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Would Jesus ever sanction”pay to pray”?

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Yes friends and neighbors,it’s now time to pay up.. if you need to pray up that is.

I found this little gem in my inbox the other morning from a group providing a subscription service to ministers. An obviously distraught pastor wrote to them with this question: “I have a power group trying to run me out of the church. What do I do?”  The answer to this pastor’s question is below.

“Here’s what happened: Within six hours, the pastor had received guidance from seven different people, including me. He was blown away.

There is no place like (group providing a subscription service to ministers). You can come to our safe community and ask any questions freely and without limits for only $9.97/month! That’s 33 cents a day.”

That’s right,for less than ten dollars a month you can ask unlimited questions,attend a live virtual staff meeting,receive a checklist to follow up on from the staff meeting,and finally you will receive resources to help you to follow up on the checklist from the staff meeting. All for the low,low price of $9.97 a month.

Stop. The. Presses. Pastors and other church leaders,with a mere click of a mouse or a tap on their iPad are now consulting subscription services instead of the Lord? Does anyone care to tell me what happened when God’s people failed to consult Him? I Chr.15:13,Ezra 2:63,Neh.7:65,Isa.19:3,etc…just to name a few!

OK,I’ll be the first guy to say that there are times when I desperately wish I could bounce some things off of my late Father in Law,the Rev. W.D.Tibbs. He and I spent many hours on his back porch discussing church matters,and I’m much wiser for it.

However, if paying for advice is how a church “leader” conducts himself,may God help his congregation.This,dear readers is what the church has come to.Do you still wonder that the devil laughs at church leadership today as he says to them “Jesus I know,and Paul I know,but who are you?”

I don’t know who I am most disillusioned with; pastors who have no more confidence in the God they supposedly serve that they would do such a thing,or a business that solicits money from them.Especially a business being run by someone who surely must know better.

What I do know is this:there is a reason why the church is so anemic today.All one has to do is look to it’s leadership to see the problem.

As for old fashioned me,I’ve yet to have God fail me,so I think I’ll stick with Him.

Now,where’s my WWJD bracelet when I need it?

Holy Father,surely your heart breaks as we find more and newer ways to reject you in favor of ourselves.Just as your word has foretold,we have sunk into deep mire.Our hearts are no longer aflame with the passion to serve you.We have not only lost our first love,we have fallen so far as to have no recollection of it.

Lord I pray the prayer of a heartbroken David:create in us a clean heart,and renew a right Spirit within us.

 

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Where is the Lord?

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That was the question Jeremiah heard from the Lord.

We don’t hear much about prophets today,unless it’s something about the fact that there are so many false prophets in the world.discernment

True prophets are not popular people. In fact,if you were called to be a prophet in Old Testament times you were virtually guaranteed a life of hardship. The prophets mantle was one of harsh words,condemnation,and “thus saith the Lord”.

Not exactly the ingredients necessary to make friends. Then again, God never sought out His prophets from a Charm School either.

Jeremiah was one such prophet. A prophet during the last 40 years of Judah’s existence,Jeremiah became known as the weeping prophet. He had been given a harsh message to deliver to Judah,which was made even more challenging because he possessed a sensitive and broken heart over the condition of his people.

Unfortunately for Jeremiah,this tender spirit made his anguish even more intense as his family,friends,kings,priests,basically the entire nation of Judah rejected his words.Called of God at a young age,rejection and loneliness were to become his two constant companions for the rest of his life.

As God began to speak into the life of His young prophet,it becomes apparent that he will have little time in which to “grow into the job”. Almost immediately, Jeremiah hears these words from the Lord:

The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.  Jer. 2:8

The fact that the priests weren’t even asking where the Lord was says volumes about the moral and spiritual condition of Judah. They had become so insensitive to the presence of God that they did not even recognize that He had departed from them.

Forsaking the Lord,Judah had installed a new religion,one that included the worship of nearly everything except God.In doing this,they had long ago stopped wondering why the Lord’s presence had departed from them,and why they no longer enjoyed His blessings. For them,it had become business as usual.

