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Keurig Christianity?

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I’m pretty sure most of us have one of those Keurig coffee makers setting around on the counter. The convenience of being able to make just one cup at a time of our favorite coffee is hard to beat in my opinion. A bit expensive, but nice just the same.

Keurig

Keurig.com

But what happens if you want to drink 2 or 3 cups of coffee? Or what happens if you have 4 or 5 people over for coffee and all you have is the Keurig?

The answer is you still get one cup of coffee at a time. Interestingly enough, this “one at a time” concept of the Keurig is not unlike the mindset of many of us in the church today.

I’ve taken to calling it the “Keurig mentality”. We say that we desire more of God, that we want a closer walk with Him. The problem is we want our one cup filled just one time, and we want it filled up instantaneously. Isn’t that how many of us approach God?

I’m here Lord. Give me everything I need right now so I don’t have to keep coming back to have my one cup refilled. Lets get this over with. One stop shopping at the corner church!

As though that were somehow enough.

Unfortunately, that’s not how this works. Or as the Facebook TV commercial used to say, “that’s not how any of this works”!

Desiring God is a noble endeavor, one that all of us should strive to pursue. But growing and maturing in Christ is the result of a lifetime commitment. Getting out of the starting gate as a new Christian and growing into the mature,strong believer that God wants us to become requires patience, experience, and faith(Romans 5:4).

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”      I Corinthians 9:24-25

Running a marathon requires training, discipline, the correct diet, and a resolve to make it to the finish line.

marathon runners

NPR.org

Oh, and many, many refills. You see, one cup just won’t do!

Be blessed!

Ron

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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

 

Two of the hardest “EASY” things to do

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Have you ever thought about how we Christians go out of our way to make life harder than it needs to be?

Consider the church or assembly where you worship. I imagine there are certain rules that you are expected to follow in order to be a member in good standing. For instance, some churches have rules on attendance, and others prohibit smoking and drinking. No gambling is also found in most list of rules.

rules

chypsministry.org

Some churches still prohibit women from wearing makeup and jewelry. These are typically associated with long jean skirts for the ladies and white shirts for the men. UGH. When will we ever learn that personal holiness begins in the heart and not the closet?

Oh, and did you know there are different rules for the Methodists than there are for the Baptists? Did I mention the rules in the Black church, whatever that is? In addition to all of this, perhaps most important of all are the unspoken rules, which of course everyone is somehow supposed to know.

There can be no room for personal liberty in such an environment, as personal liberty might allow one to step out of order, thus creating chaos, and if there’s one thing we like about rules it is that they bring order.

Now, I like order, to an extent. Order, or Rules, brings with them a sense of stability and security, and who doesn’t appreciate that?

I do not like order however that is so inflexible that I cannot be free to express myself. Here’s a personal example of what I’m talking about. I like color, lots of color, especially bright colors. Maybe it’s because I have a degree of color blindness and struggle to see color like everyone else. Whatever the case, I love bright, bold colors.

On Sunday’s I always wear a suit to church. Why?  Because I like wearing them. I also like wearing a tie to church, which I am acutely aware, goes against the norm these days. But I won’t wear just any tie. No boring, ugly ties in my closet! That’s why I wear ties that are bold, colorful, and bright.  Like this for example….IMG_0111

Sorry, but no dress codes for this guy!

OK, back to my topic. One of the greatest problems with church rules is that we expect everyone to follow them, thus creating carbon copies of ourselves in the process. And as if that weren’t bad enough, we will follow up on our rules by making even more rules.

So, are all of these rules necessary to be a follower of Jesus? Do we really need a list of can’s and can not’s? Well, let’s consult the manual, shall we? Surely there we can find some direction.

In the gospel of Matthew, chapter 26 we find the following:

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.   Matthew 22:35-40  KJV

twogreatestcommandments

the-ten-commandments.org

Love the Lord. Love your neighbor.The two hardest “easy” things you can do.

