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So Thankful

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Feeling incredibly thankful and blessed this Sunday for all of the blessings in my life. Having just turned another year older this week, I’ve been reflecting upon how that it’s been nothing short of amazing what God has been able to do in my life.

God is good friends, God is good.

No one but God could have scripted such a life. Now,to a lot of people that would mean that I was referring to a life of ease and continuous blessing. That would not be my life however.

I have learned that when considering one’s life,you must consider all of it,not just the good,with the sum total of all of life’s experiences determining whether or not one considers themselves “blessed”. And I am certainly blessed!

Looking back, it’s easy to see that it’s been His hand that has guided me through great times as well as through the storms that tried to destroy me. Getting to experience the thrills of mountain top experiences is a thrill like no other,just as experiencing the lows of the lowest valley is an experience like no other. As I said,only God could author such things!

What a mighty God we serve!

God has been my Provider, my Healer, and a friend that sticks closer than a brother. I give Him praise for all the goodness and mercy that has been poured into my life. Each and every time I wanted to give up on myself,there was an Unseen Hand that guided me to calmer waters,allowing me opportunities to call upon Him to steady the ship.

My prayer for each of you today is that these words will resonate with you, and that they will be a source of encouragement in your life.

So Thankful!the_light_end_tunnel

I Don’t Deserve This!

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How many times have you heard someone use this expression in describing a situation they find themselves in?

Abandoned wives or husbands use this expression.And no wonder as the average duration of a marriage in the U.S.is now down to 8.8 years.That’s not hard to believe when you factor in the divorce rate being between 40% to 50%,and subsequent marriages failing at an even greater percentage.These appalling numbers don’t even take into account the immeasurable suffering of the children of divorce.Surely they don’t deserve this.

Victims of abuse use this expression.According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States has been raped in their lifetime.
  • 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.

All of these maddening statistics suggest a people gone mad with brutality, and represent untold suffering inflicted upon the innocent and those unable to defend themselves.Surely they don’t deserve this.

Those enslaved by poverty use this expression.Poverty is perhaps one of the most cruel,inhumane tragedies of our time.It’s effects are far reaching and in many corners of the world Poverty is accepted as the norm.

I must admit that it took me quite a long time to fully understand Poverty and it’s devastating effects on society.You see,I was taught as a young boy the value of hard work and it’s subsequent rewards.To me it was very simple:work hard and you would be rewarded with money to be able to have things that you wanted.If you didn’t have, it was because you were too lazy to work. Simple!

Unfortunately,the reality is that there are tens of millions of people who have no opportunity for work.Go to work where? What job? Their life,if you can call what they do “living”consists of receiving handouts or public assistance, begging,stealing,or worse committing violent crimes in order to survive.

Just last evening I was watching a ministry program on TV that showed a small army of children descending upon a garbage dump.Not too many things more heart wrenching than that,unless it was the ministry “host” telling a dejected,hungry,no hope in her eyes  little girl to “think upon Jesus”. Huh? Surely they don’t deserve this.

So what’s the point of all of this? Well, I’ve been thinking about something that was dealt to me that I surely did not deserve. I didn’t ask for it. It was thrust upon me out of nowhere.I never saw it coming.

God’s Grace.

In a world engulfed by poverty,in a nation where abuse has been relegated to the 2nd or 3rd page of the paper,in a society where divorce is just as common as marriage,the Grace of God still shows up in a hungry heart.

Surely I don’t deserve this.

There’s Hope,then there’s HOPE!

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Hope,I really love that word because it speaks of having something to look forward to.It speaks of turning the page,of a new day with new opportunities.

We all have hope of some kind don’t we? Some of us hope for things,some of us hope for relationships,and still others of us hope for a better life altogether.

My wife and I even started a ministry called H.O.P.E.!

I think hope is something we all have to one degree or another.Granted,life can be challenging to the point that we feel that all hope is lost, yet God remains faithful even in the darkest of times.I don’t remember who said it, but someone stated that hope is being able to see that there is light in spite of the darkness.Love it.

In this world today many are questioning “where is that light”,for all that seems to take center stage is darkness.The senseless murder of innocents is increasing at an alarming rate throughout the world,and the pleas of the religious to stop the violence go unheeded.

