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Being a difference maker

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Have you ever been in a place where you desperately needed to hear a word of hope or encouragement from a friend, family member, or pastor but all you heard were crickets? Something tells me that most of you have been in such a situation. It’s not a good place to be in, is it?

I’ve been that person so many times that I’ve lost count. I’ve paced the floor from midnight to dawn all while asking the Lord “why doesn’t anyone care enough to help me”? I have been so broken that I nearly convinced myself that there was no hope for me. Seriously, when your every waking thought centers around the hopelessness of your situation, you are in a dark, dark place.

I’ll never forget going to a “friend’s” house one day, desperate for friendship, a ray of hope, or just a kind word. Instead of being on the receiving end of any of the above, I spent the next two hours listening to his problems and encouraging him. I actually left there in worse shape then when I arrived, and I certainly didn’t think that was possible!

I imagine that some of you have been there as well, haven’t you?

There is a silver lining to this sad tale however. Through it all I have learned that when help is nowhere to be found, look again. You are never far from help if you look to Jesus. If you look for him, he WILL be found! Pace the floor all night long if you feel you need to, but please realize that it is not necessary.

I have learned that our God is faithful to sustain us no matter how dark or bleak our world may appear to be. As a matter of fact, scripture teaches us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”(Psalm 46:1). The enemy of our soul would love to plant the seeds of doubt in our hearts and minds that God cares about us, but the Word of God declares that He is our helper!

There is something else that has come out of all of this, a lesson I wish to pass on to all of you. I have determined that whatever people did not do for me in my time of need, I cannot allow that to prevent me from helping others. What was is gone forever, but tomorrow is a new day, offering hope through the power of the risen Savior.

All of us need to be the difference maker in someone’s life. That’s why we’re here after all. That’s why God saved us from our sins, to be Jesus to someone in desperate need.

Have a blessed day!

Ron

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The Law of Love

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I thought I would pass along a little nugget from God’s word tonight regarding what many refer to as the Law of Love, taken from the Beatitudes as recorded in Luke 6. I hope it will be both a blessing and a source of encouragement to you.

After Jesus had come down from a mountain where he had spent the entire night in prayer, he encountered a multitude of people from Judea, Jerusalem, and the entire region that were afflicted by all types of sickness, as well as demon possession.

When Jesus had finished healing them all, he proceeded to teach them about a type of love that none of them had ever heard about. It was a love based upon giving instead of receiving, a concept that was just as strange to these people as it is to many of us today.

Beginning in Luke 6:27 and continuing through verse 36, Jesus begins teaching them about loving their enemies, doing good to those who hated them, and being merciful.

He tells them to bless them that curse you, give to any that ask of you, love those that don’t love you, and lend expecting nothing in return.

This, my friends, is the Law of Love.

Give yourself away. Pour into others. Do not be a taker, but a giver.

If there ever was a time when the church needed to rise up and give itself away, it is today.

Give your heart to the lost. Give your heart to the poor. Give your heart to the downtrodden. Opportunities to give of your heart are everywhere.

You might say there’s an endless supply of these ‘opportunities’. A local nursing home, for example is a prime opportunity to share our heart. So is the after school program in your local school district.

GIVE

I have often heard it said by Christians that we cannot out-give God. The meaning behind this is that the more we give of our finances to the Lord’s work, the more He blesses what we give and adds to it.

I have no doubt that this principle is factual because I have seen it with my own eyes many times. The manner in which God multiplies our efforts is nothing short of amazing.

Our heart however, is something we hold onto and guard carefully. When it comes to the type of love Jesus is referring to here, it’s all about the heart, not the wallet. And while it is true finances are needed to carry on the work of the ministry, a heart that is open to the touch of God is of much greater value to the Kingdom.

I encourage you to reacquaint yourself with Luke 6:27-36. You never know what the Lord might stir up in your heart as a way of ministering to others.

I’m grateful for all of you who read this. I trust the Lord will meet with you in a special way.

RonC

 

 

 

 

For the lost

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What really matters to you from a Kingdom perspective?

Probing a bit further, what do your spiritual priorities look like?

I have been thinking about all of this for several months now because I have been feeling very restless in my soul. It’s almost like I am being pulled in another direction, a direction far from my comfort zone. A Holy discontent with the religious status quo. Knowing that change is forthcoming, yet not having a clue as to what/when/how. Maybe you can relate?

I know that this feeling has to do with my desire to be more personally involved in ministering to others. Organized, institutionalized church where the format never changes may work for others, but it leaves me scratching my head wondering about how impersonal it all is. It leaves me wondering if God did desire to show up some Sunday, would He need to ask to be put on our program?

