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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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“I want God to heal me,but…”

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I still remember hearing someone say those exact words to our pastor. A young man from church had been injured at work, and the pastor had asked him if he would like the church to pray for him according to James 5:14.

Now, the first reaction would normally be to answer “YES” to having the church pray for you, especially if you are in pain and unable to work. Especially if that was the norm for your church!

That would be the normal reaction.

That wasn’t, however, the reaction of the young man who was injured. His response was “well, I want God to heal me, but I’m expecting a big check from the state Workers Compensation and I don’t want to jeopardize that”.

Like most of us in the congregation, the pastor was stunned at his response. Quickly regaining his composure, the pastor said something along the lines of “well, let’s pray that God will heal you and that you will get the money you are anticipating”. I mean, what else could he say at that point?

What would your reaction have been?

Is it not strange how we say we want God, but we really don’t? On one hand we say we want God’s blessings, but sometimes our actions say we want them if

I guess it isn’t just kid’s “that say the darnedest things”, but do we really think about the things we say?

What does this say about us and about our relationship with the father? I think it says that we think way too highly of ourselves for one thing. Or it could say that we are confused as to who serves whom.

This attitude is reminiscent of one that appeared long ago in a garden somewhere. Remember the Garden of Eden, when Satan tempted Eve? Satan told Eve that if she would eat of the forbidden fruit her eyes would be opened and she would be like God. Even though God had been explicit in His instructions to Adam & Eve, they decided to roll the dice.

How did that work out for them?

There is an interesting dilemma in the church today, this idea that we can bargain, or negotiate with God. Of course, we’ve all heard or known of people who have said “Lord, if you will do such and such, I’ll serve you”. That’s not at all unusual.

However, we seem to have taken this thought process a step further when we say that we want God’s blessings, “but”…Are you or I in a position to negotiate with the Almighty?

This mindset is further proof that we are living in the time that Paul said would come where “men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful.…” (II Tim 3:2-5).

The young man at the beginning of this story, what happened to him? Well, he got his big check and spent it on all kinds of “stuff”. He did not however, receive his healing. It’s also interesting to note that he has not worked since those events of 25 years ago.

Oh, and lest you think this story was one that couldn’t possibly be repeated, you would be wrong. Just three years ago I had a lady from another church tell me nearly the same thing. She was also receiving compensation for a work related injury and was therefore hesitant to be prayed for.

What is it that you need from God? Healing? Finances? Hope? Comfort? Encouragement?

If we need something from our Heavenly Father, we cannot be double minded about it. When we come to the throne, we must ask in faith, with no doubting. The Bible tells us that we who are double minded are unstable in all our ways and we will receive nothing! (James 1:6-8).

Whatever your need this day, don’t try to bargain with God. Simply come to Him and make your needs known to Him. He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

Perhaps you are questioning whether or not God will hear your prayer,or whether or not you are “good enough”. If that’s you, I’d like to leave you with this verse to meditate on:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out.   John 6:37

Have a blessed Lord’s day!

Prosperity: God’s way

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Last week my wife and I were privileged to minister at the Eastview Church of God in Dayton,Oh. It was so wonderful to hear my wife sing the praises of God while I accompanied her on the guitar.She is such a blessing in my life and there is no doubt that God himself smiled upon this unworthy man the day she came into my world.

Since it has been far too long since my last post,I thought I would share a bit from the message I delivered last week.I do apologize for this,but we are currently consumed with moving and I haven’t had the time to really think about the blog.

My message for the day was based on 2nd Chronicles 15:1-8. The theme of these verses is God’s clear instruction that if you walk with Him, he will walk with you,but if you turn away from Him he will also turn away from you.

Though Judah had previously enjoyed God’s blessings they now found themselves broken,discouraged,and defeated. They had in effect walked away from God.

Sin will destroy a nation.

Every time.

Yet because Asa turned his heart to the Lord God gave him rest and peace during his reign. Stability was also one of the hallmarks of Asa’s reign as he ruled for 41 years. Contrast that with the fact that during those 41 years, Israel had crowned seven different kings!

Asa tore down the pagan gods. He even destroyed the images his own mother had erected!asa-cuts-down-image

Clearly there is an historical precedent that we could learn from by examining what the Lord said unto Asa. Lets read together from my text from last week’s message.

1 Now the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded.

2 And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.

3 For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law;

4 but when in their trouble they turned to the Lord God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them.

5 And in those times there was no peace to the one who went out, nor to the one who came in, but great turmoil was on all the inhabitants of the lands.

6 So nation was destroyed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every adversity.

7 But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!”

8 And when Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had taken in the mountains of Ephraim; and he restored the altar of the Lord that was before the vestibule of the Lord.       2nd Chronicles 15:1-8  NKJV

“The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you”.

Could the God of heaven make it any more plain than this?

Contrast this Word with what America is hearing from its pulpits today. We are being told that the way to prosperity is to GIVE. TV preachers constantly use the same tired,worn out shtick that if you give,it will be given to you…

Of course the Word says that. But the last time I checked,there were also an additional 65 books of the Bible that teach us the full understanding of God’s plan of prosperity!

