV

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.   Heb 12:2 NKJV   (emphasis mine)

All of us either have,or will have things which must be endured.Not because we don’t love God,or because we’ve done something wrong,or heaven forbid not because of what some false teacher may say, that it’s your own lack of faith that has caused your misfortune.If we endure with patience, victory WILL come.

Things like Commitment

The nesting goose is in it for the long haul.Over these past years of observing their actions I have learned that the time varies from when they start nesting till the goslings appear.No doubt there are a great many struggles,with weather being just one of those.Still,it doesn’t matter because none of those things will move the goose off her nest.

Reminds me of something Paul said here: But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.   Act 20:24 NLT

The King James version of that particular verse says it this way: But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

That should be our battle cry,that nothing will move me from my appointed destiny in Christ.

Things like Patience

There is something in nature that tells the goose that it’s going to take a lot of patience to bring forth her young. I watch the nesting goose on the pond and I see how she reacts to things that invade her space.Like the muskrat that swims around her island,and even occasionally takes a few steps up on the island.

Or the ducks that fly in to spend time on the pond.The nesting goose just takes it all in stride,annoying as it might be.Funny thing about these ducks.The male goose guarding the pond has no problem with them,but just let another goose act like it’s going to land and the baby ducklingfight is on!

If we’re to weather the storms that come our way,we need a great deal of patience too,as the writer of Hebrews reminds us:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,   Heb 12:1 KJV

Life has a way of testing our patience doesn’t it? At least,that’s been my experience so far!And this life really is a race isn’t it?

A race that has to be ran

A race that has to be endured

A race that has to be taken one day at a time

Just like the geese on the pond out back,we’re in this race for the long haul.

Weathering the storms is never easy,in fact the process can be painful at times because life’s storms come in all varieties;physical,mental,financial,illness,even death.But please remember this one thing the next time you find yourself battling the forces that are coming against you:

After the storm has passed,the sunshine is brighter than ever before.

Ron

I know what you’re thinking; well that’s a really dumb question.God can handle anything.He’s God after all!And everybody knows that God is still God,right?

Well…not everyone knows that.Or believes that.

I’ve been thinking about this for some time,and several recent conversations and “chance”meetings with individuals has urged me to write about it.

What do you tell someone who is standing on the edge of the abyss who doesn’t know that God can handle it?What do you tell someone who looks at you with “that look”in their eyes,that pleading,longing look that is more desperation than anything else?

They’re out there,those people who have no idea where to turn next.And they’re hurting in ways that most of us cannot comprehend.

Frightened.Hurt.Disillusioned.Wondering.Most of all wondering why.Why is this happening? What do I do now?

Most of us,when confronted by life’s challenges will fall back on the scriptures,and rightfully so for therein lies much of our strength and encouragement.Or we will turn to a Christian friend or leader for comfort.

For centuries Christians have garnered hope and strength from scriptures such as these:

For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God?   2Sa 22:32 KJV

For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.   Psa 48:14 KJV

For our God is a consuming fire.   Heb 12:29 KJV

All great words to live by.But what about these folks that don’t have scriptures,or words of hope to sustain them?No preacher or minister to turn to?

Connie;who just today stopped by my desk to say goodby.You see,today is Connie’s last day after 30 years of service.I used to be her supervisor,and we shared several laughs and memories from years gone by.She got quiet as she prepared to leave and told me that she was hoping that things would work out alright.I thought that was a strange thing to say on this occasion and just as I was about to inquire she told me that her husband had not been able to work in over four years.Depression,she said.She told me that she had hope that everything would work out,so I asked her what the source of her hope was.”Nothing really”,came her response.She proceeded to explain that “you gotta have hope or else nothing will work out”. Connie is hoping in hope.Doesn’t believe in God.Believe me,I know.

Or Nathan;who just last week answered the call at his post as a local volunteer fire chief only to get there too late to save the two young girls,sisters,trapped inside.Nathan isn’t Nathan at the moment,he’s still in shock at witnessing what no one should ever see.His friends are very concerned about him because the life of the party is mostly silent.Nathan isn’t much of a believer either.Like the majority of the world,Nathan believes his good deeds will ensure his spot in heaven.

