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Thoughts on Prayer

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Most of you that follow this blog have figured out that I am something of a throw back to a different time, even a bit old fashioned in some ways. As far as ministry is concerned, I am more closely aligned with those of the past who eschewed the latest fads and techniques in favor of simply proclaiming the word of God.

I can truthfully say that I have never attempted to follow anyone’s prescribed methodology of ministry. That’s not to say there haven’t been a few who have attempted to get me to follow in their footsteps, because there have been.

How well I recall the minister who told me to “just do what I do”. Thankfully, I chose not to do follow his advice because it wasn’t long before that particular individual was never heard from again.

Instead, I have held to the belief that if we pray and seek God He will produce the desired outcome. His desired outcome.

Like many of you, I have learned through the years that whatever is born out of prayer will stand the test of time. Likewise, that which comes from the heart of man will eventually falter no matter how much effort is put into shoring it up.

It is with this background that I approach the subject of prayer in the church. I’m referring to a specific time or season of prayer here, not merely saying a prayer. Perhaps you have heard of such a season referred to as ‘the prayer meeting’, or more simply ‘a time of prayer’.

Many church goers today are unaware that there was a time when the prayer meeting was the single most important meeting of the week. It was given far more emphasis than even the Sunday morning services. It was deemed so important that the great British pastor C.H.Spurgeon had this to say about it:

“The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge of the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if He be not there, one of the first tokens of His absence will be a sloth-fullness in prayer”. [1]

This is an incredibly powerful commentary on prayer in the church. Written by Spurgeon well over 100 years ago, it describes perfectly the relationship between God and His church and the effects a lack of prayer has upon her.

God has always called His people to pray. Going all the way back to the 4th chapter of Genesis we are told that after the birth of Enos (grandson of Adam and Eve), men began to call upon the name of the Lord. [2]

This ‘calling upon the Lord’ carried into the New Testament where we find Jesus teaching His disciples how to pray. [3]. The record we have of the early church gives us no less than four examples of how prayer should be made “without ceasing”. [4]

Starting to see a pattern here? Sounds like prayer is a really important part of man’s  relationship with his Creator, wouldn’t you agree?

This leads me to a question for us all: how much emphasis is being placed on prayer in our churches? A little? A lot? Hardly any? None? Sadly, I know exactly how I must answer this.

If Spurgeon was right in saying that the church may be gauged by its prayer meetings, what does that say about us today? What does this say about our relationship with our Heavenly Father if we have forsaken prayer?

I was discussing this issue with my wife and we started talking about all of the different metrics the church uses today to determine it’s effectiveness, or success. Things like attendance and offerings seem to be two of the most popular metrics, with ministry involvement and the number of conversions following close behind them.

One item you won’t find on any church’s flow chart however is the % of its congregation that is committed to regular prayer, whether at home or in a scheduled time of corporate prayer at the church. I’ll leave you to figure out for yourself why that is.

The result of what Spurgeon deemed “slothfulness in prayer” is the absence of the greatest church metric there is. I’m speaking of lives that have been transformed by the power of the gospel. Seriously, If we need to count something, why don’t we count something that really matters, like lives forever changed by the power of the gospel?

How hard can that be? Wait…maybe that’s the problem!

I see it all the time, and I’m sure that you do as well. Church services that are filled with hurting, desperate people all filing out at the end of the service exactly as they filed in. Unchanged, unmoved, and unregenerate. And we wonder why so few wish to join us. Why would they?

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”. [5] Do you suppose the Apostle Paul was looking into the future to our day when he said those very words?

As I look upon the landscape of the Church today, I see a famine of unprecedented magnitude. To be sure, we have preachers a plenty. And there is certainly no shortage of singers and musicians in God’s house. We have programs designed to meet nearly every need imaginable, yet fail to recognize that we now mirror the church of Laodicea that was “rich and increased with goods”, but did not know she “was poor, and blind, and naked”. [6]

Yet for all of these, the Church is starving to death for the Presence of God. When we do not pray, He will not come. Why would he show up uninvited, even in His own house?

I speak only for myself, but I cannot abide such an environment for even one more Sunday. I can no longer be content with another church service where we repeat the same tired, worn out routine again. I am desperate for the power and the Presence of God!

