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Shikata ga nai

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This is my last post of 2018, and I wanted to leave you with one last tidbit of wisdom gleaned from my days of working at Honda. As I have mentioned previously, the culture I was immersed in at Honda provided an insight into a totally different way of seeing things.

For example, when confronted with situations we cannot control, many of us from western cultures react in somewhat predictable ways. Sheer panic, complete indifference, or somewhere in between best describe most of us I believe.

The Japanese however have the unique ability to deal with things that are beyond their control in a very unusual manner. One can only assume that because they are an ancient people, they have learned that no matter how bad things may be, eventually conditions will improve.

They sometimes use the phrase Shikata ga nai (pronounced shee-kah-tah-gah-NIGH),which means “it cannot be helped”. As the Japanese are overwhelmingly non-Christian, it is one of the ways they have devised to come to terms with situations beyond their control.

Earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions are all very real threats to the people of Japan. And they are all out of the control of any person.

Shikata ga nai, or “it cannot be helped” is a good attitude to have should a natural disaster strike and you are on your own. Such an attitude can help one move beyond the fault finding and blame game so common in our own society.

From the Christian perspective,there are also many things that are far beyond our control. If you doubt that, just do a quick mental review of 2018 and you will probably see what I mean.

Rather then take the approach of “it cannot be helped”, Christians know that we can call upon the Lord to help us through difficult situations.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

As we say goodbye to 2018 let us always remember that we are never alone. Even when situations are far beyond our control, we do not have to resign ourselves to defeat.

We have a loving Savior who sets at the right hand of God, making intercession for us. He is in control of the chaos, he makes sense of the things that we cannot understand.(Romans 8:34)

Happy New Year everyone!

Ron

 

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Whatever you do, do it with purpose!

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Last night I spoke at our church from Daniel chapter one, which tells the story of Israel being carried away into Babylon and of Daniel being selected to stand before the king.

As heartbreaking as it is to read of God’s punishment for their rebellion, the captivity of Israel served a dual purpose.

As prophesied by Jeremiah, Israel was going to be punished for their continual rebellion against God by being carried away to Babylon as captive slaves for a period of 70 years. This was the fulfillment of that prophecy. [1]

While in Babylon, God used Daniel in miraculous ways to revel Himself to a people who otherwise would have never known about Him. Through his ability to interpret dreams and his unwavering faith in God’s deliverance, Daniel was able to turn the heart of the king of Babylon completely toward the Lord. [2]

None of this would have been possible however, had Daniel not maintained a positive attitude in spite of the overwhelming situation he found himself in.

Uprooted from everything he knew at a very young age, Daniel could have easily succumbed to bitterness and allowed his heart to become hardened towards his God.

Like so many of us, he could have asked God “WHY?” a thousand times, yet what he did instead was fall back on what he had already been taught, which was to keep God first in his life.

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.   Daniel 6:8

Daniel had purposed in his heart that despite his circumstances, he would not reject the Lord. In essence, he was drawing a line in the sand and letting everyone know that he would not be drawn into the sinful culture of his captors.

What does that say about this young man? Well, for one thing, it says that his faith in God wasn’t predicated by his feelings. If Daniel was going on feelings alone, I’m pretty sure he had much to be discouraged about had he chosen that path.

Being a hostage in the king’s court, separated from his family, the feelings of loneliness and abandonment could easily have overwhelmed him.

I have a standard answer to tell people who say that they haven’t sensed or felt God’s presence in their life for a season. That is that God has promised to ‘never leave us nor forsake us ‘. And that God’s promises trump our feelings. [3]

Every. Single. Time.

As I told the congregation last night, there are times when we find ourselves in situations that are not of our choosing. We did nothing to warrant the predicament we find ourselves in. Yet here we are, and we must choose how we will face adversity.

I have found myself in those situations and have been forced to endure hardship all because of the poor choices of someone else. While our own poor choices bring about consequences that must be dealt with, it’s quite another matter when you are forced to suffer because of someone else.

Can I get an AMEN?

Let’s face it, there can be no doubt that some things are just not meant to be understood by our limited ability to reason and comprehend. In those times, I believe God calls us to simply place one foot in front of another as we walk with Him. That is real FAITH my friends!

If we choose to be like Daniel, and purpose in our hearts that we will not defile ourselves with doubt and conformity to the world’s way of doing things, we can expect God to stand with us no matter how difficult the test.

God’s vision and hope for you far exceeds your present condition. Think about that, and rest assured that God has his hand upon you.

