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“Many are the afflictions of the righteous”…

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No doubt many of you recognize those words as part of the 34th Psalm. The entire text reads as follows:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all”. [1]

This particular Psalm has been a great encouragement to me through the years, especially during those difficult seasons that we all go through from time to time.

I find it very comforting to know that the God of the Bible would have such a vested interest in us, and my personal observations through these many years of serving the Lord reveal that He is indeed still a Deliverer of His people.

This Psalm speaks to me in many ways. In it, David states that the righteous are afflicted not once, twice, or even three times, but he says that our afflictions are many.

In other words, David seems to be suggesting that afflictions and trials are to be expected. This aligns perfectly with what the Apostle Peter meant when he said “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you”; [2]

I can almost hear many of you say “Amen” to that!

The issues, or afflictions we deal with are as diverse and complex as we ourselves are. What may be an obstacle or hinderance to one may scarcely get another’s attention, while others of us may feel as though we are being made to pass through the fire, so great is the affliction.

I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping things in their proper perspective, which is why Peter said that we shouldn’t think it strange when we are afflicted, as if perhaps there were something wrong with us or with our relationship with the Lord.

The key issue here is that we not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the afflictions and issues of this life. Easy for me to say, right? You may be thinking that I have no idea what you have been through or are currently going through.

And you would be 100% correct.

What I do know however is that God will deliver you. The Bible declares that God will deliver His children out of all afflictions. Notice that there is no provision made for the severity or frequency of the affliction. “All” in this case simply means all.

I recently had the opportunity to address this subject when I was invited to preach at a local church. On this particular Sunday, I felt strongly that I should speak on the topic of “Overcoming Through Faith and Hope”. In this message, I shared some of these very same thoughts about how that God will deliver us if we will call upon Him.

I also pointed out that the trials and afflictions we endure actually serve a Divine purpose. As Christians, we must understand that while there are times when things happen in a seemingly random fashion, usually when we are in a difficult trial there is a greater purpose.

You see, God uses these as a means of increasing our dependence upon Him. He uses them to mold us and to shape us into the person he has destined we become. Much like the blacksmith uses a forge and a heavy hammer to bend, twist, and shape a raw piece of steel into something useable, so it is with the Lord.

Of course, none of us are likely to say how much we enjoy this process, are we? I know I don’t! After all, I don’t like being pulled out of my comfort zone any more than you do!

Being tested, tried, afflicted, or whatever you wish to call it is all a part of the process of dying to SELF. It is a necessary, albeit sometimes painful road that all of God’s children must walk.

There is great joy in this journey however, because the Lord will deliver you out of all of the afflictions and trials that come your way.

Be blessed and encouraged, because Jesus is Lord!

Ron

 

[1] Psalm 34:19 NKJV

[2] 1 Peter 4:12  NKJV

Prosperity…God’s way

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I don’t know about you, but even though I enjoy the Christmas holidays, I’m glad they are behind us. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever recover from the deluge of non-stop TV advertisements imploring me to buy a new car, a new refrigerator, or a new diamond necklace.

What with Santa touting a new Mercedes, the local appliance dealers reminding me they are offering a once in a lifetime opportunity, or just hearing the words “Black Friday” for the 14 millionth time, my brain reached the point where it stopped processing this stuff sometime about a week after Thanksgiving.

Am I the only one that watches these commercials of a husband giving his wife a brand new car (complete with $500 bow stuck on the top) and thinks “who really does this”?

Could anything say “it’s all about me” more than this?

Does anyone else find themselves asking how in the world did we ever become so enamored with things?

I’ve been thinking about all of this, as you can tell, and its got me to wondering about something. As a Christian, how do I guard my heart against adopting this same attitude?

How can I resist this madness while living in an overwhelmingly materialistic society that declares I should get whatever I want, when I want it, no matter how much I have to go in debt to get it?

