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What Are You Anchored To?

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Things have been moving along at a fairly good clip recently in spite of the quarantine/lock-down we’ve been under for the past month or so. I’ve been busy with church work, hospital visits, and recording radio broadcasts. Our church is busy acquiring new camera and recording equipment so that when we are able to make use of our sanctuary again, we will be able to produce top quality material to upload to YouTube, Radio, and our own Podcasts. We are working hard, using this “downtime” to better equip our church to reach our community and far beyond.

Speaking of hospital visits, there is nothing normal about visiting someone in the hospital now thanks to the Corona virus. As a matter of fact, my pastor was hospitalized for several days recently and he was not permitted a single visitor, not even his wife! Imagine having to communicate by phone while looking at each other through the window. These are strange times indeed.

A couple of days ago I received a call early in the morning from my pastor asking me if I wanted to go to the hospital with him to pray for someone. This wasn’t a member of our church or someone we knew, which of course doesn’t make a bit of difference to us, so of course I was happy to go along.

I didn’t realize until we arrived at the hospital that they weren’t going to allow both of us to see this person, so while pastor had his temperature taken and filled out the lengthy questionnaire, I decided to spend the time speaking with the family members gathered outside.

It has always amazed me what you can learn about people if you will just take the time and listen. During a crisis, especially when it is life and death, people are also more prone to listen to what you have to say as well. It makes for a good opportunity to talk with them about eternity, in fact I found this family very willing to talk about spiritual things.

So, for the next 20 minutes that’s just what we did. I learned that this family knew quite a bit about God yet were living their lives far from Him. I listened as I was told of how they used to attend church a long time ago, and in fact two of their daughters still attend church. Interesting, isn’t it, that the parents who used to take their kids to church many years ago now no longer attend, yet their children do.

Whenever you get in a conversation with folks who “used to go to church”, they always want you to know that. It’s a type of defense mechanism I believe, a way to let you know that they know all about God and church, so you don’t really need to go into all of that with them.

I think it’s called deflection.

At any rate, I gently reminded the person I was speaking with that what we used to do so far as attending church didn’t mean that we had somehow accumulated enough “points” with God to permit us to ignore Him today. I let her and her family know that God isn’t a genie that can be summoned to our rescue whenever it was convenient for us to do so.

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I find that a lot of people treat God this way. They live their life in whatever manner they choose and give little if any thought to eternal, or spiritual things. They can’t be bothered with religion, spirituality, or God. Those are things that one comes to terms with when they get old and are coming to the end of their days.

I used this family as an example as I was recording the radio broadcast yesterday. I was speaking from Mark chapter 4, the story of Jesus rebuking the winds, and how the disciples did the only thing they knew to do during this violent storm, which was to call upon Jesus.

The point I was making was that we cannot wait until we are in the storm to turn to God because there may not be time do so. The time to turn to Jesus is right now, before the next storm comes rushing into our lives.

And that is where I will leave this post. All of us have faced the storms of life, and it is for certain that storms will come again. The question we need to ask ourselves is this; “what are you anchored to”?

Will you be like the family I was speaking with at the hospital, with no anchor and no lifeline? Will the next storm find you tossed about, at the mercy of the wind and rain? Will you be forced to cry out to your “genie” to save you?

If you answered YES to these questions, then you need to turn your heart to Jesus. Don’t wait, don’t keep making excuses, just do it. NOW.

Trusting in His promise to never leave us or forsake us,

Ron

I guess it really is a small world after all!

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Since the quarantine has nearly all of us home bound and going stir crazy, I thought I would offer up a personal story that might put a smile on a few faces.

I recently came across a Facebook post of a lady playing a solo version of “The Lord’s Prayer” on her violin. From what I gather, she plays in a bluegrass band somewhere in Georgia, and this particular song was just beautiful. 

Through reading a few posts made by others who are her FB friends, I was able to determine that I actually know this person. Well, to be more precise, I used to know this person. Let me share the story with you. It’s going to take a while, so grab your coffee and settle in as I take you on a little journey.

Way back when I was in the second grade, our family home was nearly destroyed in a fire. I don’t remember the exact date, but it was in the middle of winter. I remember that because when the fire was discovered in our basement, we all ran out into the cold night.

Seeing as how we lived in the country, we were several miles from a fire department. By the time the volunteer firefighters arrived on the scene, there wasn’t much left of our home except for the exterior. Everything inside except for a few odds and ends was destroyed. All of our clothes, toys, and furniture was gone within minutes.

Most of the remainder of that night and the succeeding days were a blur, but I do know we all stayed at the home of one of our relatives for a couple of days. What a scary time that was for our family, but we were very thankful to be safe.

Within a few days of the fire my parents announced to all five of us kids that they had figured out a plan for us, since it was obvious we couldn’t live in our home any longer. My older brother went to stay with an aunt and uncle. My three sisters went someplace I no longer remember, and I was sent to the home of a coworker of my dads who lived a few miles from our house.

I’ll spare you the details but suffice it to say I was somewhat terrified at being separated from my home and family, especially as I was now living with a family I had never heard of until now.