Herein lies a great danger that the church must guard against today. In our “we must have it now” culture the pressure is on to produce results. This has largely been brought about by the church departing from the biblical model of church growth in favor of a more corporate mentality.

It is my firm conviction that this pressure to perform has brought about a devastating change in our approach to a Holy God. Instead of waiting upon the Lord in our own “upper rooms”,we have instead invented a new church paradigm where results can be manufactured at will.

Church services are now planned down to the minute,much like a board meeting. From the opening greeting to the closing prayer,everything has been carefully scripted.Statistics are consulted as though they were inspired data points.Results are measured in percentages,not souls.Business plans,not God,are the driving force behind our actions.

There is an incredible and valuable lesson that we today can learn from the question “where is the Lord?”. That being that when we no longer see the manifestation of God’s presence in our midst,alarm bells should be going off.

When I speak of the manifestation of God’s presence,I am referring to the acts of love,kindness,mercy,and compassion that are the hallmarks of a transformed life.I am not referring to the foolishness that passes for God’s presence in many churches today.

Any pastor today who is shepherding a congregation where these traits are not outwardly and abundantly apparent for all to see,should be greatly concerned about the overall spiritual health of that congregation.

Think about the church you currently attend. Do you see the fruits of lives transformed by Christ,or is it business as usual in your church?

Perhaps most tragic of all is this: has God departed and we don’t even know it?

Something for us to think about this Lord’s day.

What do people think when they hear your name?

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Certain names elicit predictable reactions when we hear them. Take Hitler for example. For the vast majority of the worlds population the most common reaction is

evil-dictators

Amazon.com

contempt,disgust,or perhaps even hatred.

 

The same could be said for Stalin, Amin, Gaddafi,or Jong-II. Certain men,because of their ruthless behavior and evil disposition, draw very strong emotions from us simply by the mention of their names.

Then there are those who because of their kindness,generosity,or compassion elicit from us thoughts of honor,praise,or gratitude. Men and women such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln,Benazir Bhutto,or my lovely wife Debbie typically draw strong,positive reactions from us upon hearing their names.

What do people think when they hear your name?

Whether we realize it or not,having a good name,or a good report among others,is very important. It must be because the scriptures give us several examples to ponder,such as…

A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death than the day of one’s birth. Eccl 7:1   HCSB

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.  Proverbs 22:1   KJV

Even Paul,when giving Timothy the details about the qualifications of a bishop,included the requirement for having a good report,or name.

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watchletter.blogspot.com

Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.   1st Tim. 3:7.  KJV

So it is evident that we must live our lives in such a way that will reflect positively upon our Lord. Or to put it another way,as Christians there is a standard that we must strive to achieve.

We simply cannot allow this fallen worlds standards to become our own. To do so is to bring a reproach on Christ and His church,as well as to ignore the clear teachings of scripture.

One might ask then,”what can I do about the past mistakes I’ve made,surely I have fallen short of any Godly standards.How will I ever have a good name”? Of course,we all make mistakes and fall short.In Romans 3:23 Paul said “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”thereby including everyone of us in that incalculable number of people who have failed.

If perfection was a prerequisite whereby we might gain the attention or favor of the Lord,all of us would be doomed.Thankfully,God does not insist that our goodness,talents,wisdom,etc… be at some predetermined level of excellence. He simply takes us as we are,warts and all.

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yourlifechurch.org

The good name,or good report we are to covet is a crown worth pursuing. A good name is not given,it is won as we overcome our adversary daily.It is won on the battlefields of temptation,of the mind,and of the will. It is the end result of the sanctifying process we all go through as we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling  (Philippians 2:12).

It is therefore important that we understand that past mistakes don’t necessarily disqualify us in the eyes of God for a particular office or position.And it is for absolute certainty that God does not disqualify us from becoming His Sons and Daughters.

Nothing however,should hinder us from striving to achieve all that God has for us.Our “Good Name” depends on it. Oh,and those past mistakes we’ve all made? Think of them this way: they are meant to guide us onward,not define us!

What do people think when they hear your name?