A form of godliness emanating from a man-centered, manufactured service does nothing for me or anyone else. And how are we to know that it is only a ‘form of godliness’? Because there is no transformation taking place.

If God were in our midst like we pretend that he is, I can assure you that lives would be changed on a regular basis. Needs would be met. Addictions would be broken. Diseases would be instantaneously healed. Marriages would be restored and families reunited. Those who handle the Word of God would cast aside their haughtiness and pride, finding themselves broken and prostrate before Him.

Maybe, just maybe what is needed is a return to the ‘Old Paths’ where “if my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” [7will once again become the battle cry of the redeemed.

Who can tell if the Lord will reveal himself anew if only we would call upon Him in earnest and sincere prayer?

Actually, I believe that that is precisely what he is waiting on.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

[1] Spurgeon at His Best(Grand Rapids:Baker)

[2] Genesis 4:26

[3] Luke 11

[4] Acts 12:5, Romans 1:9, 1 Thess. 5:17, 2 Tim. 1:3

[5] 2 Tim. 3:5

[6] Revelation 3:17

[7] 2nd Chronicles 7:14

 

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Four words you never expect to hear in church

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“You’re Not Good Enough”.

Stinging, painful words of rebuke. Whether they were deliberately spoken in order to hurt you doesn’t matter. What matters is they hurt. They cut deeply and wound our hearts.

Some of you have heard these words spoken to you or about you. Maybe not verbatim, but they may as well have been because the hurt is the same. Those four little words possess an enormous ability to tear down and destroy.

I heard these words from someone at my church last Sunday. And they hurt. They hurt deeply because they cut me deeply. They reached a part of my heart that I thought couldn’t be reached with such words. I thought the walls guarding my heart were impenetrable. But I was wrong. I was so very wrong about that.

For accuracy’s sake, those exact words weren’t spoken. But what was spoken was interpreted as “You’re not good enough to be permitted to do a certain thing here”. And to make sure there wasn’t any confusion about it, the point was made that I would never be good enough.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH

All of my adult life, and particularly in the business world, I have been told that I wasn’t ‘good enough’.

  • Not enough education
  • Not enough experience
  • Not enough connections
  • Not good enough

Because I was labeled as such, I was forced to work much harder and longer to achieve what others did in a much shorter amount of time. I accepted that as just how it was, and never allowed others to impose their limitations upon me. That is how God created me, and it has served me well for over six decades now.

So, back to the point I wanted to make. It took me all of Sunday and part of Monday to process this. And do you know what the Lord showed me about this? He showed me that He alone sets the standard, not man. He reminded me once again that there is no one that is ‘good enough’ except for the Lord.

As for me, with the Lord’s help I have moved past those four stinging words. In fact, I choose instead to focus on a different set of words because in them I am assured that it is the Lord that ultimately gets to decide who is ‘good enough’.

But “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.   2nd Cor. 10:17,18.  NKJV

The next time someone tries to tear you down by telling you that you aren’t ‘good enough’, you just remind them that when it’s all said and done, God alone will determine who is ‘good enough’, not the person telling you that.

Have a blessed day everyone,

Ron

 

The Law of Love

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I thought I would pass along a little nugget from God’s word tonight regarding what many refer to as the Law of Love, taken from the Beatitudes as recorded in Luke 6. I hope it will be both a blessing and a source of encouragement to you.

After Jesus had come down from a mountain where he had spent the entire night in prayer, he encountered a multitude of people from Judea, Jerusalem, and the entire region that were afflicted by all types of sickness, as well as demon possession.

When Jesus had finished healing them all, he proceeded to teach them about a type of love that none of them had ever heard about. It was a love based upon giving instead of receiving, a concept that was just as strange to these people as it is to many of us today.

Beginning in Luke 6:27 and continuing through verse 36, Jesus begins teaching them about loving their enemies, doing good to those who hated them, and being merciful.

He tells them to bless them that curse you, give to any that ask of you, love those that don’t love you, and lend expecting nothing in return.

This, my friends, is the Law of Love.

Give yourself away. Pour into others. Do not be a taker, but a giver.

If there ever was a time when the church needed to rise up and give itself away, it is today.

Give your heart to the lost. Give your heart to the poor. Give your heart to the downtrodden. Opportunities to give of your heart are everywhere.

You might say there’s an endless supply of these ‘opportunities’. A local nursing home, for example is a prime opportunity to share our heart. So is the after school program in your local school district.

