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Coming to grips with God’s plan for your life.

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You’ve heard it said that if you’re going to dream, then dream BIG. Most people, I believe, have dreams of a bright future. What kind of husband or wife they will marry, how many children they’ll have, what type of work they will do. All of these are things that the average person dreams about.

Dream-Big.jpg

successtreasurebox.com

These dreams for our future, carefully planned and mapped to the tiniest detail are what we build our lives upon.

For many, these carefully constructed dreams and plans come to fruition, and the “happily ever after’s” of life resemble a movie being played out on the big screen. The happy couple grows old together and ultimately rides off into the sunset, content in a life well lived.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone lived a life like that? In a perfect world, maybe, but we live in a fallen world, not a perfect world. Plans change, and dreams are interrupted. People change, or worse, we find out they weren’t who we thought they were.

And sometimes, believe it or not, God Himself interrupts our lives.

That’s right; there are those among us who have been sailing along in life, content in discovering our own destinies, only to have God literally turn our lives upside down when He reveals HIS plan for our lives.

Whatever your profession, your calling in life, when you throw yourself into it, it becomes your life’s work. It becomes your identity, it defines you. Like it or not.

After spending what may well be the best years of our lives perfecting our craft, or calling, God begins to deal with us about going in a different direction.

Make no mistake; we will know when this happens to us. Jobs and positions disappear. Careers turn into a dead end. A sense of keen dissatisfaction sets in. Nothing brings excitement to our lives. We start to wonder what in the world is going on.

A host of emotions begin to pull at us. Bewilderment, confusion, a sense of loss, disappointment, even grief torments us as we try to figure it all out.

I have experienced all of these emotions, and many more, as one at a time my hopes and dreams of a life in ministry were stripped away.

I felt that my life’s work had been chartered for me, and all that was needed on my part was to simply do what others more experienced than I told me to do. Follow the formula, execute the plan, and voila, success!

The pulpit was my refuge, the only place where I felt like I was in control. It seemed to be the only place where what I said mattered. It became my identity, my safe haven, an inanimate security blanket that shielded me from the world.

But God had another plan for me. It was a plan that would take me to the back side of the desert, where no pulpit existed, where all of my plans would be systematically stripped away.

You see, I realized early on that I was incapable of being a follower “just because”. I could never be another “cookie cutter” minister. There was always too much of man and too little of God in the prescribed formula, and I soon found myself on the outside looking in so far as man was concerned.

Moses went through this sifting process, spending forty years in the desert as God prepared him for what lay ahead. Being raised in opulence, Moses was humbled to the point of needing God for his very breath.    (Exodus 3:1)

The Apostle Paul was also a companion in this process. His three years in Arabia were spent tearing away every vestige of his former life. Indeed, he said of his past that he counted it all as loss, that he might win Christ.  (Galatians 1:7, Philippians 3:7)

God’s plan all along was that I relinquish control of my life, a plan that I resisted for far too long. Even when I ventured into the world of business and enjoyed a measure of success, I never felt as though I was where I belonged. I never felt as though “this” is what I’m destined to do.

Looking back, I know that God had been calling me, preparing me for a long, long time for that which I still am not 100% certain about. I just know that He is.

We humans are a funny lot at times. We say we recognize God as Sovereign that he is in complete control. Yet in actuality, it is we who want control, we who want to plot our course. In short, we lock horns with the Almighty over who will reign supreme over our life.

All of us are meant to become vessels that our Father can use in His great kingdom. Vessel’s that can be filled with His Spirit and poured into those who need a Savior.

You are called of God, your destiny is secured in Him. Find your place in the kingdom and let God peel back the layers of Self, that you might be used of Him for His Glory.

Coming to grips with God’s plan for your life doesn’t have to be a lifetime process. You can do it today if you will humble your heart before Him and simply say Lord, I want your will to be done in my life.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More precious than gold…

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I was awake very early this morning, visions of a potter’s wheel filling my thoughts. The words delivered unto the prophet Jeremiah kept being repeated over and over in my mind.                                                                                                                                                         “The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.” Jeremiah 18:1-4   potters wheel

This was a message intended for the nation of Israel, yet like so many of its kind is just as applicable to the Christian today. We are continually kept on the potter’s wheel, constantly being shaped and conformed into a vessel that He can use.

For many of us, just to know we are on the wheel, in His hands, is enough. Yet being conformed into His image for our lives can be a painful process, as many of us can attest. What’s more, just being on the wheel is not the end of the process.