As I was about to learn, everything in my life was going to change. Not only was I now living with a family I did not know, this family would turn out to be vastly different than my own. Let me try to explain.

Both of my parents worked in a local factory, which meant that we were by no means wealthy. Far from it in fact. I’m sure that’s one of the primary reasons why we raised our own beef, pork, and chickens. Combine that with about an acre of garden and that’s how our family was fed most of the time.

We lived on about four acres of land in a small three-bedroom house constructed mostly by my dad. We had a couple of barns which held our animals, and this comprised all our “wealth”. So, as I said, we were by no means wealthy, yet I knew that we had a lot more than some families back in the early 60’s. 

My new host family however had precious little when it came to “things”. Other than a few chickens and their own huge vegetable garden, I don’t remember them having all that much, at least compared to what I was used to.

For example, I was used to watching my mom prepare huge meals for the family after her and my dad came home from their factory jobs in the afternoon. In contrast, even though my new family was basically the same size as my own, supper at this new house was a bit sparse compared to what I was used to. Nothing wrong with that, and I had plenty to eat, but it was different.

Where our house had a TV that on a good night could pull in two or three channels, they had no TV. Where we had faucets and running water, they had a hand pump at their kitchen sink. Where we had a nice bathroom, they had an outhouse. 

They also had something else we didn’t have at my house. They seemed to spend a lot of time praying and reading the Bible. I had never been exposed to any of that and didn’t know quite what to make of it.

Supper time began with prayer, as did breakfast. They even prayed before they went to bed! Their only source of entertainment, at least that I could see, was music. And oh, could they play and sing!

This family had four children, three boys and one girl. The boys played guitar and mandolin, while the girl played…yep, the violin. They mostly played gospel music, something I had never even heard of before. At my house, the only music I had heard was country music. Again, it was different.

All of them were very good singers, and this was my first time ever hearing what we now refer to as ‘tight family harmony’. I had no idea that there were actually different parts when people sang, such as tenor, soprano, and alto. Whatever it was, these kids had it in abundance!

I don’t remember how long I stayed with this family, but it was a few months. I really can’t say I remember many details of that time either, except that I was very lonely, and I missed my family terribly.

I had seen them several times over the course of those months, usually on the weekends, but of course it was never for a long enough time. The end of our visits became a dread to me because I always had to go back to my temporary home.

I’m not ashamed to admit that this little eight-year-old boy shed quite a few tears then!

The long-awaited day finally came when they told me that I would be going home the next day, and of course I could think of nothing else. Seeing my family again (even my sisters) was such a joy. Living in our own home again was magical, and life quickly settled down and became normal.

Under most circumstances I suppose that most people eventually move on after a tragedy strikes. As much as possible, the pieces of life are put back together again and as they say, life goes on. New memories are made, and old, painful memories are relegated to a place in our minds where they are best left undisturbed. 

Except that it doesn’t always work out like that. Take my host family for example. Who could have imagined the impact they would have upon my own family? Who could have ever guessed that the father of those kids would soon lead my own father to the Lord?

Seeing the outpouring of love this family had extended to his youngest son, my dad was so grateful that he accepted an invitation to attend church with his coworker, who by now had become a true friend. 

All because of a devastating fire that caused his family to be separated, my dad’s youngest son just happened to end up in the home of a Christian family. This is turn led my dad to church where he accepted the Lord as his Savior. Just four years later, my dad would step into eternity, safe in the arms of Jesus.

Quite the story, isn’t it? Except, as Paul Harvey used to say, “now for the rest of the story”!

Fast forward to my teenage years and I was invited to play on a local church softball team. Seeing as how I loved softball, I jumped at the chance to play. The fact that it was a “church league” didn’t mean much to me, especially since I didn’t even go to church. I just wanted to play ball!

So I rode my bike several miles to attend that first practice, and imagine my shock to find that the guy heading up the team just happened to be married to, wait for it…., the girl fiddle player of the aforementioned host family I stayed with so many years before!

Not only that, but she was the pitcher! Now try to imagine this: I’m waiting my tun at bat and I hear all the other kids having to answer a bible question before they were allowed to bat. Some sort of church requirement, I thought to myself. Naturally, I froze because I knew nothing about the Bible. 

So, I stepped up to the plate, wondering how in the world I was going to answer her Bible question. Would you believe I still remember that question? She asked me “what are the names of the first four books of the New Testament”?

Of course, I had no clue and was totally embarrassed. I started throwing out common names but never did get any of them right. To make matters worse, all of those goody goody church kids made fun of me. Eventually though they felt sorry enough for me and allowed me to participate.

My career as a church league shortstop didn’t last very long however, as it seemed they were not quite ready to have a heathen on their team. Seems I was a bit too rough for their tastes, or so I was told.

That ended my church attendance as well. Why go if they won’t allow me to play on their team was my attitude. This was also the last time I saw the violin player turned softball pitcher. Until I saw that Facebook video, that is.