GIVE

I have often heard it said by Christians that we cannot out-give God. The meaning behind this is that the more we give of our finances to the Lord’s work, the more He blesses what we give and adds to it.

I have no doubt that this principle is factual because I have seen it with my own eyes many times. The manner in which God multiplies our efforts is nothing short of amazing.

Our heart however, is something we hold onto and guard carefully. When it comes to the type of love Jesus is referring to here, it’s all about the heart, not the wallet. And while it is true finances are needed to carry on the work of the ministry, a heart that is open to the touch of God is of much greater value to the Kingdom.

I encourage you to reacquaint yourself with Luke 6:27-36. You never know what the Lord might stir up in your heart as a way of ministering to others.

I’m grateful for all of you who read this. I trust the Lord will meet with you in a special way.

RonC

 

 

 

 

For the lost

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What really matters to you from a Kingdom perspective?

Probing a bit further, what do your spiritual priorities look like?

I have been thinking about all of this for several months now because I have been feeling very restless in my soul. It’s almost like I am being pulled in another direction, a direction far from my comfort zone. A Holy discontent with the religious status quo. Knowing that change is forthcoming, yet not having a clue as to what/when/how. Maybe you can relate?

I know that this feeling has to do with my desire to be more personally involved in ministering to others. Organized, institutionalized church where the format never changes may work for others, but it leaves me scratching my head wondering about how impersonal it all is. It leaves me wondering if God did desire to show up some Sunday, would He need to ask to be put on our program?

I have come to realize that I have reached a crossroads in my life where I can no longer be content to just show up and throw money at a situation or problem, or toss an envelope in an offering plate. No, I want to see the faces of the people who need that money. I want to see their faces because I know that tangible things are just a part of what they really need. These unknown faces need to see the love of Jesus demonstrated.

It is this demonstration of love that people crave.

At times it seems to me that the Church is losing its passion for those on the ‘outside’, content to coddle and entertain those on the ‘inside’. It makes me wonder if we have become ‘too good’, at least in our own minds, to be bothered by those less fortunate than ourselves when we take measures to shield ourselves from lost, hurting, and desperate people.

Is this not our mission? Is this not why Jesus came, to seek and to save that which was lost? [1]

Years ago a church I attended decided that a good way to minister to the community was by having a food bank that gave away food to the needy. To be honest, more than a few of us questioned that need, wondering if these needy people actually existed in our small town. Imagine our great surprise that as the word got out, people began showing up at all hours of the day!

It was heartbreaking to see these families who had very little to eat, especially little children. And to think that prior to our starting the food bank we didn’t even know these needy people existed! Hearing their stories would always touch me deeply, and I suppose this is where I learned to love the downtrodden.

Now, places exist that are funded by churches and community service groups so the needy have a place to go to away from the church. This serves two purposes: 1, hurting people have a centralized place to go to receive help, and 2, the church doesn’t have to get its hands dirty.

An institutionalized clearing house for the hurting if you will, where the opportunity for personal contact from the church is lost.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t believe that this is what Jesus meant when he taught that we were to have mercy and compassion for the lost and needy among us. We give money to far away places, content that we did something for someone whose face we will never see. We have bought into the world’s philosophy that if you throw enough money at the problem, eventually it will fix itself. [2]

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I’m driving around and see so many people who are obviously struggling, I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t more that can be done to help them. Please understand me, I am not advocating for more government handouts or more welfare type programs. Those are temporary, stop gap measures(at best).

Of course, there are a great many well funded programs already in existence to help those in need. The question I am asking though is are they the right kinds of programs?

No, what I’m referring to are more and better opportunities. Better paying jobs for instance would enable a person to afford better housing, higher quality food, and an overall better quality of life. Sometimes just an equal opportunity is all that is needed to lift someone up and out of poverty because I firmly believe that all most people want is a chance, and equal chance to succeed.

This nation is rich beyond anything most of the world can imagine. We have an obligation to “the least of these” to do more for them than giving them monthly handouts. [3]

Our churches should be on the front lines, fighting to see that these people are given the respect and dignity they deserve as human beings. Our churches should open their doors and their checkbooks because after all, it is the church that is in the mercy business, not the government. With the tremendous resources our churches have at their disposal, we could make significant inroads into improving the plight of the poor and needy if they would once again pick up the mantle.