Today my office phone rang with a call from Mike,who told me his dad has cancer.Mike is usually somewhat scatter brained on his best day,but today was different.There was fear in Mike’s voice,fear of losing his dad.Mike and his dad have a very special relationship,a relationship forged out of some difficult days from years past.Mike is “religious”. He goes to church on Christmas and Easter to appease his elderly mother.Every once in awhile in a half joking manner he’ll say something religious like “I’ll say a prayer for you”. The rest of the time Mike cusses like a sailor.Actually, I think he could teach sailors to cuss.

Finally,I would be remiss if I failed to mention the text I received today from Gene.Gene is hurting terribly right now because he’s having to do what he’s tried to avoid doing for many years.Gene is having to place his mom in a nursing home.Did I mention that Gene is a Mamma’s boy? He’s taken care of his mom for many years since his dad passed away,and in fact he once told me he’d do just about anything to keep her out of the nursing home.Thankfully,Gene is a believer,and so is his mom.

There are others that I have encountered today,but it is enough.

So what do you tell someone who is standing on the edge of the abyss,who doesn’t know that God can handle it? What do you tell someone who looks at you with “that look”in their eyes,that pleading,longing look that is more desperation than anything else?

You tell them God’s got this.

Because He can handle it.

Be blessed,

Ron

Hope,I really love that word because it speaks of having something to look forward to.It speaks of turning the page,of a new day with new opportunities.

We all have hope of some kind don’t we? Some of us hope for things,some of us hope for relationships,and still others of us hope for a better life altogether.

My wife and I even started a ministry called H.O.P.E.!

I think hope is something we all have to one degree or another.Granted,life can be challenging to the point that we feel that all hope is lost, yet God remains faithful even in the darkest of times.I don’t remember who said it, but someone stated that hope is being able to see that there is light in spite of the darkness.Love it.

In this world today many are questioning “where is that light”,for all that seems to take center stage is darkness.The senseless murder of innocents is increasing at an alarming rate throughout the world,and the pleas of the religious to stop the violence go unheeded.

Unquestionably,the hearts of many have become hardened to the point of unfeeling or uncaring.And it will get much worse.

Jesus said it would be so in the time in which we now live.

Yet…hope remains strong in the hearts of those who have placed their trust in the Lord Jesus.Not just any kind of hope,not just a maybe someday kind of hope.But a hope that is alive!

You see,there is one reason and one reason only why we have this kind of hope and it is summed up in one word:

Resurrection

For it is through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that we are able to lay hold on this hope.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,   [1Pe 1:3 NKJV]

Empty-Tomb-2

the cripplegate.com

Peter and the rest of the disciples understood that though they had suffered the loss of everything dear to them and had become social outcasts because of their faith in Christ,the faith that carried them from day to day was a living hope.

They had the kind of faith that was alive because they knew that their Lord was alive.And that hope is available to all of us today because Jesus is still alive!He is still alive and He is still offering that living hope to a world lost and headed for Hell.

That living hope is still the driving force that keeps us going through unspeakable tragedy.Hope that is alive is hope that will sustain us beloved!The tempest may blow,the storms of life will rage,our world will be rocked,but that living hope will see us through it all.

But there are those…

How sad that men and women choose to live out their lives not knowing that there is something beyond this life that is far better than anything they could ever imagine.The Apostle Paul said that if all we have hope for is in this life we are miserable!

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.    1Co 15:19 KJV

If you are reading this and you can say that you are without hope,or that your only hope is in this life,I invite you to consider Jesus the Living Hope.

He is the way maker when there doesn’t seem to be any other way.He is the peace speaker in the middle of the raging storm.He is the One and only One that can be called the difference maker.

He is alive,and He offers to all a living hope through His resurrection!

Have a blessed Easter,

Ron

Friday

We call it “Good” Friday

A day that saw an event that changed the entire world for all time.

An event so horrific and unthinkable as to defy the imagination.

crucifixion

bible-history.com

A day that saw the murder of the world’s only sinless man, who just a few hours earlier had been tried and found guilty of love.