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] Jeremiah 25:11

[2] Daniel 2:48, Daniel 3: 28,29, Daniel 6: 26,27

[3] Hebrews 13:5

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness…

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“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.”  [1]

This fourth Beatitude is one that I particularly love because I believe it establishes one of the foundational requirements for Godly living. In it, Jesus used two of the strongest human needs, hunger and thirst, to express the passion with which we should pursue God.

Have you ever been so thirsty that it seemed your thirst just couldn’t be quenched? Did that stop you from drinking still more? Of course not! Even if it meant drinking several different things you were determined to quench your thirst.

For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.  [2]

Sometimes when I’m hungry, I’ll go to the cabinet and stand there looking inside, trying to decide what it is that I want to eat. I may grab this or that, and as soon as I’ve eaten it I’ll know that I made the wrong choice, so I’ll try something else.

In much the same way Jesus is describing the hunger and thirst for righteousness that we are to have. The desire for more of Him should permeate our being, as an insatiable appetite does for those that have not eaten.

David said O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You
….[3]

As the hart pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after you, O God…[4]

deer in the lake

anilogics.com

This type of intense longing is exactly the type of hunger and thirst that Jesus is talking about. It means we do not approach the Lord with an attitude of indifference, but rather a passionate zeal to know him and his ways.

To hunger and thirst for righteousness means we must make a conscious decision about which part of us gets fed. If we desire the things of the world more than God, those things will destroy our hunger for the righteousness that Jesus is speaking of in this Beatitude.

This is very dangerous because if we allow our zeal for God to be swallowed up by the pleasures of the flesh, we will spiritually die.

He who pursues righteousness and loving devotion finds life, righteousness, and honor.[5]

My prayer for all is that we are passionate in our search for a closer walk with God, that we develop a hunger and thirst for righteousness that can only be filled by Him.

Be Blessed!

Ron

 

[1] Matthew 5:6

[2] Psalm 107:9

[3] Psalm 63:1,2

[4] Psalm 42:1,2

[5] Prov. 21:21

What does it mean to be Heavenly minded?

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Everyone is seeking something. That’s how God made us. We’re inquisitive by nature; always searching, looking, wondering.

Life would be pretty boring if we just sat around and became a lump of nothingness, don’t you think?

As Christians however, we must learn to temper our searching, looking, and wandering by prioritizing and aligning the things we deem so important against God’s Word. Paul explains it here in Colossians 3:1-3.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”.‬‬

Does this now mean that because I’m a Christian that I can no longer be passionate about my favorite cause? Of course not! If God’s children don’t participate in this earthly life, if we’re too Holy to get our hands dirty while ministering to others, of what value are we?

You no doubt have heard the expression that we can become “too Heavenly minded to be of any earthly good”. Speaking only for myself, I have yet to meet the person who accurately meets this description! Seriously, if any person becomes as Heavenly minded as Paul describes above, they would do more earthly good than they could ever imagine!

What Paul is saying to us is that as Christ’s representatives on earth we should be involved in what’s going on around us. We should care deeply about the plight of others. If not us, then who will?

But our first priority must be Him. If we will make Him our first priority, if He becomes the focus of our passions, our care and concern for others will be greatly enhanced.

You see, it’s only by seeking those things that are above, that we are then able to effectively reach out to those around us. Or to put it another way, before we can pour into others, we must first be filled ourselves. And we get filled by seeking those things which are above.

I think all of us would agree that we need more of Him at work in our lives. I know I certainly have enough rough edges to keep Him busy for a while! As we endeavor to seek those things that are above, we begin to die to self a bit more each day. Those rough edges become smoother, even our attitudes are improved.

Seeking those things that are above transforms our wants and desires into His wants and desires. When we seek to become more Heavenly minded we become more like Jesus. We love like Jesus. We have compassion like Jesus. The world can then see Jesus through us.

Isn’t that what this Christian life is supposed to be about anyway?

Be blessed,

Ron

Biting the hand that feeds you

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You’ve probably heard that expression haven’t you? It’s typically used when a person displays ungratefulness to others. For instance; if someone in your life helps you out, or provides sustenance to you and you act in an ungrateful manner towards them, you are “biting the hand that feeds you”.

The truth is that when ungratefulness surfaces on the outside, it’s merely reflecting what’s going on inside of us. Murmuring, complaining, ungratefulness, being unthankful, these are all outward symptoms of inward rebellion.

As Christians, we must be especially careful about complaining and being ungrateful. I wonder, how often do we check ourselves to see if we are displaying the symptoms of an ungrateful heart?

complain

aarc.org

There is an almost unbelievable example of this found in the book of Exodus. We all know the story of God’s great deliverance in setting Israel free from Egyptian bondage.

