A God kind of love.

The kind of love that no one has the power to take from you.That love that instills every fiber of your being when you repent of your sins and you know without a doubt Christ is in you,and you in Him.

That kind of love.

The love that all of Hell trembles at. A difference making love.A separating kind of love.A redeeming love.

The kind of love that the devil cannot stand and would do anything in his power to rip from you.

And he will,if you permit him to do so.

Did you notice that? “If you will permit him to do so”. Satan cannot take it from you…but you can let him have it.

Somehow we in the church have believed a lie,a lie that says that Satan can’t take anything from us. That we are super saints,immune to his deceptions.

Have you ever thought of this?

Jesus wrote about this to one of the seven churches in the book of Revelation,the church at Ephesus.

“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,

‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand,who walks in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands: 2 I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place—unless you repent.

To this church Jesus had several encouraging,uplifting things to say.Who among us would not be thrilled to hear our Lord tell us that He knows our works,our labors,our perseverance? All of us would give just about anything to know that we were pleasing Him in some way!

But Jesus doesn’t stop there,does He?

Unfortunately for this church,this same Jesus that encouraged is also the same Jesus that must address something that has gone horribly wrong.Read again verse four:

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

First love? What is that?

The first love Jesus is referring to is the immeasurable love for God and man that floods our hearts when we turn to Jesus and repent.It’s that love that forgives all who have wronged us.It’s that love that washes our blackened hearts clean.It’s a vibrant love,an all encompassing love. A love so intimate that it cannot be experienced apart from Christ.

That’s the first love Jesus is referring to here.

Do you see how verse four is carefully worded? Jesus stated that this church had left it’s first love.That can only mean that at one time they had it,but now it’s gone.

Jesus went even further when He told them that they were “fallen”!They did not lose their first love. That would be different. They left it. And because they did this they are described as “fallen”.

How is this possible you ask? They left their first love which means they intentionally gave it up! Who would do such a thing? How could anyone do this? To go from a “first love”experience to “fallen” almost defies the imagination!

Many times I have heard it said of someone who has left the church that they lost their first love. That they had rejected Christ and turned back to the world.Likely you know of people like this as well.

But there is a huge problem with saying that someone lost their first love: it’s not true!

It cannot be true because Jesus said that they have left their first love. Big difference!

Having left their first love describes a willful act of disobedience. Not like “losing”your car keys,or “losing” a glove.Those things happen.

All of this brings me to the point I wanted to make,which is this:

If the Lord were to inquire of us,all of us,you and me us, as to whether or not we have retained our own “first love”,how would we answer Him? If He were to ask us if our love for Him and each other was just as strong,just as vibrant as it was when we first came to Christ,how would we answer?

Would we say to Him “I must have lost it someplace,or I thought I had it”? You already know what His response would be,don’t you?

You cannot lose your first love any more than anyone can take it from you.

But you can leave it.

So yes,let’s talk about love. Our first love.And doing everything in our power to keep it alive.By keeping the lines of communication open to Him….always.

Something to think about…

So What’s Stopping You…

From sending that email? The one you know you should write.The one someone is desperately waiting on as a sign that you care.That God cares.

So What’s Stopping You…

From making that phone call? No time? What else can be so important as obeying that still,small voice that keeps reminding you that there is someone waiting to hear your voice.Waiting to hear that you do care,that you really are concerned.That God cares.

So What’s Stopping You…

From having that lunch date that you promised so long ago? Too busy? For God? For the person who has no one but holds on to a sliver of hope that you care? Too busy to carve an hour or two of a Saturday afternoon away from football to be the hands and voice of Jesus that someone needs?

So What’s Stopping You…

From turning around as you’re about to walk out of the sanctuary and go back to the one still sitting in the pew…crying? Or to the one that has that look on her face that says “I need help”!

So What’s Stopping You…

From laying aside self and putting someone else’s needs before your own,just this once?

 

So What’s Stopping You…

From loving like Jesus told us to do? From saying “yes”the next time there is a need and you have the talent,gift,or ability to meet that need?

 

So What’s Stopping You…?

