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Love doesn’t quit

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This past week my Pastor and I were privileged to visit a ministry to the homeless called “Jesus Loves You Ministry” which is located in Port Charlotte, Fl. For the better part of an hour we were given a tour of the facilities and learned about all of the services this great ministry provides.

I asked a lot of questions and our tour guide Ashley was very gracious and patient in answering them all. I have to say that this young lady has a heart for this ministry that is as big as all outdoors.

As we began our tour, I was struck by a sense that this place was different somehow. After a few minutes I think I started to figure it out because what I felt in that place was love. Nothing more, nothing less, just the unconditional love of Christ.

Listening to Ashley talk about the mission of Jesus Loves You Ministry left me humbled by her genuine love for the people she calls her family. No judgement, no “holier than thou” attitude, nothing but love.

And RESPECT.

Because this ministry is so well organized, I thought I would share just a few examples of the types of ministry that take place there:

  • Identification: Identity documents such as birth certificates, ID cards or Social Security cards are often lost and expensive to replace. They assist with the process of obtaining these documents and the ministry absorbs the costs involved to do this.
  • Benefits: They assist with the application for SSI, SSDI and Veteran’s pensions.
  • Medical Attention: Often a low priority, they encourage regular physicals, prescription and follow up visits as recommended by a health care provider.
  • Employment: they assist with job search and applications and provide transportation to interviews.
  • Wellness Services: Transportation is provided weekly for showers (200 a week), two locations of which provide haircuts, clothing and lunch (served Monday thru Friday). They encourage regular contact with relatives by providing access to a telephone. They provide clean clothes and hygiene packets as well.

This ministry also has it’s own thrift store, and proceeds go right back into the ministry. Here is a picture of their building, which was as clean as a whistle I might add!

Jesus loves you ministry

This visit really touched me, and served as a reminder that the homeless are really no different than you and I. In fact, while there I mentioned to my Pastor “but for the grace of God, go I”.

I’ll go back to Jesus Loves You Ministries, and hopefully will get the opportunity to chat with a few of the folks who are served there. Meanwhile, I am reminded of what the Bible teaches us about loving others who are in need.

 

17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 1 John 3:17-19

Let us not love with words only, but in doing. Love never quits!

If you would be so kind, please lift up Jesus Loves You Ministry in prayer. Their web site is currently being redesigned, but if you go to their current site you can still learn a great deal about them. I’m sure they would be very grateful.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

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Real heroes of the faith are still among us: part 2

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I am of the opinion that real heroes of the faith are still among us. They are not likely to be found however on TBN, Daystar, SBN or EWTN. You will not find them hawking their latest sermon series or music DVD at a church ministry conference.

You will find them however in the house churches in Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, and other nations hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ. While we here in the West live in relative peace and security,there are an ever increasing number of countries that are now hostile to the Gospel, as evidenced by the following “top 50 map”.

2018 watch list

You will find these heroes living in unimaginable conditions in the prisons of the above mentioned countries. You will also find them in unmarked graves after being tortured and murdered for their faith.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammad Reza Omidi are names you probably don’t recognize, however they are truly modern day heroes of the faith.

Who are they, and why are they heroes of the faith?

These are four Christian men who happen to live in Iran, a nation that is extremely hostile to the Gospel. Because Christianity is viewed as a threat to Iranian national security, the Christian religion is severely persecuted there.

Their church looks a lot different than yours or mine. Church services must be held in secrecy in the homes of believers or other nondescript locations in order to avoid detection and arrest.

No steeples, no ornate stained glass windows, no neon sign out front welcoming attendees.

These four Christian brothers were recently given 10 year prison sentences for partaking in Christian worship. It was originally thought that they would receive “only” six year sentences, given their original charge of “acting against national security”.

The charges were upgraded however to “promoting Zionist Christianity” and running house churches”, thus an additional four years were added to their sentences.

But wait, there’s more. Two of the four were also sentenced to two years’ internal exile, far away from their families.

Additionally, “Mr Omidi, Mr Mossayebzadeh and Mr Fadaie are waiting to hear the outcome of an outstanding appeal against their September, 2016, sentencing of 80 lashes for the consumption of communion wine at the time of their arrest in May, 2016.”

Did you catch that? 80 lashes. EIGHTY LASHES for partaking of communion!

We here in the West seem to have a very cavalier attitude about church, worship, and all things God compared to those suffering persecution abroad. We decide when and if we want to go to church. We decide how serious (if at all) we wish to become about our faith.

We choose whether or not to attend church or go fishing (or countless other fun activities). We choose whether to believe the Bible or not, and in some cases choose to ignore certain parts of the Bible that may not line up with our personal feelings about it.

We Christians in the West seem to have a lot of freedom of choice, don’t we?

Maybe that’s why there are so few (if any!) real heroes of the faith living here. Having faith here costs us nothing compared to our brothers and sisters in Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan,etc.

We who live here get by on a cheap, easy believism type of religion that demands nothing of us. Count the cost as commanded by Jesus? I don’t think so. Count our blessings for certain, but we want no part of a religion that costs us anything.