With excitement and enthusiasm the Israelite’s left Egypt, headed for a land that flowed with milk and honey.

Not only did God deliver them, but they left carrying the riches of Egypt with them! Gold, silver, and clothing in abundance were given to the children of Israel as their former masters sent them away in haste.

Yet just three days after walking through the Red Sea on dry land, the children of Israel began complaining. It’s important that we grasp this. Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for 430 years. Generation after generation knew nothing of freedom, yet within just three days of tasting freedom for the first time, they are already complaining! Here’s the story in detail (emphasis mine)ungrateful

1. “They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.

2. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness,

3. and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

4. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.

5. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”

6. So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt,

7. and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?”

8. And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD.”” Exodus 16:1-8

What is the key takeaway from this story? On the surface, it may appear to be that the nation of Israel is about as ungrateful as a nation could be. While that may be true, the key point here is that while Israel vented their complaints to Moses and Aaron, in reality they were complaining against God.

Moses told them that “Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD”. In essence, they were biting the hand that fed them!

So the million dollar question is this: are we any different than they when we complain,grumble, and generally have a terrible attitude?

I don’t know about you, but I too used to be a slave. I was a slave to sin and all that went with it, until one day God sent a deliverer to rescue me from my condition. What should my response be to what God has done for me?

When I’m going through difficult times, should I remind Him of how good I used to have it before I became a Christian? Should I remind God that I was doing well enough on my own? Should I say to God that I’d rather go back to my old life?

Of course not! I don’t care how my life is measured or by whom; at the end of the day I count myself among the most blessed of any people! My life has been just like everyone else’s, full of up’s and down’s, trials and successes.

At the end of the day however, what matters is that God has been right beside me through it all. I don’t understand some of the hard things, but I realize that I don’t need to understand everything. All I need to be sure of is that God is faithful, and as such He will never leave us or forsake us.

My prayer is that all of God’s children will appreciate Him for what he has done for us.

May we never bite the hand that feeds us!

Be blessed,

Ron

A recipe for disaster

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The Princess and I have been talking a lot lately about prayer. Specifically, how that prayer is a key ingredient in the life of a Christian, and how that if we leave the Lord out of our daily lives it’s like making a cake without all of the necessary ingredients.

Now, I like cake. Not all kinds of cake mind you, especially if it’s loaded with rich, too sweet, gooey icing a half inch thick. I know, I know, that’s what everybody loves, right?

Not me, I like enough icing to add some flavor, but I don’t want to eat it by the forkful.

pineapple upside downMy favorite kind of cake is pineapple upside down cake, if you’re interested. My second favorite would probably be German chocolate, even with its sweet coconut icing. I know what you’re thinking; he wants his cake and he wants to eat it too. Yep.

No matter the kind of cake we like, one thing is for certain and that is if you leave out a key ingredient, you will end up with a less than perfect cake. In which case, why bother?

Isn’t this how our lives are with Christ? There are many “ingredients” that come together and are intertwined with one another in the development of our faith. Things such as worship, study, and fellowship are hallmarks of a committed relationship with Christ.

Yet there remains one more, major ingredient in this ever developing relationship, one I personally feel is the most important.

Prayer

One of the most important aspects of any relationship is a little something called communication. Lack of communication is one of the greatest hindrances in any relationship. Just ask any married couple about this!

In the life of a Christian, communicating with God in prayer is absolutely essential, yet it is one of the most overlooked, neglected parts of our spiritual lives. How do we know that we have neglected our prayer life?

It will show up in many ways. It will show up in our attitude. When we don’t pray, we easily become distracted by the negativity around us, and that same negativity attaches itself to our attitudes.

Bad-Attitude-Quotations-012

Golfian.com

Christians who don’t pray are moody and temperamental. They are no fun to be around. They tend to see the bad more than they see the good. They are judgmental and unforgiving. Mercy and compassion are traits that are rarely seen in them.

If you want a reality check, try this little exercise: go back over the past month and add up all the time you have spent alone with God in prayer. Now, take that same time frame and add up all the time you have spent on social media or watching TV.

Would you say the results are sobering?

As you know, Jesus spent time training his disciples how to pray. Yet before he actually gets to the part about “Our Father, who art in heaven”, he says this:

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”         Matthew 6:5-7

Do you see the command to pray in these verses? In these two verses of scripture, Jesus said “when you pray” three times. He did not say “if you want to pray”, nor did he say “if you feel like praying”. No, he said “when you pray”.

We know, of course, that Jesus was our example when it comes to praying. After all, there were many times when he would go off to be by himself so that he could pray (Mark 6:46, 1:35, Matt. 26:36).

