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What is your church known for?

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I read an interesting article from Thom Rainer about Three Ways Churches Think They Are Known in Their Communities.

The gist of it centered around the question of “What is your church known for in its community?” Thom collected the responses to the question and found three patterns emerged. Below are the results, and I urge you to read the entire article along with the readers comments at the end.

  1. “About one-half of the churches are known for ministries that require the community to come to the church itself. Great preaching. Incredible worship services. A friendly church. Great events at the church. How our members care for one another. You get the picture.
  2. About one-fourth of the churches cited great ministries in and to the community. Partnering with schools in the community. Serving the community with food and clothes. Medical and dental ministries. Ministries to families, parents, and children in the community. The list goes on and on.
  3. About one-fourth of the churches said they were known for negative reasons. Preacher-eater churches. Congregational fights and splits. Legalism. Unfriendliness.”

All of this got me to thinking about my own church, so much so that I’m going to take my own unscientific poll to find out what my fellow congregants think our church is known for in our community.

What would you learn about your church should you ask the question “What is your church known for in its community?”

Do you think you already know their answers, or do you think you might be surprised at what you would learn?

Be blessed!

Ron

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Fathers are more important now than ever before

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Happy Father’s Day to all the dad’s out there! This is your day to kick back, relax, fire up the grill, admire that new tie, power tool, or fishing rod you received, and bask in the love and adoration of your family.

All of this after you’ve taken your family to church, of course!

Fathers Day came about because of a lady named Sonora Smart Dodd, who after hearing a Mother’s Day sermon, asked her pastor to prepare a sermon honoring fathers as well. What’s interesting about this was that Dodd’s own father, a Civil War veteran, was himself a single parent, raising six children on his own.

Father’s Day was first celebrated on June 19, 1910, in the state of Washington, and an awful lot has changed since then, wouldn’t you agree? Our nation hardly resembles the one that Dodd lived in a little over a hundred years ago. For certain, the makeup of our families bears little resemblance to those of that long gone era.

For example, according to the website National Kids Count, approximately 35 percent of children under 18 lived in a single-parent home as of 2016. In addition, as many as 25-percent of children in the U.S. live in households with a mother alone. That is over 18 million children who do not live with a father figure.

Obviously, when fathers are absent from the home it creates many negative effects on their children. According to “What Can the Federal Government Do To Decrease Crime and Revitalize Communities?“, children from fatherless homes account for:

  • Suicide: 63 percent of youth suicides
  • Runaways: 90 percent of all homeless and runaway youths
  • Behavioral Disorders: 85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders
  • High School Dropouts: 71 percent of all high school dropouts
  • Juvenile Detention Rates: 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
  • Substance Abuse: 75 percent of adolescent patients in substance abuse centers
  • Aggression: 75 percent of rapists motivated by displaced anger

With an acknowledged divorce rate hovering at 50%, it doesn’t appear that these negative statistics will be improving any time soon. Too bad marriage counselors and divorce attorney’s don’t share these statistics with their clients!

While those in the Christian community have been sounding the alarms for decades about the attack on our families, there can be no doubt that the enemy has indeed dealt the family a near fatal blow.

We understand that the family unit was orchestrated by God when He created Adam and his wife Eve, placing them in a beautiful garden. This was the very first family in the history of man, and it represented God’s crowning achievement.

The Genesis account tells us that God himself walked in the garden with Adam and Eve, thus establishing a special bond with them. As we know, things were sailing along fabulously until Satan entered the picture and destroyed this relationship man had with God.

Ever since then, the evil one has been determined to wreck havoc on our homes with one purpose in mind: to destroy God’s plan for marriage and family. I won’t bore you with more data, it is enough to simply look around you to confirm that Satan’s plan is in full swing.

1st Peter 5:8 reminds us to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

The enemy is on the prowl, and his target is your family.  I believe however that our homes and families are worth fighting for! Dad’s must begin to pray for their wives and children. Wives must begin to pray for their husbands and children.

On this Father’s Day my prayer is that all of us who are fathers will take up the battle and fight for our families. James 4:7 tells us “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

By calling upon the Lord to help us in this fight, we are bringing Him into the battle, and the last time I checked, He is still undefeated!!

Happy Father’s Day!