If you have ever worked a piece of clay into an object, or have visited a potter to watch the process in action, you learn that it isn’t as easy as you may have thought. It takes many hours in the hands of a skilled potter to produce a beautiful vessel, hours spent being pulled, pinched, gouged, and trimmed.

Once a particular piece has been made, it must be set aside and allowed to air dry for several hours. After this, the most important part of the process happens when the piece is placed into the fire.

This is the same process that your Heavenly Father uses when shaping his children on the Potter’s wheel. Just when we think the long ordeal of being conformed to His image is over, the trials and tests we’ve endured, the stripping away of self, there remains a final part of the process. One that cannot be skipped or shortened.

The fire awaits us. Just as the potter uses a kiln that fires to a temperature in excess of 2200 degrees, we too must have our faith tried by fire.  

Peter said it best when saying “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,”   1 Peter 1:7

Your faith is much more precious than gold that perishes. I like that. I like that Peter reminds us that our faith is going to be fire tested, not for our glory or honor, but for God’s.

Each of us are chosen vessels, and as such our faith will be tested in the fire. For many of us it is a fire of addiction. For others it is the fire of abuse. Still others walk through the fire of illness and afflictions.

What we must remember however, is that the fire is not sent to punish. The fire is sent to refine.

Be blessed,

Ron

The inspiration for this post came from a post written by my dear friend Anna Waldherr, entitled Dreams of Glory. I encourage everyone to visit her site, where you will find an informative,encouraging, and enlightening perspective on matters of the heart. Anna has been a tremendous source of inspiration and encouragement to me, and has been chosen for such a time as this to spread the message of hope to those who may be without. She is a woman of God that I esteem highly.

 

Keurig Christianity?

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I’m pretty sure most of us have one of those Keurig coffee makers setting around on the counter. The convenience of being able to make just one cup at a time of our favorite coffee is hard to beat in my opinion. A bit expensive, but nice just the same.

Keurig

Keurig.com

But what happens if you want to drink 2 or 3 cups of coffee? Or what happens if you have 4 or 5 people over for coffee and all you have is the Keurig?

The answer is you still get one cup of coffee at a time. Interestingly enough, this “one at a time” concept of the Keurig is not unlike the mindset of many of us in the church today.

I’ve taken to calling it the “Keurig mentality”. We say that we desire more of God, that we want a closer walk with Him. The problem is we want our one cup filled just one time, and we want it filled up instantaneously. Isn’t that how many of us approach God?

I’m here Lord. Give me everything I need right now so I don’t have to keep coming back to have my one cup refilled. Lets get this over with. One stop shopping at the corner church!

As though that were somehow enough.

Unfortunately, that’s not how this works. Or as the Facebook TV commercial used to say, “that’s not how any of this works”!

Desiring God is a noble endeavor, one that all of us should strive to pursue. But growing and maturing in Christ is the result of a lifetime commitment. Getting out of the starting gate as a new Christian and growing into the mature,strong believer that God wants us to become requires patience, experience, and faith(Romans 5:4).

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”      I Corinthians 9:24-25

Running a marathon requires training, discipline, the correct diet, and a resolve to make it to the finish line.

marathon runners

NPR.org

Oh, and many, many refills. You see, one cup just won’t do!

Be blessed!

Ron

How much longer will you carry that ball and chain?

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Most of us have heard the term “ball and chain” before. It used to be a common term that described an actual weight attached to the ankle of a prisoner, a method of prohibiting the prisoner from escaping.

You may have also heard it used derogatorily by a husband or wife who refers to their spouse as a ball and chain, meaning that they are being dragged down by a reluctant spouse. Hopefully not, but…

It is the rare individual that isn’t walking around carrying some type of baggage, or in this case a ball and chain, these days. As a matter of fact, I am hard pressed to think of even one person who isn’t.

All of us have been negatively impacted by someone or something in this life. Such is the cost of our living in a fallen world. The result of such encounters can leave us damaged and scarred, left to carry around the consequences like a ball and chain.

You know what’s interesting about carrying around a ball and chain? You never feel the impact of it as long as you’re sitting still. It’s not until you wish to get up and move on that you begin to feel the tug of it’s weight holding you back.

This is an apt metaphor for our Christian walk as well. How many of us live lives clouded by guilt, uncertainty, shame, and the like? Many of us do, of this I have no doubt.

