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Who Do I Have But You Oh Lord?

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In my work I am often in the company of people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.At any given time I can hear conversations in English,Japanese,Indian,and a few others that I am unfamiliar with.Being raised in a very small Midwestern town it was quite a cultural shock to be suddenly thrust into an environment that was so different than what I had ever been exposed to.

That initial exposure was 25 years ago and in that time I have learned a lot about various cultures and traditions.One of the most important things I have learned is that none of us is really all that different from anyone else.We all have the same basic needs for food and shelter.We all want to provide for those who depend upon us.And we all have a need to be loved.

I am often in situations where people speak to me about the problems they are facing in life;divorce,abuse,betrayal,loneliness,abandonment,etc…and what always comes through the hurt and anguish is this need to be loved,to be accepted.And that’s where God comes in my friends.

The best of us doing the best we can on our very best day will never be able to accomplish what God can accomplish through the ministering work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His children.Take a look at what Asaph said when he found himself wondering about the conditions around him.He questioned why the wicked prospered so greatly.He wondered at the wickedness of the world around him and why the righteous seemed to suffer more than those who rejected God.After considering all these things he summed it up in the following verses:

Psalm 73:25-28 (NKJV)
25 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.
27 For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
28 But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all Your works.

Maybe you have wondered why life has thrown you more than its share of curve balls. Perhaps you too have questioned the logic of why some who aren’t even trying to live for the Lord  seem to have it so easy, and yet others who have been faithful for so many years seem to catch all the bad breaks.You’ve probably asked the Lord “when is it my turn”?

May I let you in on a great theological secret? We’re all just like you.We’ve all been there.We’ve all had to patiently endure one endless season of heartache after another.And still we soldier on.From one corner of this planet to the other God’s people soldier on for we know that ahead remains the ultimate prize.

I have learned through much hardship and disappointment that there is but One who is faithful.”Whom have I in heaven but you”?

I have it all in Christ.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

“Be Careful Little Ears What You Hear”

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Many people in churches all over the world have heard that little song sung either in a Sunday School class or perhaps during Vacation Bible School.And while it teaches kids the importance of knowing what you’re listening to is appropriate, it also serves as a reminder that there are many voices vying for their attention.Image

A great many things come wrapped today in nice neat “Christian” packages but once the wrapping has been removed it is exposed for what it truly is.Many churches unfortunately come wrapped this way,which is an indictment of the apostate condition of the church today.Beautiful accommodations,programs for every member of the family,teaching watered down versions of the Gospel message lest someone be offended.Beloved, there is only one way to distinguish between what is real and what is a mere “form of Godliness”, and that is to know Jesus Christ in a real and personal way.

Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? We go to church regularly,support the ministry with our finances,read our bibles and pray daily.Isn’t that enough? Friends….that is not what I’m talking about here.Our good deeds will never be “good enough”. Our works and accomplishments will fade into obscurity with the passage of time.They will fail us,if indeed our trust is in them to save us in the end.

In Matthew chapter six Jesus was teaching one day about prayer, laying up treasures, and a host of other important topics.So amazed were the people that they were astonished,for Jesus spoke as one who had authority, not as the scribes,or teachers they were accustomed to hearing.

Reading on to the conclusion of this particular teaching Jesus had this to say about working our way into heaven:

Matthew 7:13-23 (NKJV)
13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.
14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes 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.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (emphasis mine)

In whom is your hope today? Spouse,Family,Pastor,Priest? Do you trust church more than Christ? If so you are setting yourself up for disappointment.Are you counting on your deeds being good enough to get you in? Think about it…if our works and deeds could have been good enough, Jesus died in vain.
I encourage you today to humbly submit your whole heart to the Lord Jesus.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

Relationship vs. Religion

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This past weekend’s Good Friday and Easter services have caused me to do a lot of thinking about my own relationship with God and the church. The funny thing is that the older I get the more I value relationship over religious membership.Maybe part of the reason for that is I have so few true relationships in my life. Relationship with God is possible of course because of the redemptive work of His Son Jesus Christ,while religious membership can generally be had by attending a few classes and agreeing to abide by certain tenants of one’s faith.I guess you could say one is freely given from above while the other is earned here below.

To my way of thinking there is unmeasurable value in this relationship with God because it is personal. God has invested Himself in us and that makes it very personal,while religious membership……not so much.

The TV commercials declare that “membership has it’s privileges”,but I’m not so sure any more.I’m more inclined to believe that those with a relationship with the Father enjoy the benefits,or privileges.At least the ones that matter.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

Good Friday And The Debt I Could Never Pay

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Sin. Atonement. Payment. Retribution. Debt. Sacrifice.

All of these words and so many more are what I think about today.Truthfully,I think about them every day.Fact of the matter is I came into this world a sinner though I personally had committed no sin.I was a sinner by default all because of one decision by one man many thousands of years ago.When Adam decided he should be in charge of his life and not God, it set into being a force that neither he nor any other human since could handle on their own.A force more powerful then any weapon ever devised by the most brilliant minds.A force that if left unchecked could eventually cause the demise of all civilization.The force of SIN.

We don’t talk much about sin any more in the church.It makes people uncomfortable.It forces us to reflect upon our own spiritual condition and more times than not we do not like what we see.We can’t have people in the church feeling bad about themselves now can we?After all,church is supposed to be a happy place where happy people say happy thing to make others even more happy.Kind of like the church advertisement I saw in the newspaper that said “we promise you will never hear any mention of sin in our services for we want you to be encouraged and lifted up,not burdened with guilt”.

