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What is God Positioning You to Do?

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Recently, I delivered a message to our church entitled “Against All Odds”. My text was taken from the 7th chapter of Judges, a familiar story to many of you about how God used a man named Gideon and 300 soldiers to defeat an army of well over one hundred thousand Midianite soldiers.

The account of Gideon and how that the Lord kept whittling away at his army in order to reduce its size is a study in faith and trust in the word of God. Starting out with 32,000 soldiers, a nearly 4 to 1 disadvantage against the army of Midian, God eventually reduced that number to 300. Why would God do that? He did that so that when the victory came, Israel would not praise Israel for the victory, but God. God knew if He had left the number at 32,000, then Israel would have declared the victory was a direct result of their own strength. God was out to prove to Gideon and you and I that when we bring God into our battle, the size of the opposition does not matter. What matters is that we understand that God’s strength is far greater than our weaknesses!

When Gideon was first told that he would lead Israel into battle against overwhelming odds, he, like many of us, was quick to remind the Lord of his inadequacies. Through a series of faith building assignments, Gideon was finally convinced that he could do what the Lord had called him to do. So, assembling his little army of 300, Gideon positions them where he believed they would have the best opportunity to launch a surprise attack. There was just one little problem with Gideon’s strategy: it wasn’t God’s strategy!

You see, while Gideon was positioning himself for a battle involving spears, arrows, and the like, God was positioning Gideon for a different type of battle. His was to be a battle of faith and trust in the promise of God vs. his own capabilities. What can we learn from this? For one, isn’t it amazing how that God will place us in the most unlikely situations to test our faith? So often, when we’ve been stretched and tried beyond what we believe to be our limits, and all we’re looking for is a way out of the situation, God will instead choose to use that situation to teach us something!

Secondly, if we really believe the word of God that tells us “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6) then our inadequacies do not matter.  If we will take to heart the word of God that says, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7) then our limitations do not matter. If you’ve ever felt outnumbered in life, then this should tell you that the strength of your opposition doesn’t matter. Again, what matters is God’s strength is far greater than our weaknesses!

When God reduced Gideon’s army to a paltry 300 men, then and only then did he have Gideon right where he wanted him! God had placed Gideon in a situation where the only thing he could do was trust God to do exactly what he said he would do. And that, my friends, is why when we question “O God, where are you?”, that God whispers to us these words from Proverbs 3:5…

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.

My prayer is that if you are feeling overwhelmed and outnumbered, you will remember that it isn’t the size of the enemy that’s important. Neither is it important how great a treasure chest of resources you have at your disposal. What’s important is the size of your God who is mighty to save. Yes, you will have times when it makes absolutely no sense to trust God. I’ve been there, I’ve lived there. There will be times when God takes you down to the water’s edge to try you, to prove you, to see what you’re made of. Will you trust Him with all your heart, or will you try once again to rely on your own resources?

Here’s what I have learned across the many miles and decades I’ve been serving the Lord: faith and trust in God are the most powerful weapons at our disposal. Against all odds, I have seen God move in my life time after time. Through insurmountable heartache and despair, God has been faithful to deliver. And now, after all these years, it has become clear to me that He has been positioning me all along for such a time as this.

How about you? The twists and turns of your life have shaped you into the vessel you were meant to be. None of this has been for naught. God is positioning you to what only you can do. I encourage you to be strong and courageous in His service. Your story is of great value to the Kingdom of God!

Ron

Your Story Is Not Over

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One of the greatest love stories in the Bible is the story of a woman named Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth. The backdrop of this story is that during a time of famine in the land of Judah, Naomi’s husband Elimelech took his wife and their two sons to the neighboring country of Moab in search of a better life.

As is often the case however, their dreams of greener pastures did not pan out. Instead, Elimelech died there, leaving Naomi a widow with two sons to support. Though her two sons eventually found wives, Ruth and Orpah, tragedy was soon to strike again as her two sons also died in Moab. What had started out as a temporary journey until things got better back home, ended in a decade of tragedy, misery, and heartbreak for Naomi.

