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Taking my toys and going home

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For just a moment, envision the little boy or girl who doesn’t like the baseball game, the rules, or the players. Frustration rises with each swing and a miss. The tension mounts with each strikeout, with each dropped ball.

Finally, unable to take it any longer he or she loudly announces to anyone that will listen that “I’m taking my toys and going home”!

Have you ever taken your toys and gone home? Or at the very least, wanted to? Maybe the better question would be are there any of us who haven’t wanted to take our toys and go home?

There are lots of ways to do it, many of them having nothing to do with playing a game.

How about wanting to quit your job? In my long work career I must have quit my job a thousand times. Though I didn’t vocalize it, I know I thought to myself “I’m done, I quit, I’m outa here” at least that many times. Only to return the next day of course!

When things don’t go our way, or the way we think they should go, it can be difficult to stay the course. This is especially true if we think we have all the answers and know better than the leader how things should be done.

I’ve found myself in such a predicament more than a few times, and I’ve come to realize that it’s especially easy for me to fall into this trap now that I am retired.

With no one now to supervise, direct, or teach (the Princess of the house refuses to play the part), I find myself becoming unnecessarily critical of others who don’t do it the way I think they should.

It happens at church too. Decisions are made about the order of service, the color of the carpet, song selection, and a host of other necessary things. Oh, and there are all those rules one is expected to follow, any one of which could cause us to want to take our toys and go home.

How hard is it to criticize the decisions of others?

Not very!

Have you ever thought about what is at the root of this behavior? What makes an otherwise rational, intelligent individual act like this?

In a word, it’s a heart problem. It’s a “it’s my way or the highway” problem. It’s an obedience problem. In other words, it all goes back to a selfish heart that says if I don’t get my way, I’m taking my toys and going home.

It’s during these times when it’s best to pull back a bit and ask ourselves “is this how Jesus would want me to handle this situation”?

The answer to that can be found in the garden of Gethsemane. It was here that Jesus showed us the better way when it comes to obedience.

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”   Mat. 26:39

It’s not about what I want, Jesus prayed, but it’s about what the Father desires. Jesus was the epitome of what a real servant is, becoming obedient even to the death on the Cross.

There’s a vital lesson here for all of us. Our attitudes towards others is a direct reflection of the condition of our heart. Getting angry, pouting, and taking our toys and going home is not the mark of a humble servant. It is the mark of someone whose heart has grown cold.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some work to do in this area.

How about you?

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

 

 

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More than conquerors

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When you think of the word ‘Conqueror’, what do you envision?

  • Overcomer?
  • Warrior?
  • Winner?

While the dictionary definition looks like this, when I think of the word ‘Conqueror’, I think of a battle that has been fought and won.

Battles are fought every day of our lives. Some are won and some are lost. Let’s face it, we do not always feel like a Conqueror, do we? That is just the unfortunate reality of living in a fallen world

From a spiritual perspective, things can appear to be not much different in that we are in a constant state of battle, winning some and coming up short in others.

There is one huge difference however, and that is that when we look at things from an eternal point of view, we win.

Simply stated, we win.

The Apostle Paul knew a few things about conquering. In his amazing letter to the Christians at Rome, Paul talks about things that were a very real threat to those believers.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?   Romans 8:35

Those early Christians suffered horribly under Roman authority, especially Nero. Persecution, death, starvation, and torture were things every Christian back then had to come to grips with. On the surface, from a fleshly point of view, one might expect that any of these things could, if possible, separate the believer from his Lord.

Paul, however, answered his own question by declaring that he knew of nothing that could separate a child of God from their Heavenly Father. Nothing!

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 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 8:37-39

This matters to us today because the intensity of the battle is increasing at a rapid pace. Christians are facing severe trials of their faith today, many of whom are being put to death daily. Consider that every month, on average:

  • 345 Christians are killed for faith-related reasons
  • 105 Churches and Christian buildings are burned or attacked
  • 219 Christians are detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned

Here in the U.S. Christians are facing a different kind of orchestrated attack. Instead of blatant persecution and killings, we Christians in America are being worn down gradually. Our resistance to sin is being eroded, gradually worn down by the forces of evil and spiritual wickedness that sit in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)

Make no mistake beloved, the enemy is very, very real. His methods in America, while vastly different (up till now), are no less effective in their efforts to quench the Spirit of God, and to destroy the testimony of Jesus in this nation.