Ron

 

 

From a child’s perspective

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I recently had an enlightening conversation with a friend of mine, and as we were talking he told me about something interesting that occurred in his church’s Sunday school class.

Being one of the teachers of 1st thru 5th grade students, he frequently tells me about some of the things the kids say and do, and I must concur that “Kids Say the Darndest Things”.

On this particular Sunday morning, it seems the lesson was on “Worry”. The gist of the lesson was that each child was given a piece of paper with 15 words listed on it. All of the words involved things you might worry about as a child.

The kids were instructed to circle the five things they would be most worried about from the list that included:

  • the death of a friend or loved one
  • forgetting your homework
  • getting lost
  • fear of the dark
  • being hungry

As each student turned in their paper the teacher tallied the scores, and the results were somewhat surprising. The #1 selection was the death of a friend or loved one. This is understandable, considering the trauma of such an event.

What was very surprising however was that the 2nd most popular selection was being hungry. Especially intriguing is the fact that none of the kids in his class know what being hungry feels like!

How sad is it that little kids who have never missed a meal worry so much about going hungry? What exactly does this say about our society? What does this say about our priorities as a nation? Better yet…

What Would Jesus Do?

Then the little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them; and the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of heaven” belongs to such as these. And after He had placed His hands on them, He went on from there.…   Matthew 19:13-15

Children are precious in the eyes of the Lord. Is it because our adult eyes no longer acknowledge the Lord that we are blind to this fact?

As a nation, we have rejected God and His plan for right living. In its place we have chosen instead to be inundated with 24/7 images of adultery, drugs, murder, prostitution, greed, abuse, divorce, and every conceivable type of debauchery imaginable.

And our children are growing up in these same homes, listening, wondering, and worrying if one day they too will feel the pangs of hunger, if they haven’t already.

If I’m being honest here, I sometimes wonder about the seeds we adults have planted in the minds of our children. The horrible things that we have exposed them to must surely be an affront to God.

Little kids are smart, much smarter than we like to give them credit for, and they instinctively know when things aren’t right. Given the opportunity, how long do you think it would take our children to prioritize the hunger problem in America?

It’s a crying shame that we as adults don’t have the same heart as they do.

Ron

 

America is a Hungry Nation

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Americans are hungry.

Hungry for God.

Hungry for love.

Hungry for decency.

Hungry for morality.

Hungry for something to eat.

That’s right, Americans are also hungry for something to eat. The wealthiest nation on the planet struggles with a hunger problem. So much so that 1 in 8 people are struggling with hunger.

Would it surprise you to learn that 1 in 6 children are also struggling with hunger? Or that 1 in 4 African American children are hungry? Additionally, 43% of households receiving SNAP benefits(formerly Food Stamps)have children. If you’ve ever been a hungry child, and I have, this is staggering.

A quick glance at the Food Insecurity Map from FeedingAmerica.org shows just how pervasive the hunger problem is in America.

food insecurity map

If you click on the Food Map link above, it will take you to the Feeding America website where you can input your own demographics and see firsthand what the Food Insecurity Rate is in your area. Or you can simply hover over any state and see that particular state’s F.I.R.

Children are particularly vulnerable to hunger and the subsequent effects of poor nutrition. Unbelievably, 86% of the counties with the highest rates of child food insecurity are rural. What makes that statistic so unbelievable? Food is grown in rural areas!

African Americans, Latinos, Whites, Seniors, Urban Americans, Rural Americans, all are struggling with providing enough food for their families to eat. Right here in America!

Now, we can argue all day long about how and why we are in this predicament. And I’m quite sure we all have our opinions about America’s priorities. The fact is none of that matters to a hungry child.

None of that matters when our elderly citizens have to make the choice between buying medicine or food. Neither does any of that matter to the family that has to choose the poorest quality of food just to be able to afford to put something,anything, on the table.

The recent “Great Recession” may be but a memory to most, but to the tens of millions of Americans that are still reeling from the effects of unemployment,stagnant wages, and the ever increasing cost of living, it is a nightmare that won’t go away.

The point I want to make is that we can do better! We throw away 25% of the food we buy in America. Every single one of us tosses a pound of food each day in the garbage. Food that could go a long way in eradicating the hunger problem.

