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How to have faith in God’s timeless process

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Face it.As much as we’d like to believe that hidden somewhere in the pages of God’s Word there exists a little known formula for living a charmed life,life’s journey has taught us that there is no quick fix,no potion,no enchantment that will deliver the kind of success being touted by the proponents of the prosperity gospel.

No glitzy TV programs,no Sunday snake oil salesman,no faith/power of positive confession/self help/sow your best seed now types of conferences,no slick self promoting “get in on this special offer now” spiel,will ever supplant God’s timeless process of faithful maturation.

You can’t buy it. You can’t steal it. For certain you can’t con your way to get it.

You have to earn it.Like a badge or a medal that is awarded to only a select few,growing in the faith and grace of our Lord is a process that will literally take the rest of your life.Indeed,our faith is continually growing, and that is as it should be lest we become stagnant and die.

In his 2nd letter to the church at Thessalonica,Paul was encouraged by their demonstrations of faith and love toward one another. “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;” II Thess 1:3    KJV

Paul draws us to the fact that their faith was “growing exceedingly”. For him to note this he would have had to have seen some outward,physical proof of this growth,which of course he recognized in their infectious love for one another.

These early Christians serve as wonderful examples to us today of the kind of growing faith and love that comes from God as we walk with Him daily. Did you notice the absence of so much of what we think of as church today? Are we missing something?

Could it be that these early Christians had already discovered the “formula” that so many seek today? I suggest that they had indeed found the secret to living the successful Christian life that the church today is searching for. In all the wrong places I might add.

The fact that this early church loved one another abundantly is ample evidence of their growing faith in God.Consider if you will that these Christians had no internet,no phone,no TV,no church buildings,and no programs for every member of the family.What they did have however… was each other!

Given the current church’s appetite for a “one stop shopping”brand of Christianity where an attempt is made to provide something for everyone,we are left to wonder how these poor,unfortunate,backward men and women ever survived.

They not only survived,but they also prospered because they trusted the Lord to see them through every situation.In other words,they trusted the process. James also,in speaking of the process said that “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”   James 1:12   KJV

All too often this flesh does not want to endure much of anything, but will instead look for the closest exit or way of escape.In doing so we fail to see the hand of God guiding us through the process,thus stunting the growth of our own faith.

So how do we get to the place where we can have faith in God’s process? I think the writer of Hebrews said it best.”For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”  Heb. 10:36

Patience in the process.Patience and endurance to see the race ran to completion.If we can learn patience,we will see a faith that grows exceedingly,a love for one another that abounds,and an enduring spirit that understands the process.

Continue in the things we have learned

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Unlike so many of you,I had little in the way of church,or religious training while growing up. I could count on both hands the number of times I went to church during those years,so to say I got a late start would be an understatement! Quite the contrast to my wife,the pastor’s daughter, whose earliest memories are of being in church!

During those early years I could never have imagined that one day God’s Word would become the bedrock of my life. Indeed,had God never drawn me to Him and instilled in me a deep hunger to know His Word,my life would have been unimaginably different.

As I gaze upon the events unfolding in the world I can’t help but pause to give God thanks that I am no longer the person I used to be,or the person I could have easily become. At this stage of my life,I now know more assuredly than I ever have before,that He and He alone has kept me from reverting back to that person I once was.

He has a plan for my life. And He has one for you too.

Listening to current events can be disturbing to even the most well grounded among us. For those not familiar with God’s Word,some of these events are actually frightening when you realize their potential implications.To those people,it must seem overwhelming watching the evening news.

The Apostle Paul knew something about this as well and even prophesied about it. In 2nd Timothy 3:2 he described the condition of the world in the latter days as a time when men would be lovers of themselves,boastful,proud,and a whole host of other not too pleasant things,most of which we are seeing unfold right before our eyes.

Yet this great Apostle knew something else about this,which was that irregardless of what was going on around us,we were to continue walking with Christ as though nothing was happening. He explained it this way:

10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance,
11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.
12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.    II Tim 3:10-15   NKJV   (emphasis mine)

Paul tells us we must continue in the things we have learned,which brings me to the central point of this post. All of us must remind ourselves from time to time that our hope is sealed in Jesus Christ. The things we have learned through our studies of the scriptures have made us wise for salvation,meaning the Word of God will instruct us in all things necessary for our salvation.

Events taking place now in the world,and events to come in the future all have the ability to divert our attention away from the “things we have learned”. Our responsibility is to make certain that does not happen,which we can accomplish by following Paul’s advice to Timothy.

Have a blessed Wednesday,

Ron

The Invisible Line

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The Church.