I have come to realize that I have reached a crossroads in my life where I can no longer be content to just show up and throw money at a situation or problem, or toss an envelope in an offering plate. No, I want to see the faces of the people who need that money. I want to see their faces because I know that tangible things are just a part of what they really need. These unknown faces need to see the love of Jesus demonstrated.

It is this demonstration of love that people crave.

At times it seems to me that the Church is losing its passion for those on the ‘outside’, content to coddle and entertain those on the ‘inside’. It makes me wonder if we have become ‘too good’, at least in our own minds, to be bothered by those less fortunate than ourselves when we take measures to shield ourselves from lost, hurting, and desperate people.

Is this not our mission? Is this not why Jesus came, to seek and to save that which was lost? [1]

Years ago a church I attended decided that a good way to minister to the community was by having a food bank that gave away food to the needy. To be honest, more than a few of us questioned that need, wondering if these needy people actually existed in our small town. Imagine our great surprise that as the word got out, people began showing up at all hours of the day!

It was heartbreaking to see these families who had very little to eat, especially little children. And to think that prior to our starting the food bank we didn’t even know these needy people existed! Hearing their stories would always touch me deeply, and I suppose this is where I learned to love the downtrodden.

Now, places exist that are funded by churches and community service groups so the needy have a place to go to away from the church. This serves two purposes: 1, hurting people have a centralized place to go to receive help, and 2, the church doesn’t have to get its hands dirty.

An institutionalized clearing house for the hurting if you will, where the opportunity for personal contact from the church is lost.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t believe that this is what Jesus meant when he taught that we were to have mercy and compassion for the lost and needy among us. We give money to far away places, content that we did something for someone whose face we will never see. We have bought into the world’s philosophy that if you throw enough money at the problem, eventually it will fix itself. [2]

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I’m driving around and see so many people who are obviously struggling, I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t more that can be done to help them. Please understand me, I am not advocating for more government handouts or more welfare type programs. Those are temporary, stop gap measures(at best).

Of course, there are a great many well funded programs already in existence to help those in need. The question I am asking though is are they the right kinds of programs?

No, what I’m referring to are more and better opportunities. Better paying jobs for instance would enable a person to afford better housing, higher quality food, and an overall better quality of life. Sometimes just an equal opportunity is all that is needed to lift someone up and out of poverty because I firmly believe that all most people want is a chance, and equal chance to succeed.

This nation is rich beyond anything most of the world can imagine. We have an obligation to “the least of these” to do more for them than giving them monthly handouts. [3]

Our churches should be on the front lines, fighting to see that these people are given the respect and dignity they deserve as human beings. Our churches should open their doors and their checkbooks because after all, it is the church that is in the mercy business, not the government. With the tremendous resources our churches have at their disposal, we could make significant inroads into improving the plight of the poor and needy if they would once again pick up the mantle.

An “institutionalized clearing house for the hurting” is not the answer. Demonstrating the love of Jesus with a personal touch followed up with practical, tangible “put your money where your mouth is” blessings would have a tremendous impact for those in need.

I close this post with a song about compassion for the lost. I heard this song a few days ago, and instantly recognized it as one I used to listen to regularly a long time ago. I pray it will touch your heart.

 

Ron

[1]Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

[2]For the record, I am 100% in favor of missions giving as long as their is a regular accounting given of those funds

[3] Matthew 25:45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

 

 

It’s never over until He says it’s over!

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Like most of you, my life has had its share of defining moments.

Whether it was accepting Jesus as my Savior, finishing school, getting married, buying a house, losing my dad when I was only 12, memorable vacations, landing a good job and having a successful career, all of these and more are defining moments in my life.

There is yet another defining moment, one that took place exactly nineteen years ago today, that I want to mention in this blog.

Very early on a Monday morning 19 years ago, my wife and I drove to the hospital where I was scheduled to have open heart surgery.

A few months prior to this, on my daughter’s second birthday, I had suffered a massive heart attack while mowing the lawn. Subsequent procedures, rehab, and medications failed to keep my arteries open, and we were faced with the dim reality that surgery was the only option left.

A lot of things go through your mind when you are facing something of this magnitude. For one thing, while open heart surgery has become a normal procedure these days, there is nothing normal about it when it’s you that is going to be operated on.

Emotions, if left unchecked, will get the best of you and leave you in a constant state of panic and fear. Of course, all of this is very normal, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they are not being honest with you.

