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He is not here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a blessed Easter everyone!!

Ron

 

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What’s so good about Good Friday?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s so good about Good Friday?

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

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

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

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

Ron

 

 

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

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Hi neighbor!

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

Mr Rogers Neighborhood

photo from Amazon.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron

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

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

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

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

Fred M. Rogers

The renewal of Spring

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The first day of Spring brings to mind thoughts of Renewal.

While much of the Northeast and Midwest are bracing for yet another round of snow and ice, winter is about to loosen its grip. It has to at some point, just as it does every year.

Soon the ice will melt away, and the snow drifts will become smaller and smaller until we almost forget about those snowplow mountains.

It’s time for Spring. Time for the seasons to change. Time for the Crocus to pop through the cold ground.

spring crocus

Photo by Wilfried Santer on Unsplash

All of us look forward to the close of another long winter, and impatiently wait for the warm spring breezes that are surely on their way.

It’s time for renewal.

As a nation, as individuals, we all need to be renewed, to be cleansed.

We all need to wash off the cobwebs and dust that have collected over these past months. The time has come to snap out of these winter doldrums!

The prophet Jeremiah knew a thing or two about renewal when he prayed for Israel to be restored to their proper relationship with God. How his heart must have been breaking when he prayed these words!

Turn us back to You, O Lord, and we will be restored;
Renew our days as of old,   Lamentations 5:21

My hope is that all of us would pray this prayer:

Lord, we have wandered far from you, so far that we can scarcely remember how we once enjoyed your presence. But we know that you are faithful to forgive us, both as a nation and as one of your children. Father, we pray for renewal. We pray for the new growth of Spring, that it will restore in our hearts that which the locust has eaten and the worm has destroyed.

Revive us O God. We are desperate for Renewal.

Ron

A Tale of two Paths

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The Path you have chosen.

The Path that has been chosen for you.

path

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

I’ve always been somewhat envious of those who carve out their own career path in life. Of course, I suppose all of us do this to a certain extent, whether intentional or not.

I’m referring however to those individuals who are driven to the point of mapping out their lives, setting specific goals, and then working their tails off to achieve those goals.

I’m sure you’ve heard someone talk about how all they ever wanted to do was to accomplish this or that, and years later they finally realized their dreams.

There’s something very special about a person who can maintain such discipline, especially from the perspective of a lot of us who don’t seem to have that specific gene in our DNA.

goals

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

When I was much younger, I too thought I had my life mapped out. I dreamed of making a career in the outdoors as a professional bass fisherman. If that didn’t work out my back up plan was to be a writer, a dream I still wish to pursue.

As is often the case however, things didn’t turn out the way I had envisioned. A little thing called LIFE got in the way, and I said goodbye to fishing and hello to a real job and real responsibilities.

In spite of the twists and turns, the ups and downs, and a few “falling off the cliffs” thrown in for good measure, one day God came knocking on the door of my heart.

And I’ve never been the same since.

It was obvious right from the start that God had another plan for my life. If you’ve ever sensed that God has called you to a higher purpose, then you understand what I’m saying.

When you sense that call, your perspective on life changes because you come to the realization that you are part of something much bigger than anything your own plans could ever accomplish.

When you yield to the call, you are relinquishing control of your destiny and placing it firmly in His hands. And when you take that final step of submission, that’s when it hits you: Someone much higher and much greater than you has had a plan for your life all along.

heavenly sky

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

This is not to say that allowing God to call the shots is always an easy thing to do, because it is not. There is a lot of fear in letting go of the reigns, and I have observed (and learned) that this is actually a work in progress.

Yet there is also a great calmness that comes over us when we allow the Master to take control. A peace that passes all understanding is how Paul referred to it when preaching to the Philippian church.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Philippians. 4:7

Perhaps you’re in a place where your life plans are just not working out the way you thought they would. Who knows, maybe you’re at the point where you’re ready to start over with a brand new plan.

If you are, I pray that you will give God an opportunity to show you the plan that He has for your life. Give Him the chance to show you the difference between you charting your own course, or carving your own path, and Him choosing the best path for your life.

I guarantee you that you will not be disappointed!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

And we wonder why…Part 4

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As I conclude this series I want to begin by focusing on a key point of contention being tossed around today, that being that our school systems are somehow to blame for all of the recent school shootings.