Can you imagine that the God who said that the earth and the fullness thereof is the Lord’s is at all behind such lunacy?

For us to prosper as individuals and as a nation,the die has been cast. There is no “formula” or “special prayer” that will cause us to prosper.You can give all you have to your favorite hipster preacher and it will not prosper you one bit so long as their remains sin in the camp!

No, it is a heartfelt commitment unto the Lord that brings prosperity to our lives, to our nation.

“For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law;”

Sound familiar? Recognize any similarities? Hello North America!!

“But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!”

Clearly,God wants to prosper His children. But it can only happen when we turn again to the Lord.He will not prosper us if we are double minded,if we live like the world and partake of it’s sin. God said rather that He would turn away from us.

I told the congregation that I’m around people all day who make the sign of the cross but speak as though they spend most of their time in the bars! It should be obvious to anyone that we cannot have it both ways!

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.   3rd John 1:2  KJV

Have a blessed Sunday everyone!

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’ve Never Seen This One….”

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That’s what someone told me last night as I was watching the sunset on the beach. I had just commented to a lady who worked at the restaurant and had stopped working to gaze at the sun setting that it seemed kind of silly for a bunch of grownups to be so excited about watching it.Cameras,cell phones,even video cameras set up.People scrambling to get the best spot to take that once in a lifetime shot.I mean,the sun setting happens on a pretty regular basis doesn’t it? You’d think these people had never seen a sunset the way they’re acting!

That’s when the lady turned to me and said “You’ve never seen this one”. Honestly,I was stunned at her reply,or maybe it was that her reply stunned me back to reality.You see, it’s been pointed out to me recently that I am so busy and so consumed with my work that I am no longer a participant in life,but merely an observer. OUCH!

That dear lady had never seen me before yet she did not hesitate to point out to me the various shapes of the clouds and innumerable colors that all but seemed to set the sky on fire.Funny what you miss when it’s often right in front of you, isn’t it?

I’ve thought a lot about that,not being a participant that is. Going through the motions and all.And you know what? It is 100% true. I’ve been going through the motions at such a pace and for so long that I have all but let life leave me behind.Wow!

Life passes us by pretty quickly doesn’t it? Everywhere you turn it seems we are consumed with ourselves to the point of not even realizing that there are others all around us longing for just a little bit of our time and attention.Thinking of that brings this scripture to my mind:

James 4:14 (NKJV) whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

I don’t know about you but that’s a very sobering thing to comprehend.We do not have long upon this earth and as good stewards of the time we’ve been given, why should we sit on the sidelines?Why shouldn’t we be an active participant of the life God has blessed us with?

All of this has given me a renewed sense of the magnitude of blessings that have been given to me.Where sometimes I get so distraught when I’m faced with defeat the better choice is to remember that in the big picture I have won far more than I have lost.

Oh, and that sunset on the beach? This is what I’m talking about….

??????????

And for the record, I was among the ones jockeying for position with all the other “tourists”.

Be blessed,

Ron

When God Has Another Plan

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I’ve spent my entire adult life either making new plans or working to bring existing plans to fruition. Everything from creating business plans at work to helping my wife plan our annual family vacation,planning is something I’ve always been involved in.Depending on who you ask,I’ve been more successful in some areas than others and I’m sure you can all relate to that.

Yet when it comes to serving God,our best laid plans are often reduced to shreds.All of our planning,strategies,and hard work can be brought to naught when we feel the Lord leading us in a new direction.If you’ve ever been in this place then you know that when you feel the Holy Spirit begin to tug at you to go a different direction, it can be a very hard thing to do.After all, whoever said that obedience is easy?

Abraham was a man who came to a place where he had to make a decision about which way to go with his life. Read with me the Genesis account of this story(emphasis mine).

Genesis 13:1-18 (NKJV)
1 Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the South.
2 Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.
3 And he went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai,
4 to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the Lord.
5 Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents.
6 Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together.
7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land.
8 So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren.
9 Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.”
10 And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar.
11 Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other.
12 Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom.
13 But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.
14 And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are— northward, southward, eastward, and westward;
15 for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.
16 And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.
17 Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.”
18 Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the Lord.

Abraham gave Lot the 1st choice of the land before them, and like most of us Lot chose the best of the best. Who could fault him for that? Again, wouldn’t we do the same?

Yet God had another plan for His servant Abraham.While Lot was busy with moving toward the green grass and wells of water in Jordan,it would be easy to say that Abraham got the short end of the stick. But God had something much better than wells and fields in store for Abraham.Instead of real estate,He gave Abraham a covenant, or a promise.A promise that his seed would be as the dust of the earth for multitude.A promise of blessing.

Sometimes God’s plan calls for there to be a separation,or parting of the ways.We can trust Him to have our bests interests at heart if we will choose to follow His plans and not ours.Leaving our comfort zone is never easy but leave we must if we are to continue to grow in Him.

I find myself in this exact same position at this time in my life.The Lord has uprooted our family and we have begun a new journey,a journey that we are taking by faith for we do not know what is beyond the next bend in the road.All we know is that we feel His call to step out and obey.A journey that is both frightening and exciting at the same time.I pray that this is not a selfish request, but we desire your prayers.

Be blessed,

Ron