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Blessed are they that mourn…

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In my previous post, we dealt the 1st of the Beatitudes, the promise made to those who are poor in spirit yet possess the kingdom. With this second Beatitude, we turn our attention to a promise that those who now mourn will one day be comforted.

Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted“. [1]

Whenever I hear the word “mourn” I think of a very deep sadness or grief, the kind that nearly overwhelms the soul. We humans mourn over all types of situations. It’s how we cope, or how we endure trials that are often beyond our capability to handle.

Mourning is an outward indicator of pain and grief. It reflects our inward sense of hopelessness over something that is usually out of our control. The loss of a loved one, for example, is one of the most common events that will cause us to mourn and suffer grief.

Of course, there are other types of mourning as well. In Jesus’ day for example, there was no doubt a spirit of heaviness upon the nation of Israel. This once proud, favored nation had succumbed to sin and found themselves under the authority of a foreign government.

No doubt Jesus himself was mourning the condition of his people as he looked out upon Jerusalem and lamented the fact that though he had continually called them back to righteousness, they had steadfastly refused to come. [2]

On a lesser extent, I’m sure that many of us today mourn the condition of our society, being forced to come to terms with the fact that what once was, is now gone forever.

Perhaps, like me, you mourn the present apostate condition of the Church. Knowing that Jesus gave his very life for the Church that now largely rejects him causes me to mourn greatly for what could have been.

Whenever we find ourselves in a place of mourning, it can be extremely difficult to see beyond our present circumstance to a place of having hope for a brighter day.

Jesus, however, said that those who mourn shall be comforted. So, what do we take away from that statement?

Perhaps the most important thing to learn from what Jesus said is that there will be an end to the mourning. Overwhelming as it may be in the moment, the source of our mourning must give way to the peace and the presence of God.

The Apostle Paul said that the peace of God surpasses all understanding [3], and it is during these intense times of mourning that He will show up, often when we least expect it, bringing the comfort of a peace beyond our own understanding.

That alone offers great comfort, because I can tell you from personal experience that there are times in our lives when it appears the pages of our circumstances will never turn.

To this very day, I mourn and grieve over certain things that I have been forced to deal with. And while the pain may not be as intense as it once was, it is still there, scarcely hidden beneath a thin veneer of faith and hope.

I thank God however that the story doesn’t end there, because Jesus said that comfort was coming! In fact, we are told that while weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning! [4]

We have inherited the promise of Jesus that we will be comforted. Whatever is causing us to mourn, it has an expiration date affixed to it. It will not last, nor can it defeat us.

I hope you will join me in clinging to the promises of God that one day, every tear will be wiped away. The day is coming when neither death, sorrow, or crying will ever be heard again. [5]

Until that day, take solace in knowing that God sees, hears, and understands the things that cause us to mourn.

Comfort is coming, in Jesus name!

The next Beatitude we’ll look into is “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth”.

Be blessed!

Ron

[1] Matthew 5:4

[2] Matthew 23:37

[3] Philippians 4:7

[4] Psalm 30:5

[5] Revelation 21:4

 

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What is your church known for?

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I read an interesting article from Thom Rainer about Three Ways Churches Think They Are Known in Their Communities.

The gist of it centered around the question of “What is your church known for in its community?” Thom collected the responses to the question and found three patterns emerged. Below are the results, and I urge you to read the entire article along with the readers comments at the end.

  1. “About one-half of the churches are known for ministries that require the community to come to the church itself. Great preaching. Incredible worship services. A friendly church. Great events at the church. How our members care for one another. You get the picture.
  2. About one-fourth of the churches cited great ministries in and to the community. Partnering with schools in the community. Serving the community with food and clothes. Medical and dental ministries. Ministries to families, parents, and children in the community. The list goes on and on.
  3. About one-fourth of the churches said they were known for negative reasons. Preacher-eater churches. Congregational fights and splits. Legalism. Unfriendliness.”