We go through life carrying around all kinds of baggage, having learned to function to a certain degree in spite of the ever present weight of it all. This, in spite of the fact that Jesus said that “if the Son make us free, we shall be free indeed”(John 8:36).

How is this possible? It happens because we learn to navigate through this world from the security of our own comfort zone. Thus, as long as I stay in my box, or comfort zone, and do not try to move about too freely, all is well. I can manage the weight of the ball and chain, and still function.

But what happens to us when we feel God wanting to stretch us beyond our comfort zone, to get us out of our special box and move us to a new level? Well, if you’re like me, this brings about a degree of uncomfortableness and forces us to confront the ball and chain once and for all.

You see, sooner or later we must all deal with those things that hold us back. This is because God has a plan and a purpose for your life, and those plans don’t include you becoming comfortable enough to forever manage that ball and chain you’re carrying around.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.   Jer. 29:11

God’s plan for you and I is to be free from our past mistakes, to be free from the harm inflicted upon us by others. God has called us to a life of peace and love. The torments that have enveloped our lives are but shackles that must fall off in the presence of Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown weary of carrying around the ball and chain of past regrets. The things I cannot fix on my own, I must surrender to Christ. If we’re going to surrender all, then all must be willingly lain at the foot of the Cross.

Be blessed,

Ron

Why people can’t fix people

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The recent slaughter of innocent concert goers in Las Vegas has the nation clamoring, once again, for some type of gun control in an attempt to eliminate these horrific mass murders once and for all.

And once again, we choose to ignore the fact that people are making the choice to kill and injure defenseless people for reasons that any rational person could not begin to understand.

But we know that guns must be the problem, or so we are told. We evidently have a behavioral problem when it comes to guns, therefore in order to change this behavior we must control guns.

Controlling guns = elimination of the problem. Or so we are told.

For the record, I am convinced that guns are not the problem in America.

I am convinced that people who reject the counsel of God are the problem in America.

Rather than humble our hearts before the Almighty, humanity has chosen to go another way. God and His rule has been supplanted by His very creation, who has deemed God as no longer relevant in a cultured society.

To understand what is happening in America and the rest of the world does not require the IQ of a rocket scientist. It is actually 100% predictable, and should cause us to drop to our knees in prayer because the Bible declares that evil men will only become more evil (Matt. 24:12).

If that doesn’t cause concern to rise within you, please check your pulse.

We have blinders on, and we are terrified of the Godless monster, aka our “utopian society” that we have created. This monster is out of control, and he has an insatiable appetite for destruction.

The terrifying truth is that we are part of a society that is on the verge of collapse.

Have we not noticed that after every mass shooting or similar act of terror, celebrities and politicians come out of the woodwork calling for more laws, more restraints, more rules?

More control. More failed attempts at people fixing people.

Anything that is, except for a return to God.

The founding father’s understood that if our society abandoned the God of the Bible, that we would in effect seal our own destiny.

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. – John Adams

This is, in essence, why so many believe that America must rewrite it’s Constitution. It’s much easier to create new laws based upon man’s ideology than to have to humble ourselves before God.

As I’ve said before, America has a God problem. As in “how do we make Him go away”?

Americans are angry, and angry people are irrational. Instead of looking to guns as a scapegoat, perhaps we should call for a national day of repentance instead. I have to believe that an honest, inward search of our hearts would reveal much that we need to repent of. And guns would likely not make anyone’s top ten list!

Imagine what this nation would be like if it once again respected God and His word.

Now, there’s a utopian society for you…

If people could fix people, there would have been no need for Jesus to come and offer Himself as the ultimate sacrifice required to redeem man.

But He did come, and He is still calling people to come to Him.

He remains the one and only fix for broken people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Great is Your God?

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Taking a walk this beautiful October morning, the breeze in my face, the sounds of dozens of different species of birds filling the air, I sense the presence of One who is mightier than I.

Surrounded by His creation in all of its glory, is nothing short of amazing. Sunlight breaking through the trees for example, is something no human produced laser light show could ever replicate. Billions of tiny droplets of dew reflect the morning sun in a kaleidoscope of color as it climbs higher in the Eastern sky. 

Sunrise

Photo by Simon Wilkes on Unsplash

 

Even the normally distracting sounds of speeding cars and trucks rushing by on their way to work seem to be pushed into the background on this incredible day.

This is how it was meant to be. It’s as if He has chosen this very day, these precious moments, to reveal Himself in a new and powerful way.

I am awestruck by what I am experiencing. More than that, I am humbled as I sense His presence surround me.