An “institutionalized clearing house for the hurting” is not the answer. Demonstrating the love of Jesus with a personal touch followed up with practical, tangible “put your money where your mouth is” blessings would have a tremendous impact for those in need.

I close this post with a song about compassion for the lost. I heard this song a few days ago, and instantly recognized it as one I used to listen to regularly a long time ago. I pray it will touch your heart.

 

Ron

[1]Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

[2]For the record, I am 100% in favor of missions giving as long as their is a regular accounting given of those funds

[3] Matthew 25:45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

 

 

The very same Jesus

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For all of the talk about the demise of Christianity, it is interesting to note that Christianity remains the largest religious group in the world among people who lay claim to some form of religion.

Of course, we know that within Christianity there are dozens of different denominations, as well as hundreds of offshoots of these mainline denominations.

Additionally, there is no way to measure the sincerity of one’s relationship with Jesus. Is every person attending church really a Christian? Who but God can say?

As confusing as all of this sounds, it is important to point out that there is one central truth that binds all Christians, churches, and denominations together.

Jesus Christ is the head of the church.

Denominational and personal beliefs aside, this is an immutable, non-negotiable fact.

To the unsaved world, however, Jesus is typically viewed as just another historical figure, or at best some type of prophet, or religious wise man, one who long ago died and faded into obscurity.

It is this mindset that I want to delve into with this post. This worldly perception of Jesus, that he existed from an historical perspective only, is unfortunately alive and well in the church today.

It’s true, we Christians sometimes have a tendency to think of Jesus as was instead of is. Perhaps this is because we are constantly being inundated with worldly viewpoints on the person of Jesus. TV shows for example, are notorious for portraying Jesus in the past tense.

In the rare instance when they might mention the resurrection of Jesus, it almost always comes with the obligatory wink wink. Their thoughts of course are that no intelligent person really believes in that resurrection stuff.

So, it isn’t too difficult to understand why Christians can sometimes lean towards the world’s viewpoint, especially if we focus more on the world’s opinions than the truth of God’s word.

This is why we might hear someone say something to the effect of “if only Jesus were here today” when reflecting upon the current conditions of our world. They are thinking of Jesus as was instead of is!

So many times I hear believers talk as though Jesus is a million miles away, abiding comfortably in some far off galaxy called Heaven, oblivious to all that is happening in our lives.

To be sure, scripture does teach that Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of the Father(Acts 2:33). But scripture also teaches that though he departed from this earth, he did not leave us alone.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.   John 16:7

His Spirit abides within each of us who have accepted Him as Lord and Savior. That means that the very same Jesus that walked the shores of Galilee also now abides within you.  He is NOT a million miles away from you!

I hope you caught that. The very same Jesus….

Why should any of this matter to you, and why is it something to think about?

Look at it this way: the next time you call upon the Lord, would it make a difference in how you approach Him if you understood that he was in fact already abiding within your heart?

What if the next time you think to yourself “if only Jesus were actually present here with me”, you approached the situation from the position of “Jesus, I know you are with me. You said that you would never leave me or forsake me, and that you were a very present help in the time of trouble”? (Hebrews 13:5, Psalm 46:1)

Would that not change your perspective? Of course it would! Instead of wringing our hands in desperation, wishing and hoping, we acknowledge his presence by affirming our faith and trust in him!

The Christian church today must have a fresh revelation of who Jesus is, not who he was. We must recapture the truth of the ages that Jesus Christ is alive forevermore, and he resides in our hearts!

My prayer is that we would have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church today. God’s word is alive, it is anointed, and it is inspired.

It is speaking to us today, revealing the risen Savior to the lost and hopeless. May we open our hearts to know that the very same Jesus that walked the shores of Galilee some two thousand years ago is alive and abiding in our hearts this very day!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

Putting in our order

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Who doesn’t like the occasional fast food take out vs. the work of preparing and cooking a big meal at home? Just the other night for example, my Princess decided she wanted Chinese take out, so Chinese it was.

And yes….it was very good!!

The convenience of fast food is pretty awesome if you ask me. Simply pick up the phone and call it in, or even better do it all online. Within a few minutes of placing our order, we’re sitting down to eat!

Of course, you know what they say about too much of a good thing. Simply putting in an order comes at a high cost if done frequently. Whether it’s spending extra money on top of the weeks grocery budget, or the ever expanding waist line, convenience isn’t cheap.

