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Real heroes of the faith are still among us: part 2

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I am of the opinion that real heroes of the faith are still among us. They are not likely to be found however on TBN, Daystar, SBN or EWTN. You will not find them hawking their latest sermon series or music DVD at a church ministry conference.

You will find them however in the house churches in Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, and other nations hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ. While we here in the West live in relative peace and security,there are an ever increasing number of countries that are now hostile to the Gospel, as evidenced by the following “top 50 map”.

2018 watch list

You will find these heroes living in unimaginable conditions in the prisons of the above mentioned countries. You will also find them in unmarked graves after being tortured and murdered for their faith.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammad Reza Omidi are names you probably don’t recognize, however they are truly modern day heroes of the faith.

Who are they, and why are they heroes of the faith?

These are four Christian men who happen to live in Iran, a nation that is extremely hostile to the Gospel. Because Christianity is viewed as a threat to Iranian national security, the Christian religion is severely persecuted there.

Their church looks a lot different than yours or mine. Church services must be held in secrecy in the homes of believers or other nondescript locations in order to avoid detection and arrest.

No steeples, no ornate stained glass windows, no neon sign out front welcoming attendees.

These four Christian brothers were recently given 10 year prison sentences for partaking in Christian worship. It was originally thought that they would receive “only” six year sentences, given their original charge of “acting against national security”.

The charges were upgraded however to “promoting Zionist Christianity” and running house churches”, thus an additional four years were added to their sentences.

But wait, there’s more. Two of the four were also sentenced to two years’ internal exile, far away from their families.

Additionally, “Mr Omidi, Mr Mossayebzadeh and Mr Fadaie are waiting to hear the outcome of an outstanding appeal against their September, 2016, sentencing of 80 lashes for the consumption of communion wine at the time of their arrest in May, 2016.”

Did you catch that? 80 lashes. EIGHTY LASHES for partaking of communion!

We here in the West seem to have a very cavalier attitude about church, worship, and all things God compared to those suffering persecution abroad. We decide when and if we want to go to church. We decide how serious (if at all) we wish to become about our faith.

We choose whether or not to attend church or go fishing (or countless other fun activities). We choose whether to believe the Bible or not, and in some cases choose to ignore certain parts of the Bible that may not line up with our personal feelings about it.

We Christians in the West seem to have a lot of freedom of choice, don’t we?

Maybe that’s why there are so few (if any!) real heroes of the faith living here. Having faith here costs us nothing compared to our brothers and sisters in Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan,etc.

We who live here get by on a cheap, easy believism type of religion that demands nothing of us. Count the cost as commanded by Jesus? I don’t think so. Count our blessings for certain, but we want no part of a religion that costs us anything.

We have succumbed to the spirit of Anti-Christ that says God exists solely to bless you and cause you to prosper. This is the same spirit that seeks to elevate man to a god-like status while denying the true God of the Bible.

You will find no heroes of the faith in such a religion. What you will find instead are greedy, selfish, all about me individualists determined to control their own destiny rather than submit their lives to Christ.

Rather than partake of Christ’s suffering as taught in the Word, what we really want is a pie in the sky genie ready to blow gold dust on us just because we have somehow convinced ourselves that we are a superior brand of Christian.

Contrast this so called Christian lifestyle with those living in places where just the mention of the name of Jesus can land you in prison, or much worse. One must conclude that these two groups cannot possibly be worshiping the same God!

There are real heroes of the faith living today, heroes who have forsaken all for the cause of Christ. The men and women who are being imprisoned, tortured, and killed are examples of the faith that the Church should be holding up as the gold standard.

Who knows, you and I might one day be required to look to their sacrifices as the model of faithfulness and endurance needed in order to overcome that which has come upon us.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is God really doing a “New Thing”?

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You hear preachers say it all the time: ‘God’s doing a New Thing today’. This implies that the hearer should be expecting God to do something great, something that has never been done before.

In preacher circles, this is what is known as a cheer-leading statement, one used to elicit an exciting response from the crowd. After all, most people like to be in on a new thing coming down the road. And what could be bigger and more exciting than God Himself doing something new?

If you were to Google “God is doing a new thing”, it would bring up about 170 million results. You can take your pick from memes, rap songs, sermons, and videos. In other words, there’s something for everybody!

See, I told you people really want to be in on a new thing!

I have heard this repeated so many times in church from so many different preachers that I’ve lost track. Where does this statement come from, and what does it really mean? And who is it speaking to anyway?

