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The fear of the unknown vs. your familiar past

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I’ve been thinking about an event recorded early on in the book of Genesis, one that took place thousands of years ago, yet still has implications for us today.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is one that most people are familiar with, or have at least heard something about. It’s a story of both destruction and deliverance, one where the central theme is God’s willingness to forgo righteous judgment if only a few God fearing people can be found.

As the story goes, the search for righteous citizens is futile, thus God orders the complete destruction of the cities by raining down fire and brimstone. Not a pretty thought, to be sure. The only escapees are Abraham and his wife, his nephew Lot and his wife, and their two daughters.

As they are running for their lives, the angels who delivered them warned them not to look back. Unfortunately for Lot’s wife, she could not resist the temptation to do just that. Here is the high price she paid for her disobedience:

“But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”   Genesis 19:26

This story is now thousands of years old, yet the central truths of it still ring true today. God is still a righteous, loving, and forgiving God. And man is still prone to looking in the rear view mirror instead of looking ahead.

Lot’s wife looked back because she wanted to see what was happening to her former home. She felt an emotional attachment to the city, so much so that she disregarded the clear warning of the angels who had been sent to rescue her.

Aren’t all of us guilty to some degree of doing the same thing? Instead of forgetting those things which are behind and pressing toward the mark (Philippians 3:14)….we are drawn back to familiar territory. We gravitate toward the known and comfortable, and resist the unknown in front of us.

The familiar is a powerful force in our lives, and I dare say all of us enjoy the comfort we receive from being surrounded by the familiar things we have accumulated.

The flip side of this however is that the familiar can also become a huge burden that wears us down as we endeavor to journey onward with Christ.

This burden is always present to remind us that we don’t really need to press on into uncharted territory, not when we can stay here in the relative calm waters of familiarity. Besides, there is a certain element of fear when dealing with the unknown, and we all know how we feel about that!

In spit of these things, there is a very real danger in allowing the familiar to rock us to sleep. If we choose to permit this, we risk missing the greatest adventure we could ever partake of!

This Great Adventure is going to be the primary emphasis of “A Front Row View of the Church” in 2018. I will be sharing from the word of God how that the words of Jesus in John 10:10 “…... I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly, are the key to unlocking this Great Adventure.

I am excited about what God has in store, and trust you will be encouraged to put yourself out there, where The Great Adventure beckons!

Ron

 

 

 

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Another Black Friday is upon us! Run for your lives!

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Get ready America! The annual “let’s show the entire world what Christmas is all about ” spectacle is almost upon us!

Black Friday 2

thebalance.com

OK OK, a bit dramatic I suppose. And for the record I actually have ventured out on a Black Friday, twice. So I’m preaching to the choir here.

What bothers me about Black Friday is not the shopping. It’s the total lack of control that a lot of people exhibit as they step over, on, or through people in a mad dash down the aisles.

In a word, it’ the GREED that really gets to me.

You’ve all seen the pictures and videos I’m sure, and no doubt this year will provide a plethora of additional subjects for our viewing pleasure.

Lately however, I’ve come to understand that what we observe on Black Friday is really just a microcosm of our society as a whole. Greed, selfishness, a lack of restraint, all are hallmarks of a people far from God.

I know, I know, that was a real downer wasn’t it? Bah Humbug!!

The truth is though, the Bible actually foretold this type of behavior would come.

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, ‘ 2 Timothy 3:2-4  ESV

Does this sound like anyone you know? Does this sound like…gulp…you? I sure hope not!

This is the world we have created, and now must deal with. There’s nothing new about that, except that it gets worse every year. There is no Christ in Xmas, just as Black Friday has nothing to do with Christmas. No surprise there.

At least with the advent of online shopping we can avoid getting steamrollered by the impatient hordes who have waited for hours and sometimes days for the opportunity to be the first to bust through the doors. Of course, even with online shopping there are those pesky “Porch Pirates” to look out for!

Porch Pirate

Medium.com

If you’re headed out this Friday, stay safe and by all means stay out of harms way.

Oh, and if by chance it would cross your mind, there really was a baby Jesus born in a manger in Bethlehem.

You can read all about it here.

Have a great Friday!