Our hope lies in the truth of God’s word that declares that we are more than conquerors, and that there is NOTHING that can separate us from the love of God. It is imperative that we grasp this and burn it into our hearts.

May I remind you that this world is not our home. This is merely a dress rehearsal for the life which is to come. As hard as it is not to become attached to our favorite things or causes, simply stated we are just passing through. There’s something far more grand than this earth that will be our eternal home one day.

Much like the Patriarch Abraham who looked for a city whose builder and maker was God(Hebrews 11:10), we have a promise of a home far beyond anything our eyes can imagine. A city reserved for those who are ‘More than Conquerors’.

I don’t know exactly what’s coming next. I cannot state for certain what Christians in America will be called upon to endure for His glory. Paul mentioned “things present or things to come”, so we know that something is coming, yet whatever it is, it cannot pull you from the arms of Jesus.

What I can state with 100% certainty is that God will give us the grace to conquer it all through Him.

That you would take comfort in these words is my prayer,

Ron

Is there a mountain in your life that needs removed?

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Have you ever driven through the mountains? If you have, you have no doubt marveled at how the road was seemingly carved out of solid rock.

It’s interesting to see how the engineers overcame certain obstacles in the building of these roads. Some roads go right through the mountain in elaborately constructed tunnels, while others wind all the way around the outside of the mountain.

However the method, one thing is certain: it took a lot of very hard work to move that mountain in order to construct safe roadways in its place.

Much like those roadways, all of us have mountains in our lives that serve as giant obstacles to us. These mountains come in many shapes and sizes, and all of them have one thing in common: they are in our way, and we must find a way around them.

Fortunately for us, Jesus gave His disciples an important lesson in removing these mountains from their lives.

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.    Mark 11:22-24

Knowing that we are children of faith, all of us can say that we have been given a certain measure of faith. Understanding this, it should be easy enough to follow Jesus’ instructions, agree?

Except that when we look at our own circumstances in light of the verses above, we question just what kind of faith we actually have. After all, Jesus makes it sound pretty easy, doesn’t he? Just say the words and POOF!, it’s done!

Yet when we say to our own mountain “be removed”, it doesn’t budge. What gives?

The key to understanding this is when Jesus says if we do not doubt in our hearts, we shall have what we ask.

Talk about a mountain! DOUBT is the biggest mountain in all of our lives. Well, at least it is in my life. If we are to have the faith to remove these mountains from our lives, DOUBT has to go.

How do we accomplish this?

The answer my friends is found in our hearts. The only way to remove the mountains from our lives is to assume a fighting position, and for a Christian that means to humble our heart before God and pray.

You see, it is only when we pray that we bring God into the battle. Merely reciting a repeat after me prayer that someone else prayed is not believing in your heart.

This must be personal!

I have found that having ‘mountain moving faith’ is a process. A very long and arduous process. It’s a process built upon one small victory after another until eventually you have the faith to say to those mountains in your life “be removed”, and they will obey you.

If you have a mountain in your life that needs to be removed, I suggest the starting point is simply humbling our heart before the Lord.

Self needs to disappear into the background, while the Lord needs to come to the forefront. When we are diminished, He is exalted. Less of us…more of Him.

That is the foundation of ‘mountain moving faith’. When we build upon it daily, we will begin to see those impassable mountains begin to crumble before our eyes.

Have a blessed day!

Ron

 

 

 

It never ceases to amaze me…

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Have you ever noticed how that certain topics will stir the masses to action while other, equally important topics barely draw a whimper?

Consider for example the President. Any time his name is mentioned one of two things is sure to happen.

  1. His followers will defend his actions no matter how questionable
  2. His detractors will demonize his actions no matter how beneficial

Love him or hate him, very few remain on the fence about him.

