Home

What do YOU see?

Leave a comment

It’s been said that God sees everything, and I have no doubt that He does.

He sees the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Whether we’re at our best or worst, God sees it all.

All of it.

What do YOU see when….

*You are forced to walk around a homeless person on the street?

*You see a young girl carrying a child she is not prepared to raise?

*Yet another drug addict has fallen into despair?

*The evening news tells one horrific story after another of abuse?

*You see the line of people that stretches around the block at the food pantry?

God sees all of this. He sees the suffering and the pain of every one of these people. People that His only Son suffered and died for. People we are commanded to love.

Do you see the suffering? Do you see the pain?

Or are your eyes focused only on the cause?

Do you see fault?

Do you see blame?

When Jesus reminded us that the poor would always be with us (Matt. 26:11) he was letting us know that the problems of humanity are perpetual. That is a sobering thought isn’t it?

Now,we can choose to look at this in one of two ways. We can throw our hands up in despair at the seeming hopelessness of the plight of the poor and suffering.

Or we can choose to take the words of Jesus as a challenge to understand that these issues are not going away,therefore we must plan accordingly to do our best to alleviate the plight of the unfortunate among us.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers as to how best to accomplish this. But I am firmly convinced that it must begin with the church. Not the government. The church. Alleviating the suffering of the poor and unfortunate has always been the responsibility of the church.

It all boils down to what we see when we observe the pain and suffering of the poor.

I believe God sees their hurting.

I wonder what we,the people under the steeple, see…

 

“This work isn’t for wimps”…

2 Comments

I recently heard these words from a sermon preached by a young minister named Reggie Abraham. Reggie and his family attend the same church we have been attending the past several weeks, and this was my first time hearing him minister.

The thought behind this statement was that we all stumble and fall as we journey on with Jesus, but that just as our Leader stumbled on the way to the Cross but got up and continued on, so must we.

I was struck by the irony of Reggie’s statement for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it’s true that we are often knocked down and must pick ourselves up and start again. Sometimes we have the help of fellow believers to assist us, yet there are also times when it takes the Lord to raise us up and right our ship. Either way, we press onward.

I also found it ironic that Reggie spoke about falling down, because for the past six years he has had more than his share of being down. You see, six years ago Reggie suffered a serious stroke while riding his motorcycle. His right side was paralyzed and it was a miracle that he was able to get his bike stopped, especially considering how fast he was going.

While I don’t know all of the details, having just met him, I do know that he has spent a long, long time trying to rehabilitate his body and return to some sense of normalcy. Today, six years later he is still greatly afflicted on the right side of his body and just recently was able to find employment.

What is so remarkable about Reggie, and others like him who have had to overcome tremendous obstacles in their lives, is his indomitable spirit. His smile is contagious and his sense of humor will leave you laughing along with him as he delivers the Word in a manner that is guaranteed to touch your heart.

All of us face obstacles don’t we? I honestly don’t know a single person who can truthfully claim that their life has been one without hardship, regret, illness, or some sort of catastrophe.

I’m not saying it isn’t possible, but I have yet to meet the person who lives in a bubble, unscathed by the world and all its trappings.

Jesus in fact told us that we would have trouble in this life. He said “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world“.   John 16:33.  ESV

I love how Jesus tells us to “take heart”. Even though trouble will no doubt come our way, He’s saying to us to be encouraged and empowered because He has overcome the world. Do you know that because He has already overcome, you also are an overcomer through Him?

He has gone before you and has walked in some of the same places you walk through. Scripture reminds us that “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin“.   Hebrews 4:15.  ESV

It is a faithful saying that Jesus understands your predicament. He’s been there, done that. Your greatest temptations, the ones that knock you off of your feet, the ones that send you reeling from their consequences, know that Jesus understands them because no one has ever endured the magnitude of temptations He endured.

Unlike many of us however, He successfully overcame them all, and so can you if you’ll place your hope in Him.

As Reggie said, “this work isn’t for wimps”. We all know serving the Lord brings with it unique challenges, and sometimes the journey can seem difficult at best. But the great thing about it is we don’t need to fight or overcome by our own strength or abilities.

Thankfully, God isn’t looking for perfect physical specimens to carry out His work. He isn’t concerned with our BMI, or if we have 13.1 or 26.2 decals on our car windows.

No, we have a great high priest who is leading the charge against our enemies. Our hope, our ultimate victory, is assured in Christ. His resurrection spelled defeat over Satan, over death, over Hell, and over the grave!

And besides, even if you are a wimp, it’s not your battle to fight but Jesus’s. All we need to do is get out of His way!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

How would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

Leave a comment

Would you change anything? Would you do anything different?