What has brought us to this point in our nation’s history, a point where we find ourselves burying innocent children who have been murdered at school, is not an inept educational system.

Dysfunctional at times…absolutely. However, the current media fixation on all that is wrong with our schools being one of the leading causes of the repeated carnage taking place is just plain wrong.

Interestingly enough, if you were to look closely at the past six decades of education in America, you would see that our schools have always been used as a “battleground” of sorts.

For example:

  • In 1954 Segregation was finally outlawed.
  • In 1962 prayer was banned from public schools. The following year reading the Bible was also banned.
  • In 1972 Title IX became law, prohibiting discrimination based upon sex.
  • In 1983 President Reagan issued the report “A Nation at Risk”, detailing the ways in which America’s schools were underperforming.
  • In 2001 President G.W. Bush signed into law “No Child Left Behind” ,increasing funding while ushering in standards based reforms.
  • In 2010 President Obama’s “Race to The Top” program brought with it many additional education reforms.

It is obvious that the education of America’s children has long been a priority. For certain, mistakes have been made, but there have also been tremendous successes.

Today, our educational system is one of the best in the world. More importantly, our children continue to receive a quality education. While some countries may boast of better test scores, considering the sheer magnitude of our educational system I believe we do a great job.

I think we can also safely say that a lack of funding is generally not a problem (yes, I know, tell that to a teacher!). After all, the trillions of dollars spent on providing a good education testify of our commitment to continue doing so.

The problem of school shootings therefore does not lie with either the school or the government. Both of these entities continue to do what they’ve always done. Why anyone would think that either is to blame for the tragedies in our schools is beyond me.

Of course, there is that issue of finding a Scapegoat…

If not the schools system itself or the government, what then is the problem?

Here’s a thought for you: if you are 50 years of age and upward, how many school shootings happened while you attended school? In my case, there were exactly ZERO school shootings during all of my years of education. How about you?

Likewise, when I was in school we had exactly ZERO school psychologists. The closest thing we had to a psychologist was a guidance counselor, and I realize what a stretch that is.

Did you know that the position of school psychologist is currently one of the most in-demand and highest paid positions in the state of Florida? Not an educator of students mind you, but a psychologist. Think about that for a moment and let it sink in.

How have we gone from a nation where our children’s education was of such primary importance that generation after generation approved one tax levy after another in order to support our schools, to a nation where career educators today have less value than a school psychologist?

How have we gone from a nation where we would send our children off to school each day, confident that they would be taught the necessary skills needed to succeed in this world, to a nation where each day we say goodbye to them causes a nagging fear to surface that this might be the last time I see my child alive?

The hard question that no one wants to ask is this: WHAT HAS CHANGED?

What has changed is the heart and consciousness of America is now on life support. Our society has gone from a vibrant, thriving, God loving one to a society known more for its capacity for evil than its good works.

Our collective soul as a nation is on a death watch.

To put it in the simplest terms: as a nation we are sick. We have been infected with an incurable (by man’s standards) disease. And we need to accept the fact that this disease has infected every facet of our society, including our schools.

And we wonder why the killings?

Judging by the frequency of attacks upon our children, one could make the case that we would rather argue and cast blame than admit we have been inflicted with this disease so that we can then be able to ingest the antidote.

Which by the way, is NOT a school psychologist.

As long as we can argue and blame one another, we can avoid having to confront the real issue here. You see, it’s difficult to admit that we have a disease called SIN, because not only is God not welcome in our schools, neither is He welcome in our government.

And He is becoming less welcome in our homes each and every day.

Get rid of God; get rid of the sin issue. Get rid of the sin issue, we have cleared our consciousness of any guilt in the matter. It’s as old as the original sin in the garden! Isn’t that what we have done?

We can talk all day long about policy changes and new/more gun regulations in the hope that they will put an end to the murder of our children. Let me be the first to say that there must be changes made to prevent access to weapons of any kind by anyone. To continue allowing things to continue as they are is madness.

But let’s be perfectly clear about something: no policy or regulation has ever been implemented that will change a person’s heart, any more than a simple STOP sign will cause everyone to stop at the intersection.

The biggest obstacle to changing the status quo is the fact that our society has yet to hit rock bottom, thus we do not yet want to change. As perverted as this may sound, apparently we have not yet suffered enough, or else we would take the necessary actions to right this sinking ship.