I encourage everyone to become better educated about this serious problem in America by going to FeedingAmerica.org and learning what you can do to ensure that our children, indeed all Americans have the opportunity to secure healthy,nutritious food for themselves and their families.

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

And we wonder why…Part 2

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So…what have we replaced God with in America?

For one, we have replaced God with the great “god” of Entertainment.

This “god” comes in many forms. How many can you think of?

Movies, the internet, music, video games, books and magazines, outdoor activities like fishing and boating, cycling, concerts/shows, and the theater are just a few of the entertainment options available to most of us.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of these activities. There is a problem however with the inordinate amount of our time that these activities consume. When our lives revolve around these entertainment activities, they have become to us a “god”.

When it comes to our children however, we have replaced Almighty God with a different type of entertainment “god”. This “god” comes in the form of a rectangular box, a box that dispenses goodness or morality in bite size portions, while spewing hatred and violence at an unprecedented rate.

This same rectangular box has also replaced parental guidance and nurturing. We have come to the point where we don’t need or want parents pushing their outdated morals on our children. Society has divorced itself from God. Just give us the box!

While you may scoff at such assertions, the evidence is overwhelming. According to csun.esu, the amount of violence our children are exposed to on TV from very young childhood until they reach 18 years of age is nothing short of staggering.

“Number of murders seen on TV by the time an average child finishes elementary school: 8,000….    Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18: 200,000….    Percentage of Americans who believe TV violence helps precipitate real life mayhem: 79%”.

Add to this recipe for disaster the fact that a child spends roughly 900 hours in school each year, but nearly 1500 hours in front of a television!

Did you know that 2000 hours a year is considered the normal number of hours for a full time worker in America? What this means is that our children are watching TV at almost the same rate as having a full time job!

Does this not astound you? Does this not bother you? If our children are spending such an incredible amount of time in front of a TV set, what else does that leave time for? How much blood and gore can a mind absorb before it accepts that this is normal?

And what about the music our children are listening to? Did you know that explicit sexual and violent content have become the norm in a lot of the music our kids are listening to?

Reading the following paragraph from an article entitled Impact of Music, Music Lyrics, and Music Videos on Children and Youth from pediatrics.aappublications.org will give you some idea as to how pervasive this filth is.

Lyrics have become more explicit in their references to drugs, sex, and violence over the years. A content analysis of the top 10 CDs performed by the National Institute on Media in 1999 revealed that each of these CDs included at least 1 song with sexual content. Forty-two percent of the songs on these CDs contained very explicit sexual content.

Lyrics of some music genres, such as rock, heavy metal, rap, and new emerging genres such as reggaeton, have been found to revolve around topics such as sexual promiscuity, death, homicide, suicide, and substance abuse. Most recently, some rap music has been characterized by the presence of explicit sexual language in its lyrics as well as messages of violence, racism, homophobia, and hatred toward women. Drug, tobacco, and alcohol use also tend to be glorified in these songs.”

I purposely chose this particular article, written in November 2009, solely because it references information from 1999. That’s over 18 years ago. How much worse do think the situation is today?

And where are the parental controls the cable provider likes to tell us about?

Our children are acting out what they see glorified on TV and in music videos. This garbage has now become the norm to them, and yet we want to blame the NRA, the Congress, or the President?

And we wonder why the killings?

The sad truth of the matter is that society, and parents in particular, are looking for a “Scapegoat”!

Where does the parent factor in to this equation?

Where are the parents who should be stepping up and taking control of their homes? What has happened to parents assuming responsibility for every facet of their child’s education, both public and private?

We have abdicated our parental rights and responsibilities to the great “god” of Entertainment, and we have the gall to ask why the killings?

We as parents have willingly turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to what our children are watching and listening to, and we still ask why the killings?

Perhaps,and I say this with all due respect, perhaps we should turn our attention away from searching for a Scapegoat, and instead look in the mirror.

In part 3 of “And we wonder why” we will look at the role the Church has taken in all of this. I assure you I have some hard questions to ask of our spiritual leaders, and I hope you will be watching for this next installment.

Until next time,

Ron

And we wonder why….Part 1

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The recent massacre of 17 children on Valentine’s Day in Parkland Fl. has turned my thoughts once again to the plight of America’s children, and the ever increasing dangers they must contend with in a society rendered (seemingly) helpless to protect them.