This day has reminded me of the beautiful worship song “How Great is our God”. One of the most powerful lyrics in that song declares that his is the “Name above all names, Worthy of our praise”. Name above all names

How incredible would it be if all of God’s children would take just a few moments each day to praise that name that is above all names?

How great is YOUR God?

 

Looking for God in all the wrong places…

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“He who dies with the most toys wins” in a quote attributed to Malcolm Forbes, a very wealthy man who amassed an incredible collection of homes, motorcycles, and other expensive ”toys”. It’s a quote I’ve heard many times, sometimes in jest, sometimes in earnest conversation.

In our consumer driven society, acquiring “toys” seems par for the course for most of us. Whatever your hobby, it seems as though their is an endless array of necessary choices one must purchase in order to reach a certain level of contentment.

Therein is the rub, of course. At what point in our lifetime do we reach that magical zone of contentment, where the never-ending quest for more “toys” has been fulfilled?

For some, such as the hoarders depicted in the popular TV show of the same name, contentment is as elusive as stumbling upon a long buried pirate’s treasure chest.

In reality, the wealthy and affluent are not much different. The major difference, if any, would be the quality and cost of the ever growing mountain of “stuff” they accumulate.

What drives us to seek fulfillment and contentment in “things”?

I’ve read a number of scholarly papers and articles on this subject, and there are many different opinions cited as the answer to this question.

No surprise there, is there?

Yet when we take a look at the Scriptures, there seems to be a very logical reason for this type of behavior.

We are looking for God in all the wrong places.

Void of God’s presence in our lives we feel incomplete, unsatisfied, and altogether inadequate. Because the bonds that tie us together with God have been severed by sin, we seek out other ways to replace the spiritual void within us.

So we try anything and everything to fill the emptiness. Except for God, of course.

There is a very real danger in trying to replace God with “stuff”. In fact, Jesus told us to have our guard up against trying to replace the missing relationship we are designed to have with God.

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”    ‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Being constantly bombarded with ads for the newest car,boat,motorcycle or jewelry, one would think that it truly was a matter of “he who dies with most toys wins”.

Jesus shows us the fallacy of such a mindset. It isn’t about what you accumulate in this life that matters most.

What matters most in this life is allowing Christ to fill that void created by our broken relationship with Him.

Where are you looking today to find fulfillment and contentment in life? Is every room in your home jammed to the rafters with inanimate things?

If this describes you, it’s time to stop looking for God in all the wrong places.

You would be amazed to learn that He is nearer than you think!

Be blessed,

Ron

ear tickled

A part of something much bigger than you or I

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With so much in the world today that is spiraling out of control, I can only say that “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.

The Family of God

I’m so glad I’m a part of the fam’ly of God!
I’ve been washed in the fountain,
Cleansed by His blood.
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the fam’ly,
The fam’ly of God.           Lyrics by Bill and Gloria Gaither

For over two thousand years people have been exhorting those who don’t know Christ to come and receive Him into their hearts.

Humbly, I submit to you that I cannot imagine a time when the need was greater than it is right now.

Look to Him,

Ron

 

 

 

Does all really mean “all”?

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There are many of us who sometimes question if a particular Bible verse actually means what it says. It’s like we wonder if something was lost in the translation from the original text that has rendered the verse incorrect. One of those verses is found in Romans 8:28.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.   NKJV

I guess in this instance all really does mean “all” because I checked a half dozen or so different translations, and all of them use the word all or everything  in referring to the things that are working together for our good.

When I first read Romans 8:28 as a new Christian, like a lot of others I thought that the idea of God using good things to make me a better Christian was a great thing. But I soon realized there was danger lurking in my thought process.

You see, when we read this particular verse, our carnal minds want to gravitate towards the good things that are taking place in our lives. We equate “working together for our good” with blessings, or favor.

The truth of the matter however is that God’s plan for us doesn’t include only good things. God’s plan for our lives also includes the hard things, the difficult things, and yes, the unexplainable things that come into our lives.

You see, God has a plan for each of our lives. He knows what each of your tomorrows will bring, and that includes the good things as well as the bad.

So many Christians today are caught in the web of the false gospel that states that God only has good things in store for your life. This false gospel would have you believe that should anything come into your life such as sickness or divorce, you are out of God’s will.

We know however that bad things happen to good people. That’s an immutable fact. All of us know people who have endured horrible things through no fault of their own. And yes, this includes God’s children, who are not exempt.

