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Could You Use a Little Good News Today?

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I’ve been thinking of something the Apostle Paul said to the church at Corinth,and how best to apply it to our lives today.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 8:31,35,38-39
Someone needs to hear that whatever you are going through,whatever has happened to you, no matter how hopeless the situation seems, nothing is so terrible that it can separate you from the love of God.
He is right there with you, in the midst of it all, a very present help in the time of trouble.
Be strengthened this day, in Jesus name.

What does this Easter bring to you?

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Every year at this time a deep sadness comes over me as I reflect upon the awful treatment of Jesus. This sadness is only intensified when I look around and see what the world has done to Easter. The rampant commercialization of what in my opinion is the Holiest of occasions is enough to make one weep.

You see, Easter is very personal to me.

Like many, I’m lost in thought this season, contemplating events that took place two thousand years ago. Events so incredible that even after all of this time, they continue to impact the world in a manner that can only be described as miraculous.

Jesus, the lowly son of a carpenter, the only person ever born of a virgin, was born to die for the sins of all mankind. The Pascal Lamb, God’s atoning Passover sacrifice, has spent the last week of His life preparing for the cruelest death imaginable.

The CROSS

But not just the CROSS, but preparing for what had to come before the CROSS.

The trial, the false accusations, the mockery, the beard pulled from his face, the cruelest of beatings and scourging’s, and far worse than any of these, the betrayal of not only His own nation, but those closest to him.

I have often wondered how Jesus endured the suffering that led up to the CROSS. One is left to surmise that only the Divine could do so, for surely mere mortals would succumb to such torture before being crucified.

Jesus, knowing what lay ahead of Him, fixed His gaze upon Calvary and pressed on to His destiny. Because you see, you were on His mind the entire time. It was for you and me that he drove Himself onward.

There is a popular song today called “He Carried Me”. The song tells the story of how when Jesus was forced to carry His CROSS, He wasn’t just carrying the CROSS, but He was also carrying me.

A couple of Sunday’s ago, my wife Debbie sang this song and I wanted to share it with all of you. The song begins at about the 55 minute mark of the service.

This being Easter Sunday, all over the world Christians are rejoicing over the resurrection of Jesus. My prayer is that sometime today, you and I will get to spend some quality time alone with Him. Time in reflection of what He did so that we could have what we have:

Hope.

Far beyond family traditions, new clothes, another Easter service, or children scrambling for colored eggs, my prayer is that Easter brings to you a renewed sense of what it means to assume the title of “Christian”.

It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more.   Isaiah 43:25

Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.   Rom. 8:34

But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.   Rom. 5:8

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.   Philippians 2:8

Truly, a great price has been paid for you and I. If we are asked “what does this Easter bring to you” I hope that we can answer by saying Easter brings us the hope of Eternal life.

 

Let us honor the King of Kings on this Holy day.

 

When your questions outweigh answers…

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What do you do?

I have so been there, haven’t you? Left to wonder how-why-what-where-when, or who. Instead of answers, all that come are even more questions.eight-teen-questions

Life is like that isn’t it? At times, answers can be hard to come by. Sometimes they never come at all. Unrelenting streams of questions, however, never seem to be in short supply.

And guess who never fails to seize upon the situation in order to cast doubt in our minds?

Yep, you guessed it. Our adversary loves these situations where we are seemingly overwhelmed with questions and doubt.

doubtSo he can sow even more doubt, of course.

I’ve been in the place where my questions have outweighed the answers so many times that I’ve lost count. I’ve felt the sting of defeat so many times that a “normal” person would have thrown in the towel.

Like a lot of you, I’ve been abandoned, neglected, abused, rejected, and disowned. And each of these “life events”( I refuse to call them tragedies) has raised more questions than I could ever find answers for. As I said, a “normal” person would have thrown in the towel.

The one question that always comes to the forefront when struggling with life’s deepest struggles is simply this: God, where are you? In the midst of despair, isn’t that really all we want to know?

As a Christian, all I want to know, all I need to know, is that God is still there. Just don’t leave me Father.

where-is-god

brucegerencser.net

I know some of you reading this have walked these dark places in your lifetime. And you have asked the question of the ages just as I have: God, where are you? If this is you, I want to share a brief story with you.