Continue in the things we have learned

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Unlike so many of you,I had little in the way of church,or religious training while growing up. I could count on both hands the number of times I went to church during those years,so to say I got a late start would be an understatement! Quite the contrast to my wife,the pastor’s daughter, whose earliest memories are of being in church!

During those early years I could never have imagined that one day God’s Word would become the bedrock of my life. Indeed,had God never drawn me to Him and instilled in me a deep hunger to know His Word,my life would have been unimaginably different.

As I gaze upon the events unfolding in the world I can’t help but pause to give God thanks that I am no longer the person I used to be,or the person I could have easily become. At this stage of my life,I now know more assuredly than I ever have before,that He and He alone has kept me from reverting back to that person I once was.

He has a plan for my life. And He has one for you too.

Listening to current events can be disturbing to even the most well grounded among us. For those not familiar with God’s Word,some of these events are actually frightening when you realize their potential implications.To those people,it must seem overwhelming watching the evening news.

The Apostle Paul knew something about this as well and even prophesied about it. In 2nd Timothy 3:2 he described the condition of the world in the latter days as a time when men would be lovers of themselves,boastful,proud,and a whole host of other not too pleasant things,most of which we are seeing unfold right before our eyes.

Yet this great Apostle knew something else about this,which was that irregardless of what was going on around us,we were to continue walking with Christ as though nothing was happening. He explained it this way:

10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance,
11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.
12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.    II Tim 3:10-15   NKJV   (emphasis mine)

Paul tells us we must continue in the things we have learned,which brings me to the central point of this post. All of us must remind ourselves from time to time that our hope is sealed in Jesus Christ. The things we have learned through our studies of the scriptures have made us wise for salvation,meaning the Word of God will instruct us in all things necessary for our salvation.

Events taking place now in the world,and events to come in the future all have the ability to divert our attention away from the “things we have learned”. Our responsibility is to make certain that does not happen,which we can accomplish by following Paul’s advice to Timothy.

Have a blessed Wednesday,

Ron

Monday Morning Musings

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I thought I would take a break from my usual type of posts and share a few light hearted thoughts on different topics making the news lately. Being newly retired,I have a lot of free time on my hands! So here goes…

The Presidential Election: how strange that we now have a president that his own party refuses to fully support. I wonder,how will this administration unite an obviously divided nation when the presidents party itself is so deeply divided? And what about all those elected officials who refused to attend the inauguration? Way to be the example on how to start the process of unification guys and gals. Talk about speaking out of both sides….

Gun Violence: I support the Second Ammendment that gives us the right to keep and bear arms. I do not however,support stupid. Some people,obviously,have no business owning a firearm. Can someone tell me what is so hard to understand about this? Which leads me to…

Gang Violence: Who is running the asylum here anyway? Who is in control of our cities? I know who is supposed to be in control,but all the evidence points to the bad guys being in charge. Hello governments of all levels: more of my tax dollars is not the answer.

Celebrities: Am I the only one who is wondering why people who seem to have so little control over their own lives expect us to take them seriously? Really? Many of these people live in a bubble and are completely out of touch with reality. Consider the recent statements by the “material girl” who apparently wants to blow up the White House as a prime example of the lunacy of these people. Or maybe I am the one out of touch with reality. After all she has millions of “adoring” fans. Me? Outside of my family,not so much. I am approaching 100 WordPress followers however. 🙂

TV Weather Personalities: Ok,so it’s really great that we have such awesome weather technology available to us.But when did we get so soft that a prediction of an inch or two of snow sends us into full on panic mode and we rush to the grocery for bread and milk? It seems like the TV weather personalities might be secret stockholders in their local grocery stores. Ya Think? At any rate,I really get annoyed at the way they act like we don’t have the sense to come in out of the rain.

Minimum Wage: Of course you can’t support a family making the minimum wage. Hello? News Flash!! The minimum wage was NEVER intended to be more than a temporary wage! Protests in the streets won’t change that.What is it that people don’t understand about that? And the $15.00 per hour wage that we keep hearing about? Do people not grasp the fact that companies exist for the purpose of making a profit? Now,I don’t know if paying McDonalds employees $15.00 per hour will raise the price of a quarter pounder to $8 or $10 or whatever,but what I do know is that a lot less of them will be sold at those prices. See the domino effect here? And yes, I actually do understand that this is a very complex issue. In no way am I trivializing the plight of the poor.