Would you notice the crying baby, or the fussy children?

Would you notice what the person next to you was wearing?

Would you take extra care in picking out what you would wear, or take no thought at all?

Would the volume of the music bother you as much as it usually does, or not at all?

Would you care that your favorite song wasn’t sung, yet again?

I’m jotting all of this down very early Sunday morning as I’m waiting to start getting ready for church. I woke this morning thinking, wondering, is there anything inhibiting my worship? And how would I worship if I had advance notice that this would be my last opportunity?

Worship

To offer Him praise and thanksgiving for all He has done in our lives,to take the time to express our gratitude to God for His many blessings. Isn’t that why we assemble on the Lord’s Day?

As I thought about all of this, my mind began to drift to the different types of worship we read about in the Bible.

Ritual Temple Worship

From the priestly worship inside the Temple we find the descendants of Aaron offering up animal sacrifices as an act of worship for the people: sin offerings, trespass offerings, guilt offerings, and on it goes.

Sacrificial Worship

The people often traveled great distances to worship, and let’s not forget that travel then was very hard and dangerous. Still, they went onward, determined to worship.

We see a man by the name of Elkanah going up yearly to the Temple to make sacrificial worship offerings. Year after year his wives went with him, and God received the worship of his wife Hannah, who was blessed with a son who you might remember was Samuel.

Emotional Worship

And how could we forget David, warrior king of Israel who danced in worship before the Lord with all his might?

Holy Worship

In the New Testament we read where there is worship in heaven, glorious, other-worldly worship where twenty four elders cast their crowns at the feet of God while crying Holy, Holy, Holy.

Whenever we find worship mentioned in scripture we typically find God responding to it, because we are told that God inhabits the praise of His people (Psalms 22:3)

Knowing all these things, the thought of “what if today was my last day to worship God” is front and center in my heart. Would we permit anything to inhibit our worship,if this was truly the case? Would all the things that we get hung up on now really matter?

As I continue working on this post, church has been over for nearly three hours. During the service today this topic was never far from my thoughts. Whether during the music portion, receiving the offering, or while being taught the word of God, I purposed in my heart that I would focus only on Him.

I couldn’t even tell you if anyone had a doughnut in their hand!😉

How then should we approach worship? Is there a right way to worship? Should our worship be limited by what our particular denomination allows, or considers acceptable?

Should our worship be traditional or contemporary? High Church or Cowboy Church? Quiet or loud, exuberant or solemn? Last time I checked, the Lord wasn’t handing out style points, but was looking for sincere hearts.

I don’t pretend to be able to answer those questions for you. I can, however, offer up this thought. I believe God expects, no demands, our very best worship. And what is “best” is different for each of us.

Take the busy single mom, who after working all day comes home exhausted knowing that her day is far from over. With kids to feed and bathe, homework to help with, laundry to be done, and a thousand other daily chores that won’t get done without her, her best worship opportunity might mean bowing her head and heart in the shower during her only 10 minute respite of the day.

Or think about the business man or woman who routinely works 80-100 hours a week. The pressure and stress never seems to let up, even on Sunday mornings. The advancements in technology have made intrusions into their quiet time with God almost predictable. For them, their best worship opportunity might be fleeting at best.

As I said, I believe God demands our best worship, and I believe He will meet with us, regardless of method, place, or duration. The important thing is that we acknowledge Him as Lord, and that we connect with Him as often as we can.

So, how would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

If you think you know the answer, why not try it out the next opportunity you get? After all, it could well be your last “audition”.

Be blessed,

Ron

Donuts or fat free cookies: what’ll it be?

2 Comments

An elderly gentleman said something along those words a couple of weeks ago as we were visiting a new church. For some reason,it seemed he was steering me to the fat free cookies,then again I have put on some weight since I retired.cookies

I had to chuckle at this scene,the old gentleman doing his best to make us feel welcome,me on the other hand just wanting to find a seat and quietly blend in.

Have you ever thought about what really draws you to church?  

What’s the attraction?

Of course, the obvious answer is “to worship,or God”. But what REALLY draws you to church?

Tradition?  It’s the right thing to do?  You like the minister?  It’s your only chance to dress up?  It’s where we meet friends ?  You serve in one capacity or another?  We go to worship God?  Our parents drag us to church? You go to be taught the Word of God? They have the best donuts and coffee?

I confess to you that that going to meet with God hasn’t always been my prime motivation.

Sometimes,many times actually,I’ve went to church because of my responsibilities. Whether teaching a class,ministering from the pulpit,singing in the choir,after a while it can all become routine,like some part time job can become.

Plus,and I’m being really honest here now, sometimes I think it was because God was supposed to meet with me there,not the other way around. Pride does that,doesn’t it?

