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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.

 

First,last,or somewhere in between,God is always enough.

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You’ve been there, haven’t you? That place where in spite of everyone’s best intentions and most comforting words, you need to hear from God himself. Nothing or no one else will do.

I’ve been there. Lived there and thought I’d die there. That place of lonely desolation, as arid and dry as the Sahara. The thrill of the mountain top gives way to the sinking sands of the desert, where there is no escape and no hope in sight. mountainYou know what’s amazing about those experiences? We share them with some pretty lofty company. Take David for example. David knew a lot of mountain top experiences didn’t he?

Giant killer extraordinaire, lions and bears were no match for his bravery. Songs sung in his honor extolled his valor on the battlefield. He was a warrior without equal, leader of the armies of Israel.

Have you ever thought about yourself in the same light as David? Well, maybe you should! Haven’t you defeated some pretty big giants in your life? No, I’m not referring to a nine foot tall giant named Goliath, but I imagine if you think about it, you’ve slain even bigger ones!

killing your giantsEver defeat a giant called addiction?  Or how about giants from your past, remember the thrill of victory when you realized they would trouble you no longer?

All of us are potential giant slayers in Christ because “greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world“(1st John 4:4)!

There are many voices out there today that are telling us that we can have complete victory over every giant we encounter. But is that reality?

Even as a Christian, in spite of the admonition of scripture and the multitudes of examples recorded for all times sake, sometimes we stumble along the way.

The truth is that as much as we want to, we aren’t likely to subdue every single giant we encounter. With the help of the Lord, often keeping them at bay for a season is cause enough to rejoice.

Just keeping it real here folks.

Now, despite all the accolades ascribed to David, he also had his share of experiences that were not exactly the stuff legends are made of. The one most people know about of course is his affair with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband.

Davids Sin

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Quite the fall from the mountain top, wouldn’t you say? In fact, the rise and fall of David is one of the greatest examples in history of a man who fell from the proverbial penthouse to the outhouse.

Years before that tragic event however, David experienced another situation that brought him to his knees, and while the cause was not as devastating as the one previously mentioned, the potential consequences were nonetheless a matter of life and death.

David escaped from King Saul and fled into the wilderness where he led a small army of bandits, and where he eventually aligned himself with the Philistines. As the Philistines were about to engage Israel in battle, David and his men being part of their army, David was sent away out of fear he would turn and fight for Israel instead.

Upon returning to a city named Ziklag, where he and his men had left their families in safety, they found the city burned and their families taken away. You can hear the anguish in the voices of his followers as they recognized what had happened:

Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep.  And David’s two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had been taken captive.  Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.   1st Samuel 30:4-6   NKJV

Do you see what David did? In the midst of great personal anguish and tragedy, as well as the grief of all of his men, David strengthened himself in the Lord.David Strengthened

In this critical hour, when everything near and dear to him had been taken from him, David understood the secret of not only personal survival, but complete restoration as well. In short, he knew where to turn.

Wisdom teaches that all battle hardened soldiers eventually come to the place where they will either succumb to their fears or prevail over them, in large part due to the size of their heart. That being a soldier can be a life of weariness and fatigue, loneliness and despair, and often as not reinforcements are a long ways off.

The wise soldier in God’s army also understands that strength and encouragement comes from the Lord, that sometimes it has to get down to just you and God, because nothing else will do.

Whether first, last, or somewhere in between, God is always enough.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

Do you know what God uses?

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We’ll, to be sure He uses a lot of things to accomplish His will. Mostly however, He uses people. Broken people. People who have been humbled to the point of understanding that in and of themselves, not much would ever get done for the kingdom this side of heaven. People who “get it” that “…without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

In short, God uses people who can and will hear His voice. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that when God speaks we are to be obedient to His voice.

Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.”   Hebrews 3:15

I am writing this post because I am of the firm belief that God is searching for people; broken, humbled people to reach this generation that is hell bent on self-destruction at a never before seen pace.

The signs are all around us that God is calling His people to the front lines of ministry. Where are these signs, you may ask?

The things we daily witness, man’s inhumanity against his fellow man, open rebellion against God on a scale that would cause Sodom and Gomorrah to blush, all are opportunities to show this world there is a better Way.