Maybe you can relate? We sometimes think we can move away from our problems. Poor job prospects, inadequate housing, failed relationships, all of these and more cause us to pack our bags and head for something better. The truth is however that instead of leaving those things in the rearview mirror, we often bring them with us. No matter where you go, you bring your past with you – so the same problems you hope to leave behind often just follow you to a different place.

In the story of Ruth, Naomi is faced with dim prospects. To be a childless widow in the days of the Old Testament meant certain hardship and one disadvantage after another. There was no one to support you so you had to live on the kindness and generosity of strangers. Naomi was in a desperate situation. As if that alone wasn’t bad enough, now there were three widows! How would they ever survive?

Some of us have traveled this lonely path. We’ve learned that when life brings devastation, it’s not easy to hope again. After all, it’s hard to have hope when you can see no way out of your situation. Yet, when things are the most difficult, that’s also when we need faith and hope the most. In the moments where life feels like it’s crushing you, if we turn to the Lord, He will ignite a tiny flame of faith in your heart. And sometimes, that tiny flame will set off a raging fire of faith!

As we study the events surrounding this family, we begin to understand that even though our desperate situations don’t allow us to see beyond the current pain and anguish, God can give us hope that our story isn’t over – that better days are coming. Such was the case for Naomi and her two daughters-in- law. Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse for this trio of desperate women… God showed up!

Upon hearing that the famine in Judah was over, Naomi decided she had had enough of the miserable existence she had been living and made the decision to go back home. Back to Judah, back to the land given to the children of Israel, back to the Promised Land.

This is where the real beauty of the story of Ruth begins to evolve. For her two daughters-in-law, it’s decision time for them as well. Do they stay in their own country of Moab where their families reside, or risk it all and return to Judah with Naomi? Do they stay with the familiar, or strike out in faith in search of a better life in a country they know nothing of?

In the end, Orpah decided to stay in Moab while Ruth cast her lot with Naomi. The end result couldn’t have been more different for these two daughters-in-law. Outside of ancient Jewish legend, Orpah is never heard from again. Ruth, on the other hand, was welcomed into her new country (Judah) and soon found love in a man named Boaz.

As if this wasn’t enough, Ruth soon gave birth to a new son, a son named Obed. You might remember that name from the genealogy of Jesus, because Obed was the grandfather of king David. All of which leads me to wonder: who but God can do such things as these?

I want to leave you with this thought: just as the life’s story of Ruth was not over because of the terrible losses she incurred, neither is your story over! Despite the setbacks, disappointments, and struggles you may be dealing with, your story is not over. I encourage you to do what Ruth did when Naomi decided to return back to the land of her faith. Pick up where you left off. Start again, knowing that the Lord is with you to make a way where there seems to be no way.

Blessings!

Ron

We Can’t Have It Both Ways

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I bet you’ve heard that expression many times, haven’t you? Maybe we really need to shed a few pounds, but we won’t forgo the pint of ice cream every day. We can’t have it both ways. Or you’re having a bad morning and you decide to just go back to bed, only to be haunted by the thought that the car payment is coming due, and you really need the money. We can’t have it both ways.

From a spiritual point of view, we want the peace, security and blessings that come with serving God, but we also want to hang onto some things of the world that aren’t necessarily good for us. We can’t have it both ways.

Thankfully, the Bible gives us a lot of instruction on how to face the struggle to have it both ways and come out victoriously. Take the Apostle John for example. He found it necessary to write to believers to expose the many false teachings that had crept into the church, teachings that declared nothing off limits. John also went to great lengths to encourage the church to pursue a life of holiness with God and separation from the world.

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 1st John 2:15-17

These three short verses of scripture reveal to us what I think is one of the most powerful truths in the entire Bible; we cannot love both God and the world. He calls us to make a choice. Knowing the dangers of being pulled in and swept away by the world’s enticements, John clearly states that to love this world will cost us the love of the Father. I don’t know about you, but I believe that is a very grave position to be in. What is John really saying here? He is saying that we can’t have it both ways. We cannot love the world and our Heavenly Father at the same time.