All of this got me to thinking about my own church, so much so that I’m going to take my own unscientific poll to find out what my fellow congregants think our church is known for in our community.

What would you learn about your church should you ask the question “What is your church known for in its community?”

Do you think you already know their answers, or do you think you might be surprised at what you would learn?

Be blessed!

Ron

Fathers are more important now than ever before

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Happy Father’s Day to all the dad’s out there! This is your day to kick back, relax, fire up the grill, admire that new tie, power tool, or fishing rod you received, and bask in the love and adoration of your family.

All of this after you’ve taken your family to church, of course!

Fathers Day came about because of a lady named Sonora Smart Dodd, who after hearing a Mother’s Day sermon, asked her pastor to prepare a sermon honoring fathers as well. What’s interesting about this was that Dodd’s own father, a Civil War veteran, was himself a single parent, raising six children on his own.

Father’s Day was first celebrated on June 19, 1910, in the state of Washington, and an awful lot has changed since then, wouldn’t you agree? Our nation hardly resembles the one that Dodd lived in a little over a hundred years ago. For certain, the makeup of our families bears little resemblance to those of that long gone era.

For example, according to the website National Kids Count, approximately 35 percent of children under 18 lived in a single-parent home as of 2016. In addition, as many as 25-percent of children in the U.S. live in households with a mother alone. That is over 18 million children who do not live with a father figure.

Obviously, when fathers are absent from the home it creates many negative effects on their children. According to “What Can the Federal Government Do To Decrease Crime and Revitalize Communities?“, children from fatherless homes account for:

  • Suicide: 63 percent of youth suicides
  • Runaways: 90 percent of all homeless and runaway youths
  • Behavioral Disorders: 85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders
  • High School Dropouts: 71 percent of all high school dropouts
  • Juvenile Detention Rates: 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
  • Substance Abuse: 75 percent of adolescent patients in substance abuse centers
  • Aggression: 75 percent of rapists motivated by displaced anger

With an acknowledged divorce rate hovering at 50%, it doesn’t appear that these negative statistics will be improving any time soon. Too bad marriage counselors and divorce attorney’s don’t share these statistics with their clients!

While those in the Christian community have been sounding the alarms for decades about the attack on our families, there can be no doubt that the enemy has indeed dealt the family a near fatal blow.

We understand that the family unit was orchestrated by God when He created Adam and his wife Eve, placing them in a beautiful garden. This was the very first family in the history of man, and it represented God’s crowning achievement.

The Genesis account tells us that God himself walked in the garden with Adam and Eve, thus establishing a special bond with them. As we know, things were sailing along fabulously until Satan entered the picture and destroyed this relationship man had with God.

Ever since then, the evil one has been determined to wreck havoc on our homes with one purpose in mind: to destroy God’s plan for marriage and family. I won’t bore you with more data, it is enough to simply look around you to confirm that Satan’s plan is in full swing.

1st Peter 5:8 reminds us to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

The enemy is on the prowl, and his target is your family.  I believe however that our homes and families are worth fighting for! Dad’s must begin to pray for their wives and children. Wives must begin to pray for their husbands and children.

On this Father’s Day my prayer is that all of us who are fathers will take up the battle and fight for our families. James 4:7 tells us “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

By calling upon the Lord to help us in this fight, we are bringing Him into the battle, and the last time I checked, He is still undefeated!!

Happy Father’s Day!

Ron

 

 

Does it really matter what you believe?

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According to some people it doesn’t. After all, don’t all roads lead to Heaven? And at the end of it all, isn’t God going to give everyone a free pass into Heaven? Or at the very least, give us another chance after death to make things “right enough” to earn a spot in heaven?

That actually sounds nice doesn’t it? I mean, if God is love and all, why wouldn’t He let everyone into Heaven? What kind of God would exclude good people anyway?

I used to believe this, every last word of it. You might say my “religion” was built upon the premise that if God was who people said He was, at the end of the game all of our scores will be added up and guess what?