In spite of, and perhaps because of the magnitude of evil so prevalent in the world today, Jesus is calling. No less than seven times we read the following words in the book of Revelation:

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;”

Yes indeed, God is looking, searching, and calling for His army to run to the forefront of the battle. He is not calling us to cower in the corner, wringing our hands in fear and desperation at the sight of it all.

We know what God uses, now the question is does anyone hear the call?

Be blessed,

Ron

 

“This work isn’t for wimps”…

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I recently heard these words from a sermon preached by a young minister named Reggie Abraham. Reggie and his family attend the same church we have been attending the past several weeks, and this was my first time hearing him minister.

The thought behind this statement was that we all stumble and fall as we journey on with Jesus, but that just as our Leader stumbled on the way to the Cross but got up and continued on, so must we.

I was struck by the irony of Reggie’s statement for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it’s true that we are often knocked down and must pick ourselves up and start again. Sometimes we have the help of fellow believers to assist us, yet there are also times when it takes the Lord to raise us up and right our ship. Either way, we press onward.

I also found it ironic that Reggie spoke about falling down, because for the past six years he has had more than his share of being down. You see, six years ago Reggie suffered a serious stroke while riding his motorcycle. His right side was paralyzed and it was a miracle that he was able to get his bike stopped, especially considering how fast he was going.

While I don’t know all of the details, having just met him, I do know that he has spent a long, long time trying to rehabilitate his body and return to some sense of normalcy. Today, six years later he is still greatly afflicted on the right side of his body and just recently was able to find employment.

What is so remarkable about Reggie, and others like him who have had to overcome tremendous obstacles in their lives, is his indomitable spirit. His smile is contagious and his sense of humor will leave you laughing along with him as he delivers the Word in a manner that is guaranteed to touch your heart.

All of us face obstacles don’t we? I honestly don’t know a single person who can truthfully claim that their life has been one without hardship, regret, illness, or some sort of catastrophe.

I’m not saying it isn’t possible, but I have yet to meet the person who lives in a bubble, unscathed by the world and all its trappings.

Jesus in fact told us that we would have trouble in this life. He said “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world“.   John 16:33.  ESV

I love how Jesus tells us to “take heart”. Even though trouble will no doubt come our way, He’s saying to us to be encouraged and empowered because He has overcome the world. Do you know that because He has already overcome, you also are an overcomer through Him?

He has gone before you and has walked in some of the same places you walk through. Scripture reminds us that “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin“.   Hebrews 4:15.  ESV

It is a faithful saying that Jesus understands your predicament. He’s been there, done that. Your greatest temptations, the ones that knock you off of your feet, the ones that send you reeling from their consequences, know that Jesus understands them because no one has ever endured the magnitude of temptations He endured.

Unlike many of us however, He successfully overcame them all, and so can you if you’ll place your hope in Him.

As Reggie said, “this work isn’t for wimps”. We all know serving the Lord brings with it unique challenges, and sometimes the journey can seem difficult at best. But the great thing about it is we don’t need to fight or overcome by our own strength or abilities.

Thankfully, God isn’t looking for perfect physical specimens to carry out His work. He isn’t concerned with our BMI, or if we have 13.1 or 26.2 decals on our car windows.

No, we have a great high priest who is leading the charge against our enemies. Our hope, our ultimate victory, is assured in Christ. His resurrection spelled defeat over Satan, over death, over Hell, and over the grave!

And besides, even if you are a wimp, it’s not your battle to fight but Jesus’s. All we need to do is get out of His way!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

Which is better,being perfect or being anointed?

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A week or so ago my wife and I were asked to sing a song at the new church we’ve been attending for the past few weeks. Being thrilled for the opportunity, we gladly accepted the Pastor’s invitation. We chose an older song that was both familiar to us and one that my wife thought would bless those in attendance.

After practicing the song a few times at home we were ready by the time the mid-week service rolled around on Wednesday. The only music was me on the guitar, and due to some issues with my guitar’s pickup I wasn’t able to amplify it but had to play through a microphone. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but in this case I was not able to hear it clearly while we were singing.guitar sunset

To make a long story short, I stumbled a few times both while singing and playing. The worst was when I tried to play and sing a particular note but because I couldn’t hear it well enough, my fingers went one way and my voice another. Huge embarrassment right there!

Anyway, we got through it and took our seats. Much to my great surprise a lady whom we didn’t know came to us and shared that that particular song was exactly what she needed to hear. Soon, others also expressed their appreciation for our heartfelt song.