The three most familiar tools in the enemy’s arsenal are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. John tells us that none of these come from the Father, but from the world. Or to be very specific, they come from Satan.

When you really think about it, it’s easy to fall in love with the world, because the world makes it easy to do so! It accepts everyone-on its terms. Yet what the world doesn’t tell us is that it wants something from us in return. It wants our love, our time, and our undivided attention. If you love the world, the world will in turn reward you. It’s that simple. It may offer you a place of prestige, of status, of honor, of comfort. The world knows how to reward those that love it and can make you feel right at home here.

What the world neglects to tell you however is that even at their best, the rewards that come from this world last only as long as we live and all too often, we don’t realize that until it’s too late. The day will come however when all of the accolades we’ve earned as well as every creature comfort will be left here for others to deal with. Oh, and last time I checked, Heaven still wasn’t accepting U-Hauls and moving vans!

You know what I’ve been thinking? I’m thinking I’m too near the finish line to be caught up in the things this world can offer me. That’s right, I’ve been at this far too long to ever think of compromising my relationship with God for some shiny trinket or gadget. Time is slipping away from us and nothing this world can give us can change that fact. These are dangerous, perilous times we are living in and there can be no room for compromise in our hearts.

God is calling all of us to make a choice: love the world, or love God.

One thing is certain my friends…we can’t have it both ways!

Ron


Worthy To Be Praised

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Have you ever considered how easily we give our praise away? Or how it seems we cannot contain ourselves as we gush over the latest sports hero or viral music video? What is it about us that makes us want to elevate people to God-like status? Why do we feel the need to make hero’s out of regular people, put them on a platform, and devote so much time, attention, and money to them?

The answer is pretty simple actually. The fact is we have been created to worship. It’s in our DNA. It’s just as much a part of us as our blood type and fingerprint patterns. We cannot deny it or suppress it for very long. We are going to worship someone or something. There’s no way around it. It has to come out of us eventually.

Thankfully, the Bible makes it clear who our worship is reserved for. Speaking of the people of Israel, God referred to them as “The people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise”. Isa. 43:21 Purposefully created to declare the praises of God, thus fulfilling our highest calling.

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” says the sweet Psalmist of Israel, King David. This vivid description of worship from Psalm 95:6 calls us to humble ourselves before our Mighty God.

Both of these verses tell us plainly that worship is reserved for God alone. Adoration is His right. Our highest praise is to be poured out upon the One who is worthy to be praised, and no other.

God deserves far more than the cheap, superficial praise that we heap upon our cultural icons. He deserves the best and highest praise we can offer to Him from the very depths of our hearts. Nothing less is sufficient for the One who has redeemed us.

I hope you will join with me on this Lord’s Day by declaring “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Rev. 4:11

Ron

The Straight and Narrow Way

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Heaven. Eternal life. The Promised Land. The Kingdom of God. Whatever you call it, it is the promised destination that every Christian has latched onto since accepting Christ as their Savior. It’s what drives us onward when everything within us wants to drop out of the race and call it quits. It’s the prize awaiting every born-again believer who crosses the finish line.

Some say it’s awfully hard to get there. Too many rules to follow. Too much ‘religion’ they say. All those laws and commandments to try and live by. Some say it’s incredibly easy to get there. Just be the best “you” you can be. Treat people right, give to the poor, be a doer of good works they say.

Since eternity is forever, and forever is a very long time, and it’s for certain none of us can afford to get this wrong, maybe it’s best to go the official ‘guide’ on what it takes to make Heaven our eternal home.

13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is constricted that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:13-14 NASB

Have you ever given thought to just how ‘narrow’ the gate is? How ‘constricted’ is this way that leads to eternal life anyway? And did Jesus really just say that there would be “few” who would find it?