As best as I can remember, there were about three weeks between the time I was told I had to have surgery and the day I actually went to the hospital for the procedure.

During those three weeks you have to undergo a battery of tests and procedures, none of which do anything to allay the fears that creep into the mind. Actually, by the time they finish all of these tests, you just want to have the surgery and get it over with.

People that know that I had open heart surgery generally will ask one of two questions.

1. How were you able to overcome the fear of such a serious surgery?

2. If you are a Christian that believes God still heals today, why didn’t God heal you so you didn’t have to have the surgery?

The answer to the first question is that God gave me a peace that passes all understanding about the situation. It’s hard to explain to non-believers, but driving to the hospital that morning I had no fear.

How is that possible? It was because I knew that no matter what happened, I was completely in God’s hands. If I did not come through the surgery, I was going to be in His presence for all of eternity.

If I did come through, I knew that God wasn’t done with me yet. So how could I lose? How could I not be at peace knowing that I was safe and secure in the Father’s arms?

Now, to be sure, my wife was very fearful of me not coming through the surgery. After all, we had only been married three years and we had a two year old baby. What wife and mother wouldn’t be scared?

That does not mean that she didn’t have any faith. Quite the contrary! My wife has more faith than any person I know, and literally trusts God for everything.

The way that I answer the second question is because God chose not to miraculously heal me. Could He have? Of course he could have! He is God after all. But He chose not to. And whether you believe this or not, I was OK with his decision.

Would I have rather He instantly healed me? You better believe I would have preferred that to the surgery. I may be crazy, but I’m not that crazy!

In case you haven’t noticed, Christians die every day from one type of disease or another. Can anyone quote the chapter and verse from the Bible that says Christians will live long, illness free lives, and die peacefully in their sleep at a ripe old age?

Didn’t think so!

The fact is that God is Sovereign. He is in control. He orders our footsteps, not us. It is God who exalts and also brings low. In short, our lives are not our own, but His to do with as he pleases.

That is a bitter pill for many to swallow, and I have learned that submission to God’s will is a lifelong process. You don’t wake up one morning and suddenly say “from this day forward I will submit every part of my life to the Lord”.

It just doesn’t work that way. Getting to the place where we trust God with our very lives comes from the daily experience of learning to trust the Lord that He alone knows what is best for our lives.

Coming through open heart surgery changes a person in several ways. There are the physical benefits of course, but there is also a change that takes place in the inner heart because now you know an attribute of God that may have been hidden from you before.

You now know God as Faithful in a way that goes far beyond words. And because you know Him as Faithful, you know that there is nothing that He cannot do for you.

These past nineteen years have been years of great joy, moments of severe testing, times of rejoicing, and yes even occasions of despair. Through them all however, God has been faithful to stand by us. I cannot think of a single time that I have felt as if God did not have my life in His hands.

Maybe you are facing the trial of a lifetime. Maybe fear has gripped your heart and panic rules the day. Maybe events from your past haunt you with the torment that you will never be free of them. Maybe the defining moments of your life have left you battered, broken, and helpless.

If this is you, I’ve got good news for you. It’s not over until He says it’s over! You are still standing. You may have been knocked down but you are not counted out.

There is still life to live, victories to cherish, mountains to conquer, and enemies to defeat all because God has you in the palm of His hands.

Nineteen years ago today there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding my life. Would I live or die? If I lived, what kind of life would I be able to have? Would I ever be the same again?

Praise God I am alive and well today to say that God is Faithful to sustain us and keep us. It is true, I cannot do some things as well as I used to. Part of that is heart related and part of it is the normal aging process all of us deal with.

I choose to focus however on what I can do, not what I cannot do. God has chosen to keep me around and as long as I am here, I will give Him praise and thanks for the wonderful life I have been blessed to live.

It’s not over until he says it’s over. My life, as well as your, is not and will not be defined by illness or weakness. God brought me through then and He will bring me through tomorrow!

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes ministry is all about the little things

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This morning my wife and I came upon a family in the parking lot of a McDonald’s that were in a bad situation. We noticed them right away as we pulled into the drive thru, and it was apparent that they were distraught over something. Their minivan that was pulling a small U-Haul trailer had broken down, leaving at least 7 people, 4 of which were very small children, stranded far from home.

When we drove around the restaurant after picking up our order, we pulled up next to them and saw that the hood of their minivan was open. The look on the faces of the adults said it all, and if you’ve ever been in such a predicament, you can appreciate their situation.

