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The Glory of the Lord has departed

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Ichabod

What a strange word, and an even stranger name for a child.

Yet that is what a dying mother named her child upon hearing the tragic news that both her husband and father-in-law were dead, and that the Ark of God had been taken from Israel. 

While you can read all about this heart wrenching episode in Israel’s history in the 4th chapter of 1st Samuel, here is an excerpt that tells how it came to be that a distraught mother named her child Ichabod.

19 Now his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, due to be delivered; and when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and gave birth, for her labor pains came upon her.

20 And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Do not fear, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer, nor did she regard it.

21 Then she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband.

22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”

This Ark of God is the very same Ark of the Covenant that went before Israel as they sojourned in the wilderness. Inside of it were the two stone tablets that contained God’s handwritten Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod that budded, and a pot of manna.

To Israel, this Ark represented the very presence of God in their midst, and it was a most Holy possession to them. To have lost the ark was to them the same thing as losing God, hence the reference to “the Glory has departed from Israel”.

As if losing the priest and both his sons in one day weren’t enough, the loss of the Ark had a profound impact upon the nation of Israel. When it was captured by the Philistines, along with it went Israel’s hope, strength, and courage. In short, the departure of the Ark negatively affected an entire nation.

From where I sit, I see an amazing parallel emerging right before our eyes. The world at large today, and in particular America, is suffering the same effects as Israel because in our world “the Glory of the Lord has departed”.

Or perhaps the sincerer assessment would be to acknowledge that the world has departed from God, believing it has found life without Him to be “our best life now”.

Whether through the crushing methodologies of oppressive regimes, or willful, deliberate acts of spiritual abandonment committed by the masses, it is a fair statement to say that the majority of people neither want or know God any longer.

To be sure, we have fabricated an image of God in our minds, one that we have created to serve us at our whim, to pour money into our accounts, to be at our beck and call when trouble arises, only to be shelved until the next crisis.

By and large however, we have abandoned our spiritual birthright and heritage because it is not the God of the Bible that we desire.

In our churches we no longer expect or want God to show up in our midst. For Him to do so would require us to humble ourselves and repent of our transgressions, and that does not compute with a people who only want God on their terms.

Deliberate or not, and I believe it is, we have effectively “engineered” God out of the church. Disguised as the ritualistic order of worship, we carefully plan our church services down to the most minute of details, thus ensuring that even if the Almighty should desire to come down and deal with our hearts, there has been no time allotted for Him to do so.

For many, there is no expectation of going to the house of God in order to meet with Him there. Instead, we go out of a sense of duty, or because we’ve been taught that it’s the “right thing to do”.

Instead of meeting with Him there, we are sadly content to sit and listen to a nice, ‘easy on the ears and conscious’ story about Him! In short, we have no intention of having an encounter with the living God!

This is the result of “the Glory of the lord has departed”.

The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?   Jer. 5:31   emphasis mine

Your experiences are probably different than mine, however I have observed a peculiar phenomenon over these past four decades of my walk with God. That is that when man demonstrates a lack of zeal for God, his word, or his presence, God will not force himself upon them.

His Glory departs, leaving them to go about their religion without Him. In His absence is a cold, indifferent, faithless man-centered organization comprised of dead men’s bones. Good for nothing, entrapping men in its clutches, enslaving them in the bondage of religiosity.

Herein is the real tragedy of all of this: it was never intended to be this way!

Jesus taught that “whom the Son sets free is free indeed”, yet by our own actions we have established that we are not content to be free. Instead of freedom, we long to be chained to the same mistakes of those who long ago learned that “without Me, you can do nothing”. John 8:36, 15:5

As I look around this nation, am I the only one who mourns over what was, and what might have been? My soul is grieved over what we have done to the God who loved us enough to sacrifice His only Son for our sins!

For all of this however, I am convinced that all hope is not lost.

Nations will fall, as they always have when they have abandoned the God of heaven. Nevertheless, as He did in days long gone, I believe God has reserved to himself a remnant that are committed to Him no matter how difficult life becomes.

“Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”  1st Kings 19:18

My hope is in Jesus Christ, and in Him alone will I place my trust. I look to no party or person to give me hope for a better future. That ship has sailed, I am sad to say.