In just a few weeks it will have been 17 years since I suffered a major heart attack, the one that the Dr.’s call a “widow maker”. Mowing the lawn one spring day I suddenly ended up laying in the grass after feeling like I had been struck by lightning.

Managing to crawl to the house, my wife called 911 and I was soon on my way to the hospital. Some of the events surrounding this have been forgotten or blurred by time, but I distinctly remember calling upon the Lord to save me, to help me.

To make a very long story short, the next several months involved tests, stents that failed within two months, and heart catheterizations, all of which ended in open heart bypass surgery. Little did I know at that time that the physical part of this ordeal was about to be overshadowed by an even greater battle.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times the enemy would come to me with false accusations. He would tell me I was no longer a child of God, or that I was finished, or that God would never use me again. Suffice it to say that the attacks were relentless.

Now, I would love to be able to report to you that I was a Super Christian, my cape blowing in the wind, the fiery darts of Satan bouncing off of me like they were marshmallows. I would love to be able to tell you this.

But since I am a Christian, I have an aversion to lying.

The truth is, I struggled with these attacks. I never discussed it with anyone except my wife, but I struggled. I never doubted that I would be OK physically, but I certainly doubted my standing with the Lord.

spiritual-warfare

Capebaptist.org

It wasn’t because God didn’t heal me that I started to embrace this doubt, but because I began to question if it was somehow all my fault. Hearing my surgeon telling me that my condition was 80% hereditary did little to comfort my nagging thoughts.

It took some time for me to work through this, but with His grace and the encouragement of the Word, I did get the victory over my doubts. Just a few months after surgery I was back in the pulpit, and I’ve been going ever since.

So to close this blog, I want to leave you with something from Psalms 119 that speaks to the power of God’s Word. My prayer is that these simple verses will encourage you to draw deeply from the treasure that is the Word of God.

Princes persecute me without a cause,

But my heart stands in awe of your word.

I rejoice at your word,

As one who finds great treasure.

I hate and abhor lying,

But I love your law.

Seven times a day I praise you,

Because of Your righteous judgments.

Psalm 119:161-164

I have learned that through Christ which strengthens me, I can handle just about anything just as long as I know He’s still there. I may not like the fact that I have to face certain things, but there is comfort in knowing He is there.

When your questions outweigh answers, there’s only one place to turn.

To the One who already knows what the answers are,before you even ask the question.

How to have a revival in the midst of war and death

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Like many others,I’ve been following the unparalleled carnage taking place as a result of the Syrian civil war. In one of the bloodiest and most horrific civil wars in modern history,the world has been witness to the unspeakable carnage of a demonic dictator bent on murdering his own citizens.

Sadly,now that the fighting is for all intents and purposes over, the major world powers and the Church have chosen to remain relatively silent about the plight of those unfortunate enough to be trapped in and around the battle zone of Aleppo.

According to the United Nations and the World Health Organization,over 700,000 people are trapped in these areas around Syria.Trying to imagine the magnitude of suffering for these people is all but impossible. A catastrophe of the highest level is playing out before the eyes of the world.

But wait, it gets worse I’m afraid.

Want to hear the real shocker in all of this? Of these 700,000, it is estimated that 300,000 are children.That’s right,nearly half are children!

syria-1

blogs.reuters.com

As incredible as it sounds however,in the midst of so much human suffering,the Holy Spirit is hard at work drawing thousands to Christ.

Even though thousands of Christians have been martyred for refusing to renounce their faith,God is still adding to His church daily,just as He has been doing since the birth of the Church.

Many Christians have refused to leave this war ravaged area,preferring instead to stay behind to help others and to witness to the many thousands who have no hope. Out of this latter group are coming thousands of Muslims who are looking for help in coping with the effects of war. And finding Jesus!

Praise God that the Christians in that area who have chosen to stay behind are witnessing to them,praying with them,and leading many to Christ.These are “book of Acts” Christians,showing them love and compassion.

This is nothing short of the handwork of God! To a war torn people who have lost everything,the Holy Spirit is reaching out to them to reassure them that hope is not lost after all.