Until we acknowledge that we are incapable of piloting this ship apart from Almighty God, we will continue to flounder in the cesspool of sin and violence.

And our innocent children will continue to be killed.

I won’t bore you with one story after another from the Bible, because history itself is filled with examples of nations and society’s who have chosen the slippery slope of independence from God. And like the proverbial blind leading the blind, we too will fall into a ditch from which there is no escape unless we repent, humble ourselves, and seek His face.

As horrific as it is now, how loudly will this nation cry when these evil, sadistic murderers turn their guns on the nursing homes or the hospitals? How long will it be before someone bursts into a public library and commits the unthinkable?

Lest we forget, it’s happening in our churches right now!

Whereas this nation was once grateful, humble, and thankful for God’s mercy, compassion, blessings, and divine protection, we have in this generation decided that there is no place for God in America.

Accordingly, the innocent among us are now paying the price for the sins of the fathers.

This is our choice.

This is what we wanted.

This is what we received.

Let no one ever say again that God doesn’t give us what we ask.

May God help us is my heart felt prayer.

Ron

And we wonder why…Part 3

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Let us now draw our attention to the leadership of our churches here in America. In the face of a national crisis, which the murder of innocent school children certainly is, we should expect our Christian leaders to rise to the forefront in the fight against such heinous acts.

Appreciatively, many of the mainline denominations were swift to respond to the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, which was reassuring to many.

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for prayer and healing. Episcopal bishops are arranging for services of lamentation at churches around the country. The Presbytery of Tropical Florida has announced a “Vigil of Prayer and Light.

While all of this is good, what they all have in common is that they are reactive responses to the violence that has already occurred. In other words, they’re too late!

This level of violence is interwoven with America’s steep spiritual decline, and as such must be met head on with our spiritual leaders LEADING a proactive charge.

Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas, Texas, all of these horrific acts of extreme violence fade quickly from our memory. To be sure, these events shock us, bring us to tears, make us angry, and cause us to point our collective fingers at what we perceive to be the cause.

They do everything except cause us to change on the inside.

Where is the leadership in our churches collectively calling for repentance? Why don’t our leaders issue a call to adhere to 2nd Chronicles 7:14?

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

How is it that our church leaders can rail against the government, against gun manufacturers, against nearly everything except for SIN?

The problem as I see it that our Church Leadership seems more apt to jump on the bandwagon of blame, rather than lead the spiritual initiatives required to combat this issue.

Recently, I read a Tweet from one of the “rising young stars” in the Charismatic church who declared that he was angry at the Congress and angry at the President for not doing something to stop all this gun violence.

Well my brother, I’m so glad you said that because I feel like you should be angry. I’m angry too. Only, be sure you direct your anger in the right direction.

That’s right, I said it.

Before we blame the President and the Congress, the NRA, or the Conservatives or the Liberals, we need to step back and review what our church’s leaders have done to stem the tide.

For example, it shouldn’t be too hard to add up all the hours we leaders have spent on our faces before God pleading for the soul of this nation, should it? I mean, that is part of OUR responsibility, isn’t it?

And no, Facebook and Twitter “I’m praying for you” prayers do not count. I’m talking about the kind of praying that has all but been forgotten in our churches. The kind of praying that requires we first repent of our own apostasy before we call upon a Holy God.

And it should be real easy to add up how many meals we’ve fasted as we assail the throne of God on behalf of our children, shouldn’t it? That is what real men and women of God do, isn’t it?

I mean, if we’re going to blame someone else we ought to make sure our own house is in order, shouldn’t we? That is how this is supposed to work, is it not?

From where I sit on the front row, I am appalled at how carnal we church leaders have become. We wring our hands along with the rest of the nation, while God waits patiently for someone to “lay hold of the altar”, or to “stand in the gap” for this nation and its children.

Surely, the constant pleas from the grief-stricken parents should be enough to motivate us and drive us to our knees!

I can’t help but wonder however, how much longer God will withhold his rod of judgement. And just to be clear, the rod of judgement will be used first in the house of God.

America’s church leaders are not innocent bystanders in the battle against the forces of darkness that are attacking our children. Far from it. We church leaders have blood on our hands just as any other watchman who fails to sound the alarm.

In the 4th and final installment of the series “And we wonder why”, I’m going to address the question of “what has changed?”

Until next time,

Ron

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