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First,last,or somewhere in between,God is always enough.

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You’ve been there, haven’t you? That place where in spite of everyone’s best intentions and most comforting words, you need to hear from God himself. Nothing or no one else will do.

I’ve been there. Lived there and thought I’d die there. That place of lonely desolation, as arid and dry as the Sahara. The thrill of the mountain top gives way to the sinking sands of the desert, where there is no escape and no hope in sight. mountainYou know what’s amazing about those experiences? We share them with some pretty lofty company. Take David for example. David knew a lot of mountain top experiences didn’t he?

Giant killer extraordinaire, lions and bears were no match for his bravery. Songs sung in his honor extolled his valor on the battlefield. He was a warrior without equal, leader of the armies of Israel.

Have you ever thought about yourself in the same light as David? Well, maybe you should! Haven’t you defeated some pretty big giants in your life? No, I’m not referring to a nine foot tall giant named Goliath, but I imagine if you think about it, you’ve slain even bigger ones!

killing your giantsEver defeat a giant called addiction?  Or how about giants from your past, remember the thrill of victory when you realized they would trouble you no longer?

All of us are potential giant slayers in Christ because “greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world“(1st John 4:4)!

There are many voices out there today that are telling us that we can have complete victory over every giant we encounter. But is that reality?

Even as a Christian, in spite of the admonition of scripture and the multitudes of examples recorded for all times sake, sometimes we stumble along the way.

The truth is that as much as we want to, we aren’t likely to subdue every single giant we encounter. With the help of the Lord, often keeping them at bay for a season is cause enough to rejoice.

Just keeping it real here folks.

Now, despite all the accolades ascribed to David, he also had his share of experiences that were not exactly the stuff legends are made of. The one most people know about of course is his affair with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband.

Davids Sin

sovereigngrace.net

Quite the fall from the mountain top, wouldn’t you say? In fact, the rise and fall of David is one of the greatest examples in history of a man who fell from the proverbial penthouse to the outhouse.

Years before that tragic event however, David experienced another situation that brought him to his knees, and while the cause was not as devastating as the one previously mentioned, the potential consequences were nonetheless a matter of life and death.

David escaped from King Saul and fled into the wilderness where he led a small army of bandits, and where he eventually aligned himself with the Philistines. As the Philistines were about to engage Israel in battle, David and his men being part of their army, David was sent away out of fear he would turn and fight for Israel instead.

Upon returning to a city named Ziklag, where he and his men had left their families in safety, they found the city burned and their families taken away. You can hear the anguish in the voices of his followers as they recognized what had happened:

Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep.  And David’s two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had been taken captive.  Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.   1st Samuel 30:4-6   NKJV

Do you see what David did? In the midst of great personal anguish and tragedy, as well as the grief of all of his men, David strengthened himself in the Lord.David Strengthened

In this critical hour, when everything near and dear to him had been taken from him, David understood the secret of not only personal survival, but complete restoration as well. In short, he knew where to turn.

Wisdom teaches that all battle hardened soldiers eventually come to the place where they will either succumb to their fears or prevail over them, in large part due to the size of their heart. That being a soldier can be a life of weariness and fatigue, loneliness and despair, and often as not reinforcements are a long ways off.

The wise soldier in God’s army also understands that strength and encouragement comes from the Lord, that sometimes it has to get down to just you and God, because nothing else will do.

Whether first, last, or somewhere in between, God is always enough.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

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?

Who is waiting on whom?

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Are we waiting on God?

Or is God waiting upon us?

waiting-on-god-001

ilifejourney.wordpress.com

So much depends upon our personal perspective in the light of God’s Word,doesn’t it?

From our perspective, are we waiting on God to open the flood gates of heaven and pour out a blessing on us? We hear a lot about that don’t we?

Or is God waiting upon us to humble out hearts,acknowledge our insufficiency without Him,confess our sin,and be restored to Him so that we can be blessed? (James 5:16)

From our perspective, are we waiting on God to empower us to serve him in ways heretofore not seen?