The answer, for me at least, is to try to keep my heart humble and my thoughts focused upon the Lord. We have a Biblical example of this with King Solomon. Very early in his reign as king of Israel, Solomon had a dream in which God said to him “Ask! What shall I give to you”? [1]

Imagine what the response would be today should the Lord say such a thing! I think it’s safe to say that most would respond with a list beginning with “I want…”

Solomon however did not ask for a single thing for himself. He didn’t ask for money, a new chariot, or a new fleet of camels. Instead, he responded to the Lord out of his heart. Listen as he answers God:

And Solomon said to God: “You have shown great mercy to David my father, and have made me king in his place. Now, O Lord God, let Your promise to David my father be established, for You have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?”  [2]

What Solomon desired was wisdom and knowledge. Think about this for a bit. As king of Israel he had the right to ask for anything. What he wanted though was for God to equip him to lead the great nation of Israel, and he understood that this would require him to possess certain tools if he was going to be able to do this.

Would you believe that God still operates this way today? That’s right. If God calls you He will equip you. It really is as simple as that. Of course, we sometimes try to make it much more complicated than that, but the fact is God calls, he equips, and he qualifies those he has called to his work.

Getting back to Solomon, when he answered the Lord’s request he was answering from his heart. He didn’t have time to wake up, rub the sleep out of his eyes, and put together a list of ‘wants’.

What God did was go straight to the heart of the matter. See what I did there?

Because Solomon’s heart was pure before the Lord, he received far more than he asked for.

Then God said to Solomon: “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life—but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king—wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.”  [3]

Having a heart for the things of God places us in a position where He will not only give us the desires of our heart, but in addition the Lord will add much more.

This is an area where so many have gotten way off track today. We have a sense of entitlement running rampant in the church that says in so many words that God “owes us” abundant blessings just because we call ourselves Christians.

I hate to burst your bubble, but the Almighty does not owe us a single thing. That’s right, God is not under some type of binding contract with us that forces him to bless us in any way, shape, or form.

To think that we are in a position to demand anything from God is akin to the spoiled children I see in the stores who whine, cry, and scream when mommy and daddy won’t buy them the shiny new toy they want.

To be clear, the Lord desires that we prosper, even as our soul prospers. [4] One of the ways we achieve this prosperous life is found in the book of Joshua. Here we find that as Moses was giving his final instructions to his successor, he also gave him the secret to real prosperity.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success”.

So we find that prosperity not only comes from having an honest heart towards God like Solomon did, but also from reading and meditating upon God’s word. Putting God first, as Solomon did, reflects an attitude of gratitude.

And that, my friends, is where the blessings of God flow freely from.

Have an awesome day in Jesus name!

Ron

[1] 2 Chronicles 1:7   NKJV

[2] Chronicles 1:8-10   NKJV

[3] 2 Chronicles 1:11,12  NKJV

[4] 3rd John 1:2

 

What about those other 6 days?

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As all of you who are Christians are aware, going to church is an integral part of our relationship with the Lord. As a matter of fact, going to church is so important that entire teams of people spend all week just in preparation for your arrival on Sunday.

Just think about all of the planning that goes into the Sunday service. There are hours and hours of prayer and study before the pastor can deliver what he believes God has given him for that particular service (I sincerely pray this is the case).

There are songs to rehearse, small group or Sunday School lessons to study, announcements to finalize, janitorial work to complete so that you have a clean building to worship in, children’s church to get ready for, and a hundred other essential tasks that must be completed before you ever step foot in the church.

If all of this seems like an enormous task, believe me it is. The average church member has no clue as to what has to happen before they find their seat on Sunday morning. It is an incredible effort that requires everyone to give it their best.

Looking at it from this perspective, it would seem that Sunday’s get the bulk of our attention whether you are an attendee, staff person, or the pastor.

All of this and more was part of a discussion the Princess and I had earlier this week. As we talked about all of the emphasis that is placed upon Sunday, my wife suddenly asked me “what about the other 6 days of the week”?

She explained that while we Christians have pretty much taken care of Sundays, what are we doing to nourish our souls the other 6 days of the week? I thought that was an amazing question to ask, and here’s why.