Only God can provide real hope for His children, and I intend to cling to His glorious  hope for the rest of my days.

My prayer is that His Glory never departs from you.

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

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How Good Do We Have to Be?

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This is the title of a book written by Harold S. Kushner. Full disclaimer: before seeing this book on a shelf along with several other used books, I had never heard of either the author or the book, therefore I have no idea of its contents.

What intrigued me about it however was the title, because this is THE question that people have been asking for thousands of years.

Just how much do I have to do, and how good is good enough to make it into heaven?

We all know that the underlying belief system for many people is one based upon works. If you’re a good enough person, meaning that at the end of your life your good deeds outweigh the bad, that’s all that’s required to gain entrance into heaven.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard this all of your life. That’s how pervasive this belief is.

So, is it possible to be ‘good enough’?  If so, how exactly do you measure what ‘good enough’ is? Is there a sliding scale or barometer of ‘good’? Has the criteria for ‘good enough’ been made available to us all?

For the answer to those  questions, let’s go to the official source of information for understanding heaven’s entry fee: God’s Word.

The Psalmist declared that there were none that were good. Not even one!

The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.   Psalm 14:2,3

Jesus, in response to the question of “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”, said “Why do you call me good? there is none good but one, that is, God…”  Matthew 19:16,17

The man that asked Jesus this question was very wealthy, and believed (like many of us) that the key to inheriting eternal life was found in the word ‘good’. He likely thought he could donate a sum of money or possessions, or that by doing a “good thing” it would ensure him entry into heaven.

Unfortunately for this man (and billions like him), the scriptures are clear that any priority placed on ‘good’ is misplaced. That is because ‘good’ as defined by man is never going to be ‘good enough’.

That is why Jesus said that there is no one good, but God.

In other words, apart from God man can never be ‘good enough’ to inherit heaven. If he could, there would have been no need for Jesus to come and offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Indeed, He has died in vain if we ourselves could somehow be ‘good enough’.

If your church or denomination teaches you that God will accept you because of your good works, you are sitting under deception. God will only accept you because he sees that your sins have been covered by the blood of his only Son.

If we were to humble our hearts and really think about it, is there really anything within us that is good, except for the Lord himself? For me personally, I know that the answer to that is NO!

Any good found within me has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with Him!

How about you?

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

Who Then is a Faithful and Wise Servant?

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In today’s society, we don’t hear the words servant or master very often. In fact, just hearing the words conjures up images in our minds that we would just as soon not think about.

America is a relatively young nation, and it was not all that long ago that the words servant (or slave) and master were a part of an everyday life that nearly destroyed this nation. So, it is easy to understand why we have an aversion to these words.

In the Bible however, the words servant shows up 885 times in the KJV Bible (741 OT/144 NT), while the word master appears 184 times (100 OT/84 NT).

Obviously, it was common practice in those days for there to exist several different classes, or levels of people in society, and the lines between servant and master were clearly drawn.

In his Matthew 24 discourse, Jesus used this class distinction between servant and master when explaining to his disciples the conditions that would exist just prior to his second coming. He knew, of course, that his audience at the time would clearly understand his references.

45 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?

46 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.

47 Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.

 48 But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’

49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,

50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,

51 and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.        Matthew 24:45-51

Jesus is warning all to be on guard and not to become like the servant who lost sight of the fact that his master was indeed going to come again. Jesus refers to this type of servant as “evil” because he has become like the world around him, mistreating others and partaking of things that drove him even further away from his master.

On the other hand, Jesus refers to the “faithful” servant as one who is busy doing the will of his master. This servant has not forgotten that his master is coming again and is working diligently to faithfully fulfill his charge.

All of this points to us today who are living in the hour where we are witnessing the beginnings of the “falling away”, spoken of by the Apostle Paul in 2 Thess. 2:3.

The hearts of many are becoming cold, just as Jesus said they would in Matt. 24:12. We hardly need to be reminded of this fact by scripture, but it was prophesied nonetheless.

From where I sit on the front row, it would seem that we are fast approaching the time when we will once and for all have to make the decision to either be counted as faithful, or to join the ranks of those already fallen away into unbelief.