Well, the phrase is part of a verse of scripture found in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. In context, this verse belongs with verses 43:16-28 in which God reminds Israel that it was He who delivered them from bondage, and it would be He who would bring them back from exile.

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. Isa. 43:19

This verse speaks specifically to the Jews. It does not speak to the church, nor does it speak to individual Christians. There is nothing prophetic about it apart from their soon return from Babylon. It was spoken to the nation of ancient Israel. Period.

It’s incredible how we Christians will take a verse here and there and somehow invent a new doctrine, as is the case with the above verse. Then again, we are living in the time when Paul said that men would turn their ears from the truth.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.  II Tim. 4:3, 4

Yet this does bring up an interesting question, at least in my mind. Why are God’s people always looking for the ‘next big thing’?

Why do we constantly need to be told that God is up to something? It seems that some believe that unless we are fed a steady diet of ‘new things’ we will lose interest and begin to drift away.

Which begs the question…

What is wrong with us?

Here’s what I think. I think if we were to humble our hearts, commit to seek His face on a daily basis, spend quality time alone with him in prayer, and study to show ourselves approved unto God, we would find that we would never need to look for the ‘next big thing’.

Our lives would be so full of excitement and enthusiasm coming directly from the Holy Spirit that we would no longer need to hear about ‘a new thing’.

We would be living it every day!

Now that’s something to get excited about!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

Looking with HOPE to the future

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New Years. new_year_sign_19648

I have to be honest and admit that this is one holiday that I just don’t get. For millions of people it’s an excuse to get crazy drunk. For millions more it’s all about a traditional meal that includes sauerkraut and pork.

And then there are the millions who think of New Years as a chance to start over by saying goodbye to the previous year. Oh well, no one said I had to “get it”!last_year_garbage_can_custom_800_clr_21288

 

Today I asked my mailman if he was looking forward to 2018, and he answered very quickly “I don’t have much hope for the new year,and I don’t expect things will get better until we get a new leader in office”. UGH!

 

Hmmm…..no holiday cheer there, and it was too late to say Bah Humbug!

Actually, his response surprised me as I’ve always thought mail carriers led a pretty good life. But hey, what do I know?

 

What really matters in the big picture is where our hope lies. If, as in the case of my mailman, our hope lies in the next presidential election,there will always be a large percentage of the population left disappointed and wondering what might have been.

This is just one of many reasons why my hope is in Jesus Christ. With Jesus, I never have to wonder what might have been. In addition, with Jesus I already know what to expect, therefore I know in advance that I will not be disappointed.

Now, how cool is that??

Hope in Jesus does that! This hope says that irregardless of situations or circumstances, Jesus will make a way somehow, even in the darkest of nights. Which reminds me of a fish story. Well, sort of.

There was once a fisherman in the Bible whose faith and hope wavered when circumstances began to spiral out of his control. Fact is, he lost all hope and eventually denied even knowing Jesus, in spite of the fact that he had been with him nearly every day for over three years.

Who would have thought that within a very short time his perspective would do a 180?

‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, ‘     I Peter 1:3

This one time fisherman and denier of Christ became a giant of faith and hope once he fully understood the power of the resurrection. I love the way that Peter uses the words “lively hope” to describe his new found hope in the resurrected Jesus!

As Christians we don’t have a dead hope. Our hope is not in dead religion or rituals. Our hope is alive! Our hope is in the risen Jesus!

light at end of tunnel

Because of this lively hope we have in Jesus Christ, I am looking forward to seeing God do great things in our lives in the coming year. Who can tell what He might have in store for us? Who can tell what He has in store for YOU?

One thing is for certain and that is that while we may not have all the details and particulars, we know that with God its going to be a great adventure!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

Jerusalem, capital of Israel?

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As nearly everyone is aware by now, yesterday president Trump declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This move sparked an immediate backlash of negativity from much of the national and international community, with promises of impending major unrest by the Palestinians.

To better understand this event, especially when viewed in the light of Scripture, we need to first understand how things got to this point. With that in mind, a little history lesson if you please.

In 1947 Israel became a state, thus fulfilling several Old Testament prophecies concerning the return of the Jews to their homeland. Amos 9:14, Ezekiel 37: 10-14, and perhaps the best known prophecy of Isaiah  66: 7-8 which foretold the birth of Israel in one day, all give clear indication that God’s chosen people Israel would one day return to their ancestral  homeland.

It was thought at that time that Jerusalem would become a city shared by multiple cultures. Remember, this was a different time in history, and optimism ran high that everyone would “play nice”.

