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Keurig Christianity?

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I’m pretty sure most of us have one of those Keurig coffee makers setting around on the counter. The convenience of being able to make just one cup at a time of our favorite coffee is hard to beat in my opinion. A bit expensive, but nice just the same.

Keurig

Keurig.com

But what happens if you want to drink 2 or 3 cups of coffee? Or what happens if you have 4 or 5 people over for coffee and all you have is the Keurig?

The answer is you still get one cup of coffee at a time. Interestingly enough, this “one at a time” concept of the Keurig is not unlike the mindset of many of us in the church today.

I’ve taken to calling it the “Keurig mentality”. We say that we desire more of God, that we want a closer walk with Him. The problem is we want our one cup filled just one time, and we want it filled up instantaneously. Isn’t that how many of us approach God?

I’m here Lord. Give me everything I need right now so I don’t have to keep coming back to have my one cup refilled. Lets get this over with. One stop shopping at the corner church!

As though that were somehow enough.

Unfortunately, that’s not how this works. Or as the Facebook TV commercial used to say, “that’s not how any of this works”!

Desiring God is a noble endeavor, one that all of us should strive to pursue. But growing and maturing in Christ is the result of a lifetime commitment. Getting out of the starting gate as a new Christian and growing into the mature,strong believer that God wants us to become requires patience, experience, and faith(Romans 5:4).

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”      I Corinthians 9:24-25

Running a marathon requires training, discipline, the correct diet, and a resolve to make it to the finish line.

marathon runners

NPR.org

Oh, and many, many refills. You see, one cup just won’t do!

Be blessed!

Ron

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Looking for God in all the wrong places…

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“He who dies with the most toys wins” in a quote attributed to Malcolm Forbes, a very wealthy man who amassed an incredible collection of homes, motorcycles, and other expensive ”toys”. It’s a quote I’ve heard many times, sometimes in jest, sometimes in earnest conversation.

In our consumer driven society, acquiring “toys” seems par for the course for most of us. Whatever your hobby, it seems as though their is an endless array of necessary choices one must purchase in order to reach a certain level of contentment.

Therein is the rub, of course. At what point in our lifetime do we reach that magical zone of contentment, where the never-ending quest for more “toys” has been fulfilled?

For some, such as the hoarders depicted in the popular TV show of the same name, contentment is as elusive as stumbling upon a long buried pirate’s treasure chest.

In reality, the wealthy and affluent are not much different. The major difference, if any, would be the quality and cost of the ever growing mountain of “stuff” they accumulate.

What drives us to seek fulfillment and contentment in “things”?

I’ve read a number of scholarly papers and articles on this subject, and there are many different opinions cited as the answer to this question.

No surprise there, is there?

Yet when we take a look at the Scriptures, there seems to be a very logical reason for this type of behavior.

We are looking for God in all the wrong places.

Void of God’s presence in our lives we feel incomplete, unsatisfied, and altogether inadequate. Because the bonds that tie us together with God have been severed by sin, we seek out other ways to replace the spiritual void within us.

So we try anything and everything to fill the emptiness. Except for God, of course.

There is a very real danger in trying to replace God with “stuff”. In fact, Jesus told us to have our guard up against trying to replace the missing relationship we are designed to have with God.

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”    ‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Being constantly bombarded with ads for the newest car,boat,motorcycle or jewelry, one would think that it truly was a matter of “he who dies with most toys wins”.

Jesus shows us the fallacy of such a mindset. It isn’t about what you accumulate in this life that matters most.

What matters most in this life is allowing Christ to fill that void created by our broken relationship with Him.

Where are you looking today to find fulfillment and contentment in life? Is every room in your home jammed to the rafters with inanimate things?

If this describes you, it’s time to stop looking for God in all the wrong places.

You would be amazed to learn that He is nearer than you think!

Be blessed,

Ron

ear tickled

A part of something much bigger than you or I

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With so much in the world today that is spiraling out of control, I can only say that “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.

The Family of God

I’m so glad I’m a part of the fam’ly of God!
I’ve been washed in the fountain,
Cleansed by His blood.
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the fam’ly,
The fam’ly of God.           Lyrics by Bill and Gloria Gaither

For over two thousand years people have been exhorting those who don’t know Christ to come and receive Him into their hearts.

Humbly, I submit to you that I cannot imagine a time when the need was greater than it is right now.

Look to Him,

Ron

 

 

 

Temptation as seen through God’s eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

In short, we aren’t special.   Sorry!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be blessed, in Jesus name.

Ronear tickled

 

A recipe for disaster

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The Princess and I have been talking a lot lately about prayer. Specifically, how that prayer is a key ingredient in the life of a Christian, and how that if we leave the Lord out of our daily lives it’s like making a cake without all of the necessary ingredients.

Now, I like cake. Not all kinds of cake mind you, especially if it’s loaded with rich, too sweet, gooey icing a half inch thick. I know, I know, that’s what everybody loves, right?

Not me, I like enough icing to add some flavor, but I don’t want to eat it by the forkful.

pineapple upside downMy favorite kind of cake is pineapple upside down cake, if you’re interested. My second favorite would probably be German chocolate, even with its sweet coconut icing. I know what you’re thinking; he wants his cake and he wants to eat it too. Yep.