Yet there was a day some 2000 years ago when guilt had to be dealt with.Sin had to be paid for.Your sin and mine.The blood of bulls and goats could never do more then temporarily postpone sin until the following year.Yet postponement wasn’t the answer,only a brief respite until the cycle began again.There had to be a better way,a way that once and for all SIN would be eradicated.That way was Jesus.

John 3:16-17 (NKJV)
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.
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

You see,God had an answer for sin and that answer was His only Son,Jesus Christ.Born of a virgin He was destined to be the payment that sin demanded.He and He alone was chosen to bear the guilt of our sins,a weight that you and I were crumbling beneath.A debt we could never repay.The atonement that a Holy God required.The perfect,sinless sacrifice offered upon a Roman cross.

  crown of thorns

Beloved,it’s because of Good Friday that you and I have been redeemed from the curse of sin.Because of what took place nearly 2000 years ago I am free,and from where I sit on the front row I am humbled that Almighty God would love a sinner like me so much that He would give His only Son to pay my sin debt.Praise God…praise God…praise God!!

Be blessed this Easter,

Ron

My Father-In-Law; a Real Man of God

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Easter is right around the corner and our family will be attending services with my wife’s mother this year. Instead of going out to a restaurant after service we’ve decided to bake a big pan of lasagna and take it to her house and eat there.After all, given the choice of standing in line for an hour to get a table or going straight to the house to enjoy my wife’s incredible lasagna- it’s a no brainier!

Easter will be very different this year as it’s the first since my wonderful father-in-law passed last June 24th.I wish I could express in words what my heart feels about losing him but I lack the vocabulary to do so.No only was he an amazing father,husband,and friend,but he was also a spiritual mentor to me.Lest you think a man in his late 50’s is too old to be mentored consider that we never get too old to learn,especially about things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

I’ve never met anyone less pretentious or unassuming than my father-in-law. Raised in the hills of Kentucky he learned at a very early age what hard work was like, and this was a trait that would stay with him all of his life. It was amazing to see what he accomplished with his work ethic and strong faith in God. All who knew him considered him blessed of the Lord, and indeed he was.

One of our favorite pastimes was to sit on the back porch and discuss current events, which ultimately would lead into a discussion of the scriptures.I longed for those visits when I could spend an hour alone with him because it seemed as if time stood still when we were together.I learned so much from listening to him.How to deal with people,how to stand for the truth even when it wasn’t popular,how to listen to the Lord’s voice and the importance of obeying His voice.

My father-in-law was a man of the Word.He studied constantly and was always seeking to better understand the Bible. Even though he had retired from the pastorate he continued to be faithful in his work for the Lord. What a witness he was! Can you tell I loved him? He was the real deal and I will cherish his memory the rest of my days.

My beautiful wife was Daddy’s girl, and she still grieves the loss of her Daddy every day.Though she understands that his work on earth is finished the parting has been very hard.She shares his love of ministry to others and is an accomplished singer, and we enjoy the opportunities we have to minister in other churches in the area.Our hope is that we will be able to continue to do this even more.

Easter is about new life,about the Resurrection. One day all of God’s children will be reunited in a place where we will never again know the pain of separation or the sting of death. Because of Jesus and His perfect work of redemption we have a hope that fades not away.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NKJV)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,
5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,
7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,
8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

It Finally Happened!

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Like most mornings, I looked out the window this morning at the pond behind my house to see if the geese that are nesting there were still there, and happily they were.We’ve had a lot of rain lately which has raised the level of the pond quite high,and in fact I’m kind of worried about those eggs right now.As I was thinking of this it suddenly dawned on me that something was different.Wait a minute…what’s that green stuff in the yard? Seriously! It finally happened,the long winter has ended and Spring is here! It may sound corny,and that’s OK if it does but Thank You LORD!

We have endured much this past winter and our family is so thankful that it’s over. We spent a lot of time in the yard today just enjoying the warmth of the sun and it seemed to raise everyone’s spirit. I even planted some pansies for my wife and it was awesome to see the smile of approval on her face!

Funny what Spring does to us isn’t it? Everything is new and fresh,sort of like our relationship with the Father when we ask Him to come into our hearts and make us clean.

Be blessed,

Ron

Real Ministry

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Ministry. Mention the word and immediately the mind starts thinking of so many things;

  • Mercy
  • Compassion
  • Love
  • People
  • Hunger
  • Sickness
  • Jesus

The Bible is very clear about ministry.It’s an act of love between two people,it’s about meeting the basic needs of life.It’s about healing and restoring the whole man,body and soul.Real ministry happens as a result of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Real ministry is not;

  • Greed
  • Power
  • Money
  • Self Righteousness

From where I set on the front row I see ministry at it’s best.I see people loving people,needs being met.Hearts are mended,lives restored,families who actually love one another.

I also see the hurting turned away.I see the lonely,desperate to feel loved yet walking out of the house of God as empty as when they came in.I see the sick who have no hope looking for someone,anyone to extend a hand of compassion yet no hands are extended.

Real ministry isn’t hard.In fact,when our hearts are filled with His love the easiest thing to do is extend that love to another.

God is love and God is the driver behind real ministry.The words of Jesus explain it in ways I could only hope to…

Matthew 25:31-40 (NKJV)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.
32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.
33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?
38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?
39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Lord help us to desire to extend your hands of mercy and compassion to those who have none.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

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