 

Watching “church”on TV,online,etc…I find myself wondering if people (you know,the one’s in the pew) even read the Bible any more.It’s shocking to see and hear so many “amen’s” to things that are contrary to the teachings of the Bible.When did God’s people become so gullible as to believe that if the preacher said it,well it has to be true?If it wasn’t so tragic,it would be funny to watch people hurriedly writing down the latest kitschy or hip saying from the preacher.All to get you in the proper mood for giving, you understand.

If we are students of the Word then why does it seem that we do not apply the lessons of the Word to our lives?

Does anyone still believe that the Lord has given us His divine plan for how we are to live our lives? How is it then that we can read the Word of God and not be changed? How is it that we can attend church services and leave exactly the same way we came?How in the world is it possible that I can blindly agree with what is said from the platform,yet stumble at the teachings of Jesus?

How is it that our hearts have become numb to what “thus saith the Lord”?

Is it because the church today has made it so easy for one to join it’s ranks by simply repeating a prayer, signing a card, and attending a class? Is this all it takes? Then what do we do with this…?

“Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”  Joel 2:12   NKJV

If I am to believe this Word, then God Almighty is telling me that I am to forsake my own will,my own desires,my own dreams and turn myself completely over to Him! But wait!! Even that’s not enough! God demands that I turn to him with fasting,weeping,and mourning as well!

In other words He is demanding that we acknowledge and repent of our sins with a heavy heart! Contrast that with the evangelism model of the church today that says “repeat after me”! WHAT?!

God demands,let me repeat that word again…God demands that we turn to Him with a repentant heart,not that we come forward in a meeting to repeat some simple words as if we’ve suddenly discovered a magic salvation formula.

The Lord said of Israel that “Everyone turned to his own course”,and we have followed in their footsteps.Instead of repenting we have chosen our own path, and in our arrogance we still expect God to bless and prosper us.Imagine that! Are we to honestly believe that we can have God and our sins at the same time?

“I listened and heard, But they do not speak aright. No man repented of his wickedness, Saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turned to his own course, As the horse rushes into the battle.”  Jer. 8:6  NKJV

Jesus said that “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:24   NKJV

Beloved we are required to make a choice! God demands we make a choice. We cannot have it both ways!

If you are attending church where there is no standard,where you never hear the word “sin”,where your pastor or priest never tells you that a Holy God demands that we forsake all and turn to Him, my advice to you is to run as fast as you can out of there!

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations.   Ezekiel 14:6   NKJV

I believe with all that is within me that there is coming a day when every preacher and priest is going to be held accountable for not declaring the whole counsel of God.For not declaring and upholding the standards contained within the pages of God’s Word, the blood of many will be upon our hands.

Modern evangelism is a mockery in comparison to the efforts of the early church,and the church of today is trapped in it’s clutches. In spite of the most beautiful churches and impressive technology on the planet that mankind has ever known,the world is headed to Hell uninhibited! And the church is powerless to stop this mad long rush into eternity apart from God.

Imagine just for a moment what Paul could have accomplished with this incredible tool we call the internet.No longer would he have been constrained by the long dusty miles between towns,or the distance he could cross by ship.The whole world would have been opened unto him and he would have taken full advantage of it! Why aren’t we doing the same?

Do we not yet understand that as the church goes,so goes the world? We have to face the awful truth that the church is not doing so good,and we are accountable to God for it’s inability to stem the tide of sin that is ravaging our cities.

I read just the other day where someone was stating that what the world needs is revival,and I wondered if that person knew the difference between revival and evangelism? Evangelism today is little more than a series of meetings where the preacher preaches and the people listen and go home the same way they came. Today’s evangelism is easy and cheap,and it’s fruit is nearly non existent.

Revival on the other hand is life altering.It is wrought from the anguish of countless hours of crying out to God.It comes from a sincere prayer for God to “create in me a clean heart,and renew a right spirit within me”. Revival is hard work.It is not easy or cheap,but will exact a huge price from us.

And we,like Israel,have “turned to our own course”.We have chosen the trappings of modern evangelism over true revival because it’s easy.And we want everything easy,don’t we?We have counted the cost of revival and decided that to stay the course is much easier.

Meanwhile,our nation is dying in it’s own filth and stench,the flesh of a once proud nation is rotting and putrid.Unable to save ourselves, yet we blindly trudge on following the same path that brought us to this point.For you see,for us to break free requires us to acknowledge,repent,and make the choice to serve God with our whole heart.