We all get in because God is a swell guy that sees all the good works we’re doing. You know, working hard to get to Heaven and all that.

Being raised as I was without any religious or Bible education, I was simply doing what everyone else who was raised in similar circumstances was doing; I invented my own religious belief system. A system built upon my own works and good deeds.

And I was doing fine until…

One day someone told me that Jesus was the only way, that He loved me, and that He died just for me, and right then my “religion” was exposed for what it was: just another frail attempt by a sinful man to justify his own sinful behavior.

When I started going to church and reading the Bible for myself, I soon realized just how far off the mark I had drifted. As a matter of fact, reading the Gospels alone was enough to convince me that what one believes actually did matter.

You see, what I discovered was that according to the Bible, there was such a thing as right and wrong. Not only that, but I also discovered that my opinions about it didn’t really matter all that much, because you see the Bible confronted me with a TRUTH that rendered my own opinions pretty much worthless.

This is why it grieves my soul today when I hear people say “there’s good in all churches” (not true). Or when I hear people say ”well, they may not teach it just like the Bible says, but its close enough” (no, it’s not). Or my all-time favorite: “I know they say some things that don’t line up with the Word, but I just take the good stuff and throw away the rest”.

Is God so wishy washy that he considers close enough or good enough to be sufficient? I mean seriously, is this kind of like horseshoes, where close enough earns you points?

Do we really believe that close enough or good enough is really “good enough”? Is this really something we want to leave to chance? Isn’t it serious enough to want to know for certainty?

Can someone even define “good enough” or “close enough”?

And can we of our own making devise a religion that will make us good enough, much like I thought I had done?

Well, not according to God’s Word we can’t!

As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;  Romans 3:10

So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.  Mark 10:18

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Prov. 16:25

It DOES matter what you believe! It matters because it matters to a Holy God, and it is only because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ that we are saved today.

Good enough? Not me. The only good in me is HIM.

And that’s all that matters!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll take the prayer of faith any day…

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I was recently made aware of someone that has been dealing with some on-going health issues. It was nothing catastrophic, but serious enough nonetheless.

I made inquiries about their present condition and was told “They’re hanging in there”. Not sounding very convincing, I asked again and was told “They’ll be alright”. Still not convinced, I decided to probe a bit deeper as to how they were really doing.

The person proceeded to say “well, they don’t like to profess anything negative”. Of course, I immediately recognized this as classic word of faith (WOF) teaching because one of their beliefs is that your words have creative power, and you can bring negative things into your life just by speaking them.

My response? I told them that I believed in professing the TRUTH, in telling it like it is. If I feel great I’ll say so. If I feel sick I will say so. Saying “I don’t like to profess anything negative” doesn’t do one thing to mask the pain and discomfort when that’s what I’m feeling.

If you want to drill down to it, it’s actually dishonest to do this!

I’m paraphrasing here, but WOF adherents believe that if you speak positive things like blessings and prosperity, blessings will be coming your way shortly. However, speak anything they interpret as being negative such as pain, disease, or sickness, and bad things are coming upon you.

Now, the purpose of this post is not to do a comparative analysis of all that’s wrong with WOF theology. I simply want to point out that the scriptures do not teach what the WOF adherents believe as it pertains to sickness or disease. For example:

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.   James 5:14-16

James is recognizing that there are sick people among the congregation. Why didn’t he launch into the benefits of positive confession if indeed that is all that is required? Or why didn’t he scold the people for confessing negative things like sickness, or for their apparent lack of faith?

Instead, James says to call for the elders of the church to pray for the sick. He did NOT say to call for the elders to speak a positive confession over them. He told them to pray a prayer of faith.

Could it be that James knew what he was talking about? Well, I’d like to believe he did! While James apparently did not become a believer until after the resurrection1, he had no doubt seen the power of prayer up close and personal.

