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In spite of our flaws

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Some of you may remember that up until my recent retirement, I spent the last almost twenty-eight years working for Honda. There are a great many things that one learns when surrounded by a culture that is completely foreign to your own, and I will always be grateful for the many life lessons I learned while there.

I still remember my first nervous days at Honda, days in which I often found myself thinking “what have I done, and what am I doing here”? To say I endured a bit of culture shock would be a huge understatement, as every day I was exposed to ideas, philosophies, and customs unlike anything I had ever seen or heard.

In my new hire orientation for example, I learned that the Japanese placed a great deal of emphasis on ‘Respect’. So much so, that the foundational operating principle that guides Honda is ‘Respect for the Individual’.

It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, it doesn’t matter what your race or ethnicity is, it doesn’t matter if you are a college graduate or if you had to drop out of school to go to work at an early age. ‘Respect for the Individual‘ means every person is valued.

Every operational decision is based upon that principle, and it has served the company (and those who worked there) very well. As an aside, one cannot help but wonder how much better off all companies would be if they placed this same priority on ‘Respect for the Individual‘.

In my career at Honda, I was exposed to many different and unique aspects of the Japanese culture. What was common, or normal from my limited American perspective of things became something entirely different when looked at through the lens of a people who date back to the 8th century.

Take a broken pottery vase for example. In my eyes, a broken vase is just that; broken and no longer suitable for the purpose for which it was created. Broken, useless, and ready for the trash.

To the Japanese however, that broken vase represents something entirely different. You see, they have a form of art called ‘kintsugi’ (pronounced keen-TSOO-gee), where a broken piece of pottery is put back together again with lacquer and then dusted with gold powder.

To them, the once broken pottery is made even more beautiful because of, not in spite of, its many imperfections.

I like to think of our new lives in Christ in much the same way. All of us were broken vessels at one time, ready to be discarded until God placed us back on the potter’s wheel, where the Master Potter turned us into a beautiful masterpiece.

The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.  Jeremiah 18:1-4

God takes us just as we are, flaws and all, imperfections too many to list, and applies His special touch to our lives. The result is something far more beautiful and valuable than what He started with.

I hope you will remember this the next time the enemy tries to convince you that you are too broken, too damaged, too marred to be of any value.

In the hands of the Master, your beauty is only beginning to shine through.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

 

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Who Then is a Faithful and Wise Servant?

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In today’s society, we don’t hear the words servant or master very often. In fact, just hearing the words conjures up images in our minds that we would just as soon not think about.

America is a relatively young nation, and it was not all that long ago that the words servant (or slave) and master were a part of an everyday life that nearly destroyed this nation. So, it is easy to understand why we have an aversion to these words.

In the Bible however, the words servant shows up 885 times in the KJV Bible (741 OT/144 NT), while the word master appears 184 times (100 OT/84 NT).

Obviously, it was common practice in those days for there to exist several different classes, or levels of people in society, and the lines between servant and master were clearly drawn.

In his Matthew 24 discourse, Jesus used this class distinction between servant and master when explaining to his disciples the conditions that would exist just prior to his second coming. He knew, of course, that his audience at the time would clearly understand his references.

45 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?

46 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.

47 Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.

 48 But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’

49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,

50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,

51 and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.        Matthew 24:45-51

Jesus is warning all to be on guard and not to become like the servant who lost sight of the fact that his master was indeed going to come again. Jesus refers to this type of servant as “evil” because he has become like the world around him, mistreating others and partaking of things that drove him even further away from his master.

On the other hand, Jesus refers to the “faithful” servant as one who is busy doing the will of his master. This servant has not forgotten that his master is coming again and is working diligently to faithfully fulfill his charge.

All of this points to us today who are living in the hour where we are witnessing the beginnings of the “falling away”, spoken of by the Apostle Paul in 2 Thess. 2:3.

The hearts of many are becoming cold, just as Jesus said they would in Matt. 24:12. We hardly need to be reminded of this fact by scripture, but it was prophesied nonetheless.

From where I sit on the front row, it would seem that we are fast approaching the time when we will once and for all have to make the decision to either be counted as faithful, or to join the ranks of those already fallen away into unbelief.

One thing is for certain, the day is at hand where straddling the fence between the two will no longer be an option.

My prayer is that all who will read this will take the attitude of Joshua, who said “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”.   Joshua 24:15

Be blessed,

Ron

Has life paralyzed you?

