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Does all really mean “all”?

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There are many of us who sometimes question if a particular Bible verse actually means what it says. It’s like we wonder if something was lost in the translation from the original text that has rendered the verse incorrect. One of those verses is found in Romans 8:28.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.   NKJV

I guess in this instance all really does mean “all” because I checked a half dozen or so different translations, and all of them use the word all or everything  in referring to the things that are working together for our good.

When I first read Romans 8:28 as a new Christian, like a lot of others I thought that the idea of God using good things to make me a better Christian was a great thing. But I soon realized there was danger lurking in my thought process.

You see, when we read this particular verse, our carnal minds want to gravitate towards the good things that are taking place in our lives. We equate “working together for our good” with blessings, or favor.

The truth of the matter however is that God’s plan for us doesn’t include only good things. God’s plan for our lives also includes the hard things, the difficult things, and yes, the unexplainable things that come into our lives.

You see, God has a plan for each of our lives. He knows what each of your tomorrows will bring, and that includes the good things as well as the bad.

So many Christians today are caught in the web of the false gospel that states that God only has good things in store for your life. This false gospel would have you believe that should anything come into your life such as sickness or divorce, you are out of God’s will.

We know however that bad things happen to good people. That’s an immutable fact. All of us know people who have endured horrible things through no fault of their own. And yes, this includes God’s children, who are not exempt.

My point here is that oftentimes bad things happen to God’s children for no apparent reason. Yet they still happen. Life happens, and life isn’t always pretty, even for God’s children.

So what are we to make of Romans 8:28 in light of what you’ve just read? After all, it’s either true or it’s not. There is no in between.

The Apostle Paul said that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose”.

ALL of your life’s situations, both good and bad, are part of the clay that God places on the potter’s wheel. He takes the good and the bad and ever so gently shapes us, molds us into the vessel He has planned that we become.

It’s true, sometimes there are impurities in the clay, impurities that become part of the finished product. These impurities do not devalue the finished product however, but serve to make each one unique in the eye of the Master Potter.

All things do work together for good…..it’s up to us to trust the process. It’s up to us to remain malleable on the potter’s wheel. God will do the real work.

 

Be blessed, in Jesus name.

Ronear tickled

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Temptation as seen through God’s eyes

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One of the most commonly quoted but misapplied verses in the entire Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13. This is the verse that speaks to us about enduring temptation.

When this particular verse is referenced it is almost always stated that “God won’t allow us to be tempted with more than we can handle”. While that is true, it is only partly true. Here is the verse I’m referring to:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
I Corinthians 10:13 NKJV

There are several components to this verse that I would like to bring out in this post. Let’s begin with “no temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man”. Often when we are tempted, we tend to gravitate towards the thought that no one has ever had to endure anything like this.

When we are tempted, or tried, it is only natural for us to feel as though it is overwhelming, as though it is so great that we cannot overcome it. Our finite minds struggle to garner a measure of faith and hope that we can endure the temptation and yet come out of it victorious.

The scripture makes it clear however, that when we are tempted it is a “common” temptation, meaning that it is the same temptation that everyone deals with. We are drawn away from Christ by lust, impure thoughts, greed, malice, and a whole host of common temptations.

In short, we aren’t special.   Sorry!

Next, we read that God is faithful. Most of us know that, but when we are being tempted our nature is to question whether or not He will stand with us. Feelings of panic often set in, followed by doubt and confusion about whether or not we will have to deal with this alone. It is at this point that we must fall back on the promise that “He will never leave us nor forsake us”.

This is where God wants us to simply trust him, and to trust the process.

Finally, we come to the part of the verse that I alluded to in the beginning. The part that is most often misused or misapplied: “But with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”.

When people quote1 Corinthians 10:13 they almost always leave off this part of it, which is rather strange because it’s actually the best part! To say that God won’t allow us to tempted with more than we can handle is great. But that’s only part of the story.

In reality, God doesn’t withhold temptation from us. Did you ever question why that is? Well, there are likely several reasons, not the least of which is that He knows that in order for us to grow in faith; we must be stretched beyond our comfort level.

That’s an uncomfortable thought, isn’t it?

We could look at this another way and ask why doesn’t God just put a shield around us to prevent temptation from coming against us in the first place? Many of us would no doubt choose this option if we could, for who wouldn’t rather not have to deal with such things?

The fact is however, that just as your own children must learn and grow, so must we as children of God. How stunted would our growth be if we never experienced adversity?

I believe there is another motive behind the Lord permitting us to endure temptation, and that is that until we are tried in the fires of temptation, we really do not know what we’re made of (in Christ).