What he did NOT see was a Sermon on the Mount about the benefits of a positive confession. Nor did he ever see Jesus admonish a grief stricken parent for their lack of faith, or for speaking negative words.

What he DID see however was the power of prayer in action.

And that my friends, trumps a positive confession any day of the week!

Be blessed!

Ron

1 John 7:5, Acts 1:14, 1 Corinthians 15:7, Galatians 1:19

Business as usual?

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The other day my wife heard a somewhat amusing story about a pastor and his struggling church,and she thought I might want to pass it along via the blog. I thought it made a pretty good point and I hope you will agree.

Seems a church was struggling to make ends meet, and the situation had caused the pastor to inquire of the Lord as to why this was. The Lord responded and said “you are in the church business, but I am in the redemption business. If you will get in the redemption business, I’ll take care of your church business”.

Sometimes we get caught up in things and situations, and in doing so we forget who is really in charge and what is important. Some call this majoring in the minors, and that sounds about right.

The thing is, we all do it to some degree. It’s hard not to when you’re struggling to get by or are trying to figure a way out of a seemingly impossible situation.

It’s in these times however when we need to take a step back and remember that God is our Helper. We are not alone and have no reason to doubt or fear because God is with us.

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble.   Psalm 9:9

We have the assurance that we can trust in Him and that he will not forsake us. Our job then is to be about the Lord’s business. Or as my Pastor likes to say: “let go and let God”.

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,then these other things will be given to you. Matthew 6:33

If we are faithful to do that, to be about our Father’s business, he then is faithful to “supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory.”  Philippians 4:19

Be blessed!

Ron

Real heroes of the faith are still among us: part 1

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The New Testament book of Hebrews contains a record of what many call “heroes of the faith”. In fact, chapter 11 of Hebrews is commonly referred to as the faith chapter because it lists what some call the “faith hall of fame”.

As you read through this chapter, one is struck by the presence of some very familiar names. Abraham, Moses, David, Samson, and Gideon to name just a few. Readers who are familiar with the Old Testament can no doubt recall some of the events associated with these well known men of God.

Yet there are references to other,unnamed heroes of the faith that are recorded here as well. While the writer of Hebrews doesn’t mention them by name, he does list some of their “qualifications” for enshrinement into the “faith hall of fame”.

Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.  Hebrews 11:35-38

Though lesser known than the Old Testament patriarchs or kings, these “others” were nonetheless uniquely qualified to take their place alongside their more famous predecessors.

These were men and women who refused to bow the knee, but instead held fast to their faith in God and believed that a better day was coming. Put to the severest of tests, these faithful soldiers endured unimaginable persecution because they counted their lives as nothing that they might win the ultimate prize.

Our minds today simply won’t permit us to comprehend the untold sufferings described in the verses noted above. Being stoned to death is itself a terrifying method of execution, but can you imagine what it was like for someone to be sawn in two?

Church history reveals that tens of thousands of Christians were persecuted by some of the most vile,heinous, and satanically inspired means imaginable in an effort to eradicate the true Church. Yet somehow, the sustaining grace of God kept alive a remnant, for which you and I owe an enormous debt of gratitude.

In our present culture however, I am often surprised at the apparent unwillingness of many in the church to “earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints” (Jude v3). Indeed, there seems to be an attitude of spiritual entitlement among us that would be totally unrecognizable to the early church.

No doubt this is due in part to the prevalence of the gospel of “easy believism” and “health and wealth” that is pandered about today. It should be noted as well that neither of these false gospels would have ever been taught in the early church.

In fact, I’ll go on record and say that such teachings are part of what Paul described as “another gospel”, one that he said anyone preaching it is accursed (Galatians 1:8). That is for another day however.

 

In part 2 of this series, I will introduce you to some modern day heroes of the faith. Their identities may not be well known among believers today, yet their stories are no less inspiring than those found in the book of Hebrews.

Until then!

Ron

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