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Old habits sure are hard to break

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I like to talk to people. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re young or old, male or female, or what nationality they may claim. I find people interesting, and I enjoy striking up a conversation with them.

I’m that guy who goes to Walmart with his wife and disappears for a few minutes, only to be found two aisles over talking to someone he’s never met before.

Yep, that guy.

If I see someone just moving in the neighborhood I’ll probably strike up a conversation with them the first chance I get. Just did that a few days ago as a matter of fact.

The ladies in my house think my talking to complete strangers is a bit odd.

They may be right.

What’s funny (to me) about this is that until I was in my early 20’s I was extremely shy and socially awkward. Even looking someone in the eyes was a major struggle for me. Maybe some of you can relate?

It wasn’t until I became a Christian and began to grown in my faith that I actually began to see myself as “good enough” and on equal footing as the rest of the world. Oh sure, I had plenty of people telling me that I would never be more than the shy, introverted country boy I’d always been, but I was determined to be more than that.

By the grace of God and the support of the best wife in the world I went farther than what anyone ever thought I would or could. Along the way I found my voice and God opened many, many doors for me to use it. Again, it was nothing I did. To God be the Glory for every good thing that has come my way!

So, as I said, I enjoy talking to people. I’m finding out however, that I’m not supposed to be doing that any longer, at least not without some restraints. Let me explain.

A few months ago I was out walking and the school bus dropped off a young lady and as the bus pulled away, I said hello to her. She didn’t respond, which I took to mean she didn’t hear me. So I said something to the effect of “I bet you’re glad to be out of school for the day, aren’t you”? This time she murmured something that I couldn’t understand. With that, she seemed to pick up the pace and hurried to get home.

Odd, I thought.

Just last night I was wandering around Target and I hear the familiar sounds of SuperMario coming from the electronics section of the store. I used to love playing Mario when it first came out, so I was naturally drawn to the sounds.

As I round the corner I see a young boy about 10 years of age intently focused on the game he was playing. He was pretty good at it and I complimented him on his skills. In response he barely glanced over his shoulder at me. I watched a few more seconds and told him that I too used to love to play Mario, and this time he didn’t even look at me. The silence felt very awkward, so I quickly left.

Recounting these events with my family I was told that I was probably thought of as an old creeper. In other words, I cannot strike up a conversation with children I don’t know, because I will be thought of as a potential predator.

As I listened to my daughter(who works with kids at a day care)tell me about how I should keep to myself when I’m around strange kids, it all started to make sense and I knew she was right. After all, no telling how many times these kids have been told about “Stranger Danger”. To them, I’m just another old guy that wants to harm them.

I get it.

Still, none of this sits well with me. I don’t like not being able to smile at a child or make over a baby in the store without it stepping over some line that society has deemed uncrossable. It’s just an automatic, natural thing to want to say “hi”.

Honestly, I get it.

Sadly, I get it.

Actually, tit’s kind of heartbreaking if you want to know the truth about it.

So I guess I’m left to wander around the store, hands in my pockets, eyes straight ahead, wearing blinders so I don’t notice the children. I’m to pretend there are nothing but grown ups within 100 yards of me. Which really stinks, because I seem to get along much better with kids than people my own age.

And that my friends, is the society we have descended into. Not much more to say about that I suppose.

Old habits sure are hard to break…I wonder how long it’ll be before I smile at some kid and ask “how ya doin”?

Be blessed on this Lord’s day,

Ron

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Who’s really in control of YOU?

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No doubt you’ve heard the expression “one step forward, two steps backwards”.

Have you ever really thought about this statement? What does it say about us?

I think it says that we are trusting more in our own abilities than we are the Lords.

It says for all the world to hear that we are controlling things, or at least we are trying to. And when we try to be in control, our progress is always being hampered by US. We get in our own way and make a mess of things.

Hence, we take “one step forward and two steps backwards”.

Of course, being a human being carries with it a certain “issue”, one that we all have, which is that we really like to be in control don’t we? The thought of someone, anyone besides ourselves calling the shots is, for the most part, unthinkable to our carnal nature.

C’mon, admit it. You like to be the one calling the shots don’t you? I know I certainly do! We all have this compelling need within us to take charge of the situation and bulldoze our way through it.

But what about when our own capabilities, talents, and skills leave us on the wrong side, or short of the goal?

More often than not, we go backwards don’t we?

Did you ever think that maybe, just maybe, those two steps backwards was where the Lord wanted you to stand and be still for a time and a season? That maybe He wasn’t ready for you to move forward just yet. Or that YOU weren’t ready to go forward yet because there were still lessons to be learned ‘back there’?

There is a verse in the Old Testament that talks about standing still and seeking out the old paths. Perhaps you are familiar with it?

Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.   Jer. 6:16

Israel had a terrible time with simply walking in the place God had called them to walk in. Seems they always had a better idea, or so they thought. If ever a people was known for taking “one step forward and two steps backwards” it was the children of Israel.

So prevelant was their penchant for backsliding that in the long history of Israel, only two little words are necessary to sum up their predicament. These two little words say it better than an entire library full of scholarly works.

If Only.

If only they would have listened. If only they would have followed the Lord instead of trying to take charge themselves. If only they would have stood by the Lord and asked for the old paths, where the good way was.

If Only.