Funny thing about this journey we’re all on. We go to church faithfully, we support it financially, we often serve in various ministries, we try to live out our faith as best we can. We do all the right things, yet I suspect that….

knowing God

chucklarsen.com

We don’t really know God like we think we do.

We know a lot about God,but we do not know Him.

If we did,I can’t help but believe that our approach to Him would be different.

You see,I’m particularly troubled by something I’ve been observing.And no,I’m not talking about whether or not you wear a suit or shorts and flip flops. Couldn’t care less,actually. Nor does the Lord,I assume.

I’m troubled by the flippant,cavalier attitude I’m seeing in God’s house. In particular,I’m bothered by things going on around me during what is supposed to be a time of worshiping God Almighty.

How can we commune with God while perusing eBay on cell phones and tablets? Are you expecting an email from God,is that why people are checking their email in the middle of Amazing Grace? Does consuming coffee,milk,donuts,and cans of soda bring people closer to God during what is supposed to be a time of worship?

Worship of God Almighty.

This stuff bothers me. And if you say “well,you shouldn’t be looking at what everyone else is doing” you might be right. But it still bothers me. And here’s why.

Can somebody say “where’s the R.E.S.P.E.C.T.“?

respect

Is this the proper way to come before the King? In His own house?

If you were invited to Washington DC to meet a high ranking dignitary,or some other venue to meet someone very important,would you show up with a Mountain Dew in your hand? Or how about that dream job of a lifetime,think the interviewer would mind if you munched on a breakfast burrito in between questions?

If any of this would be deemed unacceptable to you,help me understand why it’s OK to do it in God’s house. Why do we reverence earthly things more than God? Does any of this seem right to you? Is this what people do who expect to meet with God? Doesn’t this say something about our perception of who God is?

I know, I know. All of this is just way too legalistic isn’t it? Some of you no doubt think ‘what a jerk. What’s up with coming off so heavy handed? Lighten up dude! It’s only coffee and donuts after all. Who are you to make the rules anyhow? At least they are in church!!’

Actually,this post isn’t really about what goes on inside a building. It’s more about what goes on inside another type of building: our own temples. But you knew that,didn’t you?

Here’s what’s really bothering me about this attitude. I think we have exceeded all expectations in bringing God down to our level. Yep,we’ve finally done it. We’ve figured out a way to treat God as an equal.

And it shows.

We treat God like He’s part of the furniture. No awe. No wonderment. No amazement. No reverence. No fear.

Just one of the guys.

We don’t really know God,for if we did we would stand before Him, in His house,awestruck at the magnitude of what He has done for us! Instead,we treat His House as though we’re hanging out at Starbucks. Or like He’s the last person we expect to show up.starbucks

If we knew God,it would show.

It would show in our attitudes.

It would show in our behavior.

It would show in our language.

It would show in our worship.

We don’t really know God,for if we did we would spend time in His Presence long before 10:00 AM on Sunday.

We cannot know someone we don’t spend time with. Did you get that?

In her book Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard described her thoughts on how we so nonchalantly approach a typical Sunday:

“Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church. We should all be wearing crash helmets.”

Yes indeed.

Sometimes I wonder if God doesn’t look at us as we sit in our seats,minds a million miles away,coffee in one hand,cell phone in the other and say to Himself “do they really not know who I am”?

So to answer the question “Donuts or fat free cookies:, what’ll it be?“, I think I’ll pass this time.

Seems I have a bigger question to settle.

the_light_end_tunnel

Relinquishing Your Freedom in Christ is an Expensive Proposition

2 Comments

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?

“I want God to heal me,but…”

4 Comments

I still remember hearing someone say those exact words to our pastor. A young man from church had been injured at work, and the pastor had asked him if he would like the church to pray for him according to James 5:14.

Now, the first reaction would normally be to answer “YES” to having the church pray for you, especially if you are in pain and unable to work. Especially if that was the norm for your church!

That would be the normal reaction.

That wasn’t, however, the reaction of the young man who was injured. His response was “well, I want God to heal me, but I’m expecting a big check from the state Workers Compensation and I don’t want to jeopardize that”.

Like most of us in the congregation, the pastor was stunned at his response. Quickly regaining his composure, the pastor said something along the lines of “well, let’s pray that God will heal you and that you will get the money you are anticipating”. I mean, what else could he say at that point?

What would your reaction have been?

Is it not strange how we say we want God, but we really don’t? On one hand we say we want God’s blessings, but sometimes our actions say we want them if

I guess it isn’t just kid’s “that say the darnedest things”, but do we really think about the things we say?

What does this say about us and about our relationship with the father? I think it says that we think way too highly of ourselves for one thing. Or it could say that we are confused as to who serves whom.