Let’s use the analogy of a heavy weight boxer. If the boxer is only allowed to fight against equal or lesser skilled fighters, do you think he will improve? It’s not very likely. That’s why you will sometimes see a young fighter matched against a more powerful, more experienced one. It’s used to reveal to the young fighter how good he really is, but also to reveal the areas he needs to work on.

Isn’t it so when our faith is tested through various temptations? Instead of bemoaning the temptation, what if we approached it from the mindset that God is exposing an area of weakness within us that must be worked on?

Lastly, we must always be cognizant of the fact that God permits us to be tempted. We MUST grasp this fact. God permits it. This is where so many of us falter in our walk. God himself will never tempt us to sin, but he will allow us to be tempted by the enemy. What I’m trying to say here is that God is still in the works because He is still in control of our situation!

Even though He permits the temptation, He will not allow more than we can bear. In this fact we can take heart! In the midst of temptation, God is still there because He is going to make a way of escape in order for you to bear up under it. Plainly stated; the temptation will not overtake you if you will place your trust in Christ.

Something to remember, the next time you’re being pulled a dozen different ways.

Be blessed, in Jesus name.

Ronear tickled

 

Four reasons to avoid the Vortex of Negativity

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Most of us have seen a Vortex before, whether in person or on the news. A Vortex is easily identified by a swirling mass of air or water, such as in a tornado or cyclone. Here in Florida these are also found in waterspouts.

tornado

No matter the type of Vortex, they all share at least two things in common:  1) if you get too close to one it will literally suck you into it, and 2) it will always leave a path of destruction in its wake.

Additionally, there is no escape from it unless it releases you from its deadly power. Even then, the end result will not be pleasant.

There is however another form of Vortex, perhaps more damaging than all those previously listed. It’s what I call the human “Vortex of Negativity”, and once it has you in its grip it will literally suck the life out of you. Here are four reasons why you should avoid it at all costs.

No.1 It will steal your Joy…Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, did you know that? But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Galatians 5:22).

If you have been around joyless people for even a few minutes you know how they can rob you of your joy. Many of us struggle with this. We’re happy, and then we’re not.

Joy killers are subtle; they rarely show up with sirens blazing, seeking instead to peck away at our joy in anonymity. Before you even know it’s happened, you find yourself struggling to find joy in anything because your joy has been stolen from you!

No.2 It will steal your Gratitude…A grateful heart is a thankful heart, one that will show up in our attitude. Paul, that great Apostle, understood the importance of thankfulness when he said that “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).  In his song of thanksgiving upon recovering the Ark of the Covenant, David said “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever“(1 Chronicles 16:34).

The Vortex of Negativity is thankful for nothing, but rather seeks out the things that have not gone our way and focuses instead on what could have/should have been.

This Vortex is particularly dangerous because it will retard our growth and leave us to wallow in defeat. People who are ungrateful, especially Christians, are also some of the meanest people around. And yes, they are infectious.

No.3 It will steal your Confidence…When we have lost our confidence we begin to flounder. We are tossed to and fro seemingly adrift on the seas of life with no real purpose. We become double minded, unable to press forward with purpose.

This is not how God created you. An oft quoted scripture from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah tell us “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope“(Jer. 29:11). The Vortex of Negativity wants to hide from us the promise of God and instead get us to focus on what we ourselves can do. This, of course, is never enough to satisfy.

No.4 It will steal the life God has appointed you to…We are called and chosen to live a fulfilling and complete life. Jesus described it this way: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly“(John 10:10).

The Vortex of Negativity is a thief bent on stealing, killing, and destroying our lives one piece at a time until the notion of an abundant life is nothing more than a fairy tale.

The devil would like nothing more than to get our focus off of God’s plan for our lives so that he can then offer us an alternative. Without fail, the alternative he presents to us will lead us down the path of destruction. How could it not, when Jesus has already told us what the enemy’s motives are?

The “Vortex of Negativity” is a powerful force that works against us in many ways. Whether it’s to steal our joy, our gratitude, our confidence, or even the very life God has planned for us, this cocktail of negativity is the enemy’s design for your ultimate destruction.

But I have Good News this day! Your Bible declares that “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord.    Isaiah 54:17

No weapon, no device, no Vortex of Negativity that the enemy tries to destroy you with can prosper.

This is your heritage as a child of God!

 

 

 

 

Translation or Demonstration: which do we need more of today?

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As of this post, there are approximately 100 versions of the English translation of the Bible. Amazingly enough, I am old enough to remember when you could count the number of Bible translations on one hand! My, how things have changed!

We now have versions that have eliminated all of the “impossibly difficult to pronounce words”. There are also versions that contain word for word translations of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek . We have Women’s,Men’s, Teens, Tweens, Children’s, Student’s, Leader’s, and New Believers Bibles.

