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How much longer will you carry that ball and chain?

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Most of us have heard the term “ball and chain” before. It used to be a common term that described an actual weight attached to the ankle of a prisoner, a method of prohibiting the prisoner from escaping.

You may have also heard it used derogatorily by a husband or wife who refers to their spouse as a ball and chain, meaning that they are being dragged down by a reluctant spouse. Hopefully not, but…

It is the rare individual that isn’t walking around carrying some type of baggage, or in this case a ball and chain, these days. As a matter of fact, I am hard pressed to think of even one person who isn’t.

All of us have been negatively impacted by someone or something in this life. Such is the cost of our living in a fallen world. The result of such encounters can leave us damaged and scarred, left to carry around the consequences like a ball and chain.

You know what’s interesting about carrying around a ball and chain? You never feel the impact of it as long as you’re sitting still. It’s not until you wish to get up and move on that you begin to feel the tug of it’s weight holding you back.

This is an apt metaphor for our Christian walk as well. How many of us live lives clouded by guilt, uncertainty, shame, and the like? Many of us do, of this I have no doubt.

We go through life carrying around all kinds of baggage, having learned to function to a certain degree in spite of the ever present weight of it all. This, in spite of the fact that Jesus said that “if the Son make us free, we shall be free indeed”(John 8:36).

How is this possible? It happens because we learn to navigate through this world from the security of our own comfort zone. Thus, as long as I stay in my box, or comfort zone, and do not try to move about too freely, all is well. I can manage the weight of the ball and chain, and still function.

But what happens to us when we feel God wanting to stretch us beyond our comfort zone, to get us out of our special box and move us to a new level? Well, if you’re like me, this brings about a degree of uncomfortableness and forces us to confront the ball and chain once and for all.

You see, sooner or later we must all deal with those things that hold us back. This is because God has a plan and a purpose for your life, and those plans don’t include you becoming comfortable enough to forever manage that ball and chain you’re carrying around.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.   Jer. 29:11

God’s plan for you and I is to be free from our past mistakes, to be free from the harm inflicted upon us by others. God has called us to a life of peace and love. The torments that have enveloped our lives are but shackles that must fall off in the presence of Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown weary of carrying around the ball and chain of past regrets. The things I cannot fix on my own, I must surrender to Christ. If we’re going to surrender all, then all must be willingly lain at the foot of the Cross.

Be blessed,

Ron

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How Great is Your God?

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Taking a walk this beautiful October morning, the breeze in my face, the sounds of dozens of different species of birds filling the air, I sense the presence of One who is mightier than I.

Surrounded by His creation in all of its glory, is nothing short of amazing. Sunlight breaking through the trees for example, is something no human produced laser light show could ever replicate. Billions of tiny droplets of dew reflect the morning sun in a kaleidoscope of color as it climbs higher in the Eastern sky. 

Sunrise

Photo by Simon Wilkes on Unsplash

 

Even the normally distracting sounds of speeding cars and trucks rushing by on their way to work seem to be pushed into the background on this incredible day.

This is how it was meant to be. It’s as if He has chosen this very day, these precious moments, to reveal Himself in a new and powerful way.

I am awestruck by what I am experiencing. More than that, I am humbled as I sense His presence surround me.

This day has reminded me of the beautiful worship song “How Great is our God”. One of the most powerful lyrics in that song declares that his is the “Name above all names, Worthy of our praise”. Name above all names

How incredible would it be if all of God’s children would take just a few moments each day to praise that name that is above all names?

How great is YOUR God?

 

Looking for God in all the wrong places…

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“He who dies with the most toys wins” in a quote attributed to Malcolm Forbes, a very wealthy man who amassed an incredible collection of homes, motorcycles, and other expensive ”toys”. It’s a quote I’ve heard many times, sometimes in jest, sometimes in earnest conversation.

In our consumer driven society, acquiring “toys” seems par for the course for most of us. Whatever your hobby, it seems as though their is an endless array of necessary choices one must purchase in order to reach a certain level of contentment.

Therein is the rub, of course. At what point in our lifetime do we reach that magical zone of contentment, where the never-ending quest for more “toys” has been fulfilled?

For some, such as the hoarders depicted in the popular TV show of the same name, contentment is as elusive as stumbling upon a long buried pirate’s treasure chest.

In reality, the wealthy and affluent are not much different. The major difference, if any, would be the quality and cost of the ever growing mountain of “stuff” they accumulate.

What drives us to seek fulfillment and contentment in “things”?

I’ve read a number of scholarly papers and articles on this subject, and there are many different opinions cited as the answer to this question.

No surprise there, is there?

Yet when we take a look at the Scriptures, there seems to be a very logical reason for this type of behavior.

We are looking for God in all the wrong places.

Void of God’s presence in our lives we feel incomplete, unsatisfied, and altogether inadequate. Because the bonds that tie us together with God have been severed by sin, we seek out other ways to replace the spiritual void within us.

So we try anything and everything to fill the emptiness. Except for God, of course.

There is a very real danger in trying to replace God with “stuff”. In fact, Jesus told us to have our guard up against trying to replace the missing relationship we are designed to have with God.