All of that changed just one year later however when Israel was attacked by her Arab neighbors. This left Jerusalem divided, with the western part of the city controlled by Israel, and the eastern part controlled by Jordan.

All of this changed in 1967 when Israel was again attacked by her neighbors, in what became known as the “six day war”. After the dust had settled, Israel had gained control of the entire city of Jerusalem, a fact that has been a major point of contention ever since.

So here’s where this really gets interesting. The U.S. embassy has always been in Tel Aviv, it has never been in Jerusalem. But did you know that a plan has been in place to move our embassy since 1989? It’s true: in 1989 Israel and America agreed to a 99 year property lease for a new embassy to be constructed in Jerusalem.

Oddly enough, since the inception of this lease, this property remains untouched to this day. Hmmmm….

You might be thinking by now who cares! What does any of this have to do with anything I care about? Well, as I said, here’s where this gets real interesting.

You see, six years later in 1995, our Congress passed a law REQUIRING America to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem! Did you know that? It seems the supporters of the law felt at that time that the U.S. should respect Israel’s choice of Jerusalem as its capital.

I won’t even go there!

So the million dollar question then is this: why hasn’t America moved its embassy to Jerusalem before now? Several previous presidents including Clinton, Bush, and Obama have all said “no” to the moving of the embassy. Their fear has been that such a move would lead to further unrest in the region and negate any peace efforts already underway.

How do they get away with not complying with this law you ask? They simply sign a waiver every six months to “delay” the move. Sort of like what we’ve come to know as an Executive Order. Apparently it’s true, the pen is indeed mightier than the sword!

So why now, why this president, why move the embassy now after all of this time? I believe the reason is because the time is finally right to insert this particular piece of the end time’s puzzle into its proper place.

Every Christian should be aware of Jerusalem’s importance in end time events. We may not completely understand all things, and we likely do not all agree on every point. What is non-negotiable however is that the events leading up to Christ’s return center around Jerusalem.

At some point in the future, Israel is going to build a third Temple on what is called the Temple Mount. One of the purposes of this new Temple will be so that daily animal sacrifices can be re-instituted. The Antichrist will ultimately defile this place as well.

As it stands currently, this cannot happen because the Temple Mount compound is not under Jewish control. Israel controls all access to the TM through eleven gates, but the compound itself is under Islamic control. Obviously, something has to give here.

For those unaware, the Temple Mount is believed by Jewish scholars to be the center of the Temple Holy of Holies, the site where Solomon built the first Temple, where the second Temple referred to by Jesus was destroyed in 70 AD, and where the Third and final temple is to be built.

The importance of this site cannot be overestimated from a purely Biblical and prophetic point of view. From Wikipedia

“The Temple Mount,“Mount of the House of God, known to Muslims as the Haram esh-Sharif “the Noble Sanctuary”, is one of the most important religious sites in the world. It has been venerated as a holy site for thousands of years by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Herodian walls and gates with additions dating back to the late Byzantine and early Islamic periods cut through the flanks of the Mount. Currently it can be reached through eleven gates, ten reserved for Muslims and one for non-Muslims, with guard posts of Israeli police in the vicinity of each.”

I have no doubt that if America does actually move its embassy to Jerusalem, it will create a firestorm heard all around the world. Every one of its Arab neighbors will rattle their sabers, with Iran and possibly the Soviet Union threatening all out nuclear war.

In fact, I believe there will be nuclear war in the Middle East, as Damascus is turned into a “heap of ruins” (Isaiah 17:1). Rather than be overran and defeated by all of it’s enemies, Israel will deploy it’s “Samson Option” of expending its nuclear warheads, thus causing Damascus to cease from being a city.

Of course, all of this is yet to come. No one knows the precise calendar of God, as we are given bits and pieces of coming events without specific dates and times. It is exciting however to be alive and witnessing these end time events!

We are told to watch and pray. We are also instructed to be wise and redeem the time. My prayer is that Christians will focus not on the politics of a Jerusalem capital, but on the spiritual implications instead.

As for today, I’m just glad to know who Jesus is!

Ron

 

Does all really mean “all”?

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There are many of us who sometimes question if a particular Bible verse actually means what it says. It’s like we wonder if something was lost in the translation from the original text that has rendered the verse incorrect. One of those verses is found in Romans 8:28.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.   NKJV

I guess in this instance all really does mean “all” because I checked a half dozen or so different translations, and all of them use the word all or everything  in referring to the things that are working together for our good.