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My wife and I were recently discussing the impact that her father’s death has had on her mother. Married for over fifty-six years, she has never recovered from the death of her soulmate five years ago.

Nearing eighty years of age and in very good physical health, she still goes to the store, still goes to church, still does a few of the things she’s always done. The difference however is that while she may still function at a certain level, in essence she stopped living the same day that he did.

Gone is the joy, the spark of life, the passion for living.

Of course, everyone processes grief and trauma differently, and it’s for certain that one can never place a time frame on how long it will take to begin really living life again. What must become our “new normal” takes time to adjust to, and we are all on a different clock in that regard.

Let’s face it, life will sometimes put you in a difficult place. Whether because of your own actions and choices, or those of others, the end result may find you incapacitated emotionally or physically.

In my own life for example, I still vividly remember the day my father passed away. As a 12-year-old boy who thought his dad was Superman, I was devastated beyond words. I remember like it was yesterday the feeling of numbness that enveloped me.

Little did I know that this feeling would last for many months, and in some ways for years.  Nothing was the same, nor would it ever be again.

I was hurt, bitter, depressed, and angry. That one event haunted me for many years, even well into adulthood. I cannot begin to tell of the poor decisions I made in life, many of which I want to think could have been avoided had my dad still been alive to guide me.

I struggled for many years with being able to deal with my emotions regarding the loss of my father. In those days, one didn’t go to a psychologist or therapist for advice or treatment. My “therapy” consisted of being told to ‘suck it up’ and get on with my life.

So, ‘suck it up’ I did, immersing myself in work, the lives of my kids, and anything else that would help me to move on from the pain of my loss. For several years I worked two jobs, including weekends and nights in a vain attempt to keep my mind busy so I wouldn’t have to continually replay the thoughts of what was, and what could have been.

At some point in our lives however, we come to a fork in the road where a decision must be made. Either we stay in a place of despair, or we climb out and begin to live again. For me, that happened when at 22 years of age I gave my life to Jesus.

Only then did I realize that God had a purpose and a plan for my life after all.

I learned that if I were ever going to overcome adversity, I had to learn to trust again. And that trust started with the Lord. I had to learn to lay aside the hurt and anguish that was consuming my life and grab hold of something much bigger than I, trusting that He knew better than I what was best.

Bit by bit, I came to see ” that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” [1] and that there was an antidote for the paralyzing baggage I had carried around for so many years.

After many trials and failed attempts in my search for answers, what I found that helped me more than anything was God’s Word.

His Word became my lifeline. More than once when I was on the edge of despair I found comfort in one verse or another, as God made his word come alive in my heart. Despite the storms of life that have raged, He has provided hope and comfort like no other, and he has proven himself to be a friend that sticks closer than a brother. [2]

Perhaps you have experienced some type of trauma or a devastating, paralyzing loss in your own life. If you have, may I encourage you to take one small step in His direction?

I promise you that if you will trust Jesus with just a tiny portion of your hurt,doubt, and fear, He will in no wise cast you off.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

As you begin to trust Him more, you will begin to understand that in spite of your circumstances, it is the Father’s plan to give you a future and a hope. [3]

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

[1] Psalm 34:8

[2] Proverbs 18:24

[3] Jeremiah 29:11

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reality of God in the midst of suffering

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A lot of people in this world question the reality of God, especially when a catastrophic event takes place in their life.

A sudden loss of life, a devastating report from the doctor, or suddenly finding yourself out of work with a mountain of bills to pay can cause us to ask “God, where are you?”

Being a firm believer in the fact that God reigns over the universe, which includes you and I, I’ve often pondered the issue of human suffering from a Biblical perspective. [1]

I know, I know, I’ve got too much time on my hands, right?

Without trying to come off like some sort of expert on the matter, which I surely am not, I wonder why it is that in this enlightened age of knowledge and power that we brilliant humans have not eradicated human suffering once and for all.

For example, the trials, hardships, adversities, and tests of this life transcend all economic barriers and social classes. They show no favoritism or prejudice. Every one of us “gets” to participate in them.

Every person, regardless of age or nationality, regardless of religious or political affiliation, all of us seem predestined at some point to walk the lonely paths of these human maladies.

From where I sit it would seem that these life issues are handed out randomly, without discretion, thought or (human) reason as to who can deal best with a particular trial.

Of course, I have no way of knowing whether such a thing actually happens, or if there is some far off Heavenly committee that meets on a frequent basis to decide such things, but believing that God reigns, also brings with it several practical questions.