And so it is with any number of controversial topics, people, or subjects. Everyone has an opinion, and most are only too willing to share theirs with the world. Except for one distinct group of people, that is.

It seems that the only group that remains consistently silent in the face of controversy are those who call themselves Christians.

As sheep being led to the shearer, we Christians have a peculiar propensity to remain mostly mute, content to watch from the sidelines while the spirit of AntiChrist marches towards ultimately criminalizing Christianity in America.

Think about that statement for just a moment.

  • It is the Church that is supposed to be Christ’s representative on the earth.
  • It is the Church that has been charged with leading men out of darkness into the light.
  • It is the Church that is supposed to be leading by example in all areas of spirituality and morality.

In other words, the Church is supposed to be heard from!

Yet it never ceases to amaze me that when the Church needs to rise to the occasion, it is as if someone pushes a ginormous MUTE button and she remains silent.

So it is with the recent House of Representatives “Equality Act“. This bill, which passed by a margin of 236-173, is one of those that if it ever becomes law will forever change the way that you live in America.

Simply put, this “Act” makes no allowance for communities or individuals of faith who hold traditional views of marriage and gender. In other words, if you hold to a Biblical viewpoint, you will find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

Personally, I absolutely believe this bill we eventually become the law of the land because once those who currently oppose of it are disposed of, there will be no stopping it.

If by some chance you have never heard of this legislation, you owe it to yourself and your family to read it. You need to know what is coming and the impact it will have upon your life, because life as you now know it will be over.

For a “plain English” summary, simply Google “Equality Act and the Church” and you will find all you care to digest on the matter. The link above will take you to the first post in the search engine.

I have searched for an official response from the Church to this atrocity of legislation but other than a few comments from fringe denominations such as the Seventh Day Adventist church and the LDS, I haven’t found much from mainline Christianity

Which in itself is an abomination.

It never ceases to amaze me how legislation that is diametrically opposed to all things “Godly” can be proposed, and the Church will step aside and allow it to become law without any resistance.

Then again, we’ve seen this movie played out before, time and time again. The tens of millions of lives destroyed by the likes of Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Kim Jong Un, and more recently Saddam Hussein all took place with barely any organized resistance from the Church.

How any rational person can remain oblivious to the fact that the Church is in an epic battle with “spiritual wickedness in high places” is quite simply beyond me. [1]

All that is left is for individual Christians to pray and seek the face of God. Pray for the strength to stand in the face of the severe trials that are surely coming upon this nation. Pray that we will be given the grace to to hold fast to our convictions, no matter the personal cost we must endure.

Ron

 

[1] Eph 6:12  “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”.

Sizzling For Jesus?

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About a month ago, my wife and I were discussing some different areas of ministry, and in particular the area of preparedness. In other words, how we might approach the different ways in which we minister to people.

Now, as regular readers may know, my wife is extremely adept at getting to the crux of the matter. In other words, she doesn’t mince words but gets right to the point.

So it was on this occasion as we were discussing the study time necessary in order to prepare and deliver a sermon. Her exact quote is as follows:

”If the only time we push the pan close to the fire is when we are scheduled to preach (teach, sing, pray, etc), then we are not being faithful. We should be as close to the fire as possible at all times!” Of course, she was correct in her assessment.

To use her as an example, she is a gifted soloist and is often asked to sing at our church. To many, she’s just a pretty face standing up there singing her beautiful songs. And I’m just as certain that there are a few who see her as merely the “entertainment”.

I, on the other hand, know differently. When she is scheduled to sing, the first thing she does is to pray about what song to sing. This isn’t a quick thought like “well Lord, what’s it going to be this time?” Not at all!

She will pray until she believes she has heard from the Lord about the song He wants her to sing. Do you know why she does that? It’s because her song is her ministry gift from the Lord, and she takes that very seriously.

So seriously that she wouldn’t think of not being prepared to deliver her gift. That includes much prayer as well as a lot of practice time in her “studio”( it’s actually our garage, but she refers to it as her studio). Her gifting is in worship, and when she sings she is singing as if Jesus was sitting on the front row.