That’s right; found guilty of love.

His only “crime” was that he willingly,lovingly offered Himself as the eternal sin offering that was necessary to take away the sins of the people. He did what was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to do: He did not merely postpone sin from one season to the next.

He eradicated sin.

For all people

For all time.

What I could never do,He gladly did for me.

Precious

Priceless

Matchless

Holy

Oh,so Holy

The Crucifixion of Jesus was the the most brutal,horrific,inhumane,and barbaric method to kill someone.It’s purpose was twofold:

It was meant to kill,and it was intended to humiliate.

Death from crucifixion is slow,deliberate,and excruciatingly painful.After enduring the tortuous anguish of the cross,death from exhaustion and eventually asphyxiation is seen as a welcomed relief.

Crucifixion was seen as the ultimate humiliation.Stripped of his clothing for the world to see was in itself humiliating.The condemned is then hoisted high above the earth to become a spectacle to all who passed by.

Jesus…

Humiliated

Tortured

Murdered

All because of love.

Jesus said this shortly before His death:

17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”  John 10:17,18 NKJV

It was Love that was stretched on a cross that day two thousand years ago.

unconditional love

The unconditional love of Christ-Paul Washer

I put Him there

You put Him there

It was Love that kept Him there.

Someone said that love is not a religion,that love is a person.

Love is Jesus

A Day Like No Other?

Without question it was.

There will never be another day like that day.

There doesn’t need to be.

Once and for all,the atonement for our sins has been paid.

Be blessed,

Ron

The Church.

For over two thousand years “The Church”has existed in this present world.What is commonly referred to as the “Body of Christ”has been a key part of society in nearly every country,on nearly every continent,and has impacted billions of people in some way or another.

The Church was born out of the heart of Jesus Christ who came to deliver a message of hope and redemption to an otherwise lost and depraved world.After Jesus was crucified and ascended to heaven,this Churchchurch one man began to replicate itself.Beginning with the twelve Disciples and the converts that they made and continuing through centuries past, this replication has been a continuous process.Whether one man or a thousand,the church has maintained it’s presence among the peoples of the world.

The World.

People of every nation and every conceivable culture make up the world that we live in.There are slightly over 7 billion people in the world today who speak approximately 6500 different languages.No matter what context you use to look at those numbers,they are staggering to comprehend!

crowd

There are a great many voices clamoring to be heard today that declare that we are,or should be, one.You’ve heard them I’m sure.They say that with every technological advancement the world is getting smaller all the time,and no doubt it is.Technology has erased the barrier of distance that has long hindered the world from becoming one people.Technology,for all of it’s greatness,has become the modern day equivalent of the Tower of Babel .One family.One people.One race.One planet.One species.One religion.One Church.

One.

There are  many in the world today who have embraced the concept that we people of the world are all one.World leaders,economists,environmentalists,special interest groups of every type all believe that the time has come to join together for the sake of us all.

Church leaders have adopted this worldly mentality as well.We are being told to lay aside our differences,our denominational doctrines,our various creeds of the faith,for the good of all.The outcome of this “oneness”is the deliberate blurring of the line between the Church and the World.In fact I will go so far as to say that the line is no longer blurred:it has become invisible!

In following this vision of “oneness”we have opened Pandora’s box to the unthinkable:the church has become indistinguishable from the world.Is this what Christ meant for the church to become?Is this what Paul meant when he said this:

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?

16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among [them]. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.”

17 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”

18 “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty.”                     2Co 6:14-18 NKJV

When Paul wrote these words under the unction of the Holy Spirit,the church was in it’s infancy and as with any new work there were things taking place that needed to be addressed.The Holy Spirit spoke through Paul in an attempt to correct the misconception that is was OK for Christians to be joined together with unbelievers,or with those who lived a lifestyle that was in conflict with what Christ intended for His church

Where is this teaching today? I’m afraid to say that it is nearly nonexistent. I must report that such teaching is not at all well received today because the church has adopted the mindset of the world.The church wants to do everything the world does and still be called the church.We want to be included in activities that we know we should avoid.We want to partake of everything the world does and still be called the church.And we will not stand to have it any other way! We want to be one with the world!