Political Correctness: This is a gem. Let’s see,there can be no right or wrong lest one party is offended. And no losers lest someone’s self esteem is tarnished. Oh,and every kid gets to bat because we all know that they will hate their parents,trash the school,and become a social recluse unless they get to bat. How about instead we urge little Johnny to try harder,to actually practice hitting the ball instead of using his thumbs to conquer far off galaxies in a video game? Harsh? Don’t hate.

Millennials: Ah yes,the hapless generation who want to change the world,but allow me to pay for it. Do me a favor will you millennials? When you’ve paid for a couple hundred roads and bridges,approved a few tax levies to fund the local school system,financed a war or two,come see me. Until then,you got nuthin’.Did he really just say that? Ouch.

Sports: I saw where Atlanta is building a 1.5 BILLION dollar stadium just for football. How nice. Hmmm…last time I checked Atlanta had some pretty serious issues of a social nature going on. You know, things like poverty,horrible education system, unemployment,shootings. Hello Atlanta! Ever hear of something called priorities?

OK,I’m pretty sure I’ve offended enough people for one day so I’m out!

BTW….this is all said tongue in cheek.

Mostly.

 

 

Do you need to hear a Word from God?

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Typing “how to hear from God”into Google reveals a plethora of books,ministry web sites,online shopping sites, and magazines all offering their version of the answer to the question “htv-infomercials-as-seen-on-tv-01ow to hear from God”.

Sounding like they could belong on a late night infomercial,these sources pander their wares under the guise that even with all the distractions we are dealing with in life,by following their specific plan or method,we can indeed hear from God.

Seriously,who among the faithful doesn’t want to hear from God?Man has always desired to communicate with His Creator,there is nothing abnormal about that.

Of course,we must be able to discern these many voices to see whether they be of God or not(1st John 4:1). And to be sure God speaks to us in several different ways,such as through:

  • nature
  • other believers
  • situations or circumstances
  • prayer

But there is a better way to hear from God, one you can be assured comes with a 100% certainty of authenticity.No guess work.No more wondering if this is really God or not.

While Christians everywhere are spending untold millions of dollars in pursuit of the elusive “magic formula” for hearing from God,the answer is right there on their coffee table. It’s called the Bible.coffee_bible21

The Apostle Paul,in II Timothy 3:16,17 said that ” All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

I believe that Paul was saying that the Word of God is sufficient to guide us in every facet of our lives. As such,it also offers to us an answer that will help us to navigate the storms of this life.

Notice I did not say it offers THE answer.Trying to find answers in the Bible to very specific questions such as “why did this have to happen me”,or “why did my loved one die”,will be an effort in futility.

What the Bible does give us however,is wise counsel and instruction that if heeded will enable us to find the strength and wisdom needed to cope with all of life’s challenges.

God also gives us the assurance that His word “will not go out and return to Him void,but will accomplish what He has intended“.   Isaiah 55:11     God’s Word has a purpose,and He has decreed that it will accomplish the purpose for which it was intended.

I have personally seen this many times in my lifetime. God is faithful in all things,and that includes His Word.

If you’ve ever been at the end of your rope raising children,God tells us all about that in the Word(Proverbs,anyone?). Ever fear for your life? Jesus talked about that one stormy night when He quieted the wind and the waves by saying “Peace, be still!”

You don’t need to buy another book written by your favorite author to learn how to hear from God.Save your money and spend some quiet time in God’s Word.You might be shocked at just how much He has to say to you!how-to-hear-god

Maybe,just maybe,the notion that God speaks to us isn’t so far fetched after all. Instead,maybe the real issue here is that God is continually speaking to us through His Word,we’re just looking in all the wrong places!

Have a blessed Sunday everyone!