If we’re not careful, going to church can evolve into nothing more than a habit. We go to church because that’s what we’ve always done. Or, as someone I once worked with explained when asked why He went to church: “it’s the right thing to do”.

Sadly, many of us stopped going to worship a long time ago. Now, we just go to church. When that happens we are no longer engaged. We become part of the furniture, cold and lifeless. Just think, if that’s how we are on Sundays, how we are the other 6 days of the week!

In your own personal walk with the Lord, have you ever given much thought to how you keep yourself encouraged in the Lord? Specifically, do you place an emphasis on setting aside time for prayer and reading your Bible on days other than Sundays?

I believe this is a vitally important part of our Christian walk. I have learned through first hand, personal experience that if the only time we reflect upon the Lord is on Sundays we are not growing as we should be. We become stagnant and weak.  This is NOT the abundant life Jesus spoke of in John 10:10!

Here’s the thing beloved. We must understand that the enemy of our souls does not take a vacation Monday through Saturday. He does not show up to try to wreck our lives just on Sundays. The Bible says that he is like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us. This is his full time job.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8 NKJV

Please be in prayerful thought about this topic. A ‘one day a week religion’ just doesn’t cut it. We need more of a relationship with our Savior than that. We must stay engaged through the Spirit, pressing onward in the power of the Lord.

The Apostle Paul spoke of a closeness with the Lord that is attainable for each of us. I can’t think of a better thing to do on those other 6 days of the week!

speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 5:19,20  NKJV

Be blessed on this Lord’s day!

Ron

Generational Curses: are we free or not?

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In today’s post I want to address the issue of “Generational Curses”.

For those unfamiliar with the term, it implies that if you or someone you know struggles with an addiction, domestic violence, depression, or any other unfavorable trait it is likely because someone in your family tree has also had to deal with it.

Hence the “Generational Curse”. It is passed on to each succeeding generation.

Where does this idea come from? It comes from the Old Testament. After God had instructed Moses to ascend Mount Sinai with two new stone tablets (that He would again write the Ten Commandments on), the Lord appeared to Moses in a cloud and there He proclaimed the following:

“Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting (punishing) the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” [1]

Here we find the Lord telling Moses that He will forgive acknowledged sin and transgressions but will punish unrepentant sin and transgressions for generations. This is where the common idea comes from that a child must pay for the sins of the father.

We find this same thought farther along in the Old Testament book of Lamentations. Having endured incredible persecution after having been carried away in the Captivity, the prophet Jeremiah calls upon the Lord for mercy.

In his passionate plea he refers to God’s chosen as orphans and fatherless, and their mothers as widows. He goes on to mention how that they are required to buy their own water if they are to drink, and describes their own wood being sold to them. He says their necks are under persecution, and they have no rest from their labor. [2]

In the middle of his humble prayer Jeremiah acknowledges the sinfulness of the people.

Our fathers sinned, and are no more; It is we who have borne their iniquities. [3]

He rightly lays the blame for what has come upon them at the feet of their ancestors that sinned. These unrepentant transgressions caused God to allow them to be carried away as captives, enslaved once again by a foreign army. These ancestors are now all dead, but it is Jeremiah’s generation who must now pay this awful price for what they did.

All of this brings us to ask the question: does this same Generational Curse ‘law’ exist for Christians today? Is it possible that the reason so many Christians struggle with specific areas of their lives is because they are still under a Generational Curse?

Well, to be sure there is no shortage of Christian ministers out there that teach that Generational Curses are still applicable to the Christian today. [4]

To find the truth however, we must look to the Word of God, not popular books written by popular ministers. When it comes to the subject of generational curses, there is no more definitive response than that found in Galatians 3:13.

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”).

Through His death, burial, and resurrection Jesus Christ paid every sin debt and broke every curse. He accomplished this by becoming a curse in our place. He who knew no sin or iniquity became accursed for you and me.

He abolished for all time any curse, generational or otherwise that may have been placed upon your life. Curses have no hold on your life after you have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. They are no longer the stronghold that you once struggled with.