The expectation therefore is that as children of God we will pray. We will talk to God. We will enhance our bond with Him by communicating with Him through prayer.

praying man

pastorlyons.org

Beloved, if there is any one reason as to why the Church is so anemic today; it is because we don’t pray enough. We are not in contact with the Source of our strength!

Someone has said that the church of today has grown to the point that she is 10 miles wide, yet only ¼” deep.  Ouch.

The Lord Himself told Israel that if they would humble themselves,and PRAY,and seek my face,and turn from their wicked ways, then He would hear from heaven….(II Chro. 7:14).  Sounds pretty important, doesn’t it?

How then can our faith grow without prayer?  Prayer is the engine, or power behind our faith. How can we pray a prayer of faith if we never spend time with Him in prayer?

Can we ignore God until a need arises and then expect Him to come to our rescue when we rub our “prayer lamp” like the proverbial Genie? Is that how we think this works?

Talk about a recipe for disaster!

The apostle Paul said that we were to “pray without ceasing” (1st Thess. 5:17). A Christian that doesn’t pray is like the baker who sets out to make a cake without flour. The end result might resemble the real thing, but the proof is on the inside!

I encourage everyone to begin to pray a little more each day. Talk to God; tell Him all about it, just like the chorus to the old gospel song “Just a little talk with Jesus” says.

“Now let us have a little talk with Jesus
Let us tell Him all about our troubles
He will hear our faintest cry
He will answer by and by
Now when you feel a little prayer wheel turning
And you know a little fire is burning
You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right”.

For sure,we need all of the key ingredients to produce the desired results. Leaving out just one of them is a recipe for disaster.

With that, I’ll end this post. I need to go pray!

Be blessed!

Ron

Man shall live by what?

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Most of us have a code, or creed that we live by. A set of principles, they guide us each day through this life. They can come from family, church, the military, even the streets.

What may come as a surprise to many is that God also has a set of principles. It’s called the Bible. For example:

But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ”.  Matthew 4:4

The verse above comes from a very hungry and tired Jesus, who, after being tempted for 40 days, is responding to Satan’s temptation to turn stones into bread.

He is repeating something stated in the distant past of Israel’s history by Moses, who was reminding Israel of God’s providence during their trek through the wilderness.

So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.”     Deuteronomy 8:3

I find it interesting that the interpretation of both Jesus and Moses is the phrase” every word”. What’s so interesting about that? Well for starters, the phrase “every word” disallows the selective application of God’s Word to our lives.

In other words, every word means none may be excluded!

Lots of things today are thought of as being selective. Husbands may have been told that they have selective hearing, for example. Or those of us who tend to be forgetful at times may have been told that we have a selective memory.

For the child of God however, there can be no selective application of the Word if we are going to walk in obedience to it. In other words, we cannot selectively pick and choose those verses we wish to live by. It doesn’t work that way.

If Jesus stated that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God, are we to argue that we don’t like or accept certain parts of it?

I first became aware of this selective application of the Word many years ago when having a discussion with a neighbor about the Millennial Reign mentioned in the book of Revelation.

This neighbor, who was also a deacon in his church, told me that he didn’t believe in the thousand year reign of Christ. When I asked him how he could not believe in something that was obviously written in the Word, he simply said “I just don’t believe in that”. Not knowing how to respond to that, I just walked away.

Really? You can read it for yourself. You know it’s there. Yet you arbitrarily reject it just because? Like I said, that was my first exposure to the selective Word mindset. Unfortunately, it’s far from an isolated incident.

There is a very simple, logical reason as to why God says we are to live by every Word that comes from him. The Word of God offers us instructions for living according to His plan, not our own.

And therein lies the problem, doesn’t it?

His plan vs. our plan. His Words vs. our words. His way vs. our way. The age old battle of the human will vs. the will of God.

Paul reminds us that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”   II Tim. 3:16    emphasis mine

Could it be that part of the problem is that we think we “have arrived” and are above being taught?

Peter addressed this attitude in his first epistle. He tells us that our hearts need to be pure so that we can desire the word that will encourage growth.

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby.”   1 Peter 2: 1,2      emphasis mine

It is obvious then that we are to live not just by the Word, but by every Word that comes from God if we are to be nurtured and strengthened in our faith.

None of us “have arrived” to the point of no longer needing to learn of Him. To think that we have is to be in deception.

My prayer is that every one of us will take heed to the words of Jesus, who when rebuking Satan said that we must live by every Word from God.

After all, He’s still working on each of us.

Ron

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