Something to think about…

Ron

We often hear people say things like “every answer to your problems is in the Word of God”. Or “your problems are not too big for God”. The truth is both statements are correct and normally we have no problems believing them,do we?

But how many of us live in the “normal” all of the time(whatever that is)? Not many that I know.

We live in a strange time.On one hand we have the TV life that isn’t real, but yet it does it’s best to convince us that it is.Actors and actresses all playing the part of a life that exists only in fantasy,where everything always works out for the best in the end.Always enough money.Perfect marriage.Perfect kids.The best schools and jobs.Politicians promising anything and everything to garner your support.The perfect life.

On the other hand we have real life where real people struggle daily with very real problems.Stories that all too often end in tragedy.Divorce ends over half of all marriages.Murders so frequent that we hardly take notice any more as the value of a human life plummets to an all time low.Here in the land of milk and honey,people are hungry and thirsty.We can’t feed them enough,and now we’re trucking water to them.Politicians promising anything and everything to garner your support,knowing full well that they cannot possibly honor such promises.

This is the real life.The life that never appears on the cover of the fashion magazines or even more sadly,is rarely talked about much in our churches any more.

Real people that are discouraged,lonely,desperate for attention,people who need Jesus to interrupt their lives and show up just in time.And all of this got me to thinking about all of this.

The Bible was given to us for just such a time as this.It is a collection of the most encouraging and faithful promises ever delivered unto mankind.Research every prophecy concerning Jesus and you will see that they were 100% accurate.So it is with all of God’s word.

Hopeful

Encouraging

Life sustaining

I recently came upon a favorite passage of mine,one that has helped me and sustained me through the darkest of times.This passage was written by a man named Asaph, who was going through a rough time of his own.

Asaph was one of David’s chief musicians and is mentioned several times in the Psalms. In addition to being a musician,he was also considered to be a seer,or prophet.Today, we would likely consider Asaph to be a “worship leader” because he conducted the music in the tent when the ark was taken to Jerusalem.

It was Asaph who penned these stirring words of hope for all that may be going through a difficult time:

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.   Psalm 73:25,26  NKJV

When I’m lonely beyond the point of believing anyone cares,I have Him.That’s what Asaph was saying here.No one on earth,no man can do for me what my God can.Why would I want for more,for something that at best is not enough?

While I may be weak in body and soul,there is a God who is my strength and my helper forever.What I cannot do on my own because of my own weakness,my own frailty,I have an Advocate to take up my case.It is His strength that I rest in,His peace that comforts me when all others have turned away from me.

My incredible wife told me last night that she was impressed to share with me this song.I’m sure you know the chorus,but please read the verses as well for in them is a message for us all.

Hel­en H. Lem­mel, in 1922.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Refrain

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

Refrain

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Refrain

Be blessed…

Ron

Holidays have a tendency to bring out a myriad of emotions in all of us. When you really think about it, Christmas seems to tug at our emotions more than any other holiday.

Emotions run the gamut don’t they? From sheer joy and excitement as anticipation of the big day grows more intense every day, to the lowest of lows as the realization sinks in that another Christmas must be endured without a precious loved one there to share in the day.

Watching the news at this time of year brings to the forefront a different kind of emotion: DESPERATION. Desperation because once again there isn’t money enough to buy even one gift for the children. Desperation because once again excuses must be invented in order to sooth the broken hearts of the disappointed. Desperation that escalates into despair, so much so that parents will stop at nothing in order to avoid having to look into the eyes of their children who will not be receiving a present at Christmas. Stealing, and much worse, are all part and parcel as seemingly anything goes in order to avoid the inevitable.

As horrible as desperation and despair can be at Christmas, I have found that there is another emotion even more horrific, even more gut wrenching to have to endure, and that is LONELINESS.

What a powerful emotion loneliness is. At times it can reach the point of complete debilitation, rendering a person to the point where they feel worthless, unlovable, even forgotten by God Himself.

As a Christian we have a promise that we will never be alone. The writer of Hebrews made this very clear when he said:

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Heb 13:5 NKJV

But not everyone has this promise, because not everyone knows the Promise Giver.