She does not “perform”, rather what she does is worship the King of Kings.

It’s no different then when I am asked to speak in one of the services. I have to know that I’ve heard from the Lord before I will ever step behind the pulpit. To do so knowing that I was unprepared would be an insult to the Lord, and you can believe me when I say that isn’t going to happen.

This takes many hours of study and prayer, because just like my wife, my calling is very serious to me. I understand that many do not take this approach, in fact, I have had my share of people tell me I am far too serious about this. Imagine that!

For me, however, there is no other way.

I’m that serious because it’s very personal to me. It’s like a covenant between the Lord and me, and I don’t ever want to break that covenant. So I endeavor to be as prepared as I possibly can be when I’m called upon.

Whatever area the Lord has gifted you in, I trust that you also take it seriously. Whatever gifts and callings we may have, use them to your fullest capability. They were given to you for a purpose, and that purpose is to use them to bring glory and honor to God.

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.   Romans 11:29

That’s how important and serious this is.

My Princess had one final thought on the matter of preparedness, and I will leave you with that.

You can’t sizzle for Jesus unless your pan is on the fire!

That’s right my love, and we’re going to keep right on sizzling together for Him!

Be blessed on this wonderful Lord’s day!

Ron

The next BIG thing

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I’ve been studying 1st Corinthians 2 where the Apostle Paul speaks about the gospel being presented in a demonstration of Spirit and of Power. I’m sure most of you are familiar with this subject matter, but for reference sake I’ll post a few key verses.

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.  For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1st Corinthians 2:1-5

Knowing the capabilities of Paul to more than hold his own in any theological debate, I find it interesting that he would start this letter by saying he wasn’t coming to them using excellency of speech or wisdom.

We know that this man Paul studied at the feet of Jewish scholars, and was well versed in the Old Testament scriptures. He most certainly had attained a high level of wisdom, and his knowledge of various languages gave him the ability to converse with nearly everyone. He disputed with the Jews and Greeks frequently, clearly demonstrating to all that he was on their level, so to speak.

Yet he said that he pretended not to know anything except for Jesus and him crucified. In other words, Paul’s heart was for winning souls. He knew that the key to winning these people was to become one of them. So he left his superior knowledge, education, and skills at home so that he might be received by these Corinthians.

Do you think there might be a lesson here for all of us today? Might we be better soul winners if we were to lose the attitude? Is it possible that if we humbled ourselves and got down on the level of those who are so desperate for hope, that we might actually have something to offer?

Paul went on to say that his preaching was not done with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power.

What he meant by that is that he did not come to entertain them as though he were some great orator. The people were accustomed to hearing speeches given by politicians, sages, philosophers, and other learned men of the day. As such, they were always on the lookout for the next BIG thing.

If Paul had come to them as one of these, it is likely that they would have paid him very little attention. Paul, however, was hardly in the ‘entertainment business’.

The Apostle knew that the Corinthians had many voices vying for their attention. There was one voice, however that they had yet to hear from. This voice not only spoke at a level they could appreciate, but it was accompanied by a demonstration of God’s power.

These passages remind me of how desperate the Church is today for a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God. When I say that, I am making a clear distinction between the Spirit and power of God as Paul knew it, and that which is passed off today as being from God.

We have a lot of voices in the world today who claim to speak for God and to operate in His power. Sadly, these voices are nothing more than con men(and women), who have figured out that desperate people will shell out millions of dollars in hopes of receiving their miracle.

This is not, however, the power that Paul spoke of. As a matter of fact, the Apostle Paul would have soundly rebuked each and every one of these modern day deceivers.

Unfortunately, the Church isn’t aware of it’s desperate state. Instead, she is only too willing to continue down the path towards capitulation to the gods of this world.

Such is the price that must be paid when the Church embraces the world and its standards, instead of proclaiming herself as the standard bearer of Biblical truth and righteousness.

Oh how I wish that pastors everywhere would once again teach this to their congregations. Instead, what we have is a modern day system of idolatry, where pastor worship has become the norm.