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”    ‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Being constantly bombarded with ads for the newest car,boat,motorcycle or jewelry, one would think that it truly was a matter of “he who dies with most toys wins”.

Jesus shows us the fallacy of such a mindset. It isn’t about what you accumulate in this life that matters most.

What matters most in this life is allowing Christ to fill that void created by our broken relationship with Him.

Where are you looking today to find fulfillment and contentment in life? Is every room in your home jammed to the rafters with inanimate things?

If this describes you, it’s time to stop looking for God in all the wrong places.

You would be amazed to learn that He is nearer than you think!

Be blessed,

Ron

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A part of something much bigger than you or I

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With so much in the world today that is spiraling out of control, I can only say that “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.

The Family of God

I’m so glad I’m a part of the fam’ly of God!
I’ve been washed in the fountain,
Cleansed by His blood.
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the fam’ly,
The fam’ly of God.           Lyrics by Bill and Gloria Gaither

For over two thousand years people have been exhorting those who don’t know Christ to come and receive Him into their hearts.

Humbly, I submit to you that I cannot imagine a time when the need was greater than it is right now.

Look to Him,

Ron

 

 

 

Does all really mean “all”?

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There are many of us who sometimes question if a particular Bible verse actually means what it says. It’s like we wonder if something was lost in the translation from the original text that has rendered the verse incorrect. One of those verses is found in Romans 8:28.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.   NKJV

I guess in this instance all really does mean “all” because I checked a half dozen or so different translations, and all of them use the word all or everything  in referring to the things that are working together for our good.

When I first read Romans 8:28 as a new Christian, like a lot of others I thought that the idea of God using good things to make me a better Christian was a great thing. But I soon realized there was danger lurking in my thought process.

You see, when we read this particular verse, our carnal minds want to gravitate towards the good things that are taking place in our lives. We equate “working together for our good” with blessings, or favor.

The truth of the matter however is that God’s plan for us doesn’t include only good things. God’s plan for our lives also includes the hard things, the difficult things, and yes, the unexplainable things that come into our lives.

You see, God has a plan for each of our lives. He knows what each of your tomorrows will bring, and that includes the good things as well as the bad.

So many Christians today are caught in the web of the false gospel that states that God only has good things in store for your life. This false gospel would have you believe that should anything come into your life such as sickness or divorce, you are out of God’s will.

We know however that bad things happen to good people. That’s an immutable fact. All of us know people who have endured horrible things through no fault of their own. And yes, this includes God’s children, who are not exempt.

My point here is that oftentimes bad things happen to God’s children for no apparent reason. Yet they still happen. Life happens, and life isn’t always pretty, even for God’s children.

So what are we to make of Romans 8:28 in light of what you’ve just read? After all, it’s either true or it’s not. There is no in between.

The Apostle Paul said that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose”.

ALL of your life’s situations, both good and bad, are part of the clay that God places on the potter’s wheel. He takes the good and the bad and ever so gently shapes us, molds us into the vessel He has planned that we become.

It’s true, sometimes there are impurities in the clay, impurities that become part of the finished product. These impurities do not devalue the finished product however, but serve to make each one unique in the eye of the Master Potter.

All things do work together for good…..it’s up to us to trust the process. It’s up to us to remain malleable on the potter’s wheel. God will do the real work.

 

Be blessed, in Jesus name.

Ronear tickled

Temptation as seen through God’s eyes

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One of the most commonly quoted but misapplied verses in the entire Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13. This is the verse that speaks to us about enduring temptation.

When this particular verse is referenced it is almost always stated that “God won’t allow us to be tempted with more than we can handle”. While that is true, it is only partly true. Here is the verse I’m referring to:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
I Corinthians 10:13 NKJV

There are several components to this verse that I would like to bring out in this post. Let’s begin with “no temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man”. Often when we are tempted, we tend to gravitate towards the thought that no one has ever had to endure anything like this.

When we are tempted, or tried, it is only natural for us to feel as though it is overwhelming, as though it is so great that we cannot overcome it. Our finite minds struggle to garner a measure of faith and hope that we can endure the temptation and yet come out of it victorious.

The scripture makes it clear however, that when we are tempted it is a “common” temptation, meaning that it is the same temptation that everyone deals with. We are drawn away from Christ by lust, impure thoughts, greed, malice, and a whole host of common temptations.

In short, we aren’t special.   Sorry!

Next, we read that God is faithful. Most of us know that, but when we are being tempted our nature is to question whether or not He will stand with us. Feelings of panic often set in, followed by doubt and confusion about whether or not we will have to deal with this alone. It is at this point that we must fall back on the promise that “He will never leave us nor forsake us”.

This is where God wants us to simply trust him, and to trust the process.

Finally, we come to the part of the verse that I alluded to in the beginning. The part that is most often misused or misapplied: “But with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”.

When people quote1 Corinthians 10:13 they almost always leave off this part of it, which is rather strange because it’s actually the best part! To say that God won’t allow us to tempted with more than we can handle is great. But that’s only part of the story.

