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Faithful to the call

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Every Christian is a called Christian.

In spite of the fact that there are over six hundred thousand paid clergy in the United States, every Christian, irrespective of denomination or church affiliation, has been called to “spread the Good News”.

Think about it; there are currently over 7.6 billion souls on the earth. If only those 600,00 paid clergy were sharing the gospel, each of them would be responsible for 12,666 of those 7.6 billion souls. How practical is that?

The ‘Great Commission’, found in Mark 16:15 directs us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature“. This is the defining call upon the lives of all believers everywhere.

The fact is that God intended for all of us, whether paid/professional clergy or laymen and laywomen, to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a solemn and divine mandate handed to us by Jesus Himself.

The question all of us must answer is simple: are we being faithful to this very personal call to preach the gospel? And if not, why not?

We hear many excuses for not heeding the call, don’t we? Let me list a few and see if they sound familiar.

  • It’s not my job
  • That’s what we pay the minister to do
  • I’m not qualified
  • I give in the offering, isn’t that enough?
  • I lack the confidence to talk about such things

The thing is, most if not all of us have used these or similar excuses before to explain away our missed opportunities to share the Gospel. It’s not that we set out to deliberately shirk our personal responsibilities, it’s just that in our humanity we somehow manage to do so.

I’m from the camp that believes that God has not only called us all to spread the Good News, but that He has also equipped us all to do the work. You don’t need to be a Biblical scholar, nor do you need a seminary education to be a witness of His goodness.

You see, God has a unique way of taking our life’s experiences and using them as a catalyst to reach the lost. In other words, he takes what you already have and uses it to reach someone who needs to hear your story.

As an example, I was approached one day by someone I had never seen before who wanted to speak with me about Christianity and divorce. When I asked her why she was coming to me, she replied that she had heard that I had been divorced and had been watching my life from a distance.

Scary, huh?

She wanted to know how I had been able to move past such a difficult and personal issue. This was an opportunity to share with her that the Gospel is both personal and powerful, and that faith in Jesus will sustain us in the worst of times.

God took a tragic season of my life and was able to use it to encourage another of His children to keep pressing on. What’s great about this is that all of us have stories of hurt, abuse, despair, and bitterness that God can use as an opening to to share the Good News with another person.

Our role is simply to be faithful to the call by allowing God to use our brokenness to reach others. It’s a proven fact that some of the most powerful witnesses for Jesus are also some of the most broken.

Like you.

My hope and my prayer is that we would allow God to take our lives and use them as His hands and feet to reach this desperately lost and searching generation.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

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If you’ve ever wondered if God cares

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Let’s face it.

There are very few of us who haven’t wondered from time to time if God really does care about us. When we’re dealing with feelings of insecurity, loneliness, fear, betrayal, or shame this opens the door for the enemy to cast doubt in our minds as to whether God cares.

We rationalize in our minds the thought that if God does indeed care, would I be dealing with these feelings in the first place?

So, we wonder.

This falls perfectly in line with John 10:10 where Jesus said that “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” Satan comes to steal and kill our confidence in God, and once this is accomplished he moves in to destroy.

So how do we know that God really does care about us, and that he knows what we are going through? After all, aren’t there times when even the most ardent follower of Jesus needs to be reminded of John 3:16?

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

I’d say that a God who would give His only Son as a sacrifice to pay for your sins has demonstrated His care and concern for you, wouldn’t you agree?

But let’s dive just a bit deeper into this matter. I believe another way that Jesus demonstrates His care for us is in the fact that He knows all about us. That’s right, He knows all about YOU.

Just how do we know this to be true?

Because He has given us detailed examples in His word.

Using the seven churches in Asia found in the Book of Revelation as our guide, we find that Jesus had many things to say to these churches. The word that Jesus spoke to each individual church reflected their spiritual condition and relationship with Christ. Some received words of comfort and edification, while others received words of rebuke and correction.

Imagine if you will two columns, one with pluses and one with minuses, and in each of those columns Jesus lists the positives and the negatives that He has found within each of these seven churches.

