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How would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

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Would you change anything? Would you do anything different?

Would you notice the crying baby, or the fussy children?

Would you notice what the person next to you was wearing?

Would you take extra care in picking out what you would wear, or take no thought at all?

Would the volume of the music bother you as much as it usually does, or not at all?

Would you care that your favorite song wasn’t sung, yet again?

I’m jotting all of this down very early Sunday morning as I’m waiting to start getting ready for church. I woke this morning thinking, wondering, is there anything inhibiting my worship? And how would I worship if I had advance notice that this would be my last opportunity?

Worship

To offer Him praise and thanksgiving for all He has done in our lives,to take the time to express our gratitude to God for His many blessings. Isn’t that why we assemble on the Lord’s Day?

As I thought about all of this, my mind began to drift to the different types of worship we read about in the Bible.

Ritual Temple Worship

From the priestly worship inside the Temple we find the descendants of Aaron offering up animal sacrifices as an act of worship for the people: sin offerings, trespass offerings, guilt offerings, and on it goes.

Sacrificial Worship

The people often traveled great distances to worship, and let’s not forget that travel then was very hard and dangerous. Still, they went onward, determined to worship.

We see a man by the name of Elkanah going up yearly to the Temple to make sacrificial worship offerings. Year after year his wives went with him, and God received the worship of his wife Hannah, who was blessed with a son who you might remember was Samuel.

Emotional Worship

And how could we forget David, warrior king of Israel who danced in worship before the Lord with all his might?

Holy Worship

In the New Testament we read where there is worship in heaven, glorious, other-worldly worship where twenty four elders cast their crowns at the feet of God while crying Holy, Holy, Holy.

Whenever we find worship mentioned in scripture we typically find God responding to it, because we are told that God inhabits the praise of His people (Psalms 22:3)

Knowing all these things, the thought of “what if today was my last day to worship God” is front and center in my heart. Would we permit anything to inhibit our worship,if this was truly the case? Would all the things that we get hung up on now really matter?

As I continue working on this post, church has been over for nearly three hours. During the service today this topic was never far from my thoughts. Whether during the music portion, receiving the offering, or while being taught the word of God, I purposed in my heart that I would focus only on Him.

I couldn’t even tell you if anyone had a doughnut in their hand!😉

How then should we approach worship? Is there a right way to worship? Should our worship be limited by what our particular denomination allows, or considers acceptable?

Should our worship be traditional or contemporary? High Church or Cowboy Church? Quiet or loud, exuberant or solemn? Last time I checked, the Lord wasn’t handing out style points, but was looking for sincere hearts.

I don’t pretend to be able to answer those questions for you. I can, however, offer up this thought. I believe God expects, no demands, our very best worship. And what is “best” is different for each of us.

Take the busy single mom, who after working all day comes home exhausted knowing that her day is far from over. With kids to feed and bathe, homework to help with, laundry to be done, and a thousand other daily chores that won’t get done without her, her best worship opportunity might mean bowing her head and heart in the shower during her only 10 minute respite of the day.

Or think about the business man or woman who routinely works 80-100 hours a week. The pressure and stress never seems to let up, even on Sunday mornings. The advancements in technology have made intrusions into their quiet time with God almost predictable. For them, their best worship opportunity might be fleeting at best.

As I said, I believe God demands our best worship, and I believe He will meet with us, regardless of method, place, or duration. The important thing is that we acknowledge Him as Lord, and that we connect with Him as often as we can.

So, how would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

If you think you know the answer, why not try it out the next opportunity you get? After all, it could well be your last “audition”.

Be blessed,

Ron

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All the kings horses,and all the kings men…

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Fractured

Splintered

Divided

Call it what you will, but America is floundering. In the cesspool of its own ignorance, undone by the deliberate abandonment of the Godly principles that once shone brightly for the entire world to see, we are drowning.

I know, I know. Ouch already!

Slowly, almost imperceptibly so as not to garner attention to the ungodly course she had chartered for herself decades ago, the axe was laid to the root of the tree so that death would not come quickly, but rather so slowly as to be unnoticed by the masses.

Generations of men and women who steadfastly held to the belief that they were free and independent of government intrusion in their personal lives have given way to a new generation that expects, no, demands, that government be their new god, their provider.

Decades of “he who has the most money wins” elections have produced the current crop of leaders who could not lead your grandmother across the street. In spite of this atrocity, we blindly cast our lots with them instead of God. The blind leading the blind!

What breaks my heart is that we are better than this! We know the way! The great travesty in all of this is we know the path to victory,yet we choose to stumble along in our own strength.