Indeed,having lost all their worldly possessions,these people are finding a new treasure in Jesus Christ! How incredible is this! On the one hand they lost everything,yet on the other hand they have now gained Everything!

This is revival God’s way! No speeches,no programs,no celebrity preachers,just God doing what He loves to do;using His people to express His love to those so desperate for it. I find all of this amazing!

We serve a wondrous and mighty God,and from this war torn corner of the planet He is moving.He is saving the lost and offering hope to the hopeless.Souls who had been enslaved by a religion that cannot save are now enjoying new found freedoms in Christ!

Could it be that these Christians have tapped into something that we in N.America do not understand? Think about the current state of Evangelicalism in N.America, with our great churches and cathedrals boasting of members numbering in the tens of thousands,our huge bank accounts,programs for every member of the family,weekly agendas and calendars full of religious activities.

Lot’s of activities to be sure. But no fruit.

I would not trade all of that for the loving,caring examples of Jesus in action in war torn Syria! We in N.America have perfected the art of doing church,while those in Syria are perfecting the art of BEING the Church!

This is why N.America can never have real revival! We aren’t BEING the Church! Oh sure,we plan the annual spring and fall revival meetings.But what results can we show from these meetings? Are lives changed? Have hearts been regenerated? Do we leave our meetings with a renewal of our first love? Not often,but we sure do know how to do church though,don’t we?

I say away with these man made,powerless gatherings of like minded men who want nothing more than to promote their own agenda.There is no deliverance to be found in these committees who exist solely for the purpose of self preservation.God may be on their billboard,but He is nowhere to be found among the haughty,proud,and arrogant.

We in N.America are desperate for real revival.Revival that stirs our hearts to repentance.Revival that permeates our communities,not just the confines of the local sanctuary.We need the kind of revival born out of the war torn hell of Aleppo.

This is life changing revival.This is soul winning revival! It’s desperation that brings real,true,revival!

My prayer for N.America is that we will not have to experience the ravages of war,death,and the destruction of all we hold dear in order to experience the kind of revival we need.That is my heartfelt prayer.

My fear,however,is that N.America will have to be shaken to it’s core before we return to God.Perhaps we are nearer to such a shaking than we realize? After all,only God can make N.America great again.

I have included a few links to information regarding the persecution of Christians in Syria,as well as persecution in general.I trust these will be of benefit to those hungry to know what is taking place in the world regarding the persecution of our Brothers and Sisters.

What do you see when you look in your rear-view mirror?

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Admit it. We all do it. We’re always looking in our rear-view mirrors.Looking behind instead of forward.Haunted by the past that doesn’t want to let go of us.

Or choosing to hang onto it ourselves,somehow more comfortable with a broken past instead of an uncertain future.Choosing to continue on down the same familiar paths,rather than exploring the road less traveled.

We all know that the past is the past. It is unchangeable. None of us can take even one step in time backwards to repair the damage from our past mistakes and poor decisions.But we want to,don’t we?

If only we could remind ourselves of what Isaiah said: Don’t remember the former things; don’t dwell on things past.   Isaiah 43:18   ISV

Or if we could just remember the encouraging words of Paul: Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead…Philippians 3:13   HCSB

I struggle in this area. Big time.Maybe you do as well?

I have a tendency to want to retreat to the past,when my faith was strong and no challenge seemed too difficult.Back to a time when I would wear out the binding on my Bible and have to buy another one.To a time when the future seemed like it would offer endless opportunities.My spiritual Comfort Zone. Maybe you have one as well?

Funny thing about the past though.It really was never as grand as we like to remember it.For example, there are things in my past that haunt me and cause me to think of myself as “less than”,even to this day.

Can you relate? Do you ever hear those taunting voices of doubt? It’s no wonder that James described those who doubt as one who “is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind“.    James 1:6   HCSB

It’s kind of hard to stay on track when you’re being tossed around,isn’t it?

Our enemy is always trying to convince us that we are not good enough.That in God’s eyes,we just don’t measure up.He knows that one sure way to sidetrack our faith is to get us to doubt ourselves.And keep checking that rear-view mirror.

I don’t know about you,but it seems to me that Satan never misses an opportunity to dredge up some past failure at that exact moment when we let our guard down.It’s like we have a built in spiritual barometer. When the barometer is rising we know good weather is ahead.When it starts to fall we know that storms are on the horizon.

