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There was a time…..

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There was a time when the church was very powerful. However, as many of you who read this blog know,I have long been of the belief that the church in America is dying.Rotting from decay and abuse unparallelled in the 2000 year history of the church.

Very uplifting topic…not. But one that must be stated.

Actually,the church has been in a state of decline for many centuries so it’s not like this should come as a startling revelation to anyone.It’s just that for so long we have been able to disguise the decline by supplanting the power of the church with one theme or program after another,all constructed to look like the Spirit at work among us.This spirit of denial however can no longer camouflage the fact that the church has lost its way.

Oh sure,there have been seasons of growth and prosperity(if that is how one chooses to measure spiritual increase). Yet surely by now we have come to understand that growth and prosperity are by no means indications of God’s blessing upon us.Think about it….how far do you have to go to find a beautiful church filled with hundreds of people who never reach beyond the walls of their church to minister to the hurting.Programs for every subject matter within the friendly confines of the campus…but those on the outside?…..not so much.

And lest you remain unconvinced that the church is dying I suggest you simply open your eyes to the rampant evil that has engulfed society.Without a strong,vocal church opposing sin on a grand scale,well….this is what we get.

The writings of Paul and other New Testament authors give us a picture of the power that the early church had.Thousands being converted in a single day,cities being “turned upside down”,the sick made whole and the dead raised to life again.

Yet a curious movement began to creep into the church during this time,a movement which prompted the Apostle Paul to declare:

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.    Gal 1:8 KJV

The simple truth of the Gospel message had already become polluted and preverted.Men who knew better had began teaching “another gospel”,a word not from the Lord.This preaching of “another gospel”was considered by no less an authority than the Apostle Paul to be so dangerous to the mission of the church that he declared that those who do such things should be accursed.

And you thought I was tough!

You see, Paul understood that the strength of the church rested upon the foundational truths of the Gospel.He knew very well that if those truths were to be undermined that the church would lose it’s power and influence.And even though a great many today will say otherwise,the truth is that this is exactly what has happened.

Again, this is not a new revelation,or at least it shouldn’t be.Preachers have been stating this for some time now.

Way back in 1963 there was a preacher who penned the following words from a jail cell in Birmingham Alabama.Words that ring more true today than when he first uttered them.As you read these words I ask you to compare them with the state of the church today and see if you don’t agree that they were indeed prophetic.

“There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed.In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.
Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests.
Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch-defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.
But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church,it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.
Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world.”         Martin Luther King: Letter From Birmingham Jail             16 April 1963      
Be blessed,
Ron
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Who are you trusting?

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Are you a self made man or woman?

Everything you have is because of your own hard work,abilities,intelligence?

Many people who have no regard for God often think that they alone have provided all the nice things they enjoy.

I know many successful people who claim to be self made and scoff at the notion that perhaps they have been blessed in order to bless others.

I see this mindset in the church as well. I see it in people who have titles and positions,and when it takes hold in the church we start to feel that we can do ministry without the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

But as Christians, we know better don’t we? And we understand the dangers associated with thinking too highly of ourselves.

Jesus spoke the following parable to illustrate the ultimate folly of trusting in anyone but the Lord.

9   And He spoke this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-collector.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed within himself in this way: God, I thank You that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And standing afar off, the tax-collector would not even lift up his eyes to Heaven, but struck on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner!
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself shall be abased, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.   Luke 18:9-14 NKJV

Humbling ourselves before a Holy God is the first step in acknowledging that there is a power much higher than ourselves.

If we are ever to be of any value to the Lord,we must understand that for this to happen we must decrease so that He can increase.

Our trust cannot be in ourselves,but must be in the God that we serve.

Be blessed,

Ron

Jesus built this church on love

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Thinking today about the church and it’s mission.

There are about as many opinions about what the mission of the church is as there are people writing them.

See if you’ve heard some of these “missions of the church”…..

  • make disciples
  • mentor
  • evangelize
  • witness
  • preach the gospel

OK, you get it, right? The church has a great many missions,or assignments.