Unquestionably,the hearts of many have become hardened to the point of unfeeling or uncaring.And it will get much worse.

Jesus said it would be so in the time in which we now live.

Yet…hope remains strong in the hearts of those who have placed their trust in the Lord Jesus.Not just any kind of hope,not just a maybe someday kind of hope.But a hope that is alive!

You see,there is one reason and one reason only why we have this kind of hope and it is summed up in one word:

Resurrection

For it is through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that we are able to lay hold on this hope.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,   [1Pe 1:3 NKJV]

Empty-Tomb-2

the cripplegate.com

Peter and the rest of the disciples understood that though they had suffered the loss of everything dear to them and had become social outcasts because of their faith in Christ,the faith that carried them from day to day was a living hope.

They had the kind of faith that was alive because they knew that their Lord was alive.And that hope is available to all of us today because Jesus is still alive!He is still alive and He is still offering that living hope to a world lost and headed for Hell.

That living hope is still the driving force that keeps us going through unspeakable tragedy.Hope that is alive is hope that will sustain us beloved!The tempest may blow,the storms of life will rage,our world will be rocked,but that living hope will see us through it all.

But there are those…

How sad that men and women choose to live out their lives not knowing that there is something beyond this life that is far better than anything they could ever imagine.The Apostle Paul said that if all we have hope for is in this life we are miserable!

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.    1Co 15:19 KJV

If you are reading this and you can say that you are without hope,or that your only hope is in this life,I invite you to consider Jesus the Living Hope.

He is the way maker when there doesn’t seem to be any other way.He is the peace speaker in the middle of the raging storm.He is the One and only One that can be called the difference maker.

He is alive,and He offers to all a living hope through His resurrection!

Have a blessed Easter,

Ron

Dream Stealer

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There have been a few occasions when I have shared with everyone how that my wife always seems to know exactly what to say and when to say it.This past Monday was no exception.

Monday was my birthday and I was feeling a little down about some things while I was at work.My wife and I had shared a few texts back and forth and she figured it out pretty quickly.Wives are like that,you know?At least the good ones are.

At some point during my lunch time I received yet another text from my wife,and I could tell by the length of it a mini sermon had filled the screen of my phone.I’d like to share what she said to me in hopes that it might speak to others,just as it has to me.

“Just heard a quote:if you don’t make peace with your reflection,you will always be at war with yourself”. She followed that with this:”we can’t change our past,but we can leave it at the cross and and move past it…and have peace and thrive.You have a future doing something for the Lord,but only if you stop living in your rear view mirror.Trust,believe….our future is only going to be as sweet as you expect and believe that it will be.Don’t allow the enemy to steal any more of your dreams”.

I think I’ve read this a dozen times since Monday and it’s still as powerful as the first time I read it.

Our reflection,or the man in the mirror can be a tremendous hindrance to our progress in the Lord,but only if we allow it to!Haven’t many of us commented that our greatest enemy is often ourselves?To overcome,or gain the victory over our own self doubts is necessary if we are to do anything for the Kingdom of God.

We all have a past.A past that many of us wish we could somehow wipe away never to be remembered again.But there is a powerful adversary who knows every minute detail f our past,and his job is to make sure that we don’t ever forget it.

It’s important that we understand this.As Christians we acknowledge the fact that the sins of our past are no more.As far as the East is from the West,that’s how far God has cast our sins away.

Yet Satan,the angel of light,our adversary,is determined that our past sins continue to have a stranglehold on every facet of our lives.This is the battle that everyone must fight.God has forgiven.Satan says “no He hasn’t”.

Our sins were nailed to the Cross beloved.Once and for all our sins were purchased by the blood of Christ.I think we would all do better if we reminded Satan of this from time to time.After all,our weapons are more powerful than his!

The weapons of our warfare are not carnal,but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.   2nd Cor 10:4

Because our sins were nailed to that Cross we are free to move beyond them,justified before a Holy God as though we had never sinned.That should be what we focus upon.That alone should be our battle cry.

My sins,your sins,all of them are in the rear view mirror.They are behind us.The only way you can see them is if you turn around and look for them.

How about you? Have any big dreams for God? Unfulfilled dreams? Dreams that you continue to hold on to?