These are important questions, especially given the ‘come as you are, stay as you are’ mentality so prevalent in our churches today. The miracle of transformation after regeneration seems to be lost on this present-day church. That said, the plain truth is that God’s word has been established for all time. It cannot be altered to ‘fit the times’. He will not make it more palatable for people today by removing the tough parts, but instead He still insists that man submit to His word as it is written.

Which brings me back to the thought of the straight and narrow way that Jesus spoke about. To get a clearer insight into how straight and narrow this way is, the apostle Paul had this to say about it:

19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, indecent behavior, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 NASB emphasis mine

Quite a list, don’t you think? Paul said that if you practice these things, you will NOT inherit the kingdom of God. In other words, even though we may somehow manage to justify them in our own minds, at the end of this life we will NOT inherit the kingdom of God.

For the gate is narrow and the way is constricted that leads to life, and there are few who find it“. Personally, I find that very sobering. I also find it enlightening because it is crystal clear. It leaves no doubt, no room for error or confusion. Practice the things that Paul mentioned, and you will not inherit the kingdom of God. End of story.

Now, for the million-dollar question: how do I avoid those things that will keep me from inheriting the kingdom of God? I’m glad you asked! In this same chapter of Galatians, Paul explains how to avoid these things.16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Desire the things of God more than the pleasures of sin. Be a lover of God, not of this world. Seek to bring honor to God in all that you do.

The way is indeed straight and narrow. It has to be, because the price that was paid for your entrance to Heaven was too great for you to pay. So great in fact, that Jesus had to pay it for you. You will never get there on your own, or by doing enough good deeds. His righteousness is your ticket. His blood opened the door for you to be able to inherit the kingdom of God.

I’m thankful for that straight and narrow way. How about you?

Ron

Sabbath Day Showdown

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Well, it’s been a while so I thought I’d shake the bushes and see what I could stir up. Insert chuckle here! I hope everyone who has been dealing with frigid temps and mountains of snow is staying safe and warm during this cold winter season. Here in Florida, we recently had our own version of a “cold front” that resulted in an F2 tornado a few miles south of me. I’m always hesitant to say something like “I’m so grateful it missed us”, even though of course I am, because somewhere, someone else has suffered a tremendous loss.

With all that said, my mind is still a bit preoccupied with the message I delivered this past Sunday evening at our church. I entitled it “Sabbath Day Showdown” and took my text from Luke 6:6-11. If you are familiar with it, this is where Jesus went into the synagogue and healed the man who had a withered hand.

And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him. But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it? 10 And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other. 11 And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.

As the story unfolds, the Pharisees and religious folks who were there were only interested in seeing if Jesus would dare to break one of their customs by healing on the Sabbath day. This story has always left me wondering how in the world anyone claiming to be a son of Abraham could be so calloused and hard-hearted as to have no regard for humanity yet be ready to pounce the moment one of their rules were broken.

In preparing for this message, I did a lot of soul searching about the conditions in our churches today, and to be completely honest I don’t think a whole lot has changed with God’s people since Jesus had this encounter with the Pharisees. Meaning, we still struggle to focus on what’s really important.

In reading Mark’s gospel, we see this same encounter being played out with the Pharisees and the man with the withered hand. The only difference is that Mark recalls something Jesus did that Luke either forgot or simply chose to omit it. Here it is:

And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. Mark 3:5 KJV

The Son of God was angry, and His heart was grieved. What could cause such reactions from Jesus? The answer is there in verse five: He was angry that they had allowed their hearts to become so hardened that they cared more about traditions and religious rules than they cared about the well-being of their fellow man.

Call them Pharisees, Legalists, or by some other name. The point is that they cared more about crossing an “I” or dotting a “T” than they did about easing the suffering of the man who had a withered hand. And Jesus called them out on it. He had had enough of their religion; it was time for real ministry to happen. So, he healed the man’s withered hand.

Now, under normal circumstances this healing would have ignited a mini revival of sorts. People would be rejoicing, praising God, and overjoyed at the wonderful miracle this man had experienced. Under normal circumstances, that’s what would have happened. But this wasn’t a normal situation because cold, loveless, dead, and uncaring religion had turned the hearts of this religious crowd to stone.