Ron

How to have a revival in the midst of war and death

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Like many others,I’ve been following the unparalleled carnage taking place as a result of the Syrian civil war. In one of the bloodiest and most horrific civil wars in modern history,the world has been witness to the unspeakable carnage of a demonic dictator bent on murdering his own citizens.

Sadly,now that the fighting is for all intents and purposes over, the major world powers and the Church have chosen to remain relatively silent about the plight of those unfortunate enough to be trapped in and around the battle zone of Aleppo.

According to the United Nations and the World Health Organization,over 700,000 people are trapped in these areas around Syria.Trying to imagine the magnitude of suffering for these people is all but impossible. A catastrophe of the highest level is playing out before the eyes of the world.

But wait, it gets worse I’m afraid.

Want to hear the real shocker in all of this? Of these 700,000, it is estimated that 300,000 are children.That’s right,nearly half are children!

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blogs.reuters.com

As incredible as it sounds however,in the midst of so much human suffering,the Holy Spirit is hard at work drawing thousands to Christ.

Even though thousands of Christians have been martyred for refusing to renounce their faith,God is still adding to His church daily,just as He has been doing since the birth of the Church.

Many Christians have refused to leave this war ravaged area,preferring instead to stay behind to help others and to witness to the many thousands who have no hope. Out of this latter group are coming thousands of Muslims who are looking for help in coping with the effects of war. And finding Jesus!

Praise God that the Christians in that area who have chosen to stay behind are witnessing to them,praying with them,and leading many to Christ.These are “book of Acts” Christians,showing them love and compassion.

This is nothing short of the handwork of God! To a war torn people who have lost everything,the Holy Spirit is reaching out to them to reassure them that hope is not lost after all.

Indeed,having lost all their worldly possessions,these people are finding a new treasure in Jesus Christ! How incredible is this! On the one hand they lost everything,yet on the other hand they have now gained Everything!

This is revival God’s way! No speeches,no programs,no celebrity preachers,just God doing what He loves to do;using His people to express His love to those so desperate for it. I find all of this amazing!

We serve a wondrous and mighty God,and from this war torn corner of the planet He is moving.He is saving the lost and offering hope to the hopeless.Souls who had been enslaved by a religion that cannot save are now enjoying new found freedoms in Christ!

Could it be that these Christians have tapped into something that we in N.America do not understand? Think about the current state of Evangelicalism in N.America, with our great churches and cathedrals boasting of members numbering in the tens of thousands,our huge bank accounts,programs for every member of the family,weekly agendas and calendars full of religious activities.

Lot’s of activities to be sure. But no fruit.

I would not trade all of that for the loving,caring examples of Jesus in action in war torn Syria! We in N.America have perfected the art of doing church,while those in Syria are perfecting the art of BEING the Church!

This is why N.America can never have real revival! We aren’t BEING the Church! Oh sure,we plan the annual spring and fall revival meetings.But what results can we show from these meetings? Are lives changed? Have hearts been regenerated? Do we leave our meetings with a renewal of our first love? Not often,but we sure do know how to do church though,don’t we?

I say away with these man made,powerless gatherings of like minded men who want nothing more than to promote their own agenda.There is no deliverance to be found in these committees who exist solely for the purpose of self preservation.God may be on their billboard,but He is nowhere to be found among the haughty,proud,and arrogant.

We in N.America are desperate for real revival.Revival that stirs our hearts to repentance.Revival that permeates our communities,not just the confines of the local sanctuary.We need the kind of revival born out of the war torn hell of Aleppo.

This is life changing revival.This is soul winning revival! It’s desperation that brings real,true,revival!

My prayer for N.America is that we will not have to experience the ravages of war,death,and the destruction of all we hold dear in order to experience the kind of revival we need.That is my heartfelt prayer.

My fear,however,is that N.America will have to be shaken to it’s core before we return to God.Perhaps we are nearer to such a shaking than we realize? After all,only God can make N.America great again.

I have included a few links to information regarding the persecution of Christians in Syria,as well as persecution in general.I trust these will be of benefit to those hungry to know what is taking place in the world regarding the persecution of our Brothers and Sisters.

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