We have succumbed to the spirit of Anti-Christ that says God exists solely to bless you and cause you to prosper. This is the same spirit that seeks to elevate man to a god-like status while denying the true God of the Bible.

You will find no heroes of the faith in such a religion. What you will find instead are greedy, selfish, all about me individualists determined to control their own destiny rather than submit their lives to Christ.

Rather than partake of Christ’s suffering as taught in the Word, what we really want is a pie in the sky genie ready to blow gold dust on us just because we have somehow convinced ourselves that we are a superior brand of Christian.

Contrast this so called Christian lifestyle with those living in places where just the mention of the name of Jesus can land you in prison, or much worse. One must conclude that these two groups cannot possibly be worshiping the same God!

There are real heroes of the faith living today, heroes who have forsaken all for the cause of Christ. The men and women who are being imprisoned, tortured, and killed are examples of the faith that the Church should be holding up as the gold standard.

Who knows, you and I might one day be required to look to their sacrifices as the model of faithfulness and endurance needed in order to overcome that which has come upon us.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real heroes of the faith are still among us: part 1

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The New Testament book of Hebrews contains a record of what many call “heroes of the faith”. In fact, chapter 11 of Hebrews is commonly referred to as the faith chapter because it lists what some call the “faith hall of fame”.

As you read through this chapter, one is struck by the presence of some very familiar names. Abraham, Moses, David, Samson, and Gideon to name just a few. Readers who are familiar with the Old Testament can no doubt recall some of the events associated with these well known men of God.

Yet there are references to other,unnamed heroes of the faith that are recorded here as well. While the writer of Hebrews doesn’t mention them by name, he does list some of their “qualifications” for enshrinement into the “faith hall of fame”.

Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.  Hebrews 11:35-38

Though lesser known than the Old Testament patriarchs or kings, these “others” were nonetheless uniquely qualified to take their place alongside their more famous predecessors.

These were men and women who refused to bow the knee, but instead held fast to their faith in God and believed that a better day was coming. Put to the severest of tests, these faithful soldiers endured unimaginable persecution because they counted their lives as nothing that they might win the ultimate prize.

Our minds today simply won’t permit us to comprehend the untold sufferings described in the verses noted above. Being stoned to death is itself a terrifying method of execution, but can you imagine what it was like for someone to be sawn in two?

Church history reveals that tens of thousands of Christians were persecuted by some of the most vile,heinous, and satanically inspired means imaginable in an effort to eradicate the true Church. Yet somehow, the sustaining grace of God kept alive a remnant, for which you and I owe an enormous debt of gratitude.

In our present culture however, I am often surprised at the apparent unwillingness of many in the church to “earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints” (Jude v3). Indeed, there seems to be an attitude of spiritual entitlement among us that would be totally unrecognizable to the early church.

No doubt this is due in part to the prevalence of the gospel of “easy believism” and “health and wealth” that is pandered about today. It should be noted as well that neither of these false gospels would have ever been taught in the early church.

In fact, I’ll go on record and say that such teachings are part of what Paul described as “another gospel”, one that he said anyone preaching it is accursed (Galatians 1:8). That is for another day however.

 

In part 2 of this series, I will introduce you to some modern day heroes of the faith. Their identities may not be well known among believers today, yet their stories are no less inspiring than those found in the book of Hebrews.

Until then!

Ron

America is a Hungry Nation

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Americans are hungry.

Hungry for God.

Hungry for love.

Hungry for decency.

Hungry for morality.

Hungry for something to eat.

That’s right, Americans are also hungry for something to eat. The wealthiest nation on the planet struggles with a hunger problem. So much so that 1 in 8 people are struggling with hunger.

Would it surprise you to learn that 1 in 6 children are also struggling with hunger? Or that 1 in 4 African American children are hungry? Additionally, 43% of households receiving SNAP benefits(formerly Food Stamps)have children. If you’ve ever been a hungry child, and I have, this is staggering.

A quick glance at the Food Insecurity Map from FeedingAmerica.org shows just how pervasive the hunger problem is in America.

food insecurity map

If you click on the Food Map link above, it will take you to the Feeding America website where you can input your own demographics and see firsthand what the Food Insecurity Rate is in your area. Or you can simply hover over any state and see that particular state’s F.I.R.

Children are particularly vulnerable to hunger and the subsequent effects of poor nutrition. Unbelievably, 86% of the counties with the highest rates of child food insecurity are rural. What makes that statistic so unbelievable? Food is grown in rural areas!

African Americans, Latinos, Whites, Seniors, Urban Americans, Rural Americans, all are struggling with providing enough food for their families to eat. Right here in America!

Now, we can argue all day long about how and why we are in this predicament. And I’m quite sure we all have our opinions about America’s priorities. The fact is none of that matters to a hungry child.

None of that matters when our elderly citizens have to make the choice between buying medicine or food. Neither does any of that matter to the family that has to choose the poorest quality of food just to be able to afford to put something,anything, on the table.

The recent “Great Recession” may be but a memory to most, but to the tens of millions of Americans that are still reeling from the effects of unemployment,stagnant wages, and the ever increasing cost of living, it is a nightmare that won’t go away.