And if I’m to be completely honest, many who do know the Promise Giver suffer the pain of Loneliness. Many of God’s children struggle with abandonment, betrayal, and a broken heart. Some would say how can this be? I thought God took away all of the negative things!

Living in this world we are not immune to these emotions. We are not exempt from hurt and pain. Sometimes I wonder if we don’t struggle with them as much as those who do not know Christ!

Again, when we turn to scripture we find that we are not alone in our struggles:

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 2Co 4:8-9 NKJV

In the midst of it all, when the weight of loneliness and despair is crushing us, God’s word declares with the sound of a trumpet: we are not alone! We have not been forsaken! We will not be destroyed! Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world!

This Christmas, if you find yourself struggling to keep your head above water, I urge you to look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. The all time, undefeated Champion of love and mercy will make a way where there seems to be no way. He will be your oasis in the midst of your dry, barren desert of loneliness and despair.

Beloved, it isn’t a pretty package that will strengthen you for the journey. It is the peace that passes all understanding. It is Jesus. The Christmas Gift for the ages.

Remember, we are often lonely. The holidays can bring those emotions to the surface.

But we are never alone.

Be blessed!

Ron

Funny how time changes our perspective,isn’t it?

Like many of you, I can remember when I thought that Christmas was all about what was under the tree. Not being raised in a

christmas-tree-pics-0101

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home that was particularly religious…OK let me restate that. Being raised in a home where the only time God and Jesus were mentioned was in a curse,it never occurred to me that there was another “reason for the season”.

Oh sure, I participated in the obligatory school plays,sang Silent Night and Up On The Housetop,and somewhere I had heard about a babe in a manger and all of that,but I just figured that was all part of it.

My mothers family being Italian meant I was exposed to Aunts and Uncles who were Catholic,but there was no mention of that in our own home.My dad would have none of it.When I would visit their homes I would see the Crucifix and other religious items but none of it made any sense to me.I mean,why have a Bible written in Latin when you can’t even read it!

Things went from bad to worse when I was twelve years old when right before Christmas my father died.That first Christmas was one of grief and misery that I could not wait to be over.If I’m being honest,the next several weren’t so hot either.

Through the years I went through the motions,the motions of the rest of the world that focused only on what was under that tree.Some years I got what I had asked for,some years I did not and that was OK.After all,it’s all just part of the deal right?

Everything changed for me when as a young man of 20 I was introduced to Jesus. Wow,that was a long time ago!As I developed in this new faith I learned so much about what Christmas is really all about.I learned that there really was a babe in a manger,there really were wise men,and most of all that there really was a God in charge of it all.

In the church I listened to many debates and arguments from the religious crowd about whether or not Jesus actually did arrive on December 25th,only to figure out that the date didn’t matter at all! What mattered most was that He had come! Wouldn’t make a bit of difference to me if we celebrated Christmas in July!

Sometimes it seems to me that the church should be the biggest fan of Christmas,and I don’t mean just on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.Don’t we who have met this promised King have the most to be thankful for? Then why don’t we act like it the other 364 days of the year?

For Christians,shouldn’t every day be a celebration of Christmas?

Yes,my perspective has done a 180 since I was a boy.Oh,don’t get me wrong.I still love to be surprised on Christmas morning just like I did so long ago.I mean,who doesn’t like a new fishing lure once in a while(hint hint)?

Even though it isn’t fashionable and certainly not popular these days,I realize that Christmas is all about honoring the King that arrived on the scene over 2000 years ago.Presents are optional,of course.

But what isn’t optional,at least for me and my family,is that we recognize the Gift that was so graciously given to each of us,unworthy though we were.

infant Jesus

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This Christmas,with it’s rushing,stress, and hurry of the season my prayer is that you will take a few moments to reflect upon your own unique perspective.

How far have you come in your journey to comprehend the Wonder of Wonders?

How have you changed,or more importantly…how has He changed you?

Be blessed this Christmas season!

Ron

 

Are There Any Wise Men Left?

Posted: December 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

Just wondering is all.

This world is in desperate need of wisdom and guidance from One far greater than any of us.Don’t believe that? Look around and see how “great” a job we’ve done on our own,apart from God.

Like as the days of Elijah,I pray that the Lord has reserved a few for our day.

Thoughts?