Yet for all of that, there are commonalities in what Jesus had to say to them. For example, to each one of the churches of Revelation Jesus says the same two words:

“I KNOW”

  • I know your works, your labor, your patience…
  • I know your works, tribulation, and poverty…
  • I know your works, and where you dwell…
  • I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience…
  • I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead…
  • I know your works…
  • I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot…

“I KNOW”

So how do we know that God really does care about us, and that he knows what we are going through?

Because He knows you more intimately than you could ever know yourself. Just as He knew every detail of each of the seven churches of Revelation, so does He know you.

We can take comfort in knowing that Jesus knows all about it.

Ron

 

What would you do…

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My wife recently told me about a question that she had either heard or read someplace:

What would you do if tomorrow you woke up to realize that the only possessions you still had were those that you had given thanks for today?

Thoughts?

 

How Good Do We Have to Be?

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This is the title of a book written by Harold S. Kushner. Full disclaimer: before seeing this book on a shelf along with several other used books, I had never heard of either the author or the book, therefore I have no idea of its contents.

What intrigued me about it however was the title, because this is THE question that people have been asking for thousands of years.

Just how much do I have to do, and how good is good enough to make it into heaven?

We all know that the underlying belief system for many people is one based upon works. If you’re a good enough person, meaning that at the end of your life your good deeds outweigh the bad, that’s all that’s required to gain entrance into heaven.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard this all of your life. That’s how pervasive this belief is.

So, is it possible to be ‘good enough’?  If so, how exactly do you measure what ‘good enough’ is? Is there a sliding scale or barometer of ‘good’? Has the criteria for ‘good enough’ been made available to us all?

For the answer to those  questions, let’s go to the official source of information for understanding heaven’s entry fee: God’s Word.

The Psalmist declared that there were none that were good. Not even one!

The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.   Psalm 14:2,3

Jesus, in response to the question of “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”, said “Why do you call me good? there is none good but one, that is, God…”  Matthew 19:16,17

The man that asked Jesus this question was very wealthy, and believed (like many of us) that the key to inheriting eternal life was found in the word ‘good’. He likely thought he could donate a sum of money or possessions, or that by doing a “good thing” it would ensure him entry into heaven.

Unfortunately for this man (and billions like him), the scriptures are clear that any priority placed on ‘good’ is misplaced. That is because ‘good’ as defined by man is never going to be ‘good enough’.

That is why Jesus said that there is no one good, but God.

In other words, apart from God man can never be ‘good enough’ to inherit heaven. If he could, there would have been no need for Jesus to come and offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Indeed, He has died in vain if we ourselves could somehow be ‘good enough’.

If your church or denomination teaches you that God will accept you because of your good works, you are sitting under deception. God will only accept you because he sees that your sins have been covered by the blood of his only Son.

If we were to humble our hearts and really think about it, is there really anything within us that is good, except for the Lord himself? For me personally, I know that the answer to that is NO!

Any good found within me has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with Him!

How about you?

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

The very real dangers of entanglement

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Are you one of those people who frequently says, “where did the time go”?

This happens to a lot of us, especially when we get too busy. Like when you’re burning the candle at both ends busy.

“Busy” probably describes most people but being ‘too busy’ is what I want to focus on with this post. In particular, I want to talk about how easy it is even on our best days for God to occasionally get left out, while on those ‘too busy’ days He likely isn’t even thought of at all.

I’m one of those who believe that the Lord is at work in our lives each day. Because of this, I recognize that His presence is also a daily occurrence in my life.

My point being that I never have to wonder if God is with me. I know that He is.

Now, does that mean I don’t have times when I question “Lord, where are you”? Of course not! Like all of you, I am sometimes slow to adjust to God’s timing, thinking that He should react immediately to my petitions.

We all know that the Lord just doesn’t work like that.

Well, at least He doesn’t in my life.

None of this however changes the fact that God is always with us. He is the faithful one in our relationship, and fortunately for all of us he is never ‘too busy’ for us, nor does he forget about us. I don’t know how He does it, but somehow, He always makes time for us.

We, on the other hand, can get so busy with this thing we call ‘life’ that God gets shoved aside. Just stop for a moment and think of all the things you’ve done today and add those to tomorrow’s ‘to do list’, and you get a picture of how busy your life really is.