One thing is for certain, the day is at hand where straddling the fence between the two will no longer be an option.

My prayer is that all who will read this will take the attitude of Joshua, who said “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”.   Joshua 24:15

Be blessed,

Ron

Calling evil good,and good evil

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Perhaps you have heard it said that things today are not what they appear to be. Maybe you’ve lived long enough to see the evolution of what used to clearly be either right or wrong now muddied to the point of uncertainty. You might have even noticed that what was once undeniably black or white has now been replaced with “fifty shades of gray”.

All of this is a result of man’s attempt to create a utopian society where he is god and master of his own destiny, where absolutes simply cannot be tolerated. Right or wrong are seen as relics of a people whose time has come and gone.

In their place has arisen a new code of conduct whereby a simple yes or no has been replaced with maybe. The position of absolute right or wrong has been declared extinct, giving rise to the more palatable position of undetermined.

What we are witnessing is man replaying one of the most insidious chapters in its history from Genesis 3:4, in what is commonly referred to as “The Fall” as recorded in the book of Genesis.

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”   Genesis 2:15-17

Here we see that the Creator has given clear, concise instructions to His highest creation. God did not use words like maybe or undetermined, but rather He specifically said “You Shall Not”, leaving exactly no wiggle room or uncertainty regarding His expectations.

Enter the adversary into the garden, knowing full well what God had said and what was meant by what He said. The enemy needed to do something about God’s clear instructions to Adam and Eve, because to do nothing would be to allow the relationship God had with man to blossom.

And that was something Satan could not tolerate.

So he came up with a plan to sow uncertainty in the hearts and minds of Adam and Eve. How would he do that? By insidiously twisting God’s Word to make what had previously been clearly understood as though it wasn’t clear at all.

Then the serpent said to the woman,You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  (Genesis 3:4)

With one seemingly innocent statement, the enemy of our souls planted doubt and uncertainty in Eve’s heart and mind, thus altering forever the relationship between God and man.

Good had become Evil, and Evil had become Good.

Now, if you’re thinking all of this is nonsense it is worth noting that history has seen this before. Try as we might to want to believe we are somehow enlightened to the point of discovering a new order of things, we are merely following in the footsteps of another nation that was also once the dominant power of the world.

In the book of Isaiah, chapter 5: 8-32, we see six “Woes”, or statements of judgement pronounced upon six types of sins.

  1. Greed
  2. Drunkeness
  3. Mockery of God’s power to righteously judge sin
  4. Distorting God’s moral standards
  5. Arrogance and Pride
  6. Perversion of justice

The distortion of God’s moral standards is called out in verse 20 of Isaiah chapter five.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Society today has chosen to retrace the steps of ancient Israel and Judah by exalting sin. How are we doing this? By calling perversion and immorality by another name. Today we refer to those sins as virtuous and freedoms of expression, while calling Godly righteousness evil or bigoted.

Sexual perversion is commonly known today as an alternative lifestyle, one that is openly accepted and applauded, while opponents of such conduct are labeled as haters and oppressors.

Pro abortion advocates are looked upon as caring people deeply committed to women’s rights, while pro life advocates are called extremists or religious fanatics.

Good has become Evil, and Evil has become Good.

So where is all of this leading us? I don’t have a crystal ball so I cannot predict the future. What I do possess however is God’s Word, and in it you will find a very clear description for where all of this is leading us.

Rather than me giving you the details, I urge everyone to read it for yourself and to become acquainted with what God has said is coming upon all the world. Here’s a hint though: read Paul’s letters to Timothy and to the Thessalonian church just for starters.

If you’re honest and open minded, you might be surprised to learn that none of this has taken the Lord by surprise. In fact, you will find that all of this perversion of justice has been foretold many times over in the Bible.

We are simply repeating the mistakes (sins) of those who have gone before us.

May God have mercy upon us is my heartfelt cry, even though we are undeserving of such.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

Does it really matter what you believe?

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According to some people it doesn’t. After all, don’t all roads lead to Heaven? And at the end of it all, isn’t God going to give everyone a free pass into Heaven? Or at the very least, give us another chance after death to make things “right enough” to earn a spot in heaven?