For example, if God really is in charge, then where is He when…

  • Evil people are blowing up innocent men, women, and children?
  • The helpless and innocent are starving to death?
  • A Christian marriage falls apart?
  • Our children, raised in Godly homes, decide they want no part of living for Jesus?

Where exactly is God when all of these things are happening? Isn’t that what most reasonable people want to know? Just where is God when people are suffering?

These are hard, tough questions, aren’t they?

And more times than not, these hard questions are not easily dismissed with a cursory “well, God is in charge, so He must know what He’s doing” answer.

The truth is, God does know exactly what he is doing, just as he knew what he was doing when he created man the way that he did.

You see, we were/are created in His image. That means we were made to resemble God. Of course, God is not flesh and blood as man is, but we understand that the first man Adam was created in perfection.

Being created in the image of God sets human beings apart from the rest of creation, such as the animal, or plant worlds, for example.

We were also created to have dominion over the earth, to have the ability to commune with God, and to establish a relationship with him.

So, what does this brief foray into the story of man’s creation have to do with the hard questions I posed?

Essentially this; man was created with attributes that no other part of creation was granted. Because we were created in His image and likeness, we were given the ability to choose, think, and reason.

It is precisely because of these unique, Godly attributes that Satan appeared in the garden. His mission: to corrupt this perfect, created image of God, and convince man to use his Godly attributes for evil.

Adam and Eve made a terrible decision when they chose to rebel against their Creator. They were told that death would be the result of their disobedience, should they choose to do so, yet they did it anyway.

By choosing their way vs. God’s way, they marred the image of God within themselves, and in doing so passed the damage on to every single person who would ever be born. That includes all of us, in case you didn’t know that. [2]

Unbeknownst to Adam and Eve, because of their careless disobedience,the thought process of mankind was forever altered that day. In one disastrous moment, man was changed from a ‘pure in thought’ worshiper of God to a being possessing the potential for unlimited evil.

Sadly, we now see that unlimited potential for evil being played out without reservation all over this world. The powers of choice and reason, Godly attributes once solely used for good, are now the weapons of individuals wholly given over to the ideology of evil.

Today of course, man is still created in the image of God, but there is a difference now. Because of what happened in that garden, we now bear the scars of sin. [3]

Mentally, morally, socially, and physically, we bear the inescapable effects of sin. The evil and immorality that we are seeing displayed on a daily basis in our world is the result of this corruption.

Every single one of those hard questions I posed can be traced back to the fall in the garden of Eden, when Satan corrupted the pure thoughts of God’s highest creation.

And yes, I am aware of just how simplistic that sounds. Everyone knows that the problems this world is facing are very complex, and that (supposedly) the greatest minds available are working hard to find solutions.

Speaking only for myself, just once I would like to hear someone on a national platform stand up and say what a lot of us already know: that whatever it is we’re doing to make things better, it isn’t working.

And it never will work.

Which is why God sent the antidote for our sin sickness in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ.

What man ruined in the garden of Eden, God restored on an old rugged cross.

Does God still rule and reign today, even in the midst of human suffering?

Of course He does! He reigns in the hearts of all who have made him Lord. He said he would never leave us or forsake us. [4]

No matter what comes, I have this assurance, that He will be by my side and in my heart at all times!

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] 1st Chron. 16:31, Psalms 97:1, 99:1, 146:10, Isaiah 52:7

[2] Romans 5:12

[3] James 3:9

[4] Hebrews 13:5

 

 

 

The Beatitudes: conclusion

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As I have a very busy week ahead of me filling in for my Pastor, I need to finish up my thoughts concerning the Beatitudes. So even though it makes for a lengthy read, I have included the remaining four in this final blog.

Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.

Mercy is the act of forgiveness and compassion from someone who has the authority to punish you, but instead chooses to offer mercy. If you’ve ever been the one in need of mercy, and you know you have, you can surely appreciate knowing that your Father in heaven is merciful.

When we are merciful and forgiving to others, we give them a glimpse of the Father’s heart of mercy and forgiveness that is offered to all. As his representatives on earth, we must always be mindful that we are often the only examples of the hands and feet of Jesus that people will ever see.

Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.

The Bible talks a lot about the heart, doesn’t it? The condition of our heart as it relates to God is of the utmost importance in our daily walk. Having an impure heart, for example, keeps us from seeing God for who he is because having such a heart is like walking around wearing blinders.