We are drunken on the new age Kool-Aid gospel of self importance. “You can be anything you dream,so dream BIG” they proclaim.This man made gospel replaces God with you, as though you were in complete control of your life and not God.

No amount of cheer-leading will make America great again. The fact that America is no longer the nation it once was is not a recent development, although the political elite and network talking heads would have you to believe otherwise. We did not get in this situation over night friends.

Do not misunderstand what I’m saying here. I am not criticizing America per se. I believe this country to be the best place on earth to live and raise a family. I love my country and am proud of its countless accomplishments over the past two and a half centuries.

Truth be told, the entire world has benefited from America’s existence. Actually,several nations owe their very existence to this country. But she has fallen far from the lofty heights of the blessed that she previously enjoyed.

Long forgotten is the scriptural admonition to “come, let us reason together”(Isaiah 1:18). The uplifting words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2 seem about as likely to happen in America as the mighty Mississippi reversing its course.

1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.   Philippians 2:1,2

From where I sit on the front row, I see an incredible opportunity right now for the church to arise and be THE CHURCH. The CHURCH must be the hands and feet of Jesus to a people wandering in spiritual darkness. To provide something that our government cannot, will not provide: REAL LEADERSHIP.

We the people need to hear from the God of heaven, not the god of this world. We need truth, not another lying politician. We need hope not vain, empty promises. We need encouragement, not more of the same disparaging vitriol.

Yet more than any of those, what we need most is to hear the clarion call to prayer from our church leadership. Pastors all over this land should be on their collective faces in solemn prayer for revival. God let it be so!

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  II Chr. 7:14

God is still God; in spite of what the antichrist-minded puppets of Satan want us to believe. God is still in the forgiveness business, and He has plenty to spare.

Is it too much to ask that we take a good hard look at our hearts and acknowledge that we are arrogant and filled with pride? Per the verse above, does it surprise you to know that this is what God expects of us?

How is it that we do not seem to grasp the seriousness of the hour? Are we truly so blinded by Satan that we cannot see the outstretched hands of Jesus beckoning us to “come unto me”?

We all know the nursery rhyme about a character that sat on the wall. He did well from his lofty perch, yet when he fell, he fell so hard that he could not be put back together again. This simple analogy cannot be lost on us.

Humpty Dumpty

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My prayer today is twofold; one, that we would recognize the grave seriousness of our present condition, and two; that we would recognize the only remedy for our brokenness is God Almighty.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

Donuts or fat free cookies: what’ll it be?

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An elderly gentleman said something along those words a couple of weeks ago as we were visiting a new church. For some reason,it seemed he was steering me to the fat free cookies,then again I have put on some weight since I retired.cookies

I had to chuckle at this scene,the old gentleman doing his best to make us feel welcome,me on the other hand just wanting to find a seat and quietly blend in.

Have you ever thought about what really draws you to church?  

What’s the attraction?

Of course, the obvious answer is “to worship,or God”. But what REALLY draws you to church?

Tradition?  It’s the right thing to do?  You like the minister?  It’s your only chance to dress up?  It’s where we meet friends ?  You serve in one capacity or another?  We go to worship God?  Our parents drag us to church? You go to be taught the Word of God? They have the best donuts and coffee?

I confess to you that that going to meet with God hasn’t always been my prime motivation.

Sometimes,many times actually,I’ve went to church because of my responsibilities. Whether teaching a class,ministering from the pulpit,singing in the choir,after a while it can all become routine,like some part time job can become.

Plus,and I’m being really honest here now, sometimes I think it was because God was supposed to meet with me there,not the other way around. Pride does that,doesn’t it?

Funny thing about this journey we’re all on. We go to church faithfully, we support it financially, we often serve in various ministries, we try to live out our faith as best we can. We do all the right things, yet I suspect that….

knowing God

chucklarsen.com

We don’t really know God like we think we do.

We know a lot about God,but we do not know Him.

If we did,I can’t help but believe that our approach to Him would be different.

You see,I’m particularly troubled by something I’ve been observing.And no,I’m not talking about whether or not you wear a suit or shorts and flip flops. Couldn’t care less,actually. Nor does the Lord,I assume.

I’m troubled by the flippant,cavalier attitude I’m seeing in God’s house. In particular,I’m bothered by things going on around me during what is supposed to be a time of worshiping God Almighty.