As my precious wife reminded me,”don’t allow the enemy to steal any more of your dreams”.

Be blessed,

Ron

But what will you do in the end?

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As I read the papers,online news sources,TV news,etc…it is obvious that something is horribly wrong in America.

Now,before you say well duh,there are a lot of things wrong in America right now, let me explain.

There was a time in America when we were known around the world as the most prosperous nation on earth.We gave more to the world because we had more than any other country to give.We have a long standing record of feeding the world with the bounty from our fields and farms.I doubt that a more generous nation has existed.

We helped win world wars and turn back the tide of those who sought to conquer the world.The blood of our soldiers has been spilled all across this globe because of our willingness to support those who desired a better life than what they had.

Our manufacturing might revolutionized the industrial world and our wealth supported countless economies the world over.

But something has changed. Tens of millions of our own people are now dependent upon help to feed their families every month,yet the news reminds us that more jobs are being created than ever before.If that is true,then why can’t we feed ourselves? And if we are creating more jobs than ever before why isn’t the standard of living being increased? Something is wrong!

Listen,I’m no economist, and I’m about as far from being a politician as a man could be,but even I can see that something is terribly wrong in America!

Are we doing something wrong? Are we not doing enough? Is the answer more social programs? If so,who will pay for them? And where is the church in all of this? Why does it seem that in such a time as this the church is largely silent?

Do you attend or have membership in a church? If you do,would you describe your church as one that has a servant’s heart?

Is your church burdened with the needs of the downtrodden and poor of your community? Does your church feed the hungry? Does it clothe little children who otherwise would have next to nothing?

Is your church afraid to roll up it’s sleeves and get it’s hands dirty with the hard work of the ministry?

If yours is a church that is actively involved in the ministry and is truly making a difference in your community,you must count your blessings and give thanks to the Lord for the privilege of being a part of a real community of believers.

I say that because I see America’s greatest problem as a spiritual problem. I see America as having abandoned it’s Creator and is now hopelessly burdened with the impossible task of raising it’s self up from the pit of iniquity it has fallen in to.

And lest you think this is a new thing,or that somehow our actions have taken God by surprise,read along with me in the book of Jeremiah,chapter five. Please read this carefully and see if you don’t agree that the similarities between ancient Israel and America are striking.

22 Do you not fear Me?’ says the Lord. ‘Will you not tremble at My presence, Who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea, By a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass beyond it? And though its waves toss to and fro, Yet they cannot prevail; Though they roar, yet they cannot pass over it.

23 But this people has a defiant and rebellious heart; They have revolted and departed.

24 They do not say in their heart, “Let us now fear the Lord our God, Who gives rain, both the former and the latter, in its season. He reserves for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.”

25 Your iniquities have turned these things away, And your sins have withheld good from you.

26 ‘For among My people are found wicked men; They lie in wait as one who sets snares; They set a trap; They catch men.

27 As a cage is full of birds, So their houses are full of deceit. Therefore they have become great and grown rich.

28 They have grown fat, they are sleek; Yes, they surpass the deeds of the wicked; They do not plead the cause, The cause of the fatherless; Yet they prosper, And the right of the needy they do not defend.

29 Shall I not punish them for these things?’ says the Lord. ‘Shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?’

30 “An astonishing and horrible thing Has been committed in the land:

31 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. 5:22-31   NKJV   

I find it astounding that God declares that He withholds even the rain because of the iniquities of the people. How can we honestly say that this is not our present condition today? And what’s even more amazing is that for all of this,the people of God did not repent and change their ways.

For the Lord to say the deeds of His people surpass the deeds of the wicked staggers the imagination! Their houses are full of deceit. Israel has abandoned the God of their fathers and they are paying a price that will destroy them.

God declares that He will punish His people for this abandonment-are we so arrogant as to believe that we will not suffer the same fate?

The prophets,or religious leaders prophesy falsely.The leaders,the shepherds,the pastors,are all ruling by their own imaginations.They have not heard from God! The word they declare is their own word!

Yet worst of all is the declaration that the people love to have it this way! Again,are we any different today?

Do we not love to be told that everything is going to be alright? Do we not shop around until we find the church or pastor who will tickle our ears and tell us pleasant things? Do we not surround ourselves with like minded church folks-after all there must be security in numbers,right? Follow the crowd,they must be right!