The scriptures are clear however that God has called us to a life of separation from the world.In spite of that,the church of today chooses to inch ever closer to living a life of inclusiveness of all the world has to offer.This in spite of the Bible’s clear teaching that we cannot maintain fellowship with the world,participate in it’s sinful pleasures,adopt it’s practices as our own,and still be identified as a child of God.

It is painfully obvious to anyone that what passes for Christianity today would be completely foreign to the Apostle Paul.For all of our lofty,grandiose churches and programs I dare say that Paul would not be welcomed to preach in any of them!He was a man led by the Spirit,and any attempt to “modernize”him to go along with the program would be met with fierce refusal.WomanPileOfMoneyAlter

I chuckle sometimes when I see the WWJD bracelets being worn by people.I don’t chuckle because it’s funny,but because the answer to the question would likely not be what the masses think it should, or would be.Considering that Jesus took a whip and drove the money changers out of the temple because they had made His house a house of merchandise when it was meant to be a house of prayer,what approach would He take today in dealing with a largely backslidden church?

His way is the narrow way.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

14 “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.      Mat 7:13-14 NKJV

There must be a difference between the church and the world.

There must be a line drawn that the church cannot cross over.

It’s there.It exists. It’s not invisible.It’s plain for all to see.

If you’ve crossed that line I pray that you will come back.Come back to the straight and narrow way that leads to life.A way of personal holiness,a way of living that is separate from the world.

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.     1Jo 2:15-16 KJV

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

There have been a few occasions when I have shared with everyone how that my wife always seems to know exactly what to say and when to say it.This past Monday was no exception.

Monday was my birthday and I was feeling a little down about some things while I was at work.My wife and I had shared a few texts back and forth and she figured it out pretty quickly.Wives are like that,you know?At least the good ones are.

At some point during my lunch time I received yet another text from my wife,and I could tell by the length of it a mini sermon had filled the screen of my phone.I’d like to share what she said to me in hopes that it might speak to others,just as it has to me.

“Just heard a quote:if you don’t make peace with your reflection,you will always be at war with yourself”. She followed that with this:”we can’t change our past,but we can leave it at the cross and and move past it…and have peace and thrive.You have a future doing something for the Lord,but only if you stop living in your rear view mirror.Trust,believe….our future is only going to be as sweet as you expect and believe that it will be.Don’t allow the enemy to steal any more of your dreams”.

I think I’ve read this a dozen times since Monday and it’s still as powerful as the first time I read it.

Our reflection,or the man in the mirror can be a tremendous hindrance to our progress in the Lord,but only if we allow it to!Haven’t many of us commented that our greatest enemy is often ourselves?To overcome,or gain the victory over our own self doubts is necessary if we are to do anything for the Kingdom of God.

We all have a past.A past that many of us wish we could somehow wipe away never to be remembered again.But there is a powerful adversary who knows every minute detail f our past,and his job is to make sure that we don’t ever forget it.

It’s important that we understand this.As Christians we acknowledge the fact that the sins of our past are no more.As far as the East is from the West,that’s how far God has cast our sins away.

Yet Satan,the angel of light,our adversary,is determined that our past sins continue to have a stranglehold on every facet of our lives.This is the battle that everyone must fight.God has forgiven.Satan says “no He hasn’t”.

Our sins were nailed to the Cross beloved.Once and for all our sins were purchased by the blood of Christ.I think we would all do better if we reminded Satan of this from time to time.After all,our weapons are more powerful than his!

The weapons of our warfare are not carnal,but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.   2nd Cor 10:4

Because our sins were nailed to that Cross we are free to move beyond them,justified before a Holy God as though we had never sinned.That should be what we focus upon.That alone should be our battle cry.

My sins,your sins,all of them are in the rear view mirror.They are behind us.The only way you can see them is if you turn around and look for them.

How about you? Have any big dreams for God? Unfulfilled dreams? Dreams that you continue to hold on to?

As my precious wife reminded me,”don’t allow the enemy to steal any more of your dreams”.

Be blessed,

Ron