Their response to this incredible healing was to call an impromptu meeting to decide what to do with this Jesus. This had to stop, they said. We can’t have him doing these things and polluting our Sabbath. It goes against our religious rules.

Here’s the thing though. These traditions and religious rules they clung to so desperately? They were all man-made. They were not from God at all. Examine the Mosaic Law and all its 634+ ordinances, and you will not find one word forbidding the healing of a man on the Sabbath. As I reminded our church, it’s never the wrong day to do the right thing.

The Pharisees had done what Pharisees always do; however, they had taken what God had given to man, considered it insufficient, and added their own traditions and commandments to it. The end result was a “Law” that was based upon man’s ideas of righteousness, not God’s.

When that happens mercy and compassion fly out the window. We can’t be bothered with that when there are rules to administer, traditions to uphold. So, they sat in silence as Jesus asked them “is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath, or evil”? To answer would have brought self-condemnation, something their hearts would never permit.

As I said to the congregation the other evening, we must be so careful not to permit our own hearts to become hardened and unfeeling. At all costs we must stay in the Word and upon our knees so that our hearts remain tender before the Lord. Only then can we be the eyes, ears, hands, and feet of Jesus on this earth.

Failing that, we are no use to the kingdom of God.

Have a blessed week everyone!

Ron

Yet Another Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

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Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves“.

Jesus spoke those words of warning in Matthew 7:15 so that God’s children would not be harmed by those who outwardly profess to be “religious”, but inwardly they are nothing more than wolves seeking to devour the flock. In the next several verses, Jesus goes on to explain that we can see through their disguise if we will open our eyes and ears to the truth.

16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles”?

In these six verses from Matthew chapter seven, Jesus tells us plainly that not everyone who wears a robe or a suit and tie while carrying a Bible can be trusted to have your best interests at heart.

Such is the case with a vicious wolf in sheep’s clothing whose name is Dr. Burnett L. Robinson, senior pastor of Grand Concourse Seventh-Day Adventist Temple in New York City.

In his sermon dated November 13th of this year, Mr. Robinson tells the men of his congregation “I would say to you, gentlemen, the best person to rape is your wife.” Here is the link to the video message:

Pastor Tells Men: ‘The Best Person to Rape is Your Wife’ (julieroys.com)

Now, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, dear readers, that this man is not of God. Anyone who would make such a statement is an instrument of Satan. Either his heart has never been regenerated by the power of God, or he has chosen to walk away from God and has assumed the role of a deranged and demented hireling intent on fleecing whatever flock he was put in authority over.

These are indeed troubling times. It isn’t enough that God’s children are subjected to a relentless spiritual assault intended to wear them down to the point of giving up. Now, it would seem, Satan has employed false ministers in the Church to do the very same thing.

Be watchful beloved. Keep your eyes and ears open. Remember the words of our Savior: “you shall know them by their fruits”.  

Thankful. Grateful. Blessed.

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That was the title of the message I delivered yesterday morning at my home church. Taken from the first three verses of Psalm 107, my message focused on how we all have so much to be thankful for. Despite all the negativity we are bombarded with, despite all the naysayers spewing forth a constant stream of divisive rhetoric, God’s children ought to be the most grateful people on the planet.

1 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,
And gathered out of the lands,
From the east and from the west,
From the north and from the south. Psalm 107:1-3

If you were to read all 43 verses of this Psalm, they would tell the incredible story of the people of God giving praise and thanks to the Lord for his deliverance from their many desperate and dangerous situations. Unlike many of the Old Testament historical and genealogical texts, this Psalm is as relevant for you and me as it was when it was penned.

Who among us has not found ourselves with our back against the wall, with seemingly no way out. Out of options and filled with despair, our only recourse is to turn our hearts to the Lord and ask Him to mercifully intervene on our behalf.