How can we commune with God while perusing eBay on cell phones and tablets? Are you expecting an email from God,is that why people are checking their email in the middle of Amazing Grace? Does consuming coffee,milk,donuts,and cans of soda bring people closer to God during what is supposed to be a time of worship?

Worship of God Almighty.

This stuff bothers me. And if you say “well,you shouldn’t be looking at what everyone else is doing” you might be right. But it still bothers me. And here’s why.

Can somebody say “where’s the R.E.S.P.E.C.T.“?

respect

Is this the proper way to come before the King? In His own house?

If you were invited to Washington DC to meet a high ranking dignitary,or some other venue to meet someone very important,would you show up with a Mountain Dew in your hand? Or how about that dream job of a lifetime,think the interviewer would mind if you munched on a breakfast burrito in between questions?

If any of this would be deemed unacceptable to you,help me understand why it’s OK to do it in God’s house. Why do we reverence earthly things more than God? Does any of this seem right to you? Is this what people do who expect to meet with God? Doesn’t this say something about our perception of who God is?

I know, I know. All of this is just way too legalistic isn’t it? Some of you no doubt think ‘what a jerk. What’s up with coming off so heavy handed? Lighten up dude! It’s only coffee and donuts after all. Who are you to make the rules anyhow? At least they are in church!!’

Actually,this post isn’t really about what goes on inside a building. It’s more about what goes on inside another type of building: our own temples. But you knew that,didn’t you?

Here’s what’s really bothering me about this attitude. I think we have exceeded all expectations in bringing God down to our level. Yep,we’ve finally done it. We’ve figured out a way to treat God as an equal.

And it shows.

We treat God like He’s part of the furniture. No awe. No wonderment. No amazement. No reverence. No fear.

Just one of the guys.

We don’t really know God,for if we did we would stand before Him, in His house,awestruck at the magnitude of what He has done for us! Instead,we treat His House as though we’re hanging out at Starbucks. Or like He’s the last person we expect to show up.starbucks

If we knew God,it would show.

It would show in our attitudes.

It would show in our behavior.

It would show in our language.

It would show in our worship.

We don’t really know God,for if we did we would spend time in His Presence long before 10:00 AM on Sunday.

We cannot know someone we don’t spend time with. Did you get that?

In her book Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard described her thoughts on how we so nonchalantly approach a typical Sunday:

“Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church. We should all be wearing crash helmets.”

Yes indeed.

Sometimes I wonder if God doesn’t look at us as we sit in our seats,minds a million miles away,coffee in one hand,cell phone in the other and say to Himself “do they really not know who I am”?

So to answer the question “Donuts or fat free cookies:, what’ll it be?“, I think I’ll pass this time.

Seems I have a bigger question to settle.

the_light_end_tunnel

So Thankful

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Feeling incredibly thankful and blessed this Sunday for all of the blessings in my life. Having just turned another year older this week, I’ve been reflecting upon how that it’s been nothing short of amazing what God has been able to do in my life.

God is good friends, God is good.

No one but God could have scripted such a life. Now,to a lot of people that would mean that I was referring to a life of ease and continuous blessing. That would not be my life however.

I have learned that when considering one’s life,you must consider all of it,not just the good,with the sum total of all of life’s experiences determining whether or not one considers themselves “blessed”. And I am certainly blessed!

Looking back, it’s easy to see that it’s been His hand that has guided me through great times as well as through the storms that tried to destroy me. Getting to experience the thrills of mountain top experiences is a thrill like no other,just as experiencing the lows of the lowest valley is an experience like no other. As I said,only God could author such things!

What a mighty God we serve!

God has been my Provider, my Healer, and a friend that sticks closer than a brother. I give Him praise for all the goodness and mercy that has been poured into my life. Each and every time I wanted to give up on myself,there was an Unseen Hand that guided me to calmer waters,allowing me opportunities to call upon Him to steady the ship.

My prayer for each of you today is that these words will resonate with you, and that they will be a source of encouragement in your life.

So Thankful!the_light_end_tunnel

Relinquishing Your Freedom in Christ is an Expensive Proposition

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Freedom

Just saying the word evokes thoughts of sacrifice and struggle, oppression and conflict. It also calls to remembrance our sincere appreciation and gratitude for those who have sacrificed to ensure freedom for people’s everywhere.

As children of God we know that in Christ we have been made free. Those who know the Lord as Savior know a freedom unlike any other, as “free indeed” is unlike any other freedom……”whom the Son sets free, is free indeed”. (John 8:36).