Browsing online or through a Christian book store reveals a plethora of KJV,NKJV,ESV,NIV,NLT,NASB,HCSB,ISV, and about ninety other translations.

Confused yet? You should be.

Why do we have so many translations of the Bible when statistics show that only one in five Americans actually read the Bible? If we are to believe the data, it seems obvious that our attempts to make the Bible easier to read have largely been for naught.

Of course some will argue that if even one person is strengthened in their walk with Christ through reading one of the above mentioned Bibles it’s worth it, and I couldn’t agree more. I am thrilled that the Word of God is being presented in a manner so easily understood by the masses.

Yet somehow, the sheer volume of Bible translations hasn’t equated to stronger, faith filled Christians. How could they be, when the percentage of Bible reading is so low? Or as the Princess recently told me, just because man changes a lot of the words, man cannot change the heart.

Could it be that our focus is misdirected? Do you suppose that even with all of the available translations of the Bible we are still missing something?

I believe that we are. It’s a key component of our relationship with Christ, and it’s written on the very pages of the Bible we aren’t reading! Consider the following from  2nd Corinthians,chapter two:

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

In his 2nd letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul has just revealed to us the key component I was referring to. Let me explain.

It is not excellency of speech, for Paul said that he didn’t come spouting great sounding words, nor did he come declaring his vast wisdom. He could have, but that wasn’t his focus.

He did not come to them bragging about all of his past accomplishments, or of his powerful connections. Again, he certainly could have done so, as his resume was filled with them. What he did profess however was the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

Paul did not speak as to appeal to the wisdom of men, though he certainly could have held his own with the brightest minds of his day. Being a master of the Law, Paul was well versed in all aspects of communication, yet he made no effort to appease the conscience of men.

What Paul brought was nothing that would appeal to the carnal nature of man. What he brought to Corinth was a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God.

This is what I believe to be the missing, key component in our relationship with Christ: the demonstration of God’s power.

All of the things that Paul did NOT do or bring to Corinth, we have in abundance today. We have some of the most highly educated and knowledgeable men and women to be found anywhere in the world standing in our pulpits today.

We have men and women so eloquent of speech as to be capable of painting a thousand virtual masterpieces with their great swelling words, all designed to appeal to our carnal nature.

Yet what we desperately lack is a demonstration of the power of God. Please understand what Paul was referring to by the “demonstration of the Spirit and power”.

He was referring to the power of the Spirit to heal the sick, save the lost, and yes, even to raise the dead. Real power. God power. The kind of power that has become nearly extinct in our day.

While publishers continue to pump out more and more new Bible translations that go largely unread, the Church starves for a demonstration of the real power of God.

I must ask though, how can God reveal Himself in power when we don’t even know Him as the God of the Word?

Why is this so important? Paul gives us the answer in the last verse, where he says “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God”.

Our faith, that precious commodity that we are to cherish and nurture as a precious gift, must not be in any man. No preacher, no pastor, certainly not a “pay for your blessing” televangelist. Paul declares that our faith should stand in the power of God.

As many of you know, in the hardest times of your life faith that is rooted in God will stand. Likewise, faith that is rooted in man will last only as long as the good times last. God’s power is infinite, and His supply has not diminished with the passing of time.

My prayer is that all who read this will commit their being to God,not man. That instead of running to the next conference or the next hot off the press translation, we will run instead to the Word of God.

Regardless of the translation.

Ron

 

Like a bubbling fountain

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Outside of my living room windows stands a bubbling water fountain. The sound it makes is very relaxing, and I enjoy listening to it whenever I get the opportunity. fountain

After hurricane Irma passed through a couple of weeks ago the water in the fountain was extremely dirty. With winds in excess of 100 mph we had dirt and debris flying everywhere,so naturally the fountain was coated in dirt.

After a thorough scrubbing the fountain was filled with clean water, and once again we had a beautiful bubbling water fountain to enjoy.

One of the things I’ve noticed about owning a fountain is that you have to turn it on frequently or else the water will become stagnant and dirty. In fact, unless the water is kept clean, not even the birds want anything to do with it.

We are not so different, if you really think about it. Aren’t we in danger of becoming stagnant unless we have a supply of fresh water bubbling up within us?

Unless we keep the Spirit bubbling within us we will become like the fountain that never gets plugged in, that never gets cleaned, that tries to get along with the same old dirty water.

And no one will want anything to do with us.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.   Matthew 5:13 (NKJV)

May our fountains be constantly refreshed with Living Water.

Ron

 

 

A Total Eclipse of reason

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Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you no doubt are aware that there is a total solar eclipse coming to most of North America next Monday, August 21st.

While these events are special and very interesting to watch, I am always amazed at the number of prophecy prognosticators who use these NORMAL events to announce that the world is coming to an end.