Seriously, some of us could apply for the position of a circus juggler because we are constantly having to juggle our time and schedules.

What’s amazing about this is that we don’t even realize it. In fact, it’s our everyday, normal life isn’t it? It’s like a saying we used to use at work that “the abnormal has become normal”.

Herein is the danger of becoming too busy with life. We don’t realize how much of ourselves we are constantly pouring into other things, people, or causes.

All at the expense of allowing God to pour into us, which He cannot do because we are too busy with everything else but Him!

The apostle Paul recognized the danger of allowing ourselves to become entangled in a multitude of things, things that eventually entrap us much like a bird in a snare. In his 2nd letter to Timothy, Paul wrote the following:

No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”  2 Tim. 2:4

As in all of his writings, Paul sees the relationship we have with Christ as one where we are in a battle. We have been enlisted as soldiers in God’s army, with a duty to carry out His orders.

Paul understands that if we are to please the One who is giving us our marching orders, we cannot become entangled with the affairs of this life. To do so would cause our attention to be diverted away from the task He has assigned to us.

Many of you can no doubt relate to being pulled a hundred different directions at one time, and this is what Paul is warning us against. Simply put, if we have become ‘too busy’ to be able to respond to our Leader, we have ceased to be a soldier that is pleasing to Him.

All of us have causes and projects that we support or have any number of family obligations that must be attended to. Paul is not telling us to abandon those things, but rather to make sure they do not become a snare to us.

The key here is to strike a balance between life’s obligations and giving time and attention to the One who makes our lives possible.

By doing this, we don’t have to worry about becoming ensnared by the everyday affairs of this life. We can be productive, positive members of society and also good soldiers of the One who has called us.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

 

 

 

 

Tales of a Curmudgeon in the making…

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OK, not really. But after several recent encounters with a wide variety of the species I am beginning to wonder if respect, decency, modesty, kindness, sensitivity, and thoughtfulness have gone the way of the Dodo bird.

Bear with me as I take you along on my mini-rant, and please feel free to comment and tell me the problem is with me only and that society isn’t really that bad after all. It will not hurt my feelings to be told that I am 100% wrong, and that yes indeed I am turning into a Curmudgeon.

Let me start with a lady who I will call “Agnes”. I use the name Agnes for a couple of reasons. 1: I can’t use her real name and 2: well, she just reminds of an Agnes.

So, a couple of weeks ago I was sitting with someone in the hospital and it was in one of those rooms that have a curtain dividing the room in half. Except that Agnes had 2/3 of the room, but I digress.

Agnes was one of those people that believe that since she’s in the hospital, she might as well treat the occasion as though she’s in a four-star hotel. That meant that every nurse and doctor was supposed to be at her beck and call. Even the attending physician that was taking care of the person I was sitting with was reminded that she was either hungry or that she needed more meds.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. Agnes had a host of ailments, one or two of them serious. As a diabetic, for example, she was of course limited to the kinds of food she could indulge in. At least that was what was supposed to happen.

Imagine my great surprise when after she had eaten the evening meal, a couple of hours later along comes her husband toting her 2nd dinner. That’s right, Agnes called him to bring her some “real food”. Fried shrimp it was, and boy did it smell good.

Especially to the person whom I was sitting with that wasn’t permitted anything to eat, not even ice chips! And yes…Agnes was fully aware of this. Can you say INSENSITIVE?

But wait, there’s more! Through the night Agnes could be heard opening candy bars, and once while on the phone she was heard to tell someone that when she wakes up during the night, she just reaches over and eats a few bites of a cake that hubby had brought her, and then goes back to sleep.

There is plenty more, but I can’t really bear to conjure up any more memories of Agnes. Especially the one where she said, “I’m not a very modest person”.

Oh boy……

After a couple of days of this the person I was visiting was moved to a different room. At first, this was cause for celebration. No more having to listen to Agnes and her incessant whining about needing at least 3 or 4 packets of butter for her toast.

The celebration was short lived however, as roomie # 2, who I will call “Gladys”, turned out to be a younger version of Agnes. She too was on the “everyone here exists to serve my every little whim” plan.