The point I want to make is that we can do better! We throw away 25% of the food we buy in America. Every single one of us tosses a pound of food each day in the garbage. Food that could go a long way in eradicating the hunger problem.

I encourage everyone to become better educated about this serious problem in America by going to FeedingAmerica.org and learning what you can do to ensure that our children, indeed all Americans have the opportunity to secure healthy,nutritious food for themselves and their families.

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

He is not here!

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He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.  Matt. 28:6

With those words, spoken by the angel who had rolled the stone away from the entrance to the tomb where Jesus had been placed, the destiny of all mankind was forever altered.

Having risen from the dead, Jesus Christ became the death conqueror. Man has been freed from all fear surrounding death. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, thus breaking the stronghold of Satan once and for all!

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.  1st Cor. 15:20-26 

I rejoice this Easter Sunday in the knowledge that the tomb is empty. My hope is no longer in anything but Christ, and I am sealed to the day of redemption in Him.

If you do not know Jesus as your risen Savior, you can! Simply call upon Him, confess your sins to Him, believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins, and receive Him as your Lord.

Have a blessed Easter everyone!!

Ron

 

What’s so good about Good Friday?

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A lot of people ask that question at this time of the year. Just this past Wednesday a lady asked me “why do we call it good, and where did the name ‘Good Friday’ come from”?

The second part of her question was a bit difficult to answer because there is no clear cut, definitive answer to the question. At least as far as I’ve been able to understand. I have been able to locate both Protestant and Catholic descriptions of how the name Good Friday originated, and personally I don’t think it matters in the least.

Regardless of its origin, the name Good Friday is exactly what it is. Yes, it marks the day that we commemorate the brutal torture and subsequent murder of the innocent Jesus. It also marks the day that mankind was freed from the bondage of sin.

Good Friday is the culmination of God’s redemptive plan to restore what was lost in the garden of Eden. From the original sin until Jesus’s last breath on the cross, man was held in the bondage of sin, unable to free himself through good works and sacrifices.

It took a spotless lamb, in this case the sinless Lamb of God to break the chains that held humanity captive. Jesus offered Himself once, for all time, upon the most cruel of torture devices in order to pay our sin debt in full.

It was a debt that you and I could never pay on our own. There was only one payment acceptable that would turn away the wrath of a Holy God; the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

What’s so good about Good Friday?

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.   Romans 5:6-11   emphasis mine

That’s what’s so good about Good Friday.

Thank you Father, for the plan of salvation. Without it I would be lost for eternity, and I would never have known that I could be loved so greatly.

Ron

 

 

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…”

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Hi neighbor!

How many of us remember that tune from the “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” TV show?

Mr Rogers Neighborhood

photo from Amazon.com

Just a few days ago Fred McFeely Rogers would have turned 90 years of age were he still alive. A lot of things were unique about Mr. Rogers. For one thing, he always changed into a sweater when he came through the door, and he could often be seen changing into comfortable tennis shoes as well.

Another thing that always stood out about him was how gentle and kind he was. He never spoke harshly about anyone, and he could put a positive spin on just about anything. You could always count on him smiling for most of the show too!

You also may not have known that he was a gifted musical composer who wrote over 200 of the songs that were performed on the TV show, including the iconic theme “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood”.

The one thing that stands out above all of these tidbits though is that Mr. Rogers was a Presbyterian minister, and he used his call to minister to children everywhere. He felt a special bond with his young audience, and considered it his mission to provide programming that reflected his own gentle spirit.

“Those of us in broadcasting have a special calling to give whatever we feel is the most nourishing that we can for our audience,” Mr. Rogers said. “We are servants of those who watch and listen.”   Fred Rogers

Of course, he had his detractors as well. Some people cannot stand the fact that there are kind, considerate, and gentle people in the world and therefore have to find something negative to say. Through the years I’ve heard just about everything possible said about Mr. Rogers, and I dare say his reputation far exceeded that of his harshest critics.

Every day people made fun of him. Names such as wimp, sissy, gay, and others much, much worse were ascribed to him. He was the butt of endless ridicule for his soft spoken manner.

To countless children however, he was a friend. A friendly, smiling face that came into their homes and offered encouragement and hope.

I don’t know about you, but I believe an awful lot of people could sure use a friendly, smiling face to come and offer hope and encouragement to them today.

Mr. Rogers passed away on February 27th, 2003, but the driving force of his life lives on eternally. While he did his best to teach children about many things, he taught a lot about friends and friendship. He himself had a Friend like no other.

A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.    Proverbs 18:24

If you need a friend today, I encourage you to call upon the Lord Jesus. He has promised to never leave you or forsake you. I’d call that a pretty special friend, wouldn’t you?

Oh, and before I forget, Jesus will make your neighborhood more beautiful than even Mr. Rogers could!

Ron

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor
Could you be mine?
Would you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood
A neighborly day for a beauty
Could you be mine?
Would you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you

Let’s make the most of this beautiful day
Since we’re together, might as well say
Would you be my, could you be my
Won’t you be my neighbor?     

Fred M. Rogers

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