For over two thousand years “The Church”has existed in this present world.What is commonly referred to as the “Body of Christ”has been a key part of society in nearly every country,on nearly every continent,and has impacted billions of people in some way or another.

The Church was born out of the heart of Jesus Christ who came to deliver a message of hope and redemption to an otherwise lost and depraved world.After Jesus was crucified and ascended to heaven,this Churchchurch one man began to replicate itself.Beginning with the twelve Disciples and the converts that they made and continuing through centuries past, this replication has been a continuous process.Whether one man or a thousand,the church has maintained it’s presence among the peoples of the world.

The World.

People of every nation and every conceivable culture make up the world that we live in.There are slightly over 7 billion people in the world today who speak approximately 6500 different languages.No matter what context you use to look at those numbers,they are staggering to comprehend!

crowd

There are a great many voices clamoring to be heard today that declare that we are,or should be, one.You’ve heard them I’m sure.They say that with every technological advancement the world is getting smaller all the time,and no doubt it is.Technology has erased the barrier of distance that has long hindered the world from becoming one people.Technology,for all of it’s greatness,has become the modern day equivalent of the Tower of Babel .One family.One people.One race.One planet.One species.One religion.One Church.

One.

There are  many in the world today who have embraced the concept that we people of the world are all one.World leaders,economists,environmentalists,special interest groups of every type all believe that the time has come to join together for the sake of us all.

Church leaders have adopted this worldly mentality as well.We are being told to lay aside our differences,our denominational doctrines,our various creeds of the faith,for the good of all.The outcome of this “oneness”is the deliberate blurring of the line between the Church and the World.In fact I will go so far as to say that the line is no longer blurred:it has become invisible!

In following this vision of “oneness”we have opened Pandora’s box to the unthinkable:the church has become indistinguishable from the world.Is this what Christ meant for the church to become?Is this what Paul meant when he said this:

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?

16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among [them]. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.”

17 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”

18 “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty.”                     2Co 6:14-18 NKJV

When Paul wrote these words under the unction of the Holy Spirit,the church was in it’s infancy and as with any new work there were things taking place that needed to be addressed.The Holy Spirit spoke through Paul in an attempt to correct the misconception that is was OK for Christians to be joined together with unbelievers,or with those who lived a lifestyle that was in conflict with what Christ intended for His church

Where is this teaching today? I’m afraid to say that it is nearly nonexistent. I must report that such teaching is not at all well received today because the church has adopted the mindset of the world.The church wants to do everything the world does and still be called the church.We want to be included in activities that we know we should avoid.We want to partake of everything the world does and still be called the church.And we will not stand to have it any other way! We want to be one with the world!

The scriptures are clear however that God has called us to a life of separation from the world.In spite of that,the church of today chooses to inch ever closer to living a life of inclusiveness of all the world has to offer.This in spite of the Bible’s clear teaching that we cannot maintain fellowship with the world,participate in it’s sinful pleasures,adopt it’s practices as our own,and still be identified as a child of God.

It is painfully obvious to anyone that what passes for Christianity today would be completely foreign to the Apostle Paul.For all of our lofty,grandiose churches and programs I dare say that Paul would not be welcomed to preach in any of them!He was a man led by the Spirit,and any attempt to “modernize”him to go along with the program would be met with fierce refusal.WomanPileOfMoneyAlter

I chuckle sometimes when I see the WWJD bracelets being worn by people.I don’t chuckle because it’s funny,but because the answer to the question would likely not be what the masses think it should, or would be.Considering that Jesus took a whip and drove the money changers out of the temple because they had made His house a house of merchandise when it was meant to be a house of prayer,what approach would He take today in dealing with a largely backslidden church?

His way is the narrow way.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

14 “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.      Mat 7:13-14 NKJV

There must be a difference between the church and the world.

There must be a line drawn that the church cannot cross over.

It’s there.It exists. It’s not invisible.It’s plain for all to see.

If you’ve crossed that line I pray that you will come back.Come back to the straight and narrow way that leads to life.A way of personal holiness,a way of living that is separate from the world.

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.     1Jo 2:15-16 KJV

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

But Know This…

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From Paul’s second letter to Timothy;

1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:

2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, wordle

4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,

5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts,

7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.    2Ti 3:1-7 NKJV

There are times when nothing needs to be said beyond what the scriptures teach us.

Either we accept it, or we do not.

Either we believe it, or we do not.

None of that matters…. for the Word of God is truth that will stand for eternity.

Regardless of our personal opinions about it.

It is what it says it is, because He is who He says He is.