David was a man well acquainted with the mercies of God. Having committed adultery and then ordering the murder of Bathsheba’s husband in a shameful attempt cover up his sins, he did the only thing he could do: he fell on his face is sorrowful repentance and received mercy. When he numbered the people in defiance of God’s command not to do so, he turned his heart back to God in thankfulness and gratitude for the mercy he received from the Lord.

These experiences served not only to teach David the importance of faithful obedience, they also had another profound affect on his life. You see, David learned firsthand of the love, compassion, and mercy available to every child of God.

No wonder then that David was an exuberant worshiper. Having been spared being put to death for his many sins, David was able to say “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever”! When your back is against the wall and you’ve run out of options only to have God intervene on your behalf, you realize then that it’s good to be thankful, and that He is worthy to be praised!

Far too many of God’s children today are waiting on Him to do something for them before they will worship Him with a grateful heart. I think we’ve got it all wrong. What should be happening is God’s children should be worshipping Him for what He has already done for them!

How long would it take you, dear reader, to list all of the Lord’s blessings that you have enjoyed? Can I share something with you regarding these blessings? While we were wasting away in the desert of sin and disobedience, spiritually dying of hunger and thirst, God never forgot you!

The apostle Paul said it this way in Ephesians 2:

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

“But God…” I love that. When everything has fallen apart in our lives, “But God”. When we have nowhere to turn for help, “But God”. When we’ve been used and abused, rejected, and given up for dead, “But God”.

My prayer for you is that you will see God’s great love for you. I pray that you will see that you’re never too far from Him and never too broken for our Father to reach you right where you are. Reach out to Him and give thanks with a grateful heart to the God who is rich in mercy.

Be Thankful, Grateful, and Blessed this Thanksgiving season.

Ron

Faithful To The End

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It seems as though every day I am made aware of yet another of God’s children who is feeling broken and beaten down by this world. The numbers of people who regularly attend church that are frightened about the future, discouraged by their own lack of spiritual progress, and frustrated at the apparent lack of love and concern from their church leadership is nothing less than staggering.

The battle is real friends, and the pressure from every angle is only intensifying in these dark days. On one hand we in America are inundated with spiritual attacks on our minds, largely due (I believe) in part by our insatiable appetite for the things of this world. On the other hand, we see Christians in many other parts of the world being killed for their faith in Christ. Both groups are in the midst of a fervent battle, both groups must make the choice to stand or give up.

I feel it too. This battle is draining, both physically and mentally. At this stage of my life, I just don’t have the stamina I once had. Studying and preparing a weekly Sunday School lesson, a weekly sermon, editing two services worth of video, maintaining and updating a website, along with a myriad of other responsibilities (not including my own family and home) leaves me drained. This blog is itself a casualty of too little time to do everything I’d like to be doing. While desiring and determined to finish well, I wonder how much longer I can do this. 

Fortunately, there is a remedy for the desperation that many are feeling today. The God that so loved this world that he gave His only Son as a sacrificial sin offering for us, is nearer to us than the enemy of our soul wants us to believe. One of Satan’s greatest joys is to convince us that we are of little to no worth, that God is far from us and uninterested in who we are, thus condemning us to a life of defeat and discouragement. God, however, says that “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope”(Jer. 29:11).

This brings us to a dilemma, a fork in the road: whose voice do we listen to? Will we choose to listen to the One that David said, “is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit”? The One who said that “many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all”?

Or will we choose to listen to the one who offers all the glory of this world in exchange for our souls? Will we listen instead to that one who said “you shall not die” when he deceived the couple in the garden? Are we listening to the one who said, “you will be like God”? (Genesis 3:5)

This much I know, that I am determined to endure until the end. God, in His infinite wisdom and care, has brought all of us to where we are today. You have not come through everything you have had to endure just to be defeated now. No indeed, God has been preparing you for just such a time as this.

I choose to listen to God’s voice no matter what it costs me. The road I have travelled to get to this point in my life has been very difficult at times, yet I have never journeyed alone. At long last, I can see the finish line up ahead, and by God’s grace I will not be denied. This world is not my home and I have no intention of becoming so comfortable here that I don’t want to leave it all behind when that time comes.

