But Know This…

Posted: August 26, 2015 in Uncategorized
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From Paul’s second letter to Timothy;

1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:

2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, wordle

4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,

5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts,

7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.    2Ti 3:1-7 NKJV

There are times when nothing needs to be said beyond what the scriptures teach us.

Either we accept it, or we do not.

Either we believe it, or we do not.

None of that matters…. for the Word of God is truth that will stand for eternity.

Regardless of our personal opinions about it.

It is what it says it is, because He is who He says He is.

The Faithfulness of God

Posted: August 20, 2015 in Uncategorized

I am so glad that there is a God who sees the things that I cannot.A God who goes before me to make a way in what can best be described at times as a “weary land”.A God who reveals Himself as faithful every single day.

When others look at us as not good enough,not smart enough,not special enough….there is a God who sees us in a very different light.He sees past the obvious,past the mask we may be wearing,past the failures…straight into the depths of our hearts.Just like He did when it came time to anoint a new king over Israel;

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”    1st Samuel 16:7

Many of God’s children feel defeated,beaten down,so very discouraged because in the eyes of some they “just don’t have what it takes”.I’ve felt that sting,as have many of you.Mostly it hurts because you know that you do have what it takes,you know that God has called and equipped you for the task.Yet you find yourself in an all too familiar position of trying to prove to those who cannot see your heart that you do in fact “have what it takes”.

I am convinced that when God calls a person,He also equips them for the job.I am also convinced that by and large the church will not permit such a person to live out their calling if it in any way makes them uncomfortable.

That’s the status of the church today….we can’t have any dissenters in the crowd.A person such as that must be silenced lest they rock the boat.After all,we have a plan that must be followed to the letter,we can’t afford to have someone suggest an alternative.What would the board think? What would the congregation think?

What would God think?

Heaven forbid if God wanted to actually use someone to speak a word that would reprove us of our sinful condition.To bring a word that actually ripped the covers off our sins.That’s not part of our grand plan is it?

But God is still faithful.

He sees what they can’t see;your heart.What God has hidden from their view is crystal clear to Him.To some that is a worrisome thought,but to those who love the Lord there is no more comforting thought than to know that God sees deep into our hearts.

He knows our motives,which again may bring a sense of uneasiness to some,but to others a sense of peace in that He understands us better than anyone,including ourselves.

Man does not call us. That right belongs to God alone.The faithful God.

“Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;       Deuteronomy 7:9

It is God,the faithful God who has established this covenant;man had no part in it’s establishment.

Nor can man abolish it.

Take heart and know that there is One who has been called Faithful from the beginning,and who will forever be known as such.

Because of His covenant you are good enough,smart enough,special enough…you do have what it takes.

The Faithful God.

Be blessed!

Ron

This morning I was looking forward to service and hearing an encouraging message from God’s Word. Not having been in church for a few weeks due to vacation and other things, it felt good getting ready for church again.

Church is one of those things that I love and it’s been a central part of my life for almost forty years now.I love the Word.I love reading it and hearing again and again the many ways that God is for us and not against us. I love the encouragement I get from God’s word and know that I can go in the strength of that word many days.

I wish I could write that the service was fantastic,that the sermon was inspiring,that the music took me to new heights of worship.I wish I could.Oh,how I wish I could.

But I can’t.Because it was just “OK”.

Actually…it was a carbon copy of nearly every other service.

Forgive me for saying this….but it was boring.

Singing,or praise & worship, accompanied by Meet & Greet.

Offering.

Message.

Prayer.

Go home.

Leave the same way we came. Still longing for encouragement.

Smiling faces,yet no joy.

And before you say to me “hey Ron,did you ever think you’re the problem?”,let me assure you I’ve thought that for a long,long time.

But not any more. I think I finally figured it out.Or perhaps it’s more likely that I am finally ready to accept what the Lord has been saying to me through His word for some time now.

Why is church boring? Why is service almost the same every week? Why are lives never changed, or why are hearts rarely encouraged?

It’s because the Church has detached itself from the Vine.

Consider this from God’s Word:

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.   John 15:1-6 NKJV

Why else are our services so fruitless except that the branch (that’s us folks) is no longer attached to the Vine(Jesus)?

We think we have this all figured out don’t we? We model our churches after Wall Street.Our church business plans are nearly indistinguishable from any major corporation in America.Instead of depending upon God we enslave ourselves to debt and interest to build ever larger churches,all the while proclaiming God’s favor upon our efforts.