It’s because we the Church make it so. Not the Lord. Not the Word. WE make it so hard. It’s as if we cannot fathom that loving the Lord and loving your neighbor could be enough. So we add our own special flair to it in the form of Rules.

And look what we’ve made of the church!

All of the Law and all of the prophets hang on just these two commandments. Nothing else is required. No list of Rules. No list of do’s and don’ts. No clothesline religion here, no sir.

All of the Law and all of the prophets hang on just these two commandments. This easy, this simple, this uncomplicated.

Maybe the reason we make it so hard is because of the word “love”. If it were anything else, perhaps it wouldn’t be so troubling, but love, well that hits us right in the heart doesn’t it?

Just like it’s supposed to.

Be blessed,

Ron

Can somebody give God some praise?

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We came through Hurricane Irma without a scratch. What can I say, except that we are humbled, grateful, and extremely blessed to have lived through something like this.

After a quick walk around the house this morning I didn’t see even a single shingle missing. Even the pool cage and the screen are still intact! Somehow or another we never even lost power, while so many millions here are in the dark this morning.

Thank you for every prayer that was prayed on our behalf.  You cannot begin to know how humbled we are by knowing that people we’ve never met would care enough to pray for us.

I’m reminded of something I told our church Wednesday evening, and that is that God is a giant killer! I also reminded them of David saying that if we fear the Lord, then we should also trust Him. Pretty sage advice, I think.

Be blessed everyone!

Ron

A Watchman…A Warning

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Long before the advent of modern electronic technology such as telegraphs, telephones, and most recently the Internet, cities used to depend upon the town crier, or watchman, to alert them of impending danger.

An alert watchman would see an approaching army, for example, and would begin to warn the city’s residents to take the necessary actions to defend themselves.

Conversely, should the watchman fall asleep on duty, destruction was almost certain to be the end result because by the time people realized what was happening, any attacking army would be upon them.

There are many examples of Biblical watchmen, most of whom were faithful to their task, yet the position of watchman was considered to be so important that the Lord issued a warning should they be derelict in their duties.

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’”     Ezekiel 33:6 NKJV

Obviously, to understand that trouble is coming and to do nothing would be something akin to high treason. In the New Testament,we know that Paul understood this when he said “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!”                       I Corinthians 9:16 NKJV.  Emphasis mine

An appointment, or calling to be a watchman is a grave responsibility, which Paul acknowledged by saying that out of necessity he MUST preach the gospel. In other words, Paul was called of God to a task he could not deny, for if he did the souls of untold millions would be required at his hands.

Throughout the Old Testament we find example after example of warnings that were sent from God to His people Israel. These messages were delivered by prophets, or watchmen, that God had called for this specific purpose.

Unfortunately, these messages more often than not fell upon deaf ears, such as in this example: 

“Thus says the LORD: “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’”      Jeremiah 6:16-17

In this example, we find that God has sent his watchman Jeremiah to deliver a warning to the people to turn around and walk in the old paths, where the good way was, and to listen to the sound of the trumpet, that is to listen to what the watchman had to say.

In both of these instances we find the response from God’s children to be “we will not”. Having historical knowledge as our reference, we understand that there was severe punishment inflicted upon God’s children for their stubborn rebellion, which led to the eventual scattering of an entire nation to the four corners of the earth.

Today, God still uses watchmen to cry out to the people of the world to repent and turn their hearts to God. There are also watchmen crying aloud to the Church for her to repent, and return unto the Lord that redeemed her.

Alas, I am afraid that the response from both the world and the Church are nearly identical: “we will not”!

I believe, as many of you do, that we are living in what the Bible refers to as “the last days”. It doesn’t take a scholar to understand that we are seeing the fulfillment of many of the scriptures that foretold of His coming.

I will spare you the list of evils being perpetrated on a daily basis. After all, what’s the point? We are neither blind nor deaf. We all see and hear with our own eyes and ears what is happening all around us.