Of course, this lady has no way of knowing that my dad was heard to pray in church one night “Lord, please save one of my children”. She has no way of knowing that God did exactly that, as I am the only one of five children to be a Christian. She has no way of knowing that the kindness and generosity her family showed me would ultimately lead me to Jesus, and that for the last four decades I have served in just about every capacity there is in church.

As I sit here writing this, I am overwhelmed at how God had His hand upon me all those years. The most amazing thing about that is that I wasn’t even aware of it. How incredible is it that God would direct the steps of a total stranger to accept me as one of their own, and that that experience would one day result in me coming full circle to serve God and minister to His people?

I don’t know about you, but you cannot make this stuff up. Even today, should someone tell me they don’t believe there is a God, all I would need to do is tell them my story. Coincidence? Not hardly.

All of us have a story to tell. Our life has been one page after another that if they were put in book form would provide one incredible testimony after another of God’s mercy and grace. Honestly, I think that all of us are the product of an event or a process that ultimately led us to the feet of Jesus, where we are now connected to the great family of God.

I guess it really is a small world after all, isn’t it?

 

 

THIS is what Jesus would do!

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Well, life is certainly different today than it was just a few short weeks ago, isn’t it? Emotions are running high, fear and worry dominate the daily news, and Americans are dealing with the unnerving reality of being told what they can and cannot do and where they can and cannot go.

Yes…these are difficult days, are they not?

In addition to the countless businesses being forced to shut down, many churches have been forced to close their doors as well, at least temporarily. 

For those determined to conduct church services, this has necessitated a move to more creative methods of ministering to our congregations. Facebook Live, radio, YouTube videos, even ‘parking lot’ church are all examples of how churches have had to think outside the box.

Here in Florida, our Governor has included attending church services in the “essential” category, meaning that houses of worship may remain open as usual, with the caveat that worshipers stay a safe distance apart from one another.

Naturally, this decision has been received in either one of two ways. On one hand, you have those who are cautiously elated at the prospects of assembling together again for worship. Then there are those who think this was just about the worse decision that could have been made. Like most things in life, I guess it depends on which side of the fence you happen to be standing on.

While I readily admit that the current environment has thrown us all for a loop, it is a curious thing to me that so many in the church still cling to the notion that the church is the building that they attend services in.

The truth is, that is simply not correct. The church has never been a building, a temple, or a cathedral. The Church has always been you and me. It has always been those people who have trusted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

All of this gives me reason to suspect that what I’ve longed believed is true: the Church has lost its identity. We have supplanted the truth that we are the church with the error that the church is a building.

Looking at it another way, the church has adopted the very same mindset that the citizens of this country have adopted when explaining the nucleus of our government. “We The People” has been tossed aside in favor of the government being more readily identified as a conglomeration of buildings in Washington D.C.

This isn’t a mere play on words, nor is it a simple issue of semantics. This is a very important issue for several reasons, not the least of which is that the Church was never intended to become an institution, or a building.

Institutions are typically cold, lifeless, bureaucratic entities that exist (hopefully)to serve the greater good of society. This does not describe the Church that we read about throughout the New Testament!

The Church is a living extension of the Lord Himself. As such, we ought to be asking ourselves if Jesus were here today, how would he respond to the current worldwide crisis?

Would Jesus shutter himself behind locked doors and close all of the blinds? Would He sequester himself apart from every person on the planet?

Would he refuse to heal the sick out of fear on contracting COVID-19? Would he turn away the hungry mother who cannot feed her children? 

Would he turn out into the streets the struggling family who suddenly find themselves without a steady stream of income? Would he run to the store and hoard as many necessities as possible?

Well, the Good News is that Jesus is here today! He lives in each and every one of his children. So the question of WWJD, is actually a question of what are we doing to respond to this crisis?  

Since it is an established fact that you and I are the Church, the hands and feet of Jesus, and not some ornate building, wouldn’t you agree with me that right now the Church should be leading the efforts to minister to and provide for those who are in dire need today?

Wouldn’t this be a great opportunity to release some of the excess funds in our church treasuries in order to make a difference in the lives of people, the people that Jesus died for?

Perhaps you have heard about the church in Cincinnati that recently paid over $46 million dollars of medical bills for 45,000 families? Why should this be an aberration? Shouldn’t this be the norm?

As I keep reminding people whenever I can, as Christians we either are what we claim to be or we are not. There is no middle ground here. Either we are Christ’s representatives here on earth, or we are not. 

We cannot be Christian only when everything is going well in our lives. We cannot say we are followers of Christ and not follow Him wherever he may lead us…and that includes the current crisis we are experiencing.

Please understand me, I am certainly not advocating that you run straight to your nearest hospital and expose yourself to this virus. Absolutely not! We must be wise in times like these. We must follow the mandates of our local leaders. We must not do something that will prolong the crisis or put others in jeopardy.

Neither can we live in fear and torment however. We cannot be The Church if we are hiding behind closed doors. No, it is time for the true Church to arise. It is time to cast off the spirit of fear that is paralyzing our churches and leaving us incapable of serving others.

My prayer is that all of us would consider the needs of others during this time, and that we would remember that Jesus has called us for such a time as this to go forth and minister to them.  

That’s what Jesus would do.

Ron