Oh sure,we have churches that attract thousands every Sunday. Our buildings are often the grandest in town.We have programs that are the envy of any secular program out there.We have developed a system of self reliance second to none.

“Without ME,you can do nothing”! When was the last time we consulted HIM about anything?

We have structured our services to the point that God Himself would have a hard time getting our attention! And the horror of it all is that the church in America doesn’t even notice that God is not even present! How is this possible you ask? It’s because we must follow the script, and the script does not allow time for God to interrupt our programmed services so that He can break our hearts!

Sunday morning Christians who week after week raise their hands as if in humble worship,yet whose Facebook writings from the night before are filled with filth and vulgarity. Detached from the Vine yet still playing the part.”Repeat after me”salvation’s that cannot change the heart.Withered branches cut off from the only Source of Life there is.

We are the church of the Laodiceans, rich and in need of nothing (God). We have created in our own image a form of Godliness,but deny the power thereof.We are ensnared by the very system we have ourselves created and cannot break free of it. And we dare ask ourselves “what about that abundant life Jesus promised us”?

15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’–and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked– 18 “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.   Rev 3:15-18 NKJV

Oh God,if only! If only our eyes were opened to allow us to see ourselves even as You see us!

Our feeble attempts to bear fruit of ourselves apart from God are doomed to complete and utter failure.We do not love one another with the love of Christ.We make time only for those in our inner circles,and too bad if you aren’t one of the “chosen ones”because you will be left on the outside looking in.outside-looking-in

Father in heaven; surely there are hungry souls still on this great planet of yours,souls hungry for a touch from on high.A people whose lips have been touched with a coal from the alter of God.Just as Elijah learned there were yet seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal,my heart’s cry is that there are still multitudes yearning for an encounter with you.

Count me in that number.

Ron

All of us stumble and fall.

Every one of us.

Saints.

Sinners.

All of us.

Where is God when we stumble and fall? Does He turn a deaf ear to us and say that “you’re on your own”?

As all of us who have stumbled can attest,God is faithful to restore us again and again should we come to Him with a repentant heart.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.   Psa 34:18 KJV

But have you ever wondered whether or not you were important enough to the Lord that He would seek you out? Have you ever thought to yourself “am I even worth it”?

I mean,it’s one thing for me to acknowledge my sin and turn to the Lord asking for mercy.As a Christian I know that I must do this if I am to be restored to a right relationship with my Creator.

But what happens if we choose to continue doing that thing that displeases Him? Does the God of the universe wash His hands of us as if to say “well,I guess you will reap the rewards of your actions so you’re on your own”?

All of this brings me to a tragic story in the Old Testament book of Amos that reminds me of how far the Lord will go to recapture our hearts.The story is one that reveals the very nature of God’s heart and His longing for a relationship with His people.

1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, Who oppress the poor, Who crush the needy, Who say to your husbands, “Bring wine, let us drink!”

2 The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness: “Behold, the days shall come upon you When He will take you away with fishhooks, And your posterity with fishhooks.

3 You will go out through broken walls, Each one straight ahead of her, And you will be cast into Harmon,” Says the LORD.

4 “Come to Bethel and transgress, At Gilgal multiply transgression; Bring your sacrifices every morning, Your tithes every three days.

5 Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, Proclaim and announce the freewill offerings; For this you love, You children of Israel!” Says the Lord GOD.

6 “Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities. And lack of bread in all your places; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

7 “I also withheld rain from you, When there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, And where it did not rain the part withered.

8 So two [or] three cities wandered to another city to drink water, But they were not satisfied; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

9 “I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, Your vineyards, Your fig trees, And your olive trees, The locust devoured them; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

10 “I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; Your young men I killed with a sword, Along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

11 “I overthrew some of you, As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

12 “Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; Because I will do this to you, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

13 For behold, He who forms mountains, And creates the wind, Who declares to man what his thought is, And makes the morning darkness, Who treads the high places of the earth–The LORD God of hosts is His name.   Amos 4:1-13 NKJV  (emphasis mine)

This passage of scripture reveals clearly that our Lord will not just let us go to do as we will,but rather He will continually plead with His children to “return to me”. In other words,it isn’t as easy as we might imagine to “get away from the Lord”because as you can see,God will do whatever He needs to do to get your attention.

Why is that? Is it not because of your worth?