Or is God waiting upon us to go forward in the strength and power that He has already given us?  (Luke 24:49)

From our perspective, are we waiting on God to “pour out His Spirit on all flesh…” in some version of a “last days revival”? (Joel 2:28)  How many times have you heard that?

revival-image

revivalmag.com

Or is God waiting upon us to accept His word that has already declared “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel…” (Acts 2:16)

From our perspective, are we waiting on God to fill our churches with throngs of hungry worshipers so that we can then teach them all they need to know about the Christian way?

Or is God waiting upon us to obey the command already given to “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled”? (Luke 14:23)

From our perspective, are we waiting on God to miraculously cause worldwide peace to break out on the earth,ushering in a world without poverty,violence,strife,and disease? As if God were a genie in a bottle maybe?

world-peace

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Or is God waiting upon us to accept the call already given to serve Him, knowing that until He comes again,there will be no peace but rather division and strife?  (Luke 12:51)

At the end of the day,I believe we the Church spend an inordinate amount of time waiting upon the Lord to do things He has either already done or already told us to do.

Which leads me to conclude that God is actually waiting upon us. If we are waiting around for new marching orders there will be none given. They were issued to the Church nearly 2000 years ago. You might have heard of them before:

      The Great Commission: Matthew 28:19-20

great-commission

blogs.christianpost.com

The Great Commission says to “GO”. What are we waiting for?

How to have faith in God’s timeless process

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Face it.As much as we’d like to believe that hidden somewhere in the pages of God’s Word there exists a little known formula for living a charmed life,life’s journey has taught us that there is no quick fix,no potion,no enchantment that will deliver the kind of success being touted by the proponents of the prosperity gospel.

No glitzy TV programs,no Sunday snake oil salesman,no faith/power of positive confession/self help/sow your best seed now types of conferences,no slick self promoting “get in on this special offer now” spiel,will ever supplant God’s timeless process of faithful maturation.

You can’t buy it. You can’t steal it. For certain you can’t con your way to get it.

You have to earn it.Like a badge or a medal that is awarded to only a select few,growing in the faith and grace of our Lord is a process that will literally take the rest of your life.Indeed,our faith is continually growing, and that is as it should be lest we become stagnant and die.

In his 2nd letter to the church at Thessalonica,Paul was encouraged by their demonstrations of faith and love toward one another. “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;” II Thess 1:3    KJV

Paul draws us to the fact that their faith was “growing exceedingly”. For him to note this he would have had to have seen some outward,physical proof of this growth,which of course he recognized in their infectious love for one another.

These early Christians serve as wonderful examples to us today of the kind of growing faith and love that comes from God as we walk with Him daily. Did you notice the absence of so much of what we think of as church today? Are we missing something?

Could it be that these early Christians had already discovered the “formula” that so many seek today? I suggest that they had indeed found the secret to living the successful Christian life that the church today is searching for. In all the wrong places I might add.

The fact that this early church loved one another abundantly is ample evidence of their growing faith in God.Consider if you will that these Christians had no internet,no phone,no TV,no church buildings,and no programs for every member of the family.What they did have however… was each other!

Given the current church’s appetite for a “one stop shopping”brand of Christianity where an attempt is made to provide something for everyone,we are left to wonder how these poor,unfortunate,backward men and women ever survived.

They not only survived,but they also prospered because they trusted the Lord to see them through every situation.In other words,they trusted the process. James also,in speaking of the process said that “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”   James 1:12   KJV

All too often this flesh does not want to endure much of anything, but will instead look for the closest exit or way of escape.In doing so we fail to see the hand of God guiding us through the process,thus stunting the growth of our own faith.

So how do we get to the place where we can have faith in God’s process? I think the writer of Hebrews said it best.”For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”  Heb. 10:36

Patience in the process.Patience and endurance to see the race ran to completion.If we can learn patience,we will see a faith that grows exceedingly,a love for one another that abounds,and an enduring spirit that understands the process.