So it is with our walk with Christ.When we’re up it seems the world is ours for the picking.But when we’re down,that’s when we start hearing those not so gentle reminders about past sins and failures,and doubt begins to creep in.

So,what are we to do?

The obvious answer of course is to pray,read the Word,and stay close to God.No one can go wrong by following that advice,and I dare say most if not all of us would do well to heed it.

Listen and accept wise counsel from those invested in your life,particularly from those who may be in a mentoring role.God has placed them in your life for a reason.

My wife recently told me of a quote she heard about people who live in the past,and while I may have shared this previously,it bears repeating once again.”If you don’t make peace with your reflection,you will always be at war wilast-chapterth yourself“.

She went on to tell me “we can’t change our past but we can leave it at the cross and move beyond it…and have peace and thrive.Stop living in your rear view mirror.Do not allow the enemy to steal any more of your dreams”.

I saved that and read it from time to time as a reminder that the enemy can only steal from me what I allow him to take.

Living in the past is a no win situation. Plus,when we allow the enemy to drown us in the guilt of the past we are forgoing the wondrous Grace of God!

STOP looking in your rear-view mirror so often! Look ahead to the future God has prepared just for you.You may be surprised at what He has planned for your life!

Be blessed,

Ron

The truth about reading the Bible in one year.

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It’s a New Year,time for those one year Bible reading ads to pop up all over the web.

  • “Download your free Bible reading plan”.
  • “Read the entire Bible in just one year”.
  • “Walk through the Bible in one year!”
  • “Helping you read through the Bible in one year”.

These plans are very popular.I know many people who follow one of these plans and read through the Bible every year.I even did it once myself,just to see what all the fuss was about.

There is a plan for everyone,no matter your preferred reading style. Let’s see, there’s the Chronological plan,there’s the Old and New Testament each day plan, there’s the Old and New Testament plus Psalms each day plan.You get the picture,right?

These plans provide a guide to assist in keeping our reading on track. One glance will quickly tells us if we’re on target or if we’ve slipped a little and have some catching up to do.They are perfect for that.

I remember when these first showed up.Christians everywhere were quick to grab hold of this new method of Bible reading,and pastors soon began encouraging their members to find a plan they liked and stick with it.Can’t go wrong there.

By the time the end of December rolled around you had read the entire Bible through.WOW! That was quite an accomplishment!

By the way, you’d be shocked to learn how many people who are long time church members have never read the entire Bible through.More on that in a bit.

If there is a shortcoming with the one year method,I think it’s that they don’t go far enough.Once you’ve read through the Bible in a year,what’s next? You did it,you read the entire Bible in a year,and that’s it? I earned the Bible reading badge,so now what?

In my opinion where these plans fall short is that they fail to teach you how to take that next step,to actually study the Bible,which is very different from simply reading the Bible. What they do really well however, is introduce you to the discipline required to read a very lengthy and occasionally dry (keeping it real here,remember all those “begats?”) account of God’s Word.

Following a daily reading plan is great. If you actually do follow the plan! It will acquaint the reader with the books of the Bible and introduce some of the core foundational truths of God’s Word.Again,you have to actually follow the plan though!

They are not designed however, to take you to a deeper level where we begin to grow and mature in our walk with Him.

That takes time. A lot of time.I mentioned at the beginning that I followed one of these plans once just to see what it was like.I read the Bible through in a year by following the plan.An accomplishment,to be sure.

Since that initial complete reading of the Bible,I have read it through several more times as well.But none of those were accomplished in one year.In my Bible study, I have spent weeks on a single chapter! There is no plan for that,other than to keep faithfully plugging along.

I guess what I’m really saying here is that it’s great to use one of these Bible reading plans as a starting point to reading the Bible. Just don’t get caught up in the idea that “I did it,I’m done”,because the statistics are not very encouraging concerning Bible reading in America.

According to a survey that the Barna Group conducted for the American Bible Society, over 50% of Americans think the Bible is not influencing our society as much as it should be.Yet this same survey revealed that only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis.

Let’s see..too little influence caused by too little reading…Well DUH!!