No matter the kind of cake we like, one thing is for certain and that is if you leave out a key ingredient, you will end up with a less than perfect cake. In which case, why bother?

Isn’t this how our lives are with Christ? There are many “ingredients” that come together and are intertwined with one another in the development of our faith. Things such as worship, study, and fellowship are hallmarks of a committed relationship with Christ.

Yet there remains one more, major ingredient in this ever developing relationship, one I personally feel is the most important.

Prayer

One of the most important aspects of any relationship is a little something called communication. Lack of communication is one of the greatest hindrances in any relationship. Just ask any married couple about this!

In the life of a Christian, communicating with God in prayer is absolutely essential, yet it is one of the most overlooked, neglected parts of our spiritual lives. How do we know that we have neglected our prayer life?

It will show up in many ways. It will show up in our attitude. When we don’t pray, we easily become distracted by the negativity around us, and that same negativity attaches itself to our attitudes.

Bad-Attitude-Quotations-012

Golfian.com

Christians who don’t pray are moody and temperamental. They are no fun to be around. They tend to see the bad more than they see the good. They are judgmental and unforgiving. Mercy and compassion are traits that are rarely seen in them.

If you want a reality check, try this little exercise: go back over the past month and add up all the time you have spent alone with God in prayer. Now, take that same time frame and add up all the time you have spent on social media or watching TV.

Would you say the results are sobering?

As you know, Jesus spent time training his disciples how to pray. Yet before he actually gets to the part about “Our Father, who art in heaven”, he says this:

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”         Matthew 6:5-7

Do you see the command to pray in these verses? In these two verses of scripture, Jesus said “when you pray” three times. He did not say “if you want to pray”, nor did he say “if you feel like praying”. No, he said “when you pray”.

We know, of course, that Jesus was our example when it comes to praying. After all, there were many times when he would go off to be by himself so that he could pray (Mark 6:46, 1:35, Matt. 26:36).

The expectation therefore is that as children of God we will pray. We will talk to God. We will enhance our bond with Him by communicating with Him through prayer.

praying man

pastorlyons.org

Beloved, if there is any one reason as to why the Church is so anemic today; it is because we don’t pray enough. We are not in contact with the Source of our strength!

Someone has said that the church of today has grown to the point that she is 10 miles wide, yet only ¼” deep.  Ouch.

The Lord Himself told Israel that if they would humble themselves,and PRAY,and seek my face,and turn from their wicked ways, then He would hear from heaven….(II Chro. 7:14).  Sounds pretty important, doesn’t it?

How then can our faith grow without prayer?  Prayer is the engine, or power behind our faith. How can we pray a prayer of faith if we never spend time with Him in prayer?

Can we ignore God until a need arises and then expect Him to come to our rescue when we rub our “prayer lamp” like the proverbial Genie? Is that how we think this works?

Talk about a recipe for disaster!

The apostle Paul said that we were to “pray without ceasing” (1st Thess. 5:17). A Christian that doesn’t pray is like the baker who sets out to make a cake without flour. The end result might resemble the real thing, but the proof is on the inside!

I encourage everyone to begin to pray a little more each day. Talk to God; tell Him all about it, just like the chorus to the old gospel song “Just a little talk with Jesus” says.

“Now let us have a little talk with Jesus
Let us tell Him all about our troubles
He will hear our faintest cry
He will answer by and by
Now when you feel a little prayer wheel turning
And you know a little fire is burning
You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right”.

For sure,we need all of the key ingredients to produce the desired results. Leaving out just one of them is a recipe for disaster.

With that, I’ll end this post. I need to go pray!

Be blessed!

Ron

Blessed and Highly Favored

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If you spend any time around Evangelical churches I’m sure you’ve heard the above expression. Often when someone will ask “how are you?”, the automatic response is “I’m blessed and highly favored”.

The meaning of this, of course, is that the person believes that God is blessing their life because He has chosen them to receive a special blessing. These days, more often than not, such beliefs center on the financial aspects of one’s life, rather than on spiritual growth or maturity.

Now, to be perfectly honest I do not care for the expression “blessed and highly favored”. This is because it appears to elevate one over another, or to indicate that God, who loves us all the same through Christ, actually prefers one of us over another of His children. A careful study of scripture reveals that we are all the same in Christ (Gal. 3:28).

Now having said all of this, I would like to state that if it were possible for a man to be “blessed and highly favored”, I would be that man. Speaking strictly from a relational viewpoint, I am indeed “blessed and highly favored”. Let me explain.

Less than 48 hours ago I went into the hospital for a procedure, one that I had gone through about seventeen years ago. Only when the procedure had been completed was I made aware of just how serious my condition was, and that my life had just been saved.

Of course, my immediate reaction was one of sincere gratitude to God for sparing my life. This is a very humbling experience, to say the least, and I will not stop giving thanks to Him for such a blessing as this.

However, as a famous announcer used to say, there is more to the story. I understand that God saved my life, and many prayers went up beforehand for the Dr.’s and Staff that would be taking care of me. But there was an Angel who never left me that I want to tell you about.