While all of the above are true,there is one mission that I believe supersedes them all.I believe the greatest mission of the church is also the area where she is falling far short in her assignment today.

Love

Loving one another. Like this:

14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love [his] brother abides in death.

15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down [our] lives for the brethren.

17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.     1Jo 3:14-19 NKJV

You who have aligned yourself in any way with the church,do you not understand we are commanded to love?

Our assignment is not to hate. It is not our mission in this life to neglect the lonely and destitute while we surround ourselves with friends and family. It is not for us to ignore the pleading of the hungry as we gather around our table filled with good things to eat.No,it is not our calling as the church of the Living God to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the screams of the lost.

I cringe every time I hear of yet another person who has been cast aside by the church as “not good enough”,as if any of us could ever be good enough.The only good in any of us is the Christ we are supposed to represent.

I wince at the thought that some who call themselves”Christian”consider others “not worthy”,as if any one of us is actually worthy, or deserving of the love that has been shed abroad in our hearts.

Our mission,our calling,our very purpose,is to love.

Love them all.

Father,help us to understand that our righteousness is as filthy rags.Our arrogance is a stench in your nostrils.

Jesus built this church on love.

And only in His love can we find grace and help in these troubled times.

Be blessed,

Ron

More of You

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This morning my heart is longing for more of Jesus. It’s not a Sunday thing or a church thing.It’s a personal thing.

It’s a God thing.

I often reflect upon times past when as a new Christian I hungered and longed for God.And through the many seasons of life there have been times when I felt that I would die unless I could somehow run to Jesus and find comfort and love in His waiting arms.Kind of like this:

1 To the Chief Musician. A Contemplation of the sons of Korah. As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God.   [Psa 42:1 NKJV]

I love this illustration of a thirsty,tired deer desperately needing a refreshing drink of water because it reminds me of myself.

I’m sure you’ve been there.Worn out from the struggle of life.Sick in body.Frustrated that life has not turned out the way you had hoped.Depressed,divorced,bankrupt,and a million other issues that seemingly suck the life out of you.

When all of a sudden you begin to sense it.Those times when you felt something much greater than yourself,pulling you,drawing you to something you’re not quite sure of.

Only to discover the warm embrace of the Father is drawing you to Himself, as only a Father can.To embrace the child that is part of himself in order to lovingly whisper to us “I’m here for you.I haven’t forgotten you.Cast all of your cares upon me for I care for you”.

God does that to us at times doesn’t he? What I’ve learned over the past many years is that the strength of this pull is in direct proportion to our prayer life.Let me explain.

The more I call upon the Lord,the more He seems to draw me closer to Him.When I neglect my prayer life the more aware I become of a distance between us.And a coldness begins to envelop my soul.A coldness that encompasses every facet of my being.

Guess which one I prefer?

I leave you this morning with the words from an old song(1980)from B.J.Thomas.I have no idea who the writer is,except that whoever it is they wrote a song about my life.And,I suspect…yours as well.

If you’re interested you can find this on Youtube here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=froyEJ0bAlI

More of You

More of you,Lord that’s the way it’s got to be, More of you, till there’s no room left in me

All those wasted hours and minutes, There yours now from the start to the finish

I need more of you, in me

More of you, fill me with nothing less, More of you, give me your love and the world can have the rest

I could never get enough, Of you grace,your peace,your warmth and your love

Give me more of you dear Lord

There was a time in my life,when I thought I had it all, But all I really had was an aching,empty soul

And I need more of you,dear Savior,more,more of you

More of you,precious Jesus,give me your love,and the world can have the rest

I know I’ll never get quite enough,of you grace,your peace,your warmth and your love

I need more of you,I need more of you,I need more of you…In me

Be blessed,

Ron

A Follower of Jesus?

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What exactly is a “Follower of Jesus”?     Can anyone be a follower?

