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The Glory of the Lord has departed

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Ichabod

What a strange word, and an even stranger name for a child.

Yet that is what a dying mother named her child upon hearing the tragic news that both her husband and father-in-law were dead, and that the Ark of God had been taken from Israel. 

While you can read all about this heart wrenching episode in Israel’s history in the 4th chapter of 1st Samuel, here is an excerpt that tells how it came to be that a distraught mother named her child Ichabod.

19 Now his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, due to be delivered; and when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and gave birth, for her labor pains came upon her.

20 And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Do not fear, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer, nor did she regard it.

21 Then she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband.

22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”

This Ark of God is the very same Ark of the Covenant that went before Israel as they sojourned in the wilderness. Inside of it were the two stone tablets that contained God’s handwritten Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod that budded, and a pot of manna.

To Israel, this Ark represented the very presence of God in their midst, and it was a most Holy possession to them. To have lost the ark was to them the same thing as losing God, hence the reference to “the Glory has departed from Israel”.

As if losing the priest and both his sons in one day weren’t enough, the loss of the Ark had a profound impact upon the nation of Israel. When it was captured by the Philistines, along with it went Israel’s hope, strength, and courage. In short, the departure of the Ark negatively affected an entire nation.

From where I sit, I see an amazing parallel emerging right before our eyes. The world at large today, and in particular America, is suffering the same effects as Israel because in our world “the Glory of the Lord has departed”.

Or perhaps the sincerer assessment would be to acknowledge that the world has departed from God, believing it has found life without Him to be “our best life now”.

Whether through the crushing methodologies of oppressive regimes, or willful, deliberate acts of spiritual abandonment committed by the masses, it is a fair statement to say that the majority of people neither want or know God any longer.

To be sure, we have fabricated an image of God in our minds, one that we have created to serve us at our whim, to pour money into our accounts, to be at our beck and call when trouble arises, only to be shelved until the next crisis.

By and large however, we have abandoned our spiritual birthright and heritage because it is not the God of the Bible that we desire.

In our churches we no longer expect or want God to show up in our midst. For Him to do so would require us to humble ourselves and repent of our transgressions, and that does not compute with a people who only want God on their terms.

Deliberate or not, and I believe it is, we have effectively “engineered” God out of the church. Disguised as the ritualistic order of worship, we carefully plan our church services down to the most minute of details, thus ensuring that even if the Almighty should desire to come down and deal with our hearts, there has been no time allotted for Him to do so.

For many, there is no expectation of going to the house of God in order to meet with Him there. Instead, we go out of a sense of duty, or because we’ve been taught that it’s the “right thing to do”.

Instead of meeting with Him there, we are sadly content to sit and listen to a nice, ‘easy on the ears and conscious’ story about Him! In short, we have no intention of having an encounter with the living God!

This is the result of “the Glory of the lord has departed”.

The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?   Jer. 5:31   emphasis mine

Your experiences are probably different than mine, however I have observed a peculiar phenomenon over these past four decades of my walk with God. That is that when man demonstrates a lack of zeal for God, his word, or his presence, God will not force himself upon them.

His Glory departs, leaving them to go about their religion without Him. In His absence is a cold, indifferent, faithless man-centered organization comprised of dead men’s bones. Good for nothing, entrapping men in its clutches, enslaving them in the bondage of religiosity.

Herein is the real tragedy of all of this: it was never intended to be this way!

Jesus taught that “whom the Son sets free is free indeed”, yet by our own actions we have established that we are not content to be free. Instead of freedom, we long to be chained to the same mistakes of those who long ago learned that “without Me, you can do nothing”. John 8:36, 15:5

As I look around this nation, am I the only one who mourns over what was, and what might have been? My soul is grieved over what we have done to the God who loved us enough to sacrifice His only Son for our sins!

For all of this however, I am convinced that all hope is not lost.

Nations will fall, as they always have when they have abandoned the God of heaven. Nevertheless, as He did in days long gone, I believe God has reserved to himself a remnant that are committed to Him no matter how difficult life becomes.

“Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”  1st Kings 19:18

My hope is in Jesus Christ, and in Him alone will I place my trust. I look to no party or person to give me hope for a better future. That ship has sailed, I am sad to say.

Only God can provide real hope for His children, and I intend to cling to His glorious  hope for the rest of my days.

My prayer is that His Glory never departs from you.

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

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What would you do…

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My wife recently told me about a question that she had either heard or read someplace:

What would you do if tomorrow you woke up to realize that the only possessions you still had were those that you had given thanks for today?

Thoughts?

 

He Thought of Us

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We had a wonderful service this morning, and I just had to share the song my wife sang right before we served communion.

While I do not know the writer of this song, whoever wrote it was most certainly inspired to do so. The lyrics are piercing and paint a picture of the final hours of Jesus on earth in a very personal manner.

I pray it touches your heart as much as it did mine. I am admittedly biased, but I thought my wife delivered this song in a way that touched a lot of people. For sure, I wasn’t the only one in the service who had to wipe away a few tears.

Her song starts at around the 11:20 mark if you wish to FF to it.

Ron

You Thought of Us

 

Why people can’t fix people

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The recent slaughter of innocent concert goers in Las Vegas has the nation clamoring, once again, for some type of gun control in an attempt to eliminate these horrific mass murders once and for all.

And once again, we choose to ignore the fact that people are making the choice to kill and injure defenseless people for reasons that any rational person could not begin to understand.

But we know that guns must be the problem, or so we are told. We evidently have a behavioral problem when it comes to guns, therefore in order to change this behavior we must control guns.

Controlling guns = elimination of the problem. Or so we are told.

For the record, I am convinced that guns are not the problem in America.

I am convinced that people who reject the counsel of God are the problem in America.

Rather than humble our hearts before the Almighty, humanity has chosen to go another way. God and His rule has been supplanted by His very creation, who has deemed God as no longer relevant in a cultured society.

To understand what is happening in America and the rest of the world does not require the IQ of a rocket scientist. It is actually 100% predictable, and should cause us to drop to our knees in prayer because the Bible declares that evil men will only become more evil (Matt. 24:12).

If that doesn’t cause concern to rise within you, please check your pulse.

We have blinders on, and we are terrified of the Godless monster, aka our “utopian society” that we have created. This monster is out of control, and he has an insatiable appetite for destruction.

The terrifying truth is that we are part of a society that is on the verge of collapse.

Have we not noticed that after every mass shooting or similar act of terror, celebrities and politicians come out of the woodwork calling for more laws, more restraints, more rules?

More control. More failed attempts at people fixing people.

Anything that is, except for a return to God.

The founding father’s understood that if our society abandoned the God of the Bible, that we would in effect seal our own destiny.

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. – John Adams

This is, in essence, why so many believe that America must rewrite it’s Constitution. It’s much easier to create new laws based upon man’s ideology than to have to humble ourselves before God.

As I’ve said before, America has a God problem. As in “how do we make Him go away”?

Americans are angry, and angry people are irrational. Instead of looking to guns as a scapegoat, perhaps we should call for a national day of repentance instead. I have to believe that an honest, inward search of our hearts would reveal much that we need to repent of. And guns would likely not make anyone’s top ten list!

Imagine what this nation would be like if it once again respected God and His word.

Now, there’s a utopian society for you…

If people could fix people, there would have been no need for Jesus to come and offer Himself as the ultimate sacrifice required to redeem man.

But He did come, and He is still calling people to come to Him.

He remains the one and only fix for broken people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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