That actually sounds nice doesn’t it? I mean, if God is love and all, why wouldn’t He let everyone into Heaven? What kind of God would exclude good people anyway?

I used to believe this, every last word of it. You might say my “religion” was built upon the premise that if God was who people said He was, at the end of the game all of our scores will be added up and guess what?

We all get in because God is a swell guy that sees all the good works we’re doing. You know, working hard to get to Heaven and all that.

Being raised as I was without any religious or Bible education, I was simply doing what everyone else who was raised in similar circumstances was doing; I invented my own religious belief system. A system built upon my own works and good deeds.

And I was doing fine until…

One day someone told me that Jesus was the only way, that He loved me, and that He died just for me, and right then my “religion” was exposed for what it was: just another frail attempt by a sinful man to justify his own sinful behavior.

When I started going to church and reading the Bible for myself, I soon realized just how far off the mark I had drifted. As a matter of fact, reading the Gospels alone was enough to convince me that what one believes actually did matter.

You see, what I discovered was that according to the Bible, there was such a thing as right and wrong. Not only that, but I also discovered that my opinions about it didn’t really matter all that much, because you see the Bible confronted me with a TRUTH that rendered my own opinions pretty much worthless.

This is why it grieves my soul today when I hear people say “there’s good in all churches” (not true). Or when I hear people say ”well, they may not teach it just like the Bible says, but its close enough” (no, it’s not). Or my all-time favorite: “I know they say some things that don’t line up with the Word, but I just take the good stuff and throw away the rest”.

Is God so wishy washy that he considers close enough or good enough to be sufficient? I mean seriously, is this kind of like horseshoes, where close enough earns you points?

Do we really believe that close enough or good enough is really “good enough”? Is this really something we want to leave to chance? Isn’t it serious enough to want to know for certainty?

Can someone even define “good enough” or “close enough”?

And can we of our own making devise a religion that will make us good enough, much like I thought I had done?

Well, not according to God’s Word we can’t!

As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;  Romans 3:10

So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.  Mark 10:18

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Prov. 16:25

It DOES matter what you believe! It matters because it matters to a Holy God, and it is only because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ that we are saved today.

Good enough? Not me. The only good in me is HIM.

And that’s all that matters!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love doesn’t quit

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This past week my Pastor and I were privileged to visit a ministry to the homeless called “Jesus Loves You Ministry” which is located in Port Charlotte, Fl. For the better part of an hour we were given a tour of the facilities and learned about all of the services this great ministry provides.

I asked a lot of questions and our tour guide Ashley was very gracious and patient in answering them all. I have to say that this young lady has a heart for this ministry that is as big as all outdoors.

As we began our tour, I was struck by a sense that this place was different somehow. After a few minutes I think I started to figure it out because what I felt in that place was love. Nothing more, nothing less, just the unconditional love of Christ.

Listening to Ashley talk about the mission of Jesus Loves You Ministry left me humbled by her genuine love for the people she calls her family. No judgement, no “holier than thou” attitude, nothing but love.

And RESPECT.

Because this ministry is so well organized, I thought I would share just a few examples of the types of ministry that take place there:

  • Identification: Identity documents such as birth certificates, ID cards or Social Security cards are often lost and expensive to replace. They assist with the process of obtaining these documents and the ministry absorbs the costs involved to do this.
  • Benefits: They assist with the application for SSI, SSDI and Veteran’s pensions.
  • Medical Attention: Often a low priority, they encourage regular physicals, prescription and follow up visits as recommended by a health care provider.
  • Employment: they assist with job search and applications and provide transportation to interviews.
  • Wellness Services: Transportation is provided weekly for showers (200 a week), two locations of which provide haircuts, clothing and lunch (served Monday thru Friday). They encourage regular contact with relatives by providing access to a telephone. They provide clean clothes and hygiene packets as well.

This ministry also has it’s own thrift store, and proceeds go right back into the ministry. Here is a picture of their building, which was as clean as a whistle I might add!

Jesus loves you ministry

This visit really touched me, and served as a reminder that the homeless are really no different than you and I. In fact, while there I mentioned to my Pastor “but for the grace of God, go I”.