My point here is that oftentimes bad things happen to God’s children for no apparent reason. Yet they still happen. Life happens, and life isn’t always pretty, even for God’s children.

So what are we to make of Romans 8:28 in light of what you’ve just read? After all, it’s either true or it’s not. There is no in between.

The Apostle Paul said that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose”.

ALL of your life’s situations, both good and bad, are part of the clay that God places on the potter’s wheel. He takes the good and the bad and ever so gently shapes us, molds us into the vessel He has planned that we become.

It’s true, sometimes there are impurities in the clay, impurities that become part of the finished product. These impurities do not devalue the finished product however, but serve to make each one unique in the eye of the Master Potter.

All things do work together for good…..it’s up to us to trust the process. It’s up to us to remain malleable on the potter’s wheel. God will do the real work.

 

Be blessed, in Jesus name.

Ronear tickled

Temptation as seen through God’s eyes

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One of the most commonly quoted but misapplied verses in the entire Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13. This is the verse that speaks to us about enduring temptation.

When this particular verse is referenced it is almost always stated that “God won’t allow us to be tempted with more than we can handle”. While that is true, it is only partly true. Here is the verse I’m referring to:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
I Corinthians 10:13 NKJV

There are several components to this verse that I would like to bring out in this post. Let’s begin with “no temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man”. Often when we are tempted, we tend to gravitate towards the thought that no one has ever had to endure anything like this.

When we are tempted, or tried, it is only natural for us to feel as though it is overwhelming, as though it is so great that we cannot overcome it. Our finite minds struggle to garner a measure of faith and hope that we can endure the temptation and yet come out of it victorious.

The scripture makes it clear however, that when we are tempted it is a “common” temptation, meaning that it is the same temptation that everyone deals with. We are drawn away from Christ by lust, impure thoughts, greed, malice, and a whole host of common temptations.

In short, we aren’t special.   Sorry!

Next, we read that God is faithful. Most of us know that, but when we are being tempted our nature is to question whether or not He will stand with us. Feelings of panic often set in, followed by doubt and confusion about whether or not we will have to deal with this alone. It is at this point that we must fall back on the promise that “He will never leave us nor forsake us”.

This is where God wants us to simply trust him, and to trust the process.

Finally, we come to the part of the verse that I alluded to in the beginning. The part that is most often misused or misapplied: “But with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”.

When people quote1 Corinthians 10:13 they almost always leave off this part of it, which is rather strange because it’s actually the best part! To say that God won’t allow us to tempted with more than we can handle is great. But that’s only part of the story.

In reality, God doesn’t withhold temptation from us. Did you ever question why that is? Well, there are likely several reasons, not the least of which is that He knows that in order for us to grow in faith; we must be stretched beyond our comfort level.

That’s an uncomfortable thought, isn’t it?

We could look at this another way and ask why doesn’t God just put a shield around us to prevent temptation from coming against us in the first place? Many of us would no doubt choose this option if we could, for who wouldn’t rather not have to deal with such things?

The fact is however, that just as your own children must learn and grow, so must we as children of God. How stunted would our growth be if we never experienced adversity?

I believe there is another motive behind the Lord permitting us to endure temptation, and that is that until we are tried in the fires of temptation, we really do not know what we’re made of (in Christ).

Let’s use the analogy of a heavy weight boxer. If the boxer is only allowed to fight against equal or lesser skilled fighters, do you think he will improve? It’s not very likely. That’s why you will sometimes see a young fighter matched against a more powerful, more experienced one. It’s used to reveal to the young fighter how good he really is, but also to reveal the areas he needs to work on.

Isn’t it so when our faith is tested through various temptations? Instead of bemoaning the temptation, what if we approached it from the mindset that God is exposing an area of weakness within us that must be worked on?

Lastly, we must always be cognizant of the fact that God permits us to be tempted. We MUST grasp this fact. God permits it. This is where so many of us falter in our walk. God himself will never tempt us to sin, but he will allow us to be tempted by the enemy. What I’m trying to say here is that God is still in the works because He is still in control of our situation!

Even though He permits the temptation, He will not allow more than we can bear. In this fact we can take heart! In the midst of temptation, God is still there because He is going to make a way of escape in order for you to bear up under it. Plainly stated; the temptation will not overtake you if you will place your trust in Christ.

Something to remember, the next time you’re being pulled a dozen different ways.

Be blessed, in Jesus name.

Ronear tickled

 

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