I once heard it said that for any soul to enter into Hell they would have to first get past Jesus,and I believe this to be true. The God who in times past sent armies to oppress His people in order to get them to return unto Him now has sent His only Son Jesus to stand between you and I and eternal separation from Him.

The God who in times past withheld even the rain from heaven to try to get His people to return unto Him now pleads with every soul to accept the Supreme Sacrifice that is His only Son,Jesus Christ as the only Way,the Truth,and the Life.

If you have fallen…get up. If you fall tomorrow…get back up.

You will find One reaching out to you with an unseen hand to pick you up,for He will not leave you broken and desolate.It is not in Him to abandon you in your time of need.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.  Psa 34:19 NKJV

He delivers him out of them ALL!

You can return unto Him!

Be blessed,

Ron

above the clouds

No,I’m not referring to a doctrinal kind of Eternal Security.I’m talking about an Eternal Security that can only be found in the God who reigns from heaven above….

Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?    Isa 66:1 KJV

In times like these we need to know that there is a God who reigns Supreme above any and all that claim to be God.All over the world people’s sense of security has been shattered by the sheer amount of terror that has been unleashed upon the earth.It’s as if there is no safe place to hide. Ah,but there is indeed a hiding place,and it’s in the Eternal Security of God’s love.

In times like these when evil abounds and many are fearful and falling away from the only One who can sustain them,we need to be reassured that our God reigns.Governments do not control Him,neither can they contain Him….. for He alone is God.

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,              Isa 46:9 KJV

Though the heathen rage against Him,yet He remains ever faithful…the defender of His people.No matter what comes to us in the form of trials or hurts,there is none like unto our God who can comfort us in the midst of the storms.His ear is open unto our cry……

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,                    Eph 3:20 KJV

If we would just look to Him we would discover One who is able to do the impossible. We would find in Him the answer we so desperately long for.If we would simply bow our hearts before Him we would know that in doing so we have brought Him into the battle!

Who but God can do such things as these?

Be blessed!

Ron

Our family just returned from 10 days of sunshine and rest and we are very thankful to the Lord for His provision.I’ve had a lot of time to actually think without the pressures and demands of life interrupting me, and it was good to be able to spend quiet time alone with Him.

I spent quite a bit of time reflecting upon my own journey with Christ.I’ve been a Christian for almost forty years now, and there are times when it seems a lot longer than that. I guess life sometimes makes time seem to drag on longer than it actually does. Wouldn’t you agree?

And then there are times when it seems like only yesterday when I knelt in my kitchen and accepted the Lord into my heart.Serving the Lord,basking in the glory of it all,somehow seems to make the time fly by. Agree?

I should mention here that due to a family medical trait I really never dreamed I would live to be as old as I am.Even though I’m still 16 in heart and mind(just ask my wife!), my body however has a way of snapping me back to reality pretty quickly.

Which kind of has me thinking about endurance,and how we manage to hold to the Lord’s hand through the storms of life.My thoughts are that I could never had held on through some incredibly stormy seas unless I had a sure foundation.Which brings me to the title of this post: Upon This Rock…

In Matthew’s gospel we find Jesus is speaking to his disciples,and in particular Peter about this foundation.

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14 And they said, Some [say that thou art] John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.    Mat 16:13-20 KJV

Now,this is not a post about who/what Jesus was referring to when speaking about this “Rock”. I stand firmly in the corner of those who believe Jesus was referring to Himself as being the Rock,or Foundation of the church……and thus of me. You may think otherwise of course.

What I know for sure is this: there is no way humanly possible for anyone but Christ to have sustained me through the past forty years.No church,pastor,leader,denomination,etc…could do what He has done for me.

Nope. None but Christ. And I know that I know this to be true. Christ is my Rock.He alone is my foundation.

It is Christ alone that makes a way when there seems to be no way.

It is Christ alone who speaks to the storm and brings about a peace that passes all understanding.

It is in Christ alone that I place my hope for a future.A future without pain and disappointment.

There is none like Him. He is the One and Only Son of the Most High God.

The One that at the mention of His name “every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord,to the glory of God the Father.”

My Rock.

Your Rock.

THE ROCK that even the gates of Hell cannot defeat.

Think about this: what hasn’t Hell,or Satan,defeated in this world? Actually,no matter where you turn there is evidence that Satan is hard at work.Hard to think of much that the devil hasn’t impacted in a seriously negative way through the centuries,isn’t it?