What I’m about to say will not be received by most but I would be remiss if I did not say it.

America’s best days are behind it.

It cannot be any other way if we are willing to abandon the God of our blessings.We cannot have His blessings if as a nation we reject Him. It doesn’t work that way. Never has,never will.

God is no respecter of persons. If He rejected His firstborn because of their disobedience,then He will surely reject all who follow the same path.How could a just God do otherwise?

I hear the cries of nationalism that say God is for America,not against it.

I hear those who maintain that God will never turn His back on America.

My response to that is to say that you are absolutely correct:God will never turn His back on America. He doesn’t have to.

We turned our back on Him.

And what will we do in the end?

You Have Not Returned to Me

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All of us stumble and fall.

Every one of us.

Saints.

Sinners.

All of us.

Where is God when we stumble and fall? Does He turn a deaf ear to us and say that “you’re on your own”?

As all of us who have stumbled can attest,God is faithful to restore us again and again should we come to Him with a repentant heart.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.   Psa 34:18 KJV

But have you ever wondered whether or not you were important enough to the Lord that He would seek you out? Have you ever thought to yourself “am I even worth it”?

I mean,it’s one thing for me to acknowledge my sin and turn to the Lord asking for mercy.As a Christian I know that I must do this if I am to be restored to a right relationship with my Creator.

But what happens if we choose to continue doing that thing that displeases Him? Does the God of the universe wash His hands of us as if to say “well,I guess you will reap the rewards of your actions so you’re on your own”?

All of this brings me to a tragic story in the Old Testament book of Amos that reminds me of how far the Lord will go to recapture our hearts.The story is one that reveals the very nature of God’s heart and His longing for a relationship with His people.

1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, Who oppress the poor, Who crush the needy, Who say to your husbands, “Bring wine, let us drink!”

2 The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness: “Behold, the days shall come upon you When He will take you away with fishhooks, And your posterity with fishhooks.

3 You will go out through broken walls, Each one straight ahead of her, And you will be cast into Harmon,” Says the LORD.

4 “Come to Bethel and transgress, At Gilgal multiply transgression; Bring your sacrifices every morning, Your tithes every three days.

5 Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, Proclaim and announce the freewill offerings; For this you love, You children of Israel!” Says the Lord GOD.

6 “Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities. And lack of bread in all your places; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

7 “I also withheld rain from you, When there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, And where it did not rain the part withered.

8 So two [or] three cities wandered to another city to drink water, But they were not satisfied; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

9 “I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, Your vineyards, Your fig trees, And your olive trees, The locust devoured them; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

10 “I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; Your young men I killed with a sword, Along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

11 “I overthrew some of you, As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

12 “Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; Because I will do this to you, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

13 For behold, He who forms mountains, And creates the wind, Who declares to man what his thought is, And makes the morning darkness, Who treads the high places of the earth–The LORD God of hosts is His name.   Amos 4:1-13 NKJV  (emphasis mine)

This passage of scripture reveals clearly that our Lord will not just let us go to do as we will,but rather He will continually plead with His children to “return to me”. In other words,it isn’t as easy as we might imagine to “get away from the Lord”because as you can see,God will do whatever He needs to do to get your attention.

Why is that? Is it not because of your worth?

I once heard it said that for any soul to enter into Hell they would have to first get past Jesus,and I believe this to be true. The God who in times past sent armies to oppress His people in order to get them to return unto Him now has sent His only Son Jesus to stand between you and I and eternal separation from Him.

The God who in times past withheld even the rain from heaven to try to get His people to return unto Him now pleads with every soul to accept the Supreme Sacrifice that is His only Son,Jesus Christ as the only Way,the Truth,and the Life.

If you have fallen…get up. If you fall tomorrow…get back up.

You will find One reaching out to you with an unseen hand to pick you up,for He will not leave you broken and desolate.It is not in Him to abandon you in your time of need.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.  Psa 34:19 NKJV

He delivers him out of them ALL!

You can return unto Him!

Be blessed,

Ron

Give me your tired,your poor….