From the moment I went into the hospital, my precious wife never left my side except for the time I was undergoing the procedure. She stayed with me through it all, even spending the night with me, refusing to leave my side.

What a contrast we must have appeared to be to the Staff at the hospital! Early in the morning while being prepped and all that goers on prior to, I was stationed in a holding area with several other patients. You know the type, the cubicles that are enclosed by a curtain where you can hear everything being said by everyone there!

To my right was a couple that did nothing but complain. The patient complained about how long she had to wait, how long the procedure would take, how long before she could go home, how bad she needed to go to the bathroom. Her husband had apparently came in later than she thought he should have, so she blasted him for being late, reading a book, checking phone messages, you name it!

Yet there was my wife, being the calming influence I so desperately needed. Touching my arm or holding my hand, speaking only words of comfort and encouragement. There are no words to describe what she meant to me at that time.

We waited for three hours for the nurse to come and take me away, and not one time would she leave my side. Tell me, especially you men who happen to be reading this: how often do you hear of such faithfulness?

After I was taken to my room the first person there was my wife, along with my incredible pastor. From that moment on she left me one time for maybe three minutes to use the restroom. I implored her to go home and get some rest, but she was having none of it.

She ate dinner with me, sat as close as she could to me, and let me know how much she loved me. She tried to sleep on the “bed” they brought in for her but she wasn’t able. As I was awake most of the night, she stayed there by my side to comfort me. In a cold, hard chair.

As a matter of fact, the nurses only came in when it was time to do a procedure on me, otherwise they stayed away. I’m sure they realized I was in better hands with my dear wife!

There is no way I could tell you all that she did for me, as sometimes the proper words fail to come, even for a talker like me. All I know is this: I am blessed and highly favored to have her as my wife.

I could never have known that one day over 20 years ago when I first met her, that our love could have grown into what it has become. These aren’t mere words of platitude when I say this, but it is a fact that I do not deserve such a wife as I have been blessed with.

So, while this post hasn’t been especially “religious” or enlightening, I wanted to express to everyone that being “blessed and highly favored” means so much more than the type of car you drive, or how high the limit is on your credit card.

The love of a virtuous wife is far above rubies (Prov. 31:10)

And I get to live with one every day!

 

 

 

Relinquishing Your Freedom in Christ is an Expensive Proposition

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Freedom

Just saying the word evokes thoughts of sacrifice and struggle, oppression and conflict. It also calls to remembrance our sincere appreciation and gratitude for those who have sacrificed to ensure freedom for people’s everywhere.

As children of God we know that in Christ we have been made free. Those who know the Lord as Savior know a freedom unlike any other, as “free indeed” is unlike any other freedom……”whom the Son sets free, is free indeed”. (John 8:36).

Other verses inform us of the fact that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, and while we are now free from sin, we have become slaves to righteous living.            (II Cor.3:17 & Romans 6:18)

All this to say that as Christians, we willingly, lovingly embrace the liberty we have in Christ. Nonetheless, this liberty is fraught with potential dangers should we be tempted to dangle our toes in unfamiliar waters.

All of us, and I do mean all of us, face temptations that appeal to our flesh. Whether we are tempted by power, drugs, alcohol, sex, or money, the fact is that any of these can quickly become our master, overpowering our senses and bringing us again into bondage.

We must remain ever vigilant to counter such temptations if we are to live in victory. Prayer and the reading of the Word are key weapons in this never ending struggle.

These points have been driven home to me again this week while reading the story of how Israel came to have a king reign over them. What started as a nation fully dependent upon and loyal to God, soon turned into full blown rejection of His leadership.

Without launching into a long, detailed history lesson, Samuel was the prophet who had the unenviable task of anointing the first king of Israel. While crowning a new king would normally be cause for great celebration, Samuel’s task was heartbreaking because he knew that in anointing an earthly king, it signaled a severing of the cord between Israel and their God.

As most of you know, throughout Israel’s history they demonstrated a propensity to wander from God. This tendency to stray eventually culminated in their demanding a king to rule over them, just like all the nations around them. In other words, they wanted to be just like everyone else.

Have you ever been told, or have you ever told someone “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it”? This is about to happen to Israel.

Even though they had received an advanced warning as to the quality of leader they would be getting, Israel was determined to proceed with having things their way regardless of the cost. And oh what a price they would pay!

If you will read 1st Samuel 8:10-18 you will see the details of what was to come upon Israel. Take note especially of how many times the word “his” or “take” appears in the description of their new king.

The takeaway I want to leave with you is just how much this new king was going to take from them. Whereas we look to new leadership with an eye for what they can do for us, Israel’s new king would be a taker, not a giver.

What’s the lesson for the New Testament Christian in all of this? The lesson is that we are called out of sin to be the Church. We are not called to be like everyone else.

We also have a Leader who is unlike any other. We are different because our King is the difference maker!

Once God has delivered us from sin, we are not to go back. Not even to look back! We have a freedom known only by the redeemed, and that freedom was purchased by the highest cost imaginable.

Relinquishing your freedom in Christ is an expensive proposition, a proposition I have no desire to entertain.

How about you?

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