Interestingly,we Americans think very highly of the Bible.Per this same survey,88 percent of those surveyed said they own a Bible, 80 percent think the Bible is sacred, 61 percent wish they read the Bible more, and the average household has 4.4 Bibles.

This raises an interesting question,does it not? If we in America believe that the Bible is so important to us, why isn’t it having more of an impact against the unrestrained moral and social decline we are witnessing? If you’re paying attention,I already gave you the answer!

We have all these Bible,but we’re not reading them! Plan or no plan!

Doug Birdsall, president of American Bible Society, said he sees a reason for why the Bible isn’t connecting with people.“I see the problem as analogous to obesity in America. We have an awful lot of people who realize they’re overweight, but they don’t follow a diet,” Birdsall said. “People realize the Bible has values that would help us in our spiritual health, but they just don’t read it.”

If they do read it, the majority (57 percent) only read their Bibles four times a year or less. Only 26 percent of Americans said they read their Bible on a regular basis (four or more times a week). Am I the only one shocked by these statistics?

But is that the result of a faulty reading plan? Uh, no, it isn’t. What good is the best plan in the world if we don’t follow it? The fault dear reader,is with us. You. Me.

We aren’t staying with the plan! Any plan!

I encourage everyone to find a plan that will help you to develop good reading habits.Just do me a favor will you? Please stick with it!

And once you’ve accomplished your goal of reading through the Bible in a year,commit yourself to a serious study of the Word.It will take you farther and deeper in your journey than you could imagine.

Be blessed!

How to survive when your world falls apart

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You’ve been there,haven’t you? You’ve carefully planned things out down to the smallest detail. You’ve selected the career path that you believe will bring you security for theplan rest of your life. You have researched and chosen the best school to receive your education.

Looking even further ahead,you begin to envision the man or woman of your dreams. You see the two of you dancing through life,living in a comfortable home where your children can grow up safe and content.

A fairy tale existence;isn’t that what we all plan for,what we all dream about?

That is until the harsh realities of life begin to chip away at our hopes,our dreams,our best laid plans. Suddenly,what was once sunshine and rainbows gives way to the raging storms of divorce,sickness,abuse,or worse.shattered-dreams

Some of you have been there. Are there now.

Your world has fallen apart,and no amount of pleading,begging,or deal making can restore what was. Where do you turn when you’re out of options?

I’ve been there. I have survived abandonment.I’ve made it through the gut wrenching agony of a divorce I did not choose to be a part of. I know what it feels like to be left for dead on the side of the road,to be made to feel as though you have no worth. I understand completely how debilitating and life altering divorce can be to every person it touches.

I have been to the brink. To that place from which many never return,that place where death seems a welcome relief from the agonizing pain of losing everything you once held dear. Having lost family,home,and in the eyes of denominational Christianity my ministry,I am well acquainted with loss.

Beloved,when you have lost it all,when there are no options and no help to be found,life no longer seems worth living.Such is the reality of hopelessness. It is the embodiment of the scripture that says the enemy comes to steal,kill,and destroy(John 10:10).

Ah,but there is hope after all! I know because I’m living proof!hope

Those plans you made? The dreams you had? They might all be a distant memory by now. Many of MY plans have failed.A great many of MY hopes and dreams have been shattered. Those were MY plans and MY dreams.

The purpose of the Lord however,stands eternal.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. Proverbs 19:21   ESV

God has a plan for you. God has big plans for you. A purpose. Thoughts of good,to give you a great finish to this life you live.And his plan for your life supersedes everything else you have already endured or may be enduring at this moment.When you get right down to it,His plans,His purpose,trump all of your heartaches.

When your world crumbles all around you,as it surely will at some point in this life,what’s your survival plan? If you don’t have one,may I suggest one for you?

I would lay hold of the promises of God. Of the One whose purpose stands forever. Lets face it, nothing we can come up with on our own is better than the plans God has for our lives. Why not place our hopes and dreams in His hands?

I can tell you this,it works. When we make Him priority “A” in our lives instead of “plan B”,we may still go through seemingly insurmountable difficulties.The difference is that we are not walking through them alone.We are walking through them with the One whose purpose will stand.

Now that’s what I call a survival plan!

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