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Help in trying times

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I sincerely hope that this post finds all of you safe and as well as can be expected during these times of unrest and uncertainty. 

It seems that all of us are impacted in one way or another by COVID-19, and the staggering toll this virus is taking on the entire world leaves many wondering how much longer they can endure the restrictions, closures, quarantines, lockdowns, and empty grocery stores.

Of course, none of these temporary hardships can begin to compare with the loss of lives, those still hospitalized, and the hundreds of thousands of confirmed cases.

By actual count as of 3/28/2020 @ 3:16 PM EST the numbers look like this:

  • Coronavirus Cases = 650,926
  • Deaths = 30,299
  • Recovered = 139,555

Source = https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

All of this says nothing about the impact to families, businesses, schools, and even churches. The financial impact alone is almost incalculable. No one has a clue as to how long real recovery will take or even what that will eventually look like. 

Now that certain states are contemplating the closure of their borders, one has to wonder if we won’t soon see armed military guarding all entrances to states in an effort to stem the tide of this deadly pandemic.

If all of this seems more than a little surreal, you are not alone in thinking that. Americans all across this nation are now confronted with an enemy that strikes at will, and to date has met little resistance.

That being said, and contrary to the 24/7 NNN (Negative News Networks) portrayal of hopelessness, we know that we can go to our Lord in prayer for help and support during these trying times. All throughout the Bible we have examples of God’s people turning their hearts toward Him in their hour of distress, and we are afforded the very same privilege today!

Wanting to encourage our church family, yesterday I recorded a message for our church’s radio broadcast and entitled it simply Strength for These Uncertain Times. In this message I recounted the story of David and his army, who upon returning to their home base of Ziklag, found the city burned and their wives and children taken captive.

So distressed were David’s men that they talked among themselves of stoning David to death. Knowing he was outnumbered and that his life was in peril, David did the only thing he could do; he strengthened himself in the Lord his God. [1]

I love this particular story because it points to the fact that when we are at the end of our rope and out of options, God is more than able to help us if we will turn our hearts toward Him. David found this to be true when he recovered all of their families that had been taken.

For many of us however, God is always our last resort. We will try everything in our own power to fix, overcome, or otherwise do it on our own before as a last resort calling upon the Lord.

I would like to encourage all of us to tackle the challenges we are facing today in a different, even radical manner. How about we look to the Lord first instead of as our last option?

If we would just remember that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, it is my firm conviction that He will give us the strength we are all going to need for the days to come. [2]

It is true that we are facing an uncertain future, a future that is changing at such a rapid pace that few of us can keep up. 

Just as true however is the certainty that none of this has taken God by surprise. The very One that knew us while we were yet in our mother’s womb is also the One who holds the future in His hands. What is uncertain to all of us, God has already seen.

I end this post with a final thought from the Psalmist of Israel:

The Lord is on my side. I will not fear. What can man do to me”? [3]

Take courage beloved, God is still God, and He always will be God!

Ron

 

[1] 1 Samuel 30:6

[2] Psalm 46:1

[3] Psalm 118:6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cold, hard truth is that this COVID-19 virus is unmanageable for a President, a Prime Minister, a Chairman, or any governmental powers. If anyone says otherwise, or that they could have reacted better or faster, or that they have the solution, to them I say you are either a liar or you have no conscious. Otherwise you would have stepped forward and made your case.

This is the worst possible time to be pointing fingers, but the nauseating debacle of getting the stimulus package approved was a classic example of a childish game of “it’s all your fault”.

How disheartening that the politicians on both sides of the aisle made it clear that the 2 Trillion dollar relief bill wasn’t really about you, it was about them getting their pet projects approved.

Any rational person understands that every cent of that 2 Trillion dollars should be earmarked for costs directly associated with this virus, not more pork from Washington. Under the guise of a $1,200 relief payment, politicians from across this nation have once again shown us that they are not worthy of our trust.

I bring this up dear reader, because regardless of your political affiliation, what has just happened here shows you once and for all that you and I simply do not matter. We are merely pawns in this diabolical shell game between warring factions of arguably the most corrupt political system the world has ever known.

And that is a bitter pill to swallow. It didn’t start out this way. It was never supposed to be this way.

Unfortunately, it is, and no upcoming election will change things. The lines have been drawn in the sand. The word “compromise” has been stricken from the vocabulary of this current crop of politicians.

You want to know the real tragedy in all of this? What we are currently witnessing is mild compared to what awaits us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like a vapor….