What is it exactly,that we’re searching for?

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Why are we Christians not content with where we are in life? In our relationships? In our walk with God? If you really think about that question for a while,it says an awful lot about us doesn’t it?

discontentment

gracefromhim4.blogspot.com

 

The Apostle Paul said he had learned to be content in whatever state he found himself to be in (Philip. 4:11). Do you know anyone like this? Are you like this? I must admit that I have not yet arrived at this place in my life.

Paul learned to be content,meaning it was not an instantaneous event, but rather a process he went through. A refining process. Being beaten, shipwrecked, starved, abandoned, stoned and left for dead will definitely refine a person to the point that things no longer matter.

Perhaps that explains our mindset today when it seems that we expect instant gratification in almost every situation. We just don’t want to endure the process required to get from point A to point B. The process can indeed become uncomfortable,and we try to avoid uncomfortable, don’t we?

You’ve no doubt heard the expression that a person has to pay their dues. Older  people understand that to mean you have to put in the time and effort to get the promotion,or the job,or the honors.

So it is with serving the Lord. Growing in the knowledge and grace of our Lord is a lifetime commitment.To be really honest, it’s also hard work. It requires discipline and much sacrifice on our part.The rewards however,are incomparable to anything we could ever hope to gain from this world.

That’s why we must be very careful when searching for contentment in places we have no business being in. Let me share a personal example with you.

Many years ago there was a time when I actually was content in just about every way possible.While I didn’t make a lot of money,I made enough to get by and I was OK with that.My spiritual life was soaring and I felt like I had it all.It was liberating to be in such a state!

At about this same time I started hearing about a new job,one that paid more than I thought I would ever earn. The more I thought about that job and what the extra income could afford me,the more I began to want it.Soon,it was all I could think about.

I began to look away from my life of contentment,searching elsewhere for what I did not know, somehow convinced that this new job would be a blessing from Him and that I would continue merrily on my way.After all,what difference could it make where I worked?

So I applied for the job and got it. Much to my great surprise I soon began to hjob-is-crushingate everything about it. The job itself,the people,the red tape,the long hours,the stress. You name it,and I came to loath every part of it. This was shocking to me as I had never hated a job before.

To say I was no longer content would be a huge understatement.Every part of my life suffered,especially the spiritual part of me.I was left with little time for prayer and study,and in short order realized I was in trouble.The grass was definitely NOT greener on the other side!

I spent four and a half years at that job,and when I was laid off I was probably the only person there who shouted for joy at the news! Those were the worst four and a half years of my life,and I say that with no exaggeration.I had suffered terribly for my mistakes,and prayed that God would forgive me and help me find the job He wanted me to have.

Which He did, on both accounts!

So I’m wondering,where are you with this whole contentment thing? Only you can answer that,but if you’re like me those closest to you probably have a pretty good idea.

Careers,titles,authority,money,all these are fleeting things that will disappear and may cost you more than you bargained for.

So what is it exactly,that we’re searching for? It’s taken a long time, but I now know the answer to that question.We’re searching for the very things that God is offering to us. All we have to do is accept them. It really is that simple!

I’ve learned (the hard way) that contentment can only come from a life grounded in Christ.I’m hoping you realize that as well.

Be blessed!

Ron

How to choose between the wide and the narrow:part 2

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In today’s post we are going to examine the second distinct people group from Matthew 7:13, 14, the “few”. If you remember from my last post, Jesus stated that there would be few that find the narrow road that leads to life.

The key word “few” as used here can be defined in one of several ways, including:

  • A small number of.
  • Emphasis on how small a number of people or a thing is.
  • The minority of people; the elect.

Don’t overlook the importance of this word. I believe that Jesus used it purposefully. Even though it is a very small word, it carries significant weight and impact in this lesson.By using the word few,Jesus is pointing out that the many,or the majority,are headed the wrong way.

How does the fact that Jesus used this word sit with you? Does this bother you or make you uncomfortable? Doesn’t it sound like Jesus is saying that those who find the way to life are in the minority?