Gladys also complained about not getting enough to eat, so she called her daughter who promptly brought her a chicken dinner from someplace. Oh, and her daughter also brought along a 4-year-old who couldn’t be contained or quieted.

Well, I would have gladly done both, but I’m pretty sure hospital security would not have been pleased with my methods.

As it turned out, the person I was sitting with was allowed to go home just a few hours after being placed in the room with Gladys. Upon hearing this, Gladys promptly told the nursing staff that she wanted that bed because there was a window on that side of the room.

Yep, and it had quite a view. Hospital rooftop and duct work as far as you could see. Now, before we leave Gladys, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention something about her daughter.

It seems her daughter used to work for this very hospital and knew her way around the computer software that contains all the doctors notes and such. So, while the nurse was supposed to be processing the discharge of the person I was there with, she instead was consumed with looking up the doctor’s notes of her mother’s recent procedures at the request of her daughter.

Yes, that’s right. Can someone say HIPAA?

Since this post is only going to grow larger, I won’t even go into the aggravation of seeing not one, but two carts shoved into the side of my car at Walmart. Both within 20 feet of the cart corral, but hey, it was starting to get cloudy and maybe they thought they might get rained on.

I also won’t launch into a diatribe over why people park their grocery cart in the middle of the aisle and then stand beside it, making it impossible to go around them. Nope, not gonna go there.

And those not so kind folks who man the phones at the doctor’s office and seem absolutely annoyed that you would dare expect them check the calendar to see when the good doctor would be available?

Nah… I’m giving them a pass as well.

After all, with all of these first world problems I’m having to deal with, I’m not sure I can handle any more!

Have a great day everyone and keep smiling!!

Signed,

A Curmudgeon in the making.

 

 

 

In spite of our flaws

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Some of you may remember that up until my recent retirement, I spent the last almost twenty-eight years working for Honda. There are a great many things that one learns when surrounded by a culture that is completely foreign to your own, and I will always be grateful for the many life lessons I learned while there.

I still remember my first nervous days at Honda, days in which I often found myself thinking “what have I done, and what am I doing here”? To say I endured a bit of culture shock would be a huge understatement, as every day I was exposed to ideas, philosophies, and customs unlike anything I had ever seen or heard.

In my new hire orientation for example, I learned that the Japanese placed a great deal of emphasis on ‘Respect’. So much so, that the foundational operating principle that guides Honda is ‘Respect for the Individual’.

It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, it doesn’t matter what your race or ethnicity is, it doesn’t matter if you are a college graduate or if you had to drop out of school to go to work at an early age. ‘Respect for the Individual‘ means every person is valued.

Every operational decision is based upon that principle, and it has served the company (and those who worked there) very well. As an aside, one cannot help but wonder how much better off all companies would be if they placed this same priority on ‘Respect for the Individual‘.

In my career at Honda, I was exposed to many different and unique aspects of the Japanese culture. What was common, or normal from my limited American perspective of things became something entirely different when looked at through the lens of a people who date back to the 8th century.

Take a broken pottery vase for example. In my eyes, a broken vase is just that; broken and no longer suitable for the purpose for which it was created. Broken, useless, and ready for the trash.

To the Japanese however, that broken vase represents something entirely different. You see, they have a form of art called ‘kintsugi’ (pronounced keen-TSOO-gee), where a broken piece of pottery is put back together again with lacquer and then dusted with gold powder.

To them, the once broken pottery is made even more beautiful because of, not in spite of, its many imperfections.

I like to think of our new lives in Christ in much the same way. All of us were broken vessels at one time, ready to be discarded until God placed us back on the potter’s wheel, where the Master Potter turned us into a beautiful masterpiece.

The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.  Jeremiah 18:1-4

God takes us just as we are, flaws and all, imperfections too many to list, and applies His special touch to our lives. The result is something far more beautiful and valuable than what He started with.

I hope you will remember this the next time the enemy tries to convince you that you are too broken, too damaged, too marred to be of any value.

In the hands of the Master, your beauty is only beginning to shine through.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

 

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