Personally, I find it nearly unbelievable that these same people who want to declare that everything we could ever need, including physical healing, was provided for in the Atonement, also teach that this same Atonement couldn’t break the power of a Generational Curse.

This is mind boggling. Either Jesus Christ broke the chains of sin and death, or he did not. There cannot be an exception or any exclusions. Did not Jesus tell us that He came that we might have life, even an abundant life? How in the world can we live this abundant life while under the bondage of some Generational Curse?

The answer of course is that we cannot! Therefore, every curse was broken at Calvary, so that you would be free indeed to live out this Incredible, abundant life that God wants you to be living.

Does this mean that our struggles are over? Of course not! As long as we live upon this earth, we will be continually tested by an adversary that does not want to turn loose of you. Be that as it may, we are FREE in Jesus Christ!

The Apostle Paul very clearly tells us that he was free, completely free from any law of sin and death. Every Christian enjoys this same liberty in Christ. “Whom the Son sets free, is free indeed”. [6]

And yes, that includes any Generational Curse.

Be blessed on this Lord’s day!

Ron

 

[1] Exodus 34:7

[2] Lamentations 5:1-5

[3] Lamentations 5:7

[4] See “Breaking Generational Curses” by Marilyn Hickey, “How to Break Generational Curses” by Tony Evans, “Breaking Generational Curses”, “Free at Last”, by Larry Huch

[5] Romans 8:2 “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death”.

[6] John 8:36

 

My personal goal for 2020: Consistency

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While I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, I am a person that is quite used to goal setting. In my working career I had to develop 5-6 goals every year and come up with action plans and schedules to meet all of those goals. Accordingly, I would be evaluated on how well (or not) I did.

Now that I’m retired, I can honestly say I miss absolutely nothing about that process, especially the evaluation part of it. Talk about stressful! That being said, the Princess might argue that I could use a new goal or two just to keep the wheels from getting too rusty. 😉

With that in mind, I did want to mention something that I plan to work on in the coming year, and hopefully shed some light on why I believe this is so important. That something is called “Consistency”.

The Bible is literally filled with examples of how we are to live our lives in a consistent, Christ-honoring manner. Did you know that this a hallmark of the mature believer? By the same token, living our lives in a manner that is opposed to clear biblical teaching is indicative of a ‘less than mature’ believer.

Paul referred to this in many of his writings, but the one that really speaks to me today is this one found in the book of Ephesians.

So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes“.  [1]

Doesn’t that sound like us sometimes? Immature in our relationship with Christ. Tossed back and forth and in a near constant state of confusion about what to believe. Caught up in a web of lies and traps designed to trip us up in our walk with the Lord.

I must admit, this describes me more than I like. Perhaps you as well? If so, what it says about us is that we lack consistency. Paul understood the importance of this as he encouraged the Corinthian believers to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord”. [2]

Consistent people are steady people. They aren’t easily distracted from the task, or mission at hand. As we progress in our walk with him, we find that we become like a rock, immovable in our faith and resolution to serve God.

Many of you are like this I’m sure. You’ve endured too much to ever turn back. God has kept you when you saw no way, and He’s brought you through situations that you could have never come through on your own.

You’ve joined the ranks of the consistent, steadfast, and immovable Church that has a deep understanding of who you are, and most importantly, who He is. You exemplify a faithful, ‘tried in the fire’ life of one who loves the Lord.

I love how David said “Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride”. [3] God preserves His faithful, or consistent children. How could we not love Him accordingly!

As we begin both a new year and a new decade, I hope you will join me in seeking consistency in all we do for the Lord. By staying in the Word and spending time in prayer, I believe our lives will reflect that steadfast, immovable, and abounding life He wants us to have.

Be blessed on this New Year’s Day!

Ron

[1] Eph. 4:14 ESV

[2] 1 Cor. 15:58 NKJV

[3] Psalms 31:23 ESV

 

 

The numbers don’t lie

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It’s hard to believe that we are just a few days away from the start of another decade, proof that “time flies” is more than just a catchy saying. So much has happened over the course of the past ten years that it is almost mind-boggling, and it’s not a stretch to say we’ve seen a little bit of everything in the 2010’s.

From Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter to scores of earthquakes and hurricanes, as well as the never-ending threats of terrorism, the events of the past decade have certainly captured our attention.

Time stops for no one, and if there is one thing that will always be inevitable it is change. Speaking of change, something changed during this past decade that most of us are unaware of, yet it impacts all of us in one way or another. This change has to do with the Church in America. The 2010’s were, unfortunately, a decade of steady decline in the Church.

The following graphic from the Pew Research Center illustrates these changes.

 

Whether we realize it or not, these negative changes affect all of us. If you don’t believe that, just look around you. The signs of moral decline and decay are everywhere, and there are precious few areas of our society that do not reflect this. This is true of our government, our schools, our workplaces, and yes even our churches.  The numbers don’t lie!

Now here is an interesting fact about this. According to the Pew Report,“the nation’s overall rate of religious attendance is declining not because Christians are attending church less often, but rather because there are now fewer Christians as a share of the population.” emphasis mine

This should cause all of us to take notice. As the numbers of unchurched, “none’s”, and non-religious Millennials continue to grow, this means that the percentages of active Christians continue to decline.

And that, I fear, spells trouble for this nation. As Christianity continues to decline, this leaves the door open for the enemy to step in and implement his own plan for America. Let’s face it, can any of us seriously argue that we aren’t seeing this plan being implemented already? Being a Christian in America today ranks near the top of the most despised groups of citizens. Categorized as intolerant, bigoted, hateful, and unloving, Christianity is under attack like never before.

Of course, none of this should take any Christian by surprise. The Bible is very clear that this is what would happen before the return of Jesus Christ.

“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God”. [1]

Yes, it’s true that the numbers don’t lie. We are firsthand witnesses to the beginning of what Paul called “the great falling away”. Do you know what else is true? God will sustain His people even in the darkest of days. We are the church, the body of Christ, and Jesus himself said that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it“. [2]

This goes hand in hand with Paul saying that even as we see these things happening all around us, we should remain steadfast and not allow ourselves to be troubled. “Let no one deceive you by any means” the Apostles states.

Wise words that all of us would do well to listen to.

Be blessed on this Lord’s day,

Ron

 

[1] 2nd Thessalonians 2: 1-4  NKJV  emphasis mine

[2] Matthew 16:18  NKJV

 

 

 

 

‘O Holy Night’

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‘O Holy Night’ has to be at or near the top of my most loved Christmas songs.

From the Classic FM website we learn the history of this beautiful song:

“The music was composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847, and was originally set to a French poem, ‘Minuit, chrétiens’ (Midnight, Christians) and released under the name ‘Cantique de Noël’. Placide Cappeau, the author of the French lyrics, was a wine merchant and poet. Although he was never particularly religious, Cappeau was asked in 1843 to write a Christmas poem to celebrate the recent renovation of the church organ in his home town. He obliged and, soon after, Adolphe Adam composed the accompanying music”.

The lyrics have undergone many iterations, and with each new version the artists have placed their own spin on them. In my opinion however, nothing compares to the original.

I find the three choruses to be the most awe-inspiring words of the entire song, beginning with the writer urging the listener to “Fall on your knees”, followed by “He knows our need”, and ending with “Christ is the Lord”.

Believe me when I say dear reader, that there are an incalculable number of sermons contained in these three simple choruses. They contain the necessity of every man humbling himself before his God, the only God who knows our every need, Christ the Lord.

I hope you will join me on this most ‘Holy of Nights’ and “Let all within us praise his Holy name”!

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;

Chorus
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night, O holy night, O night divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming;
With glowing hearts by his cradle we stand:
So, led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land,
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend;

Chorus
He knows our need, To our weakness no stranger!
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King! your King! before him bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is Love and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his Holy name!

Chorus
Christ is the Lord, then ever! ever praise we!
His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory, evermore proclaim!

Here is one of my favorite vocalists, David Phelps, performing ‘O Holy Night’.

 

Merry Christmas, Christ is the Lord!

Ron

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