Think about that point for a moment. There are over 7.5 billion souls on this planet. The latest estimates (2015) are that there are just over 2.2 billion Christians, or roughly 30% of the world’s population.few-there-be-stuart-miles-fdp-etpr-2

Even if every one of those 2.2 billion are numbered among the “few that find it”, that leaves 5.3 Billion, or 70% of the world’s population that will enter through the Wide Gate. From a purely statistical point of view, this is astounding!

Of course, there really is no way for us to number the few or the many. That task, thankfully, belongs to God and God alone.I use the numbers as a reference only.

But could Jesus really be saying to us that not everyone who thinks they are on the right track,isn’t? Well, he actually did say that here:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’  Matthew 7:21-23

Now we have Jesus telling us that not only will there be “few that find it”, He is also telling us that many will think they will enter through the Narrow Gate, only to be told that He never even knew them! The four most dreadful words we could ever be told are “I never knew you”!

This brings me to ask a very important question:does this sound like something we should trust to chance? I don’t think so! Jesus Christ is telling all of us that we can be busy doing all types of good deeds,church or religious works,and still miss heaven!ef-2-chance-dice-03

 

If that doesn’t cause us to take a look deep inside our hearts,I don’t know what will.

So we see that in truth there actually are going to be comparably few that find that narrow road that leads to life. OK,OK,so, exactly who are these “few”? The answer is found in Matthew 25:31-46. Here is an excerpt from that passage:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’   Matthew 25:31-40   NKJV

These, beloved, are “the few that be that find it”. May I encourage you to study these verses of scripture? Within them you will find many character traits of the chosen.

In my next post I’m going to conclude this topic by showing you how to make absolutely certain that you choose the path that leads to life.

What kind of minister says things like this?

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That was the question I asked myself this morning after hearing the minister say for the sixth time “this stuff is hard to believe,isn’t it”?

Please forgive my pessimistic,somewhat snarky title. It’s been one of those days. You know those kind of days. The kind where you ask yourself “why do I subject myself to this”?  Why not just stay home and have Bible study around the table?

From the Genesis account of creation to the Immaculate Conception, the minister made a point of telling us that these things are hard to believe.A seven point sermon to tells us that the Bible can be hard to believe. Hard to believe for whom?unbelief

To the unsaved person I would agree that most of scripture can be hard to believe when taken at face value. I’m pretty sure that most of us who were not raised in church struggled with biblical concepts while on the outside looking in. At least I know I did. Boy did I struggle! That’s what unregenerate minds do!

But concerning the word of God,what is so difficult for a sanctuary filled with believers to grasp here?

Are there some things in the Bible that challenge us as Christians? Absolutely there are! Do I question certain things? You better believe it. But that does not mean they are not to be believed.

Umm…..I think that’s why they call it FAITH! Some things are more difficult than others to believe and FAITH has to kick in at some point or else we’re no different than the unbelieving world.faith-quote

Maybe I’m an anomaly.I actually do believe the Bible.I actually do believe it was written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.I believe it is God inspired and sufficient for our instruction and admonition.In short, I believe every word of it.

Maybe what bothered me the most about this morning’s message was that at the end of the service this same minister closed the service by asking any non-believers that might be present to “believe on the Lord Jesus”.

And some people wonder why I take the position I do in regards to the church of today?

This morning’s “encounter”reminded me of a quote from one of my favorite authors,Leonard Ravenhill,who said this: “The best title of the (professing) church of God today is Unbelieving Believers“. Well said Leonard.

 

Out of respect for God’s house I sat through the whole ordeal instead of bolting for the door after the 2nd or 3rd “this is hard to believe”.

A very poor choice on my part,of that you can be sure.

To all of you that have a faithful minister who proclaims the word of God I would ask this question: do you pray for them regularly? If not,you should make it a daily practice to not only pray for them but give thanks to God for them.

Believe me,they are becoming more scarce than you think.

The search for a new church home begins anew 😦

 

 

 

 

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