I’ll go back to Jesus Loves You Ministries, and hopefully will get the opportunity to chat with a few of the folks who are served there. Meanwhile, I am reminded of what the Bible teaches us about loving others who are in need.

 

17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 1 John 3:17-19

Let us not love with words only, but in doing. Love never quits!

If you would be so kind, please lift up Jesus Loves You Ministry in prayer. Their web site is currently being redesigned, but if you go to their current site you can still learn a great deal about them. I’m sure they would be very grateful.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

Real heroes of the faith are still among us: part 2

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I am of the opinion that real heroes of the faith are still among us. They are not likely to be found however on TBN, Daystar, SBN or EWTN. You will not find them hawking their latest sermon series or music DVD at a church ministry conference.

You will find them however in the house churches in Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, and other nations hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ. While we here in the West live in relative peace and security,there are an ever increasing number of countries that are now hostile to the Gospel, as evidenced by the following “top 50 map”.

2018 watch list

You will find these heroes living in unimaginable conditions in the prisons of the above mentioned countries. You will also find them in unmarked graves after being tortured and murdered for their faith.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammad Reza Omidi are names you probably don’t recognize, however they are truly modern day heroes of the faith.

Who are they, and why are they heroes of the faith?

These are four Christian men who happen to live in Iran, a nation that is extremely hostile to the Gospel. Because Christianity is viewed as a threat to Iranian national security, the Christian religion is severely persecuted there.

Their church looks a lot different than yours or mine. Church services must be held in secrecy in the homes of believers or other nondescript locations in order to avoid detection and arrest.

No steeples, no ornate stained glass windows, no neon sign out front welcoming attendees.

These four Christian brothers were recently given 10 year prison sentences for partaking in Christian worship. It was originally thought that they would receive “only” six year sentences, given their original charge of “acting against national security”.

The charges were upgraded however to “promoting Zionist Christianity” and running house churches”, thus an additional four years were added to their sentences.

But wait, there’s more. Two of the four were also sentenced to two years’ internal exile, far away from their families.

Additionally, “Mr Omidi, Mr Mossayebzadeh and Mr Fadaie are waiting to hear the outcome of an outstanding appeal against their September, 2016, sentencing of 80 lashes for the consumption of communion wine at the time of their arrest in May, 2016.”

Did you catch that? 80 lashes. EIGHTY LASHES for partaking of communion!

We here in the West seem to have a very cavalier attitude about church, worship, and all things God compared to those suffering persecution abroad. We decide when and if we want to go to church. We decide how serious (if at all) we wish to become about our faith.

We choose whether or not to attend church or go fishing (or countless other fun activities). We choose whether to believe the Bible or not, and in some cases choose to ignore certain parts of the Bible that may not line up with our personal feelings about it.

We Christians in the West seem to have a lot of freedom of choice, don’t we?

Maybe that’s why there are so few (if any!) real heroes of the faith living here. Having faith here costs us nothing compared to our brothers and sisters in Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan,etc.

We who live here get by on a cheap, easy believism type of religion that demands nothing of us. Count the cost as commanded by Jesus? I don’t think so. Count our blessings for certain, but we want no part of a religion that costs us anything.

We have succumbed to the spirit of Anti-Christ that says God exists solely to bless you and cause you to prosper. This is the same spirit that seeks to elevate man to a god-like status while denying the true God of the Bible.

You will find no heroes of the faith in such a religion. What you will find instead are greedy, selfish, all about me individualists determined to control their own destiny rather than submit their lives to Christ.

Rather than partake of Christ’s suffering as taught in the Word, what we really want is a pie in the sky genie ready to blow gold dust on us just because we have somehow convinced ourselves that we are a superior brand of Christian.

Contrast this so called Christian lifestyle with those living in places where just the mention of the name of Jesus can land you in prison, or much worse. One must conclude that these two groups cannot possibly be worshiping the same God!

There are real heroes of the faith living today, heroes who have forsaken all for the cause of Christ. The men and women who are being imprisoned, tortured, and killed are examples of the faith that the Church should be holding up as the gold standard.

Who knows, you and I might one day be required to look to their sacrifices as the model of faithfulness and endurance needed in order to overcome that which has come upon us.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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