The whole of human history has been one gigantic battle of “If Only”, and that includes you and me.

If Only we would have listened to the warnings of the one who had already walked where we were about to tread.

If Only we would have sacrificed and taken our children to church when they were still young, instead of either taking them to the lake or soccer practice or worse yet, permitting them to do whatever they wished to do.

If Only

Who’s really in control of your life? If we’re honest, that’s a very easy question to answer isn’t it? As long as we continue to take “one step forward and two steps backwards”, the answer is obvious.

The question then becomes are we willing to give up control in order to gain rest for our souls as the Lord desires us to do?

Something to think about on this Lords day.

Be blessed, in Jesus name.

Ron

There’s got to be more…

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How many of you ever feel like “is this it, is this all there is”?

I feel this way almost every single day. Not because I want more stuff. I don’t need another car. I have no desire to get a boat. My house is plenty large enough, and my wife has decorated it to rival anything a professional interior decorator could do.

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Doublingdollars.com

In truth, I have more than enough of everything.

Yet still I feel wholly unsatisfied, as though something is calling me to seek for that which is not from here. To commune with One far greater than I. To launch out and into the deep and discover who knows what.

Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.  Psalm 42:7

You have no idea how many times I’ve wished I could be like most people I meet up with, who seemingly just go through life without much care for things that are beyond the necessities of life.

For reasons that I’ve yet to completely uncover, God did not wire me this way. For some reason I care deeply about what matters most to God. Some say far too deeply, but I say how do you turn it off?

I care deeply about the Church, for example. I care that the church of Acts has all but disappeared from this planet. I care that expressing the love of Christ to those who are undone without him is now considered to be the job of the paid clergy.

I grieve that our pulpits are filled with people looking for a paycheck instead of a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). My heart breaks to see people who’ve been broken by sin come into God’s house and leave the same way they came.

I care deeply about the plight of children who are abused, exploited, and violated, oftentimes by adults who are charged with loving them and nurturing them into adulthood. Jesus said in Luke 18:16…

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

My heart breaks upon hearing or reading of what our children are enduring at the hands of drug crazed parents. Just yesterday, I read where a mother was charged with selling her young daughter for $6,000 because they had no other way to get money to survive on.

“Suffer the little children” indeed.

I care deeply that millions will lose sleep and stand in line to buy a new TV,  yet will not give a dollar to support a food bank or local missions outreach. Watching people trample one another to be among the first customers in the store is heartbreaking because I know there is a Savior wondering why they don’t run to Him with the same zeal.

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PCWorld.com

The Apostle Paul said that he had learned to be content in whatever state, or condition he happened to be in at the time (Philippians 4:11). I suppose some would say that I should apply this to my own life. To be sure, so far as the things of this world go, I am very content.

It’s the things that are not of this world however that I long for more of.

Because there just has to be more.

Be blessed, in Jesus name

Ron

America: a very dangerous place to be a child

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What does it say about a nation that abuses its children?

America has a long, sad history of abusing it’s most helpless and defenseless citizens. In the early 1900’s for example, when America was rapidly moving away from being primarily a farm economy to the age of industrialization, it quickly became apparent that there was a shortage of available industrial manpower.

So eager was this new industrial manufacturing economy for workers, that very soon the nation’s children began supplying a lot of the labor necessary to drive the engines of progress. With virtually no child labor laws to protect them, these children worked long hours in very dangerous occupations.

Children could be found working in coal mines, textile mills, tobacco farms, even selling newspapers on the streets. Deprived of sleep and proper nutrition, many children were pulled into machinery and mutilated, all in the name of ‘progress’.

child labor 1

Children working in a Georgia textile mill. Photographed by Lewis Hine (Library of Congress)

It wasn’t until 1938 that The Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal law that would prohibit most employment of minors, was passed. Even then many employers were reluctant to give up this lucrative source of cheap labor, often hiding from regulators any incriminating documentation.

child labor 2

The “breaker boys” at a Pennsylvania coal mine, photographed by Lewis Hine in 1911. (Library of Congress)

Thankfully, for the most part, those days are gone and have been relegated to a place in the history of our nation. Children today benefit from the many labor laws that have been enacted to protect them, for which we should all be grateful.

Tragically, however, our children are now being subjected to many new kinds of abuse.

According to the web site love our children usa, each year, upwards of over 3 million children are reported as victims of physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, and death – and those are only the ones that are reported!

Incredibly, violence and neglect against children is reported nearly every 10 seconds. And because so many cases of child violence and neglect are never reported to the authorities, some estimates put the actual number of abused children at 3 times greater than what is actually reported.

If you’re counting along with me, that’s 9 million children a year!

What does it say about a nation that abuses its children?

Well, I know what God’s Word says about children, and it is a far cry from the exploitation and abuse being heaped upon them in this generation.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.    Psalm 127:3

As unbelievable as it may be, there is still one more aspect of child abuse that must be considered. In spite of the child labor laws that were enacted to protect our youngest workers, there is still a class of citizens who have no laws to protect them.

On the contrary, we actually enacted laws to destroy them. Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, over 60 million children,the most defenseless of all, have been destroyed while in their mothers womb.

“The fruit of the womb is a reward”?

One could make the case for the womb being the most dangerous place for a child to be in today’s America.

Ron

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

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

 

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