Though this most recent mass shooting occurred about three weeks ago, I have purposely delayed writing this series of posts until now in order to clear my head and heart of the emotions I’ve been contending with as a result of this tragedy.

Parents and average citizens alike are outraged, as well they should be, that yet another mass shooting has taken place in one of our schools. The senseless, cowardly attack on our children has once again left our nation grief-stricken, searching for answers.

Searching for someone, or something to blame.

True to form, whenever a tragedy of this magnitude takes place, the inevitable call to do something about guns, particularly guns such as the AR-15 rifle, soon follows.

Of course, it is understandable that grieving parents would lash out at what they perceive to be the primary cause of why they must now bury their child.

Who wouldn’t?

Also true to form, the moments after such a tragedy find our elected representatives on both the Left and the Right politicizing the event, as if the murder of seventeen innocent children were some sort of sick, twisted, political football to be tossed back and forth.

How sick and perverted is it when the people we elect to represent us cannot lay aside their differences in the face of such a tragedy, and come together in the spirit of unity and compassion for the betterment of the nation?

No offense, but if this doesn’t cause you to feel outrage, you should have someone check your pulse.

Surely one would hope that the cries of anguish from a broken-hearted mother would be able to break through the self-imposed impasse that prohibits having a reasonable, rational discussion among the stakeholders.

You think?

Some say it’s the fault of the NRA, or the Congress. To others it’s the fault of the President. Depending on which side of the political pendulum you swing from, it’s either the fault of the Conservatives or the Liberals.

None of which is completely true. Rhetoric rarely contains more than a thumbnail of truth, after all.

You see, when we don’t know what to do, we look for a scapegoat. For those of you unfamiliar with the word scapegoat, it comes from the Old Testament book of Leviticus.

On the Day of Atonement, the sins of the people were ceremoniously placed upon a goat called the “scapegoat”, who was then released into the wilderness to wander.          Scripture reference Leviticus 16:5-10

When our children are mercilessly slaughtered, our righteous grief and anger demand that we affix blame; hence we look for our own version of the Levitical scapegoat.

And who could blame us? Sins of such magnitude stir within us the desire for revenge and justice. Someone must pay! Someone must be held accountable!

Barring an unforeseen turn of events, the murderer of the 17 kids at Stoneman Douglas High School, confessed killer Nikolas Cruz, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

But does that bring any of those children back? Does a lifetime sentence for Mr. Cruz mean the end of school shootings in America? The answer I’m afraid is NO to both questions. Let me explain why I believe that.

Our nation is drowning in violence, hatred, and evil, and as a nation there is no longer a life preserver of righteousness or morality for us to grab hold of. This is the path that we have chosen, despite those who would say otherwise.

We have systematically removed the one Source from this nation that is capable of defeating the evil that is upon us. Indeed, our “Life Preserver” has been tossed overboard without us. Consider the following:

  • We have outlawed public prayer nearly everywhere. Heaven help you should you want to open a public meeting with a moment of prayer.
  • The ACLU has made sure that the Baby Jesus can’t show up at the town square at Christmas.
  • Football coaches are forbidden to pray with their students before game time.
  • The Ten Commandments have been removed from our courtrooms.
  • Christians who denounce SIN are now denigrated as haters.
  • The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States.
  • The names of God or Jesus cannot be used least someone become offended. Of course, if you want to use those names in a curse, then no harm, no foul.

And we wonder why we’re killing one another?

We’ve removed GOD from America, and what has He been replaced with?

In Part 2 of “And we wonder why”, I’ll share with you just one of the things that has replaced God in America. I’ll also show you some startling facts about the efforts taking place to steal our children’s innocence, and the devastating effects it is having upon them.

Until then…

Ron

Missing: Spiritual Leadership in the Home

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In these chaotic days in which we now live,the absence of leadership,particularly Godly leadership,is most definitely contributing to the moral demise of our homes, communities,and ultimately our society.

It is a natural human tendency to look for leadership, as we’re taught from our youth that there is a hierarchy,or leadership structure in our homes, schools, and government that we are to follow.   Leadership

When people lack leadership at any level, they tend to look elsewhere. For the Christian, we look to the Church, or more specifically to our Pastors and leaders in the local church.