Or do we? Do we really see the depth of sin that has enveloped our world? Do we really hear the cry of anti-Christ rhetoric emanating from every corner of the earth?

I am afraid that we have ignored the watchman’s cry and said “we will not” one too many times, thus deadening our spiritual senses to what “thus saith the Lord”.

In His Revelation message to the seven churches in Asia Minor, Jesus said “he who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”. He repeated this no less than seven times, once for each of the seven churches.

I wonder, do we have “ears to hear”, or have we become so hardened that we scarcely give God’s word a second thought?

As I write this post, hurricane Irma is bearing down on the area I live in, taking aim to inflict a direct hit upon us as a Cat 4 or Cat 5 storm. For a solid week or more the warnings have been going out to prepare, prepare, and prepare some more for an unprecedented storm that threatens this entire area.

Storm surges of up to fifteen feet of water are predicted just south of where I am. That’s right: a solid wall of water fifteen feet tall is about to engulf much of SW Florida. Millions are now under mandatory evacuations.

Yet would you believe that with less than 24 hours until the expected landfall, people are still trying to find plywood, bolts, screws, bottled water, gasoline, etc.? To this relative newcomer, I can hardly believe this!

Complacency is rampant among the citizens here. Far too many are saying “that’s what they said about the last one and nothing that bad happened”.

Wait, isn’t that what the world and the Church are saying about the watchman’s warnings to “turn around and walk in the old paths, where the good way was”?

A Watchman.   A Warning.

When will we learn?

NOTE: this post is being published at 5:00 AM Sunday. The hurricane is expected to hit here in approximately 12 hours. All of us here covet your prayers.

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

Another soldier’s coming home

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Yesterday I had the incredible privilege of attending the funeral service for a 95 year old father, grandfather, WWII veteran, and faithful Christian man named Eddie. My wife and I had been asked to provide part of the music and singing, and of course we gladly volunteered to help.

Listening to this man’s two sons speak so eloquently of their father brought many tears to my eyes, for it was easy to sense the deep, abiding love they had for him. But there was one thing that was said that impacted me more deeply than anything else.

As the eldest son came to the front of the church, dressed smartly in the same full dress uniform he had proudly worn many years ago, everyone listened intently as he began to share with us how that recently his father had begun to grieve over the conditions in America being played out on the news.

You have to understand that this man was a decorated soldier who sacrificed  everything to fight for the freedoms you and I enjoy today,and watching Americans turn on one another broke his heart.

Having served in no less than five European countries during WWII, participating in countless battles,including the infamous Battle of the Bulge, this man knew sacrifice and hardship like few of us can even imagine.

Yet unbelievably, at the end of his life he wondered if not only his own sacrifice, but that of millions of others had not been in vain. To set by and watch the nation he fought for be torn apart from within was more than he could bear.

This patriot,to whom America is deeply indebted,died feeling like the country he loved so dearly had betrayed him and his fellow soldiers. He stated on several occasions that the country he loved was being taken from him,and those of his generation, and I’m pretty sure if you were to ask,most veterans would agree with this assessment.

Listening to all of this broke my heart, and the fact that I had met this man only a couple of times prior to his death did nothing to diminish the impact of these powerful words from a man who was part of America’s “Greatest Generation”.

All of us would do well to step back and really think about the sacrifices made by prior generations, sacrifices that we continue to benefit from today. Whether we choose to accept it or not, the fact is that the entire world as we know it would be a much darker place had those before us not responded to freedoms cry.

As we topple the images of our past in a vain attempt to erase the painful memories associated with them, we would do well to remember that just like its individual citizens, our nation has made many,many mistakes, some of which have scarred this nation with a perpetual open wound.

None of which however can ever be forgotten,either individually or collectively.

The mistakes of our past are part of our history,and history cannot be rewritten, though many have tried and continue to try to do so today. The truth however, is still the truth. All we can do is move forward, not backward as we seem to be doing.