When I first read Romans 8:28 as a new Christian, like a lot of others I thought that the idea of God using good things to make me a better Christian was a great thing. But I soon realized there was danger lurking in my thought process.

You see, when we read this particular verse, our carnal minds want to gravitate towards the good things that are taking place in our lives. We equate “working together for our good” with blessings, or favor.

The truth of the matter however is that God’s plan for us doesn’t include only good things. God’s plan for our lives also includes the hard things, the difficult things, and yes, the unexplainable things that come into our lives.

You see, God has a plan for each of our lives. He knows what each of your tomorrows will bring, and that includes the good things as well as the bad.

So many Christians today are caught in the web of the false gospel that states that God only has good things in store for your life. This false gospel would have you believe that should anything come into your life such as sickness or divorce, you are out of God’s will.

We know however that bad things happen to good people. That’s an immutable fact. All of us know people who have endured horrible things through no fault of their own. And yes, this includes God’s children, who are not exempt.

My point here is that oftentimes bad things happen to God’s children for no apparent reason. Yet they still happen. Life happens, and life isn’t always pretty, even for God’s children.

So what are we to make of Romans 8:28 in light of what you’ve just read? After all, it’s either true or it’s not. There is no in between.

The Apostle Paul said that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose”.

ALL of your life’s situations, both good and bad, are part of the clay that God places on the potter’s wheel. He takes the good and the bad and ever so gently shapes us, molds us into the vessel He has planned that we become.

It’s true, sometimes there are impurities in the clay, impurities that become part of the finished product. These impurities do not devalue the finished product however, but serve to make each one unique in the eye of the Master Potter.

All things do work together for good…..it’s up to us to trust the process. It’s up to us to remain malleable on the potter’s wheel. God will do the real work.

 

Be blessed, in Jesus name.

Ronear tickled

Four reasons to avoid the Vortex of Negativity

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Most of us have seen a Vortex before, whether in person or on the news. A Vortex is easily identified by a swirling mass of air or water, such as in a tornado or cyclone. Here in Florida these are also found in waterspouts.

tornado

No matter the type of Vortex, they all share at least two things in common:  1) if you get too close to one it will literally suck you into it, and 2) it will always leave a path of destruction in its wake.

Additionally, there is no escape from it unless it releases you from its deadly power. Even then, the end result will not be pleasant.

There is however another form of Vortex, perhaps more damaging than all those previously listed. It’s what I call the human “Vortex of Negativity”, and once it has you in its grip it will literally suck the life out of you. Here are four reasons why you should avoid it at all costs.

No.1 It will steal your Joy…Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, did you know that? But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Galatians 5:22).

If you have been around joyless people for even a few minutes you know how they can rob you of your joy. Many of us struggle with this. We’re happy, and then we’re not.

Joy killers are subtle; they rarely show up with sirens blazing, seeking instead to peck away at our joy in anonymity. Before you even know it’s happened, you find yourself struggling to find joy in anything because your joy has been stolen from you!

No.2 It will steal your Gratitude…A grateful heart is a thankful heart, one that will show up in our attitude. Paul, that great Apostle, understood the importance of thankfulness when he said that “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).  In his song of thanksgiving upon recovering the Ark of the Covenant, David said “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever“(1 Chronicles 16:34).

The Vortex of Negativity is thankful for nothing, but rather seeks out the things that have not gone our way and focuses instead on what could have/should have been.

This Vortex is particularly dangerous because it will retard our growth and leave us to wallow in defeat. People who are ungrateful, especially Christians, are also some of the meanest people around. And yes, they are infectious.

No.3 It will steal your Confidence…When we have lost our confidence we begin to flounder. We are tossed to and fro seemingly adrift on the seas of life with no real purpose. We become double minded, unable to press forward with purpose.

This is not how God created you. An oft quoted scripture from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah tell us “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope“(Jer. 29:11). The Vortex of Negativity wants to hide from us the promise of God and instead get us to focus on what we ourselves can do. This, of course, is never enough to satisfy.

No.4 It will steal the life God has appointed you to…We are called and chosen to live a fulfilling and complete life. Jesus described it this way: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly“(John 10:10).

The Vortex of Negativity is a thief bent on stealing, killing, and destroying our lives one piece at a time until the notion of an abundant life is nothing more than a fairy tale.