Ron

 

Thanksgiving Memories

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Thanksgiving Day has always been my favorite holiday of the year. When I think back to my early childhood, Thanksgiving Day was always the holiday I looked forward to the most. Aside from getting out of school for a few days, the expectation of seeing Aunts and Uncles, and cousins my own age to play with was something I looked forward to with great anticipation.

Well, that and knowing there was going to be a mountain of great food to eat! Even today, my wife believes the food is the real reason I love Thanksgiving. Me, I’m not saying one way or another.

Those happy times are forever etched in my mind, and as another Thanksgiving approaches, I enjoy remembering the laughter and non-stop chatter around our crowded kitchen table. I remember how that all of us kids who had to sit at the “kids table longed for the day when we could set at the grown-up’s table and join in.

For days and days my parents would be preparing special things that were only served on Thanksgiving Day, and I know that they always brought home the largest turkey the store had. We could also count on any visiting relatives to bring along even more goodies, and could my Aunts ever cook! I think I could write an entire blog just about my mom’s turkey and dressing, and my Aunt Marlene’s chocolate pie made me wish I had eaten nothing else but that!

The men in my family always went hunting on Thanksgiving morning, and being a young boy I wasn’t allowed to tag along because I would either slow them down, get hurt, or some other made up reason to keep me home. I was forced to stay behind and endure the heavenly smells coming from the kitchen, which, I can finally admit, wasn’t so bad after all.

At long last the dinner hour had come, and everyone gathered in the kitchen. I honestly don’t remember if anyone said Grace before the meal, as none of my family was particularly religious. If they did, I’m sure it fell on deaf ears with me as I stared at a turkey leg, or a large ham, knowing that very soon I would be enjoying a heaping plate of delicious food.

After dinner, the family would all find a place to sit in the living room, where we would spend hours reliving the important things that had happened in our lives over the past year.

Back then, we might have been able to get a football game on one of the three TV channels our old black and white TV pulled in, but no one ever thought of turning it on. Why spoil such wonderful family time by inviting a football game into our home? Our family was the main attraction after all!

Late at night, when everyone was tired and had to leave to return to their own homes, we knew that for at least one more year our family was, well, still a family. It’s funny how that even after all these years, I can still remember the feeling of security I had just in knowing that we were family.

Today, my own small family celebrates Thanksgiving in much the same way as I did as a child. Sure, there aren’t nearly as many people around the table, and the amount of food is a lot less than what is needed for a huge family. My wife cooks a pretty awesome turkey, and her baked beans are legendary around our house, so we have plenty and then some.

The most important things are there however. A deep, abiding love for one another, a home built upon the sure foundation of Christ, and the knowledge that no matter what comes our way in this life, we are family.

As my family gathers around the table this Thanksgiving, we have much to be thankful for. God blessed us to make it to retirement, He brought me through a very serious health issue, and my family is healthy and prospering. To say we are blessed just doesn’t seem adequate.

My prayer is that all of you will have a memorable Thanksgiving Day, surrounded by those you love and care about. I hope everyone slows down a bit and takes the time to create some memories and new traditions that can be passed down to the next generation. Talk to one another. Enjoy one another. Make time for one another.

The Bible describes this life as but a vapor. It’s gone before you know it, so live each day to the fullest.

Most of all, be thankful. Be thankful for one another, and thankful that you can enjoy this time together as a family.

Be thankful to God for His many blessings.

Ron

We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.   Psalms 75:1

Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!   Psalms 107:8

Bloom where you’re planted

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No doubt you’ve heard the expression “bloom where you’re planted”, a phrase frequently heard in church. I was reminded of this phrase when I came upon the tiny plant you see below as I was walking on the beach.

beach plant 2

A tiny plant flourishing in spite of it’s harsh environment

What with the frequency of “church shopping” these days, where parishioners are leaving their current church for greener pastures, it’s worth repeating that unless there are Biblical reasons for leaving, staying put is normally best. 

While many today are running here and there seeking the “next big thing” that God is doing, mature Christians realize that the “next big thing” is largely a figment of someone’s imagination.

Either that or it’s a work of the flesh, disguised as the work of God by those looking to capitalize on those believers who are easily captivated by catchy slogans and theatrics.

Staying put where God has planted us affords Him time to refine us, to weed out those things that hinder us. This in turn produces blooms and new growth as our relationship with God grows deeper.

My hope is that we all bloom where we’ve been planted so that the body of Christ is strengthened.

 

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

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

 

 

 

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