 

Eddie knew his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for many decades, and in the end it was this relationship with Jesus that kept him pressing toward the mark in spite of what was going on in America.

For you see, it was Jesus Christ that gave him hope for a future. An eternal future without violence and hatred. A future without racism and bigotry. A future where there would be no need for another world war. A future where sacrifices ceased.

A future not of this world…

As America continues on its march to abandon democracy in favor of socialism, as she slips further and further away from her Godly heritage, hope in this life will eventually become non existent.

The only hope available will be the hope we have in Christ.

As I close this post, the words to a song written about a soldier going home are ringing in my mind tonight, so I thought I would share them with you.

Verse 1

His back is bent and weary, His voice is tired and low
His sword is worn from battle, And his steps have gotten slow
But he used to walk on water, Or it seemed that way to me
I know he moved some mountains, And never left his knees

Chorus
Strike up the band assemble the choir, Another soldier’s comin’ home
Another warrior hears the call, He’s waited for so long
He’ll battle no more, ‘Cause he’s won his wars
Make sure heaven’s table, Has room for at least one more
Sing a welcome song, Another soldier’s comin’ home

Verse 2
He faced the winds of sorrow, But his heart knew no retreat
He walked in narrow places, Knowing Christ knew no defeat
But now his steps turn homeward, So much closer to the prize
He’s sounding kind of homesick, There’s a longing in his eyes

Lyrics to “Another Soldier’s Coming Home” by Janet Paschal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What will you do in the end”? Part 2

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My last post in this series ended by asking “what nation would ever turn its back God”?

Today’s post will focus on both the identity of the nation, as well as the “blame game” being played regarding responsibility for what is taking place in America today.

Before I delve into this, I want to state up front that in no way am I trying to convince anyone that the problems that have befallen us are either simplistic or easy to fix. My goal with this series is simple: identify the root of the problem, and then point out the obvious (to me) solution.

As to the question “what nation would turn its back on God”, the answer is painfully obvious: that nation is America. Just as Nathan the prophet said to David “you are the man” when exposing his great sin, so it is that America is being systematically exposed as the nation that has forsaken its God.

The parallel between America and ancient Israel is unmistakable. The simple table below highlights just as few examples:

comparison

Though America’s approach is a subtle one, there can be no doubt that we are following in the footsteps of ancient Israel, allowing ourselves to become ensnared in a noose from which there is no escape. Just as Israel could not escape their coming judgement, neither shall we.

From a Christian point of view, I am dumbfounded that we are seemingly blind to this. Oh, for sure there are voices out there that say they know that things are not right, that they believe we are going the wrong direction as a nation. But they are painfully few and far between.

What I cannot fathom, in light of what should be so obvious, is the relative silence from God’s people! Where is the moral outrage? Instead of righteous indignation and contempt, instead of a cry from our denominational leaders for a day of fasting and repentance, what usually comes from the Christian camp is silence.

Or even worse, blame.

The Church has fallen headlong into the same mindset as the world, which is it’s easier to affix blame than it is to acknowledge the truth. And the truth, I’m afraid, is very, very ugly! Acknowledgment of the truth, you see, negates our pleas of ignorance.

There is a fundamental problem with the Church looking to assign blame for the despair that prevails in America today. That is not the responsibility of the Church, yet we have permitted ourselves to jump on the blame bandwagon so that we can attempt to defend our positions!

The Left blames the Right. The Right blames the Left. And so it goes. As long as we can assign blame to one group or another we feel content in our smug self-righteousness that THEY are the problem!

Let’s throw away our cloaks of pretense and disguise, shall we? I’ve been saying for a long time on this blog that we in America have a “God problem”. Yes indeed, our problem has become what to do about God, for we certainly don’t want Him any longer!

In part 3 of this series I will show you how that America’s “God problem” is so firmly entrenched as to be all but impossible to reverse. You will see that God is no longer part of the solution in the minds of America’s leaders. He has actually become part of their problem!

Be blessed,

Ron

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