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Today I had the privilege of conducting the memorial service for the gentleman I introduced to you a few weeks ago, the man who had recently been given 30 days to live.

For a while things had taken a positive turn, so much so that the doctors believed it was beneficial to begin again to aggressively fight the cancer that had invaded his body.

This respite, as it turned out, was to be very short lived. Daryl passed away this past Sunday at 1:22 am. 

I must confess that the news of his passing caught me off guard. After previously being told that the doctors thought there was at least some hope, I had anticipated him being with us for some time.

So it was with great sadness that I received the report of his passing, especially since our church had basically “adopted” his family. 

Out of necessity I was asked to do the memorial service for Daryl  because our pastor is in the hospital awaiting surgery. I received the call yesterday morning that I would be doing the service, so needless to say it’s been a flurry of activity in preparation for today’s service.

Not coincidentally, this past Sunday also marked my official start as the new associate pastor of our church. To say that Debbie and I are busier than ever would be an understatement, but oh how we love it!

So, armed with personal notes from the family and my own ministry materials, we presented a message of love, hope, and compassion to this wonderful family. 

My message was short and to the point. I told them that at the end of our lives there are only two options as to where we will spend eternity.

Because Daryl had departed at a relatively young age (by today’s standards), I made a point that even if we lived to be 120 years old, compared to eternity that was a drop in the bucket. As the Bible tells us, this life is like a vapor, which means it doesn’t last very long.

I mentioned to the family that when we are young, all of us feel bulletproof and invincible. Let a few years pass by however, and those feelings of invincibility quickly fade away.

I could tell that this caused many of them to think about this, as the family was represented by a good mixture of all age groups. The younger ones especially gave this some thought, and I shared with them how that I felt that exact same way when I was younger.

I concluded my message by reminding them that when we come to the end our days, God doesn’t send us anywhere. We send ourselves to either Heaven or Hell based upon what we have done with Jesus Christ in this life.

I don’t think any of them had ever considered this before, and I pray it will stay in their minds until they each decide what they will do with Jesus.

Afterwards, our church had prepared a nice meal for the family, and that gave me an opportunity to get to know some of them. It was obvious that they loved Daryl, and the many children, grandchildren, and other relatives spoke so lovingly of him.

At the end of our time together I was pleased that so many told me they were comforted by the things I said. My hope and prayer of course is that they won’t just think on the things I said, but that they will also act upon them.

I think it would be wise for all of us to consider this issue of our life being like a vapor. The material things we strive for will one day be left here for others to deal with, because it is for certain that we will take no possessions with us when our time comes.

I close this blog with something a coworker of Daryl’s said to me today. It seems that many of them have been praying for Daryl for some time that he would give his heart to Jesus. He looked at me very seriously and asked me “do you think Daryl made it”?

My response was simply this: none of us knows the heart of another. What I do know however is that the Daryl that left this life was not the same Daryl I first met in the hospital nearly a month ago.

Many, many people have prayed for him, including some of you dear readers. In less than one month, Daryl went from a man who wanted nothing to do with “religion”, to a man who gladly and willingly reached for my hand when I asked him to pray.

Beloved, this life is like a vapor. Live your life in a manner that will matter for all eternity. Make it count. Really count. 

There are millions of “Daryl’s” out there counting on you!

Ron

 

 

 

Whom Shall I Fear?

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This morning I was asked to deliver the message in both the 8:45 and 10:45 services because our pastor was ill. Thankfully, he is not suffering from the current virus that has afflicted so many, nonetheless he will be requiring medical attention as soon as possible. Please keep him in your prayers.

It just so happens that I was recently reading the 27th Psalm, and I thought it was appropriate to speak on the subject of “Whom shall I fear”, taken from the first verse of this particular Psalm.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

I think these are legitimate questions considering the current state of near-panic being exhibited by so many in our communities. Fear is a natural reaction to adverse situations beyond our control, and it takes a great deal of faith to remain calm in times like these.

I mentioned this morning how that Paul told Timothy that “in the last days, perilous times shall come“, and that whether or not one agrees that we are in the “last days” one thing was for certain and that was that we are living in dangerous times. [1]

When you really think about it, none of this should take any of God’s children by surprise. Yes, it is a shock to our system to see how that life as we have known it is changing by the day. Yet throughout the Scriptures God has warned us of a time when we would be inundated with wars, famines, pestilences, lawlessness, and a myriad of other unsettling events. [2]

My message this morning centered around the fact that while many things are out of our control, God remains in full control. Because He is in control, we have nothing to fear. How, you may ask, can I say this?