Meanwhile, in musicministry-v3spite of all the wonderful comments, yours truly was none too happy over his poor performance. Which brings me to the thought behind this post.

I beat myself up for several days because I was embarrassed at not hitting the right notes, so much so that the resident Princess reminded me that being perfect seemed to be more important to me than ministering to someone’s need.

Ummm…OUCH!

I knew exactly what she was getting at. Rather than permitting the Lord to work through us to minister to a hurting heart, imperfect as our song was, I wanted instead to display perfection in our capabilities. Did you get that…OUR capabilities?

Now, don’t get me wrong,  I believe we should do our best no matter what avenue of ministry we’re working in. To be sure, our version of the song that night would not win any contests, but what it lacked in perfection, it made up for that in that it touched someone’s heart.

When you get right down to it, isn’t that what ministry does? It reaches the heart and does the work of the Holy Spirit, a work that we ourselves cannot do. It is only when we yield ourselves to the Spirit that He is able to accomplish what needs to be done.The-Ministry-of-the-Holy-Spirit

All of us have been called to minister in one way or another. In fact, Peter tells us that “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God“.   1 Peter 4:10

My prayer is that I will get out of His way and permit Him to do what He knows needs to be done. If that involves a sour note or two, what does it matter so long as the end result is someone being strengthened in their walk with the Lord?

Have a blessed day!

Ron

 

Encounters of the God Kind

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Have you ever had an encounter with someone that impacted your life so powerfully that you have never been the same?

Perhaps your spouse, a teacher, a famous person? How about a complete stranger?

My point is that we encounter all types of people along the way as we journey from here to there, and those encounters can be impactful both positively and negatively.

Reading the four Gospels, we find people of every social and economic class encountering Jesus. Rich young rulers, poor destitute beggars, religious leaders of various sects, even a tax collector or two thrown in for good measure. It seems Jesus was no stranger to any of them.

What I find so amazing about the encounters Jesus had with all of these people is that all of them share one commonality. That is, whenever anyone encountered Jesus, they never left the same way they came. In other words, their encounter with Jesus impacted them in ways that forever changed them.

Which brings me to the heart of the matter: if we have had an encounter with Jesus, how has it impacted our lives, how has it changed us for the good?

Those are powerful questions, aren’t they?

Recently, my wife shared an article with me that she happened upon which in essence declared “that because of grace, we are all a work in progress”.

The article further went on to make the case that when someone comes to faith in Christ it can take decades to weed out some of our bad habits and sins. Therefore, established Christians are not to think badly of, or look down upon these new converts that have yet to mature in their faith.

I find that I am in agreement with some of the points made in the article, and others I am in opposition to. For example:

I certainly do agree that we are all a work in progress. I know that I am!      Romans 3:23 tells us that “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Pretty safe to say that all includes each one of us, agree?

And no one could argue that our sanctification is a lifelong process in which God chips away at this veil of flesh every day, forming, molding, and shaping us into His likeness.

I also agree that we cannot sanitize grace. Let’s face it; sin is messy, dirty, complicated, and downright ugly in the face of a Holy God. Grace demands patience, for it cannot be rushed lest its work in us fall short.

Where I disagree however is with the premise that after decades of Christian living, our growth and maturity can remain negligible. While we can debate the expected growth and maturity rate of a new believer, I contend that anyone who has come into the very presence of Jesus will grow and they will mature.

Think of it this way; if you stayed at the same levels you were at while attending the 1st grade, you would never accomplish much over your lifetime, would you? Of course not! You had to grow, to learn, to mature, because all of these elements are necessary for your success.

It’s really no different when you become born again. You are a new creation in Christ. The old man has passed away, and a new man has taken its place. This new man is essentially starting over in the 1st grade of life, and embarks on a lifelong journey of learning.

What would happen to that new believer if they stayed in the same place? They would not grow, not mature, and not learn. In reality, they would exist and not much more.

Is that what the Lord desires for us? Hardly! Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.  III John 1:2

My prayer today is that we would understand that God wants us to grow and mature in our walk with Him. It is not His will that we stay the same, but rather that we have a life of blessing and abundance!

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.   John 10:10

An encounter of the God kind will change you for all of eternity. Being with Jesus means you can never stay the same, for “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”…   Philippians 1:6

Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

Ron

 

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