A new comfort zone?

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Comfort zone…

We all have one,or maybe several.

Our comfort zone is that place where we are most comfortable and can live in a way that pleases us.

There are comfort zones at work, comfort zones at church, even comfort zones within our own homes.

They’re places where we can just be ourselves without fear of judgment or backlash from anyone.

And we all LOVE our comfort zones, don’t we? And we HATE the notion of being uprooted from them!

Having been involved in church ministry for over 37 years now I know a thing or two about comfort zones at church. There can be great comfort in working alongside others who are all a part of the bigger ministry team.And there is a lot of comfort in knowing that every Sunday you will be delivering a sermon to (mostly)friendly people who share the same values as you do.

But what happens when our comfort zone begins to become a place of discomfort? Like when going to church every Sunday hearing the same music and listening to the same sermons and seeing the same faces no longer seems to satisfy our soul?

Ever been there? I certainly have,and in fact I have been in that place of discomfort for nearly a year now.

I’ve grown stagnate.I’m not growing.The rituals of religion are choking the life from me.

Being a minister I know all the stock answers to this dilemma because I’ve handed them out to others for many years.

I know all of the scriptures that we use to lift up and encourage the faithful.

And I still believe in every one of them.The answers are found within the pages of God’s word and I have never doubted that for a moment.

I still read…I still pray…I still encourage the discouraged….I still desire to extend the mercies of Jesus to the hurting.

Yet my comfort zone has been swallowed up with a yearning for something more than religion or even church as we know it.

Within my heart burns this thought that God did not save me from the life of Hell I was living to simply spend the rest of my days as a “Sunday Performer”.Turn it on.Turn it off.

Enough already!

I’ve been reading through the Old Testament and today began reading the story of Moses in the book of Exodus,and was reminded of his battle with his own comfort zone.Here are a few verses of the story:

1Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
2And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
3And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
4And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. Exodus 3:1-4 KJV
Moses’ life started out in a way that could hardly be called comfortable.Born at a time when all male children were supposed to be killed at birth,his mother instead placed him in a small ark and placed him at the rivers edge,choosing to place her baby in the hands of fate rather than see him killed.
Being rescued from this predicament,Moses was raised in the house of Pharaoh.Along with that came the many privileges of education and training alongside every other Prince of Egypt.Moses certainly enjoyed the good life for quite a while,yet there burned within him a different spirit.An unquenchable yearning for something more.
A spirit that manifested itself one day when he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew kinsman,and in defense of this man he killed the Egyptian and buried his body in the sand.
So long Comfort Zone!
Moses made a fateful decision that day,a decision that would forever alter the course of his life.In an instant he was transformed from a prince of Egypt to a man with a price on his head.It was this event that turned Moses’ life upside down as he became the hunted and fled for his life. He who had enjoyed the perks of royalty had been humbled to become nothing more than a tender of sheep, which is where we find him in the verses above.
While this is just the beginning of the story,I want to focus your attention on the first verse where we find Moses on the back side of the desert. No where’s ville. The other side of the tracks. A place where only the worst of the worse go to hide out.
Now consider the disparity of his former life and the life he now lived. A life of pleasure has become a life of solitude and hardship.A life of tedium and danger. A life so far removed from his former existence that the two can hardly be compared.
From the ultimate comfort zone to the back side of the desert. Worlds apart.
Of course,we can all agree that Moses is far worse off than he was before.
But is he really? Let’s look at this from a different perspective.
From a simply materialistic point of view Moses has made a left turn and is headed the wrong direction.Say good-by to “Your Best Life Now” Moses!
Yet I happen to believe that in his heart Moses had reached a point to where he could no longer look past the status quo. He had to stand for something or continue to march along side everyone else’s cookie cutter life.I mean, why be different when we’ve got it made,right?
So let me get to the point with this thought: right where you are,right now,in whatever comfort zone you happen to be in….are you pursuing the God of heaven with passion and fervor?
Or are you like the masses simply going along with the crowd content to just be in that number?
I have many more thoughts about this man Moses and his divine purpose which I will share later,but for now let me close with this thought;
We can stay in our comfort zone and be content that we’re doing all we can,or that we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.Follow the program…Don’t deviate…Dress the part…Act the part….Eyes on the prize.
Or we can take a look at our lives from a broader perspective and ask ourselves: is this really all there is to this Christian walk? Is following God really just about Sunday attendance, an offering, a prayer, and see you next week?
Am I really that content? Should I be that content?
Think about it!
Be blessed,
Ron

Christ, and Christ Alone…..