Except Jesus Christ.And His Church.

That’s why I know without any doubt that He is the Rock of my salvation.

How about you?

Be blessed!

Everywhere I look it seems that there are more and more people struggling in this land of plenty. Did you ever wonder how this can be,especially when there is so much prosperity to go around?How did it get this way,and more to the point…how did it get so bad?

Now,maybe you live in an area where everyone is doing very well.Maybe your circle of friends are all enjoying the good life and everything seems to favor you and yours.If that describes you,then this post will not resonate with you at all. For the rest of us however,read on.

The downtrodden and poor have always been a part of communities everywhere,as have the rich and well to do.Fact is,even Jesus acknowledged this when he said:

“For he have the poor always with you,but me ye have not always”. Matt. 26:11 KJV

So the reality of life is that there will always be the poor among us. I get that. I see it all the time. Perhaps you live that reality every single day.

So I wonder,in my own simplistic way,does it really have to be this way in America? In this world? Do we not have enough resources to effectively combat this problem,or is the real issue one of the allocation of those resources?

Before I go any further with this I need to make sure a few things are understood regarding my personal thoughts on this matter.

I do not believe continual handouts are the answer. History has proven that to be true. I know of many multi generational recipients of that type of “support”,all of whom seem to like the system just fine thank you.

Nor do I believe we should take the “Robin Hood” approach and take from those who have worked so hard to suceed in life and give to those who are lifelong “takers”. Sorry if that offends you,but that’s how it is.

So back to this resource thought. It is clear by anyone’s measurement that we have an abundance of riches in this country unlike any other nation on earth. And as such we have a responsibility to use those resources wisely,to allocate them in such a way as to help those who are struggling to reach the next rung on the ladder.

We have an abundance of natural resources such as coal,oil,natural gas,and alternative energy sources.

We raise enough food in this country to be able to export huge amounts of it,even while we pay out billions in subsidies every year to farmers so they will not plant too much(and yes,I like farmers).

Talk about an abundance!!!!

We are told by the media that the working poor suffer the greatest as they are caught in the middle. The don’t make enough to get over the hump,but make too much to qualify for certain assistance programs.It’s a lose lose for them and I feel their pain,as I too was once caught in that trap.

In truth,we in America are all filthy rich by the standards of the majority of the human population.Think about these statistics for a moment: there are just over seven Billion souls living on this planet.Over half of them,or 3.5 Billion of them live in poverty making less than $2.50 a day.What’s even worse is that over 1.3 Billion people live in extreme poverty earning less than $1.25 a day.

Our lifestyles represent a quantum leap away from those of the poor in other parts of the world. Yet for all of that,not everyone enjoys the basics of life in this,the richest country in the history of the world.

So what’s the problem? Why on earth are there so many doing without in this land of riches?

And where is the church in the midst of this problem? Ah yes,the church…

Shouldn’t the church be leading the way in the efforts to build up those who are down and struggling? And yes, I am aware of the many programs that some churches sponsor in an attempt to make a difference in the lives of the unfortunate.

Why has the church been only too willing to allow this to become the problem of the government and not their own?

I know,I know,”we give to missions”is always the answer isn’t it? We support missionaries all over the world and somehow our conscious is appeased and we can sleep well because of it.

Meanwhile the family across town goes hungry,children are forced to eat subsidized lunches and on and on it goes…

Speaking strictly from a Christian perspective,what do we do with all of the money we collect each week? Is it being used for salaries,staff,more building projects,bigger and better programs? What are our priorities as Christians?

Seems like a good spot for a great big ol’ WWJD doesn’t it?

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that if the majority of a churches’ budget is being spent to pay salaries and mortgage payments to the bank then we are failing in our efforts to be good stewards of the riches entrusted to us. That’s not what real ministry is folks.

Yes,the poor will always be with us.

But that does not diminish our responsibility to do everything we can to ease their burdens. It does not take away from the fact that the church is responsible,not the government,to see that the poor,the widows,and the fatherless have the basic necessities of life.

On a plaque affixed to the Statue of Liberty is a quote from the poem “New Colossus”,written by Emma Lazarus that perhaps you have heard of:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Many today are tired, poor, and broken in spirit. It is up to all of us to try to make a difference. First,by stepping up to the plate and helping to provide those in need with the essentials.

Secondly,to speak the words of truth and life contained in the Word of God to each person we come into contact with.

Be blessed,and pray for those less fortunate.

Ron