Other verses inform us of the fact that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, and while we are now free from sin, we have become slaves to righteous living.            (II Cor.3:17 & Romans 6:18)

All this to say that as Christians, we willingly, lovingly embrace the liberty we have in Christ. Nonetheless, this liberty is fraught with potential dangers should we be tempted to dangle our toes in unfamiliar waters.

All of us, and I do mean all of us, face temptations that appeal to our flesh. Whether we are tempted by power, drugs, alcohol, sex, or money, the fact is that any of these can quickly become our master, overpowering our senses and bringing us again into bondage.

We must remain ever vigilant to counter such temptations if we are to live in victory. Prayer and the reading of the Word are key weapons in this never ending struggle.

These points have been driven home to me again this week while reading the story of how Israel came to have a king reign over them. What started as a nation fully dependent upon and loyal to God, soon turned into full blown rejection of His leadership.

Without launching into a long, detailed history lesson, Samuel was the prophet who had the unenviable task of anointing the first king of Israel. While crowning a new king would normally be cause for great celebration, Samuel’s task was heartbreaking because he knew that in anointing an earthly king, it signaled a severing of the cord between Israel and their God.

As most of you know, throughout Israel’s history they demonstrated a propensity to wander from God. This tendency to stray eventually culminated in their demanding a king to rule over them, just like all the nations around them. In other words, they wanted to be just like everyone else.

Have you ever been told, or have you ever told someone “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it”? This is about to happen to Israel.

Even though they had received an advanced warning as to the quality of leader they would be getting, Israel was determined to proceed with having things their way regardless of the cost. And oh what a price they would pay!

If you will read 1st Samuel 8:10-18 you will see the details of what was to come upon Israel. Take note especially of how many times the word “his” or “take” appears in the description of their new king.

The takeaway I want to leave with you is just how much this new king was going to take from them. Whereas we look to new leadership with an eye for what they can do for us, Israel’s new king would be a taker, not a giver.

What’s the lesson for the New Testament Christian in all of this? The lesson is that we are called out of sin to be the Church. We are not called to be like everyone else.

We also have a Leader who is unlike any other. We are different because our King is the difference maker!

Once God has delivered us from sin, we are not to go back. Not even to look back! We have a freedom known only by the redeemed, and that freedom was purchased by the highest cost imaginable.

Relinquishing your freedom in Christ is an expensive proposition, a proposition I have no desire to entertain.

How about you?

“I want God to heal me,but…”

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I still remember hearing someone say those exact words to our pastor. A young man from church had been injured at work, and the pastor had asked him if he would like the church to pray for him according to James 5:14.

Now, the first reaction would normally be to answer “YES” to having the church pray for you, especially if you are in pain and unable to work. Especially if that was the norm for your church!

That would be the normal reaction.

That wasn’t, however, the reaction of the young man who was injured. His response was “well, I want God to heal me, but I’m expecting a big check from the state Workers Compensation and I don’t want to jeopardize that”.

Like most of us in the congregation, the pastor was stunned at his response. Quickly regaining his composure, the pastor said something along the lines of “well, let’s pray that God will heal you and that you will get the money you are anticipating”. I mean, what else could he say at that point?

What would your reaction have been?

Is it not strange how we say we want God, but we really don’t? On one hand we say we want God’s blessings, but sometimes our actions say we want them if

I guess it isn’t just kid’s “that say the darnedest things”, but do we really think about the things we say?

What does this say about us and about our relationship with the father? I think it says that we think way too highly of ourselves for one thing. Or it could say that we are confused as to who serves whom.

This attitude is reminiscent of one that appeared long ago in a garden somewhere. Remember the Garden of Eden, when Satan tempted Eve? Satan told Eve that if she would eat of the forbidden fruit her eyes would be opened and she would be like God. Even though God had been explicit in His instructions to Adam & Eve, they decided to roll the dice.

How did that work out for them?

There is an interesting dilemma in the church today, this idea that we can bargain, or negotiate with God. Of course, we’ve all heard or known of people who have said “Lord, if you will do such and such, I’ll serve you”. That’s not at all unusual.

However, we seem to have taken this thought process a step further when we say that we want God’s blessings, “but”…Are you or I in a position to negotiate with the Almighty?

This mindset is further proof that we are living in the time that Paul said would come where “men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful.…” (II Tim 3:2-5).

The young man at the beginning of this story, what happened to him? Well, he got his big check and spent it on all kinds of “stuff”. He did not however, receive his healing. It’s also interesting to note that he has not worked since those events of 25 years ago.