This morning as I was reading my bible,I came upon the verses below from Luke’s gospel that deal with the topic of following Jesus.And so I got to thinking about this subject and what it really means.And it has prompted me to do some very critical thinking all day today.

Actually,it’s pricked my heart is what it’s done.

I hear a lot about following Jesus. A lot.I suppose every person who goes to church would say they are a follower of Jesus.It’s what church folks do,right? We follow Jesus.

So how do you know a “Follower” when you see one?                way to Jesus

Now there’s a great question isn’t it?

I mean….do they look different than everyone else?

Do they talk differently than everyone else?

Do they act differently than everyone else?

All good questions I think. So lets take a look at what Jesus Himself said about this. After all,He would be the expert on the subject,not me.

23 Then He said to [them] all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

24 “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.

25 “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?

26 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His [own] glory, and [in His] Father’s, and of the holy angels.

[Luk 9:23-26 NKJV]

One of the first things we notice here is that if we are to follow Jesus we must do something. Well, right away some are not going to like that because lets face it…we don’t like being told we have to do anything. It’s that pride thing don’t you know.

As a matter of fact the first requirement to be a follower of Jesus is likely to be a major stumbling block to most of us.The words “let him deny himself”immediately causes us to wince in pain at the thought of us,or self,not being the most important thing on the planet.

Ouch.

Funny how that life has a way of distorting our priorities as “Followers” isn’t it? This is especially true of those of us who call ourselves Christian.For example,if you listen to any of the hundreds of con men masquerading as men of God you would think that God exists for one purpose,and that is to serve them.

And yes,I know that some don’t like to hear those things but I’m long past worrying about whether or not I hurt someone’s feelings because I call out their favorite TV rock star preacher for stealing from the sheep and sowing discord among the brethren.

Ouch again.Sorry….couldn’t resist.

How pathetic we must appear to a lost world that is dying and going to Hell if all we can offer them is the same old tired mantra of “sow your best seed now and God will bless you”….Or translated for those who have ears to hear “send me your money so I can get rich at the expense of the needy”.

Why would anyone who can discern even basic biblical concepts think that such a thing is what Jesus meant when He told us to deny ourselves? These are “Followers of Jesus”? These are our examples? God help us.

OK, sorry for the diversion……….back to the topic at hand.

In addition to denying ourselves Jesus then said we were to “take up our cross daily”….Take up our cross? What is that all about?

A lot of people think this means bearing burdens and suffering hardships for the Lord. No doubt there are times when that is the situation we find ourselves in.In fact,when I was a young Christian that was the prevailing sentiment in the church.But there is a deeper meaning if we consider the entire context.

  • What is the purpose of the cross? For one thing,it is an instrument of pain and affliction but more than that,it was an instrument of death and complete and total sacrifice.
  • Jesus said to take up our cross and follow Him. He bore His cross and we must bear our cross and follow Him.
  • So….”taking up your cross” refers to sacrificing your whole life to God, just as Jesus was about to give His life for us. As I mentioned previously,this often involves bearing heavy burdens, but it actually goes far beyond that.
  • It is a total,complete dedication of our life to Him.Our whole life is to be given to His service.

All of which started me thinking this morning about my own track record of following Jesus. And you know what?

I’m doing wonderfully,fantastically,incredibly great at it.No problems here!

NOT!

Deny myself? Really? Me,the guy who wants what he wants when he wants it and has very little patience while I’m waiting on it?

Me?

Here’s what I think. I think if I lived like Jesus has told me to live,which means a sold out,crucified life to Him,I think I would have far less “stuff” and a whole lot more Jesus in my life.

I think I would focus a whole lot more about eternal things than I do my 401K,or terrorism,or the up and down price of a gallon of gas.

If I was living a sold out crucified life I would care more about the hungry and poor among us,rather than which team will win the football game.

So what about you? How does your walk stack up to”deny himself” or “take up your cross”?

Notice any gaps in your life? Anything you need to work on?

To answer an earlier question, followers of Jesus do look,act,and talk differently than everyone else.