I can say this with 100% confidence because I am persuaded that there is “nothing that can separate us from the love of God“. [3]

I am not naive. I fully understand that this latest health pandemic has the potential to reach a level beyond anyone’s expectation. I also know that this will not be the last major crisis we have to deal with.

I do not say this lightly, but I say it in earnest consideration of the days we now live in, and the days that lie ahead of us.

The adversary will attempt to use this crisis to divide the church and to isolate us. This is already taking place as more and more churches are cancelling services. Because of this I strongly urge all of us to guard our hearts. Read your Bible daily, for in it you will find strength and encouragement for the journey. I also think it would be wise if we were to watch less TV news and read more of the Good News instead.

I also urge all of us to find time each day to pray. Stay in communication with the Father. I cannot begin to tell you how important this is, especially if you cannot attend church services. As I mentioned, the enemy desires to isolate us so that his voice alone is the one that garners our attention. Please do not allow that to happen in your life and in your family!

As to the questions from Psalm 27, we have no one to fear or to be afraid of. May God give you a peace that passes all understanding as you remember that the Lord has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind. [4]

I trust the Lord to watch over each of you,

Ron

[1] 2nd Timothy 3:1

[2] Matthew 24:5-7

[3] Romans 8:35-39

[4] 2 Timothy 1:7

 

 

Why are you fearful, child of God?

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For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.    2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

In times like these, it’s good to be reminded that our hope is not in the things of this world. 

Beloved, God has you in the palm of His hands tonight.

Ron

 

30 days to eternity

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Suppose you were asked to meet someone who has a terminal illness. He has just been told he has 30 days to live, and has never had a saving relationship with the Lord. He’s lived his whole life of 60 plus years on his own terms, and now must come to grips with the reality that he will not die on those same terms.

As a Christian, what would your mindset be? Would you arm yourself with an assortment of ‘salvation scriptures’ and prepare to do battle with the enemy over this lost soul? 

What would you say to them? Would you tell them “you better get right” or you’ll go to Hell? Or would you tell them how sorry you were that this sickness had invaded their body?

I’ve been struggling with these questions all day today (Friday, March 6) after spending a few brief minutes with this man, his wife, my pastor, and another visitor in his hospital room. It really wasn’t much of a visit, as the man spent the time we were there leaning over a tub because he felt so nauseous.

Try as I might, I didn’t have the answers to the questions I spent the better part of the day pondering. To say this was unsettling to me would be a gross understatement. Additionally, my inability to make sense of how a man can be so close to eternity yet still resist the loving pull of the Holy Spirit unnerved me.

To be sure, this man has had the way of salvation explained to him in a very simplistic manner. My pastor made sure of that during a couple of prior visits. After living his life in the manner he chose to, this poor man likely never gave God a second thought in his lifetime. For certain, this was his first time ever hearing that Jesus Christ loved him enough to die for him.

He knows he is lost. He has been told that there are only two ‘final destinations’ for all of us, and he says he understands this.

Fast forward to today (Tuesday, March 10th). Debbie and I were asked by our pastor to provide lunch today for this man’s wife, who is unable to drive and thus cannot leave the hospital in search of something to eat. (For reasons we still do not understand, this hospital does not give a food tray to the spouse-even the spouse of a dying man). So Debbie prepared a nice lunch and off we went, back to the hospital.

We entered the room and we were pleased to see this gentleman able to sit up in his bed. After a bit of small talk I asked if there was anything we could do for them. The wife whispered the word “PRAY” to me, and surprisingly the man also said we could pray. Standing next to his bedside, I reached for his hand and was deeply moved by how firmly he grabbed my hand.

My prayer was a simple one. I asked our kind and loving God to have mercy upon this man. I asked Him to open his eyes, his mind, his heart, and his soul to God. I asked for comfort, for peace in his heart that surpasses all understanding, and I asked God to speak into this man’s heart the words of eternal life.

So, about those questions above, I believe I now have the answers, at least partially. I believe our reaction to someone in this condition must be to show them the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. No judgement is required or necessary, nor is there time to waste on it. He doesn’t need a judge, he needs a Savior. Whatever his past life has been like, none of that really matters at this point. The ONLY thing that matters is that he knows he has a Savior that loves him.

Finally, I think the God of heaven looked down on this poor man (me) and figured I needed to be reminded of just how blessed I am. I’d like to think that we were given a unique opportunity to do nothing for this man and his wife except to show them they are loved. No speech, no lesson, no sermon, just love.