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Everywhere I look it seems that there are more and more people struggling in this land of plenty. Did you ever wonder how this can be,especially when there is so much prosperity to go around?How did it get this way,and more to the point…how did it get so bad?

Now,maybe you live in an area where everyone is doing very well.Maybe your circle of friends are all enjoying the good life and everything seems to favor you and yours.If that describes you,then this post will not resonate with you at all. For the rest of us however,read on.

The downtrodden and poor have always been a part of communities everywhere,as have the rich and well to do.Fact is,even Jesus acknowledged this when he said:

“For he have the poor always with you,but me ye have not always”. Matt. 26:11 KJV

So the reality of life is that there will always be the poor among us. I get that. I see it all the time. Perhaps you live that reality every single day.

So I wonder,in my own simplistic way,does it really have to be this way in America? In this world? Do we not have enough resources to effectively combat this problem,or is the real issue one of the allocation of those resources?

Before I go any further with this I need to make sure a few things are understood regarding my personal thoughts on this matter.

I do not believe continual handouts are the answer. History has proven that to be true. I know of many multi generational recipients of that type of “support”,all of whom seem to like the system just fine thank you.

Nor do I believe we should take the “Robin Hood” approach and take from those who have worked so hard to suceed in life and give to those who are lifelong “takers”. Sorry if that offends you,but that’s how it is.

So back to this resource thought. It is clear by anyone’s measurement that we have an abundance of riches in this country unlike any other nation on earth. And as such we have a responsibility to use those resources wisely,to allocate them in such a way as to help those who are struggling to reach the next rung on the ladder.

We have an abundance of natural resources such as coal,oil,natural gas,and alternative energy sources.

We raise enough food in this country to be able to export huge amounts of it,even while we pay out billions in subsidies every year to farmers so they will not plant too much(and yes,I like farmers).

Talk about an abundance!!!!

We are told by the media that the working poor suffer the greatest as they are caught in the middle. The don’t make enough to get over the hump,but make too much to qualify for certain assistance programs.It’s a lose lose for them and I feel their pain,as I too was once caught in that trap.

In truth,we in America are all filthy rich by the standards of the majority of the human population.Think about these statistics for a moment: there are just over seven Billion souls living on this planet.Over half of them,or 3.5 Billion of them live in poverty making less than $2.50 a day.What’s even worse is that over 1.3 Billion people live in extreme poverty earning less than $1.25 a day.

Our lifestyles represent a quantum leap away from those of the poor in other parts of the world. Yet for all of that,not everyone enjoys the basics of life in this,the richest country in the history of the world.

So what’s the problem? Why on earth are there so many doing without in this land of riches?

And where is the church in the midst of this problem? Ah yes,the church…

Shouldn’t the church be leading the way in the efforts to build up those who are down and struggling? And yes, I am aware of the many programs that some churches sponsor in an attempt to make a difference in the lives of the unfortunate.

Why has the church been only too willing to allow this to become the problem of the government and not their own?

I know,I know,”we give to missions”is always the answer isn’t it? We support missionaries all over the world and somehow our conscious is appeased and we can sleep well because of it.

Meanwhile the family across town goes hungry,children are forced to eat subsidized lunches and on and on it goes…

Speaking strictly from a Christian perspective,what do we do with all of the money we collect each week? Is it being used for salaries,staff,more building projects,bigger and better programs? What are our priorities as Christians?

Seems like a good spot for a great big ol’ WWJD doesn’t it?

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that if the majority of a churches’ budget is being spent to pay salaries and mortgage payments to the bank then we are failing in our efforts to be good stewards of the riches entrusted to us. That’s not what real ministry is folks.

Yes,the poor will always be with us.

But that does not diminish our responsibility to do everything we can to ease their burdens. It does not take away from the fact that the church is responsible,not the government,to see that the poor,the widows,and the fatherless have the basic necessities of life.

On a plaque affixed to the Statue of Liberty is a quote from the poem “New Colossus”,written by Emma Lazarus that perhaps you have heard of:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Many today are tired, poor, and broken in spirit. It is up to all of us to try to make a difference. First,by stepping up to the plate and helping to provide those in need with the essentials.

Secondly,to speak the words of truth and life contained in the Word of God to each person we come into contact with.

Be blessed,and pray for those less fortunate.

Ron

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