Having a pure heart, however, allows us to see God in all his glory and splendor because our vision is no longer clouded by sin, judgement, or guilt.

When the Psalmist prayed “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me“, he was essentially asking God for a pure heart. [1] May this be our prayer as well.

Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

Would you agree with me that the world could use a few more peacemakers? After all, God is a peace-loving and a peace-making God, and we sure could use a respite from the constant bickering and fighting among ourselves today.

Peace is something that God has always desired for us. The whole history of redemption, starting with the fall of Adam in the garden to the death and resurrection of Jesus, is all part of God’s plan to establish a just and lasting peace between man and himself.

Not to be overlooked in this plan of redemption is God’s desire for men to also have lasting peace among themselves. It is never God’s will for men to quarrel and fight against one another.

If this message would somehow be heard by all today, what a different world we would be living in! All of us would do well to remember that if we are truly our Father’s children, we will display his attributes and character. What he loves, we will love. And God loves peace.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Persecuted. Not exactly a word that we associate with being blessed, or as some say today “highly favored”, is it?

Yet Jesus does calls us blessed if we are persecuted for righteousness sake. For certain, there are many types of persecution, and varying degrees of it as well.

Some will say that they are being persecuted because someone said something that hurt their feelings. Perhaps a promotion did not come your way and you determine that because of that, you are being persecuted.

I believe though that the persecution Jesus was referring to here is the type that results in the loss of liberty, freedom, and even one’s very life. So while American Christians have been spared (so far) such persecutions, regular readers will note that I have posted several articles on this blog detailing the severe persecution taking place in other parts of the world today.

Literally tens of thousands of Christians are being persecuted, imprisoned, and murdered for the testimony of Jesus in our day. Yet for all that, Jesus calls those of his servants enduring such persecution “blessed”.

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Let’s face it, the world in which we live is becoming increasingly hostile towards Christianity. Today, anyone who aligns themselves with Jesus is mocked, scorned, slandered, and generally treated with disdain.

This isn’t something new however, as Jesus said they did the same things to those who came before us. Our job is simply to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”. [2]

Peter even went so far to say that if we were insulted for the name of Jesus, we are blessed because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon us! [3]

I hope that this series on The Beatitudes has been both worthwhile and a source of encouragement to you. I never tire of reading these words of Jesus because they seem to fan the flames when we need a little spark to keep us pressing onward, and my prayer is that you feel the same way.

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] Psalm 51:10

[2] Philippians 3:14

[3] 1 Peter 4:14

 

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness…

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“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.”  [1]

This fourth Beatitude is one that I particularly love because I believe it establishes one of the foundational requirements for Godly living. In it, Jesus used two of the strongest human needs, hunger and thirst, to express the passion with which we should pursue God.

Have you ever been so thirsty that it seemed your thirst just couldn’t be quenched? Did that stop you from drinking still more? Of course not! Even if it meant drinking several different things you were determined to quench your thirst.

For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.  [2]

Sometimes when I’m hungry, I’ll go to the cabinet and stand there looking inside, trying to decide what it is that I want to eat. I may grab this or that, and as soon as I’ve eaten it I’ll know that I made the wrong choice, so I’ll try something else.

In much the same way Jesus is describing the hunger and thirst for righteousness that we are to have. The desire for more of Him should permeate our being, as an insatiable appetite does for those that have not eaten.

David said O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You
….[3]

As the hart pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after you, O God…[4]

deer in the lake

anilogics.com

This type of intense longing is exactly the type of hunger and thirst that Jesus is talking about. It means we do not approach the Lord with an attitude of indifference, but rather a passionate zeal to know him and his ways.

To hunger and thirst for righteousness means we must make a conscious decision about which part of us gets fed. If we desire the things of the world more than God, those things will destroy our hunger for the righteousness that Jesus is speaking of in this Beatitude.

This is very dangerous because if we allow our zeal for God to be swallowed up by the pleasures of the flesh, we will spiritually die.

He who pursues righteousness and loving devotion finds life, righteousness, and honor.[5]

My prayer for all is that we are passionate in our search for a closer walk with God, that we develop a hunger and thirst for righteousness that can only be filled by Him.

Be Blessed!

Ron

 

[1] Matthew 5:6

[2] Psalm 107:9

[3] Psalm 63:1,2

[4] Psalm 42:1,2

[5] Prov. 21:21

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