This attitude is reminiscent of one that appeared long ago in a garden somewhere. Remember the Garden of Eden, when Satan tempted Eve? Satan told Eve that if she would eat of the forbidden fruit her eyes would be opened and she would be like God. Even though God had been explicit in His instructions to Adam & Eve, they decided to roll the dice.

How did that work out for them?

There is an interesting dilemma in the church today, this idea that we can bargain, or negotiate with God. Of course, we’ve all heard or known of people who have said “Lord, if you will do such and such, I’ll serve you”. That’s not at all unusual.

However, we seem to have taken this thought process a step further when we say that we want God’s blessings, “but”…Are you or I in a position to negotiate with the Almighty?

This mindset is further proof that we are living in the time that Paul said would come where “men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful.…” (II Tim 3:2-5).

The young man at the beginning of this story, what happened to him? Well, he got his big check and spent it on all kinds of “stuff”. He did not however, receive his healing. It’s also interesting to note that he has not worked since those events of 25 years ago.

Oh, and lest you think this story was one that couldn’t possibly be repeated, you would be wrong. Just three years ago I had a lady from another church tell me nearly the same thing. She was also receiving compensation for a work related injury and was therefore hesitant to be prayed for.

What is it that you need from God? Healing? Finances? Hope? Comfort? Encouragement?

If we need something from our Heavenly Father, we cannot be double minded about it. When we come to the throne, we must ask in faith, with no doubting. The Bible tells us that we who are double minded are unstable in all our ways and we will receive nothing! (James 1:6-8).

Whatever your need this day, don’t try to bargain with God. Simply come to Him and make your needs known to Him. He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

Perhaps you are questioning whether or not God will hear your prayer,or whether or not you are “good enough”. If that’s you, I’d like to leave you with this verse to meditate on:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out.   John 6:37

Have a blessed Lord’s day!

Reclaiming Biblical Faith

6 Comments

Have you ever went to bed with a specific thought on your mind,only to awaken the next morning with that exact same thought being the first one to enter your mind?

Most of us have probably experienced this,as I did the other morning.In my situation,I’d been mulling over a verse of scripture found in the book of Jude that deals with believers contending for the faith. You’re likely familiar with it as it’s often used in sermons.

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”   Jude 1:3   contend-for-the-faith

The part of this verse that I have been in deep thought about was the part about “earnestly contending for the faith which was once delivered to the saints”. Specifically,was there something different about their faith as opposed to our faith? Also,what had happened to their faith?

To make sense of this this we need to understand that the book of Jude was written approximately 80 years after the death of Christ. What is most striking about this fact is that in less than one century,there was apparently such a serious lack of faith in the church that Jude felt compelled to address the issue. How could this have happened in such a short time?

Jude gives us the answer beginning in the next verse.

For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”   Jude 1:4

False Christians who knew not God,unregenerate men,had come into the church unnoticed by those who were responsible for protecting the flock. Once “inside the gate” these false disciples began sowing discord by teaching things contrary to the Word of God. Jude specifically mentions “turning the grace of God into lasciviousness”.

Lasciviousness? Now there’s a word you don’t hear very often,if at all.Of course,that’s the Kings English version of the word. Different versions read the word as lewd,immoral,decadence,or sensuality. Anyway,I’m sure you get the picture.

This word “lasciviousness” means lustful or lewd sexual behavior. In other words,the pure,sincere love of God that believers had for one another had given way to sexual immorality in the church,resulting in the faith of many being shipwrecked. All in the span of less than 100 years since Jesus was here on earth.

It is almost incomprehensible that such a thing could occur to the church that had turned the world upside down only a few decades prior.Yet that is what happened.

The church learned early on that the cost of not defending their faith against false believers was losing their faith. Let that sink in for a moment.losing-faith

This is why it is so important to stand up and defend the gospel. It is worth defending against its enemies,for if we do not defend it the gospel becomes weakened and powerless. It becomes what Paul described as “another gospel”,which is really no gospel at all (Gal. 1:6).

Jude’s exhortation to “earnestly contend for the faith” should indicate to us that “the faith once delivered to the saints” is the model for Christian faith today.So,we must ask what was this faith that was once delivered to the saints?

It’s pretty simple actually.Their faith was built upon a foundation of love,the love of Christ,and the love of one another.This agape love,the highest form of love, separated Christianity from all other religions of the day.

The faith once delivered to the saints was one of sacrifice and serving one another.It looked outward instead of inward. It was selfless,and I can’t think of a better example of the faith that was once delivered unto the saints than one of selfless love.

It’s certainly worth earnestly contending for. Agree?

Older Entries