In reality, God doesn’t withhold temptation from us. Did you ever question why that is? Well, there are likely several reasons, not the least of which is that He knows that in order for us to grow in faith; we must be stretched beyond our comfort level.

That’s an uncomfortable thought, isn’t it?

We could look at this another way and ask why doesn’t God just put a shield around us to prevent temptation from coming against us in the first place? Many of us would no doubt choose this option if we could, for who wouldn’t rather not have to deal with such things?

The fact is however, that just as your own children must learn and grow, so must we as children of God. How stunted would our growth be if we never experienced adversity?

I believe there is another motive behind the Lord permitting us to endure temptation, and that is that until we are tried in the fires of temptation, we really do not know what we’re made of (in Christ).

Let’s use the analogy of a heavy weight boxer. If the boxer is only allowed to fight against equal or lesser skilled fighters, do you think he will improve? It’s not very likely. That’s why you will sometimes see a young fighter matched against a more powerful, more experienced one. It’s used to reveal to the young fighter how good he really is, but also to reveal the areas he needs to work on.

Isn’t it so when our faith is tested through various temptations? Instead of bemoaning the temptation, what if we approached it from the mindset that God is exposing an area of weakness within us that must be worked on?

Lastly, we must always be cognizant of the fact that God permits us to be tempted. We MUST grasp this fact. God permits it. This is where so many of us falter in our walk. God himself will never tempt us to sin, but he will allow us to be tempted by the enemy. What I’m trying to say here is that God is still in the works because He is still in control of our situation!

Even though He permits the temptation, He will not allow more than we can bear. In this fact we can take heart! In the midst of temptation, God is still there because He is going to make a way of escape in order for you to bear up under it. Plainly stated; the temptation will not overtake you if you will place your trust in Christ.

Something to remember, the next time you’re being pulled a dozen different ways.

Be blessed, in Jesus name.

Ronear tickled

 

Four reasons to avoid the Vortex of Negativity

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Most of us have seen a Vortex before, whether in person or on the news. A Vortex is easily identified by a swirling mass of air or water, such as in a tornado or cyclone. Here in Florida these are also found in waterspouts.

tornado

No matter the type of Vortex, they all share at least two things in common:  1) if you get too close to one it will literally suck you into it, and 2) it will always leave a path of destruction in its wake.

Additionally, there is no escape from it unless it releases you from its deadly power. Even then, the end result will not be pleasant.

There is however another form of Vortex, perhaps more damaging than all those previously listed. It’s what I call the human “Vortex of Negativity”, and once it has you in its grip it will literally suck the life out of you. Here are four reasons why you should avoid it at all costs.

No.1 It will steal your Joy…Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, did you know that? But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Galatians 5:22).

If you have been around joyless people for even a few minutes you know how they can rob you of your joy. Many of us struggle with this. We’re happy, and then we’re not.

Joy killers are subtle; they rarely show up with sirens blazing, seeking instead to peck away at our joy in anonymity. Before you even know it’s happened, you find yourself struggling to find joy in anything because your joy has been stolen from you!

No.2 It will steal your Gratitude…A grateful heart is a thankful heart, one that will show up in our attitude. Paul, that great Apostle, understood the importance of thankfulness when he said that “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).  In his song of thanksgiving upon recovering the Ark of the Covenant, David said “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever“(1 Chronicles 16:34).

The Vortex of Negativity is thankful for nothing, but rather seeks out the things that have not gone our way and focuses instead on what could have/should have been.

This Vortex is particularly dangerous because it will retard our growth and leave us to wallow in defeat. People who are ungrateful, especially Christians, are also some of the meanest people around. And yes, they are infectious.

No.3 It will steal your Confidence…When we have lost our confidence we begin to flounder. We are tossed to and fro seemingly adrift on the seas of life with no real purpose. We become double minded, unable to press forward with purpose.

This is not how God created you. An oft quoted scripture from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah tell us “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope“(Jer. 29:11). The Vortex of Negativity wants to hide from us the promise of God and instead get us to focus on what we ourselves can do. This, of course, is never enough to satisfy.

No.4 It will steal the life God has appointed you to…We are called and chosen to live a fulfilling and complete life. Jesus described it this way: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly“(John 10:10).

The Vortex of Negativity is a thief bent on stealing, killing, and destroying our lives one piece at a time until the notion of an abundant life is nothing more than a fairy tale.

The devil would like nothing more than to get our focus off of God’s plan for our lives so that he can then offer us an alternative. Without fail, the alternative he presents to us will lead us down the path of destruction. How could it not, when Jesus has already told us what the enemy’s motives are?

The “Vortex of Negativity” is a powerful force that works against us in many ways. Whether it’s to steal our joy, our gratitude, our confidence, or even the very life God has planned for us, this cocktail of negativity is the enemy’s design for your ultimate destruction.

But I have Good News this day! Your Bible declares that “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord.    Isaiah 54:17

No weapon, no device, no Vortex of Negativity that the enemy tries to destroy you with can prosper.

This is your heritage as a child of God!

 

 

 

 

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