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I’ve been reading and thinking quite a bit lately about the single most important “thing” in this life,and most certainly the life to come. This “thing”,for lack of a better term, is “Salvation”.

“Salvation”. No matter how you describe what happens at the end of this life,every Christian has this hope within them that by the grace of God they will be…

  • SAVED
  • REDEEMED
  • RESCUED
  • SPARED
  • RANSOMED

Call it by whatever name you, your church, or your denomination calls it. The meaning is still the same.

Abiding within the Christian is a promise from God who cannot lie that we are going to be saved.Awaiting us is a new home in Glory,and an eternity that will be spent in His presence. Never again will our bodies suffer disease.Pain will be a thing of a past that we will no longer remember.

For the rest of eternity we will never know the heartbreak of a loved one going on before us. Every tear shall be wiped away,for in that place of eternal joy there will never be another tear of sadness or grief shed.

Sounds great,doesn’t it? So how do I get this Salvation?

Well, it cannot be earned or bought with money. You can never do enough good deeds to receive it. No one else can get it for you. It’s something that millions,perhaps billions have attempted to gain but in spite of their best efforts to buy it,earn it,or steal it have fallen short of the mark.

No friends,this Salvation is made possible because of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the Cross. In other words,the price has already been paid.Now if that isn’t the best news you’ve ever heard!!!!

So how can you know that this is real and not some made up tale from long ago? How about we search the scriptures for some proof?

The apostle Peter delivered quite a message to the chief priests,rulers,and scribes the day after he and his fellow disciples had been imprisoned for teaching the people about Jesus. In this message,which I have included below, Peter spells it out very plainly in whose name comes this salvation I am speaking about.

Acts 4:1-12…

1:And as they spoke to the people, the priests, and the temple commander, and the Sadducees came on them,
2:  being grieved that they taught the people, even to announce through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
3:  And they laid hands on them and put them under guard until the next day, for it was already evening.
4:  But many of those who heard the Word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
5:  And it happened on the next day that their rulers and elders and scribes, gathered to Jerusalem,
6:  and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest.
7:  And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name have you done this?
8:  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, Rulers of the people and elders of Israel,
9:  if we are examined today on a good work for an infirm man, by what this one has been healed,
10:  be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, in this name does this man stand before you whole.
11:  This is the Stone which you builders have counted worthless, and He has become the Head of the Corner.
12:  And there is salvation in no other One; for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved.   Emphasis mine

Well there you have it friends. Salvation comes from Christ and Christ alone. No other name that has ever been spoken can save you except Jesus Christ. Praying to or calling upon any other is futile.

Christ, and Christ alone…..

Romans 10:9-10
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Romans 5:1-2
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Be blessed,

Ron

This One Thing I Know

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There are a lot of very smart people in this world.

So smart that sometimes I wonder how in the world a person can accumulate so much knowledge in a lifetime.

You probably know people like this.People who seem to be on an entirely different plane than the rest of us.

Politically smart…Mathematically smart…Business smart…Theologically smart…

I’ve been thinking about who and what I am in the eyes of God,and one thing I am not is smart.

Oh,I’m smart enough to make a very good living.And I think I’m smart enough to know that the best thing I’ve got going for me besides my family is my relationship with the Lord.

Ah yes,there’s that word again…relationship.

I have been a Christian for over 35 years and in that time I have served in just about every capacity the church has to offer.

I’ve been a pastor,a church planter,an evangelist,a whole bunch of other titles,shoot I’ve even been a janitor!

For about 30 of my 35 years I have been behind a pulpit somewhere or another and that has defined who I am in Christ.

Not Ron the Christian man,but Ron the preacher man.

Or so I thought.

For the last couple of months I’ve been without a home church while I take a step back and regroup.This was a choice I made…..to be nothing except an anonymous Christian for a while.

I’ve seen too much of the ugly side of church.All the things that make people cringe when I write about them on this blog.The things that people don’t want to believe happen in church.

For a while I felt lost,as though my life had no meaning.After all,how could God use me unless I was busy doing church work?

It has suddenly occurred to me that I am much more than a Christian with a title.Much more.I am first and foremost a forgiven sinner now called a child of God.I am a witness of the power of His resurrection for He is alive in the hearts of His children.I am part of this big family of God.I belong to Him.

I am nothing without Christ.But with Him I am a complete man.

I am not “smart” in the way the world measures intelligence,but I agree with the Apostle Paul when he said this:

2:1 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.
2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
1 Co 2:1-2

To know Jesus and Him crucified.

Now,that is a smart man!

Be blessed,

Ron

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