I mean, seriously? Are Christians so illiterate concerning the scriptures that they actually believe that these NORMAL events are a sign of the end? Or am I in the minority in thinking this way? After all, we already know when these NORMAL events are going to occur for the next ten years!

Some prophecy “experts” are claiming that the coming eclipse is a warning of God’s impending judgement. In light of that, here’s a question for those that believe this. Do we in America need to see a solar eclipse as proof of God’s impending judgement upon us? Are we saying that unless the stars and moon align perfectly we will not believe that we need to repent? Is that what we’re saying?

What a shame, if indeed that is the case. The last time I checked, the Bible included many such warnings to repent and turn back to God. That’s right, it’s written in books like Matthew, Luke, Daniel, Ezekiel, 1st and 2nd Timothy, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians…..

Maybe if instead of hyping these NORMAL events as a sign of impending doom,what should happen is the prophecy seekers get out of the sun and into the Son.

One thing’s for certain: we can stare at the sun, the moon, and the stars until we’re blinded by it all. Meanwhile, back here on earth society is crumbling before our very eyes.

Now….where did I put my solar eclipse glasses?

God is still turning sorrow into joy!

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We all know that sometimes bad things happen to good people. Hardly any of us could say that we don’t know someone who has had to endure hardships not of their own choosing. Some of us are afflicted with incurable diseases that we wouldn’t wish on anyone. Still others of us have had to endure the hellish torment of abuse.

Oftentimes it is people we know and trust, people we are close to that will inflict the greatest hurt, leaving the victim shell shocked and asking “why?” or “how”?

Living as we do in a fallen world, a world seemingly dominated by evil, it is inevitable that hurt and pain will come to us. This, however, is not a new thing but merely a repeat of past human performances.

In the Bible there is a story of a young man named Joseph who was the apple of his father’s eye. His older brothers were so jealous of him that they found an occasion to sell Joseph to a caravan of slave traders, thinking they had finally rid themselves of their father’s “pet”.

Unbeknownst to the older siblings however, God had another plan. You see, God knew that a great famine was coming upon the land and many people would starve unless He intervened. Aren’t you glad that God intervenes in the affairs of man?

As impossible as it sounds, it was God who had orchestrated the selling of Joseph into slavery. In the years to come God gave Joseph favor in the house of Pharaoh to the point that he was second in power over all the land. Because of this divine intervention, Joseph was able to provide food and sustenance to the children of Israel, including his own father and brothers.

The wonderful story of Joseph ends with him telling his brothers…

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”     Genesis 50:20

Many of us have a similar story of God’s deliverance to tell, and I am no exception. I have experienced firsthand how that God can take a horrible situation and turn it into something beautiful.

There are few things a Christian would rather avoid than divorce, especially a divorce that you not only did not want, but one in which there are no biblical grounds for. I was forced into just such a situation many years ago, and the impact to me was completely devastating.

The mental anguish, the heartbreak that seemed to never go away, the catastrophic impact upon a once very promising ministry, all of these and much more were the result of a decision made by another person. A person I trusted.

When you are living a nightmare such as this, you feel as though your life is over. Everything you believed in, trusted in, and longed for is now gone. What remains is a void, a vacuum that cannot be filled. Life becomes a painful, daily chore of going through the motions, somehow detached from the living but existing nonetheless.

Each day of this zombie like existence becomes a test of your will to survive, because you don’t dare think beyond your present circumstances. To do so would be too risky, and at such a vulnerable state you cannot permit yourself to have even the slightest hope.

Thirty years ago I could never have permitted myself to have hope for a future. I was convinced that my life was destined to be one of failure, hurt, and misery. After all, how could I expect anything but that? When you have sunk so low that you have to reach up just to touch the bottom, what hope is there?

To be sure, evil can and does interrupt our lives with often devastating results, but I have learned that God always has another plan! Even though others might devise evil and hurt to inflict us with, God will take that and turn it into something beautiful if we will allow Him to take us through the refining process.

Yet God, the merciful and loving Father, had a different plan. A plan I could not see for the hurt and the tears, but a plan nonetheless. His plan included a hope for a future, one without hurt, pain, and resentment.

As I write this today, I am mindful of where I have come from. God not only delivered me, but He restored my life back to me, and in fact gave me a better life than I ever would have had! Who but God could do such things?

If today you find yourself in despair, the victim of someone’s evil intentions, you really can hope for a better life. In the shelter of our Fathers arms there is comfort and warmth, a respite from the fiery darts of the wicked.

May I encourage you to run into those arms today? I know that if you will do so, He will begin to reveal to you a better plan and a better life. It may not come over night, but there is a peace that passes all understanding in knowing that He is working on your behalf.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

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