The Bible speaks of this life as being like a vapor. Compared to eternity, even someone’s life that reaches 100 is but a passing vapor. Imagine then, how quickly will 30 days pass?

I humbly ask that you would remember this man in your prayers. I won’t mention his name, for God already knows him very well.

Ron

 

The Relentless Attack on the Family

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This post is a brief summary of a recent lesson I taught on the war that is being waged against the family in America today.

It is an undeniable fact that families in America are under attack, most especially those who still hold to the once common “bring up the child in the fear and admonition of the Lord” point of view. [1]

With an ever-growing list of governmental, secular, and societal obstacles to overcome, the traditional family structure is precariously balancing on the verge of extinction. One doesn’t have to do much more than open their web browser or turn on the TV to see this being played out.

Sociologists, Anthropologists, and Psychologists all agree that families must change, evolve, and adapt along with the society surrounding them or they risk being left behind. Few of us, for example, would prefer to return to the labor intensive, pre-technology days of our past. If you’ve ever driven by an Amish farm, I think you would agree with that sentiment.

Of course, nothing ever stays the same, and we all know that change in inevitable. How we manage those changes however, especially those that threaten our family’s spiritual values, will likely determine whether we continue raising those families in a Christ-affirming manner, or succumb to the changes brought on by an increasingly hostile and anti-Christian society.

The plain truth is that the family is facing an unprecedented assault by none other than Satan himself. Cleverly disguised so as not to revel his true identity, he alone is the family’s number one enemy. [2]

From the beginning, Satan has fought against the family. He has done his best to sow division and discord within it. By attempting to change the family from the original God-ordained structure we read of in the creation story, Satan has corrupted the family into the “define your own family unit as you see fit” example being presented today.

Be that as it may, I cannot overstate the importance of the fact that God is the greatest supporter of the traditional family the world has ever known. He should be, after all He created the very first family.

Had the original family not been blind-sided by a cunning, cruel, and deceptive adversary, the Utopia that was Eden might well have been our existence as well. At least I’d like to believe that.

In God’s original plan for the family, there was no hatred, jealousy, or distrust to be found. Indeed, so innocent and pure were the first two humans that God Himself walked among them in their garden, communing with them.

It didn’t take long before the adversary took note of this and sowed the covenant-breaking seeds of discord that literally shook the known world. A shaking that continues to this day, I might add. How could the original “first family” have known that a seemingly innocent conversation would alter the course of human history for all time?

Fast forward a few years and we see children being added to their family. Two sons were born to Adam and Eve, sons that grew up to become young men, one of whom was destined to follow his parent’s footsteps by making his own foundation-shaking poor choice.

As if his parent’s disobedience wasn’t bad enough, by murdering his younger brother Abel, Cain’s actions forever proved mankind as being incapable of resisting the whims of the adversary should man choose to disobey his Creator.

The sheer volume of heartache attributed to this disobedience is unquestionably a major contributor to the overall decline in the values and morals of our society. Small wonder then that Satan is so relentless in his ambitious campaign to destroy the family in America.

Here are just a few of the “methods” Satan is using to attack the family in America today:

  • Divorce (1 every 13 seconds, or 2.4 million a year) [3]
  • Drug & Alcohol addiction (over 21 million Americans have at least one addiction. Aside from the horrendous personal cost to the addicted and their families, addiction imposes a staggering $600 billion cost to the U.S. economy each year) [4]
  • Abuse & Neglect (nearly 700K abused children each year) [5]
  • Abortion (Reported CDC statistics do show a reduction in abortions from 1.4 million in 1990 to 623K in 2016). By some estimates, nearly 60 million babies have been aborted since it became “legal” to kill the unborn. [6]

As brief as this list is, it is nonetheless sobering to consider the magnitude of what the family is up against today. This is why mere words cannot turn the tide in this war against the family in America. What is required is divine intervention.

God’s people must rise up in prayerful unity and begin calling upon the Lord to fight this battle for us. Just as a young shepherd boy summoned the courage to challenge the status quo by declaring that “the battle is the Lord’s”, so must we in our day take the fight to the enemy by bringing God into the battle. [7]

My heartfelt prayer is that every child of God will do just that.

Be blessed in Jesus name,

Ron

 

[1] Ephesians 6:4

[2] 2 Corinthians 11:14,15

[3] WF-Lawyers.com

[4] Addictioncenter.com 

[5] Nationalchildrensalliance.org

[6] Wikipedia.org

[7] 1 Samuel 17:45-47