Beloved, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God”(1st Cor. 3:19). Do not allow your hearts to be deceived by placing your faith in man. Whatever wisdom man has, it is temporal. It is fleeting, destined to pass away.

The power of God however is from everlasting to everlasting. It transcends the wisdom of man, indeed the natural man cannot begin to understand such power.

Paul desperately wanted the Corinthians to understand that their faith must not be in the wisdom of men….but in the power of God.

Instead of always searching for the next BIG thing, my earnest prayer is that we who know Him as Lord and Savior will come to experience His power in a very real and tangible way.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

Old habits sure are hard to break

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I like to talk to people. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re young or old, male or female, or what nationality they may claim. I find people interesting, and I enjoy striking up a conversation with them.

I’m that guy who goes to Walmart with his wife and disappears for a few minutes, only to be found two aisles over talking to someone he’s never met before.

Yep, that guy.

If I see someone just moving in the neighborhood I’ll probably strike up a conversation with them the first chance I get. Just did that a few days ago as a matter of fact.

The ladies in my house think my talking to complete strangers is a bit odd.

They may be right.

What’s funny (to me) about this is that until I was in my early 20’s I was extremely shy and socially awkward. Even looking someone in the eyes was a major struggle for me. Maybe some of you can relate?

It wasn’t until I became a Christian and began to grown in my faith that I actually began to see myself as “good enough” and on equal footing as the rest of the world. Oh sure, I had plenty of people telling me that I would never be more than the shy, introverted country boy I’d always been, but I was determined to be more than that.

By the grace of God and the support of the best wife in the world I went farther than what anyone ever thought I would or could. Along the way I found my voice and God opened many, many doors for me to use it. Again, it was nothing I did. To God be the Glory for every good thing that has come my way!

So, as I said, I enjoy talking to people. I’m finding out however, that I’m not supposed to be doing that any longer, at least not without some restraints. Let me explain.

A few months ago I was out walking and the school bus dropped off a young lady and as the bus pulled away, I said hello to her. She didn’t respond, which I took to mean she didn’t hear me. So I said something to the effect of “I bet you’re glad to be out of school for the day, aren’t you”? This time she murmured something that I couldn’t understand. With that, she seemed to pick up the pace and hurried to get home.

Odd, I thought.

Just last night I was wandering around Target and I hear the familiar sounds of SuperMario coming from the electronics section of the store. I used to love playing Mario when it first came out, so I was naturally drawn to the sounds.

As I round the corner I see a young boy about 10 years of age intently focused on the game he was playing. He was pretty good at it and I complimented him on his skills. In response he barely glanced over his shoulder at me. I watched a few more seconds and told him that I too used to love to play Mario, and this time he didn’t even look at me. The silence felt very awkward, so I quickly left.

Recounting these events with my family I was told that I was probably thought of as an old creeper. In other words, I cannot strike up a conversation with children I don’t know, because I will be thought of as a potential predator.

As I listened to my daughter(who works with kids at a day care)tell me about how I should keep to myself when I’m around strange kids, it all started to make sense and I knew she was right. After all, no telling how many times these kids have been told about “Stranger Danger”. To them, I’m just another old guy that wants to harm them.

I get it.

Still, none of this sits well with me. I don’t like not being able to smile at a child or make over a baby in the store without it stepping over some line that society has deemed uncrossable. It’s just an automatic, natural thing to want to say “hi”.

Honestly, I get it.

Sadly, I get it.

Actually, tit’s kind of heartbreaking if you want to know the truth about it.

So I guess I’m left to wander around the store, hands in my pockets, eyes straight ahead, wearing blinders so I don’t notice the children. I’m to pretend there are nothing but grown ups within 100 yards of me. Which really stinks, because I seem to get along much better with kids than people my own age.

And that my friends, is the society we have descended into. Not much more to say about that I suppose.

Old habits sure are hard to break…I wonder how long it’ll be before I smile at some kid and ask “how ya doin”?

Be blessed on this Lord’s day,

Ron

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