Because they understand that their life is not their own,but rather they have committed it all to Jesus.

And Jesus makes all the difference in our lives.

Be blessed,

Ron

What’s Important,or Not?

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What’s important to you? I mean, what’s really important to you?

  • Family?
  • Job?
  • House?
  • Car?

Sometimes it seems as though what’s important to us doesn’t turn out to be so important after all.Think about it:have you ever worked and saved,sacrificed and gave,until you felt there just wasn’t much left to give as you were climbing the ladder to the next position?

Only to finally get there and after just a little while wonder what the attraction was?

I know people like that. People who could see the “prize” from a distance and set their heart to attain it no matter the cost,only to realize once they had it that it wasn’t what they thought it would be after all.

I’m a good example of this.I love acoustic guitars. Especially Martin guitars. I’ve had an affection for them for going on 40 years. A few years ago I finally acquired the guitar of my dreams-only to trade it away for the next greatest thing-that soon got traded for another-and still another.

It’s kind of like no matter what we have we want something else. No matter the job we have we are not satisfied and long to do something different.Same with cars,boats,houses,whatever.

Sometimes we forget the admonition of scripture that teaches us to be content in whatever state we find ourselves in.Our human nature does that to us at times,doesn’t it?

In the Genesis account of Abram and Lot,there came a day when the land could no longer support both of their families and all the livestock that went with them. They came to a place where a decision had to be made regarding their futures.

Read along with me and lets see what happened in Genesis 13:5-13

5 Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents.

6 Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together.

7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land.

8 So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren.

Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.”

10 And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar.

11 Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other.

12 Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom.

13 But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.

Lot did exactly what most of us would have done when he looked and saw the green grass and water in abundance:he took what looked to be the best selection.Don’t we do that sometimes?After all,the grass is always greener,right?

If you will take the time to continue reading this and into the next chapter you will see that the land where Lot settled was not at all what it first appeared to be.

Looks can be deceiving,can’t they?

Contrast that with Abram who took the “leftovers” and instead settled in the land of Canaan.Because he was following the Lord and not his own desires,he received an incredible blessing from the Lord,whereas Lot inherited more trouble than he knew what to do with.

Beloved,we are living in uncertain times,times that can be perilous and frightening.What used to be is often no longer.What once made us comfortable is gone forever and we are left to wonder what happened.

We live in a broken world.A world broken by sin and disobedience.A world seemingly spiraling out of control and headed towards the abyss.

A world in which the only truth that remains is found in God’s word.Only God’s word has stood the test of time.Every prophecy that was supposed to be fulfilled,has been.

Every prophecy yet to be fulfilled will be and we can rest assured that nothing can change the course that God has chartered.

What’s important,what we cannot take our eyes off of is this:Jesus is a sure Foundation.A very present Help in the time of trouble.He is the Rock in a weary land.My Defender.My Shield.

Things are usually never as good as they first appear to be,which is why we are so often disappointed with them once we have them.

Not so with the Lord.He’s as good today as when I first met Him nearly 40 years ago!

Be blessed,

Ron

When Miracles Don’t Happen

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I wanted to share a truly wonderful post about when miracles don’t happen that was written by Karen Pickering. I find much wisdom in this.
Great job Karen!

Lytroo Retreat

It has been a difficult decade. There have been many sleepless nights. There have been many tears. I have prayed believing. I have prayed even though I didn’t believe. I have prayed when I didn’t feel like praying. My prayers have been whispered, spoken and shouted. They have been written down on my laptop, leather journals and scraps of paper. Often my prayers have been wordless. Having said all I could think of to say I left the words to the Holy Spirit who promises to “intercede for us with groanings too deep for words.”(Romans 8:26)

We are instructed to pray, and yet what is our response when we don’t see an answer? We want to hear about the miracles and the happy endings. We don’t want to hear about the financial struggles, the sexual abuse, people dying of cancer, prodigal children or broken families. The church speaks loudly in its…

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