All that matters is that we make it to the end.

 Psalm 34:18-19

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,

And saves such as have a contrite spirit.

Blessing Comes Through Obedience

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Have you noticed a shift in priorities in the minds of a lot of Christians these days? Specifically, that there is an entitlement attitude when it comes to the subject of God’s blessings? It goes something like this: I profess to be a Christian. I go to church. I deserve to be rewarded (blessed) for my efforts. Somewhere in the confusion, the fact that we exist solely to worship God has been supplanted by the idea that God exists to bless us.

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. In the 66 books of the Bible it is clear that God’s primary interest in us has very little to do with making us happy and wealthy. Of course, there are many scriptures that speak of the joy of the Lord, as well as about prosperity and good health. What we must understand however is that these things are a by-product of obedience.

Taken in its entirety, the Bible is clear that God’s priority for us is not to make us happy, but holy. That is because while we are more focused on being as comfortable as possible in this world, the Lord is focused on preparing us for where we will spend eternity. Do you see the difference?

Nowhere is the gap between these two positions more evident than with the false prosperity teaching that is now fully entrenched in the church. This false gospel is focused almost entirely on getting riches instead of giving worship to the Lord. It is a man-centered belief rooted in the love of money and the pride of life. In it, there is no place for the humble. Obedience has been relegated to blindly ‘sowing your best seed’.

As I began to study for an upcoming message on the subject of obedience, I began to notice a pattern: blessings came after obedience. Take the story of Abram (later named Abraham) for example. In chapter 12 of Genesis, we see that God has promised to bless His servant Abram.

Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3 NKJV

Abram was 75 years old when he departed Haran and headed for Canaan after having received an incredible promise from God. What did he do upon receiving these great promises? Did he set back and wait for the shower of blessings to rain down on him? Did he look around for a place to ‘sow a seed’?

The very first thing Abram did was to believe God [1]. The next thing he did was to pack up and move away from everything that was familiar to him. Are you starting to see a pattern of obedience here? If you continue reading the book of Genesis, you will find out that Abram did more than believe and move. He also endured.

Abram had to overcome many obstacles that stood between the promise of blessing and actually receiving it. Here is a sampling of what this man encountered on the way to receiving what the Lord had promised:

  • He was forced to remove himself from his homeland, his family, and his father’s house
  • He dealt with famine
  • His wife was kidnapped by Pharaoh’s princes
  • There was family strife with his nephew Lot
  • Later on there was more family strife over Hagar and Ishmael
  • His nephew Lot was kidnapped, forcing Abram to go to war to rescue him
  • He carried the mental and spiritual burden of knowing that God’s people would be held captive for 400 years
  • He interceded with the Lord to save Sodom and Gomorrah if as few as ten righteous souls could be found in those cities
  • He saw his wife kidnapped again, this time by Abimelech king of Gerar
  • Abram walked in faithful obedience before the Lord for 24 years before God changed his name to Abraham, or the father of many nations

All these things happened to Abram after he received the promises of great blessings. If you were to read the entire Genesis account of this man’s life, you would not find even one instance where he felt entitled to receive anything. What you will find instead is one example after another of his faithful obedience to his God.

I don’t know about you, but that tells me something. It tells me that even though I might receive a promise of blessings from God, that promise often comes with a price tag. What does it cost? The price is 100% obedience.

  • Obedience when your family is being torn apart
  • Obedience when you lose your home and everything dear to you
  • Obedience when you wonder where the next meal is coming from
  • Obedience when you’re called upon to stand in the gap for others
  • Obedience when all your friends abandon you
  • Obedience when the doctor gives you a bad report

There is no such thing as a cheap blessing. Never has been, never will be. It may surprise some of you to read this, but God does not need your money! Neither can we buy a blessing from Him. Yes, give unto the Lord from the perspective of a grateful heart, but do not give with the expectation of profiting from your giving!

Blessings come from being obedient to the Lord and to His word.

Have a blessed day, in Jesus name!

Ron

[1] Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, James 2:23

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