The devil would like nothing more than to get our focus off of God’s plan for our lives so that he can then offer us an alternative. Without fail, the alternative he presents to us will lead us down the path of destruction. How could it not, when Jesus has already told us what the enemy’s motives are?

The “Vortex of Negativity” is a powerful force that works against us in many ways. Whether it’s to steal our joy, our gratitude, our confidence, or even the very life God has planned for us, this cocktail of negativity is the enemy’s design for your ultimate destruction.

But I have Good News this day! Your Bible declares that “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord.    Isaiah 54:17

No weapon, no device, no Vortex of Negativity that the enemy tries to destroy you with can prosper.

This is your heritage as a child of God!

 

 

 

 

Translation or Demonstration: which do we need more of today?

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As of this post, there are approximately 100 versions of the English translation of the Bible. Amazingly enough, I am old enough to remember when you could count the number of Bible translations on one hand! My, how things have changed!

We now have versions that have eliminated all of the “impossibly difficult to pronounce words”. There are also versions that contain word for word translations of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek . We have Women’s,Men’s, Teens, Tweens, Children’s, Student’s, Leader’s, and New Believers Bibles.

Browsing online or through a Christian book store reveals a plethora of KJV,NKJV,ESV,NIV,NLT,NASB,HCSB,ISV, and about ninety other translations.

Confused yet? You should be.

Why do we have so many translations of the Bible when statistics show that only one in five Americans actually read the Bible? If we are to believe the data, it seems obvious that our attempts to make the Bible easier to read have largely been for naught.

Of course some will argue that if even one person is strengthened in their walk with Christ through reading one of the above mentioned Bibles it’s worth it, and I couldn’t agree more. I am thrilled that the Word of God is being presented in a manner so easily understood by the masses.

Yet somehow, the sheer volume of Bible translations hasn’t equated to stronger, faith filled Christians. How could they be, when the percentage of Bible reading is so low? Or as the Princess recently told me, just because man changes a lot of the words, man cannot change the heart.

Could it be that our focus is misdirected? Do you suppose that even with all of the available translations of the Bible we are still missing something?

I believe that we are. It’s a key component of our relationship with Christ, and it’s written on the very pages of the Bible we aren’t reading! Consider the following from  2nd Corinthians,chapter two:

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

In his 2nd letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul has just revealed to us the key component I was referring to. Let me explain.

It is not excellency of speech, for Paul said that he didn’t come spouting great sounding words, nor did he come declaring his vast wisdom. He could have, but that wasn’t his focus.

He did not come to them bragging about all of his past accomplishments, or of his powerful connections. Again, he certainly could have done so, as his resume was filled with them. What he did profess however was the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

Paul did not speak as to appeal to the wisdom of men, though he certainly could have held his own with the brightest minds of his day. Being a master of the Law, Paul was well versed in all aspects of communication, yet he made no effort to appease the conscience of men.

What Paul brought was nothing that would appeal to the carnal nature of man. What he brought to Corinth was a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God.

This is what I believe to be the missing, key component in our relationship with Christ: the demonstration of God’s power.

All of the things that Paul did NOT do or bring to Corinth, we have in abundance today. We have some of the most highly educated and knowledgeable men and women to be found anywhere in the world standing in our pulpits today.

We have men and women so eloquent of speech as to be capable of painting a thousand virtual masterpieces with their great swelling words, all designed to appeal to our carnal nature.

Yet what we desperately lack is a demonstration of the power of God. Please understand what Paul was referring to by the “demonstration of the Spirit and power”.

He was referring to the power of the Spirit to heal the sick, save the lost, and yes, even to raise the dead. Real power. God power. The kind of power that has become nearly extinct in our day.

While publishers continue to pump out more and more new Bible translations that go largely unread, the Church starves for a demonstration of the real power of God.

I must ask though, how can God reveal Himself in power when we don’t even know Him as the God of the Word?

Why is this so important? Paul gives us the answer in the last verse, where he says “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God”.

Our faith, that precious commodity that we are to cherish and nurture as a precious gift, must not be in any man. No preacher, no pastor, certainly not a “pay for your blessing” televangelist. Paul declares that our faith should stand in the power of God.

As many of you know, in the hardest times of your life faith that is rooted in God will stand. Likewise, faith that is rooted in man will last only as long as the good times last. God’s power is infinite, and His supply has not diminished with the passing of time.

My prayer is that all who read this will commit their being to God,not man. That instead of running to the next conference or the next hot off the press translation, we will run instead to the Word of God.

Regardless of the translation.

Ron

 

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