Oh, and lest you think this story was one that couldn’t possibly be repeated, you would be wrong. Just three years ago I had a lady from another church tell me nearly the same thing. She was also receiving compensation for a work related injury and was therefore hesitant to be prayed for.

What is it that you need from God? Healing? Finances? Hope? Comfort? Encouragement?

If we need something from our Heavenly Father, we cannot be double minded about it. When we come to the throne, we must ask in faith, with no doubting. The Bible tells us that we who are double minded are unstable in all our ways and we will receive nothing! (James 1:6-8).

Whatever your need this day, don’t try to bargain with God. Simply come to Him and make your needs known to Him. He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

Perhaps you are questioning whether or not God will hear your prayer,or whether or not you are “good enough”. If that’s you, I’d like to leave you with this verse to meditate on:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out.   John 6:37

Have a blessed Lord’s day!

When your questions outweigh answers…

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What do you do?

I have so been there, haven’t you? Left to wonder how-why-what-where-when, or who. Instead of answers, all that come are even more questions.eight-teen-questions

Life is like that isn’t it? At times, answers can be hard to come by. Sometimes they never come at all. Unrelenting streams of questions, however, never seem to be in short supply.

And guess who never fails to seize upon the situation in order to cast doubt in our minds?

Yep, you guessed it. Our adversary loves these situations where we are seemingly overwhelmed with questions and doubt.

doubtSo he can sow even more doubt, of course.

I’ve been in the place where my questions have outweighed the answers so many times that I’ve lost count. I’ve felt the sting of defeat so many times that a “normal” person would have thrown in the towel.

Like a lot of you, I’ve been abandoned, neglected, abused, rejected, and disowned. And each of these “life events”( I refuse to call them tragedies) has raised more questions than I could ever find answers for. As I said, a “normal” person would have thrown in the towel.

The one question that always comes to the forefront when struggling with life’s deepest struggles is simply this: God, where are you? In the midst of despair, isn’t that really all we want to know?

As a Christian, all I want to know, all I need to know, is that God is still there. Just don’t leave me Father.

where-is-god

brucegerencser.net

I know some of you reading this have walked these dark places in your lifetime. And you have asked the question of the ages just as I have: God, where are you? If this is you, I want to share a brief story with you.

In just a few weeks it will have been 17 years since I suffered a major heart attack, the one that the Dr.’s call a “widow maker”. Mowing the lawn one spring day I suddenly ended up laying in the grass after feeling like I had been struck by lightning.

Managing to crawl to the house, my wife called 911 and I was soon on my way to the hospital. Some of the events surrounding this have been forgotten or blurred by time, but I distinctly remember calling upon the Lord to save me, to help me.

To make a very long story short, the next several months involved tests, stents that failed within two months, and heart catheterizations, all of which ended in open heart bypass surgery. Little did I know at that time that the physical part of this ordeal was about to be overshadowed by an even greater battle.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times the enemy would come to me with false accusations. He would tell me I was no longer a child of God, or that I was finished, or that God would never use me again. Suffice it to say that the attacks were relentless.

Now, I would love to be able to report to you that I was a Super Christian, my cape blowing in the wind, the fiery darts of Satan bouncing off of me like they were marshmallows. I would love to be able to tell you this.

But since I am a Christian, I have an aversion to lying.

The truth is, I struggled with these attacks. I never discussed it with anyone except my wife, but I struggled. I never doubted that I would be OK physically, but I certainly doubted my standing with the Lord.

spiritual-warfare

Capebaptist.org

It wasn’t because God didn’t heal me that I started to embrace this doubt, but because I began to question if it was somehow all my fault. Hearing my surgeon telling me that my condition was 80% hereditary did little to comfort my nagging thoughts.

It took some time for me to work through this, but with His grace and the encouragement of the Word, I did get the victory over my doubts. Just a few months after surgery I was back in the pulpit, and I’ve been going ever since.

So to close this blog, I want to leave you with something from Psalms 119 that speaks to the power of God’s Word. My prayer is that these simple verses will encourage you to draw deeply from the treasure that is the Word of God.

Princes persecute me without a cause,

But my heart stands in awe of your word.

I rejoice at your word,

As one who finds great treasure.

I hate and abhor lying,

But I love your law.

Seven times a day I praise you,

Because of Your righteous judgments.

Psalm 119:161-164

I have learned that through Christ which strengthens me, I can handle just about anything just as long as I know He’s still there. I may not like the fact that I have to face certain things, but there is comfort in knowing He is there.

When your questions outweigh answers, there’s only one place to turn.

To the One who already knows what the answers are,before you even ask the question.

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