Unfortunately, even that is no longer a given, as evidence by the plethora of wannabe leaders looking to make Church a “career”, rather than a lifetime commitment to servant hood.

So what’s a person or family to do who cannot find sound,Godly leadership? If you are a Christian, you look inward,to those in your own home. In other words…sometimes you have to step up and assume the leadership role of your family.

After all, that’s what God called you to do! Yes…you are called to be the servant leader of your home!

The Bible has established a very clear leadership path for our homes and families, which is that the husband is to be the spiritual head of the family. The Apostle Paul gave perhaps the most in-depth explanation of this in his epistle to the Ephesian church.

Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, …   Eph. 5: 21-33   ESV

Please note, I am fully aware that many will bristle at the word “submit”. Taken out of context, the word “submit” is a demeaning,humiliating term of subservient obedience. That is NOT however what the Apostle Paul is meaning when he used the word “submit”.

The term “submit” was used to describe relationships peculiar to Christian believers. By digging into the scriptures, we find that the true sense of the word describes the Christian grace of voluntarily yielding one’s preferences to another.

In other words, to “submit” in the Christian sense has nothing whatsoever to do with domination,or forcing one’s will upon another. NOTHING! And for you husbands that think this verse gives you a license to lord over your wives like some kind of ogre, think again. You are supposed to love your wife as much as Christ loved the church, even to the point of giving your own life for her!

love your wives

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Of course, even the Biblical example of spiritual leadership in the home can present it’s own share of unique problems today. For example,the family structure in America is undergoing a radical shift away from the two parent household. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2016 there were nearly 12 million single parent households, with a staggering 80% of those headed up by single mothers.

Additionally, 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 — a total of about 17.2 million — are being raised without a father! So much for men assuming the traditional spiritual leadership role of the home. How can they, when they aren’t even there?   source: https://singlemotherguide.com/single-mother-statistics/

Is it any wonder then that our children’s lives are being wrecked by gangs, drugs, violence and despair? There is no Biblical family structure in so many of these situations, and lacking that many of our children are left to fend for themselves, often becoming easy prey to the streets.

Single mothers are attempting to provide the family structure,income, and spiritual leadership that God intended for BOTH the husband and the wife to provide. This is a HUGE problem! This is NOT what the Lord intended for our families, that they be ripped apart in front of our eyes.   women-in-christian-leadership.jpg

So who’s going to provide this much needed spiritual leadership given that the home is under such an attack? One thing is for certain, and that is that if families are to survive the spiritual onslaught they are being subjected to, and it is indeed a spiritual attack, God has to become the focal point of the home!

Whether the home consists of a husband and wife or a single parent, someone must step up and assume the role of spiritual leader. There can be no other solution. There MUST be a spiritual head in our homes.

There must be that “go to person” that prays for their family. There has to be a clearly defined spiritual leader that can offer Biblical guidance and wisdom to their children. And lest I be misunderstood, whoever is the spiritual head of the home must seek advice,counsel, and wisdom from each member of the family.

This cannot be a one man or one woman show! Spiritual leadership in the home that fails to seek input from others is not true leadership, it is equivalent to being a taskmaster ordering their subjects to obey his or her commands.

OK, you’ve read this very lengthy post. Now what do I do? Here are three simple ways to provide spiritual leadership for your family:

  1. Learn to pray for your family! Every day, the spiritual leader of the home should be taking their families to the throne of God. Ask God to cover your family with His divine protection.
  2. Pray for wisdom. Just as King Solomon prayed and asked the Lord to give him wisdom to rule the people of Israel, so should we be asking the Lord for such wisdom. Parents, especially new parents don’t always know what is best for their families. After all, it’s not like or children come with an instruction manual!
  3. Lead by example! Be the man or woman of God that you have been called to be. Be strong and courageous in the Lord. As David encouraged himself in the Lord, we too should look to Him as our source of encouragement.
Dear Lord

Beliefnet.com

My prayer is that we will assume our rightful position as spiritual leaders in our homes, whether male or female.

It is our only chance to take back what the enemy has stolen from us. Indeed, it is our only hope for a future!

Be blessed!

Ron