I got out of the car and asked one of the men if they had help on the way, and he responded by saying “no sir, we have no one to help us, and we don’t have any money”. He mentioned something about a fuel leak, and by the strong smell of gasoline it was obvious he was right.

In the few seconds I had spoken with him I was able to assess their situation a little better, and it was clear that these little children were frightened. They were also hungry, as one little boy was quick to tell me. These kids were obviously from ‘less than affluent means’ because none of them had shoes, and only the little girl had a shirt on.

I told the man I couldn’t fix his car, but if he would allow me to, I would love to buy them breakfast. You would have thought I offered to give them something of great value, he was that appreciative. When I mentioned breakfast all the kids spoke up and told me they were hungry, which tore at my heart so much that I wanted to hug each one of those children.

I handed the man enough money to buy them all breakfast, and almost in unison those little kids started thanking me, as did the adults. I told my wife later that I hoped that the next person who was supposed to help them would also be right on time, because I just knew the Lord would touch someone’s heart to assist them.

As I was saying goodbye to them, I told them God would bless them with the help they needed. Pulling away, I looked in my mirror and saw all 4 kids being led into McDonald’s for breakfast, and I couldn’t help but think about the old McDonald’s commercial that says “I’m, lovin’ it”. Can it get any better than that?

Real Ministry really is all about the little things!

Be blessed,

Ron

The very same Jesus

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For all of the talk about the demise of Christianity, it is interesting to note that Christianity remains the largest religious group in the world among people who lay claim to some form of religion.

Of course, we know that within Christianity there are dozens of different denominations, as well as hundreds of offshoots of these mainline denominations.

Additionally, there is no way to measure the sincerity of one’s relationship with Jesus. Is every person attending church really a Christian? Who but God can say?

As confusing as all of this sounds, it is important to point out that there is one central truth that binds all Christians, churches, and denominations together.

Jesus Christ is the head of the church.

Denominational and personal beliefs aside, this is an immutable, non-negotiable fact.

To the unsaved world, however, Jesus is typically viewed as just another historical figure, or at best some type of prophet, or religious wise man, one who long ago died and faded into obscurity.

It is this mindset that I want to delve into with this post. This worldly perception of Jesus, that he existed from an historical perspective only, is unfortunately alive and well in the church today.

It’s true, we Christians sometimes have a tendency to think of Jesus as was instead of is. Perhaps this is because we are constantly being inundated with worldly viewpoints on the person of Jesus. TV shows for example, are notorious for portraying Jesus in the past tense.

In the rare instance when they might mention the resurrection of Jesus, it almost always comes with the obligatory wink wink. Their thoughts of course are that no intelligent person really believes in that resurrection stuff.

So, it isn’t too difficult to understand why Christians can sometimes lean towards the world’s viewpoint, especially if we focus more on the world’s opinions than the truth of God’s word.

This is why we might hear someone say something to the effect of “if only Jesus were here today” when reflecting upon the current conditions of our world. They are thinking of Jesus as was instead of is!

So many times I hear believers talk as though Jesus is a million miles away, abiding comfortably in some far off galaxy called Heaven, oblivious to all that is happening in our lives.

To be sure, scripture does teach that Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of the Father(Acts 2:33). But scripture also teaches that though he departed from this earth, he did not leave us alone.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.   John 16:7

His Spirit abides within each of us who have accepted Him as Lord and Savior. That means that the very same Jesus that walked the shores of Galilee also now abides within you.  He is NOT a million miles away from you!

I hope you caught that. The very same Jesus….

Why should any of this matter to you, and why is it something to think about?

Look at it this way: the next time you call upon the Lord, would it make a difference in how you approach Him if you understood that he was in fact already abiding within your heart?

What if the next time you think to yourself “if only Jesus were actually present here with me”, you approached the situation from the position of “Jesus, I know you are with me. You said that you would never leave me or forsake me, and that you were a very present help in the time of trouble”? (Hebrews 13:5, Psalm 46:1)

Would that not change your perspective? Of course it would! Instead of wringing our hands in desperation, wishing and hoping, we acknowledge his presence by affirming our faith and trust in him!

The Christian church today must have a fresh revelation of who Jesus is, not who he was. We must recapture the truth of the ages that Jesus Christ is alive forevermore, and he resides in our hearts!

My prayer is that we would have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church today. God’s word is alive, it is anointed, and it is inspired.

It is speaking to us today, revealing the risen Savior to the lost and hopeless. May we open our hearts to know that the very same Jesus that walked the shores of Galilee some two thousand years ago is alive and abiding in our hearts this very day!

Be blessed,

Ron