That being said, I think we’ve gotten quite comfortable with the ease and simplicity of putting in our order, and when you think about it, this mindset carries over into many parts of our lives.

We want maximum benefit while exerting minimum effort. Place a call, click a mouse, or speak into a device and things appear on our doorstep almost magically. Technology at its finest!

So it is sometimes in our walk with the Lord. Have you noticed that when we are facing difficult circumstances, our initial thoughts are often to try the “call, click a mouse, or speak into a device” approach when searching for a solution?

That’s called Human nature 101. Who doesn’t like easy?

Unfortunately, all too often the issues we are facing today seem to turn into giants before our very eyes. When that happens, ‘easy’ rarely works because it takes far more than simply putting in our order to send those same giants packing.

I have been guilty of this, and more times than not I didn’t even realize it until it was brought to my attention. That’s because I can get so caught up in the ‘what’s wrong’ that instead of immediately turning to the Lord, I search everywhere else, looking for that easy solution.

Do you ever do this?

The point I’m trying to make with this is that while we all have needs, and we’re all dealing with something, we also have to understand that more often than not, the solutions to today’s complex issues are not easy.

We can’t just “put in our order”, walk away, and be done with it while expecting that things will work out somehow or another. If we’re going to overcome and have the victory, we need to pray.

We might think of prayer as optional, or even a last resort thing to do when we’re out of options, but the reality of it is we are expected to pray. Jesus didn’t say ‘if you pray’, but rather when you pray.

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.   Matthew 6:6

Prayer cements our relationship with our Heavenly Father. It is an open line of communication that each of us has with Him, and provides the means in which we may cast our cares upon Him instead of carrying them ourselves.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.   1st Peter 5:6,7

I can think of no greater need in the body of Christ today than the need for regular prayer. The kind of praying I’m talking about is not merely putting in our order, it is personally communicating with the Almighty. Not just when we are facing giants, but every single day!

Prayer is a critical component of our relationship with the Father.

One I need to desperately rekindle.

How about you?

If you’re tired of seeing no results from simply ‘placing your order’, I believe sincere prayer will be a game changer.

Be blessed everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

It never ceases to amaze me…

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Have you ever noticed how that certain topics will stir the masses to action while other, equally important topics barely draw a whimper?

Consider for example the President. Any time his name is mentioned one of two things is sure to happen.

  1. His followers will defend his actions no matter how questionable
  2. His detractors will demonize his actions no matter how beneficial

Love him or hate him, very few remain on the fence about him.

And so it is with any number of controversial topics, people, or subjects. Everyone has an opinion, and most are only too willing to share theirs with the world. Except for one distinct group of people, that is.

It seems that the only group that remains consistently silent in the face of controversy are those who call themselves Christians.

As sheep being led to the shearer, we Christians have a peculiar propensity to remain mostly mute, content to watch from the sidelines while the spirit of AntiChrist marches towards ultimately criminalizing Christianity in America.

Think about that statement for just a moment.

  • It is the Church that is supposed to be Christ’s representative on the earth.
  • It is the Church that has been charged with leading men out of darkness into the light.
  • It is the Church that is supposed to be leading by example in all areas of spirituality and morality.

In other words, the Church is supposed to be heard from!

Yet it never ceases to amaze me that when the Church needs to rise to the occasion, it is as if someone pushes a ginormous MUTE button and she remains silent.

So it is with the recent House of Representatives “Equality Act“. This bill, which passed by a margin of 236-173, is one of those that if it ever becomes law will forever change the way that you live in America.

Simply put, this “Act” makes no allowance for communities or individuals of faith who hold traditional views of marriage and gender. In other words, if you hold to a Biblical viewpoint, you will find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

Personally, I absolutely believe this bill we eventually become the law of the land because once those who currently oppose of it are disposed of, there will be no stopping it.

If by some chance you have never heard of this legislation, you owe it to yourself and your family to read it. You need to know what is coming and the impact it will have upon your life, because life as you now know it will be over.

For a “plain English” summary, simply Google “Equality Act and the Church” and you will find all you care to digest on the matter. The link above will take you to the first post in the search engine.

I have searched for an official response from the Church to this atrocity of legislation but other than a few comments from fringe denominations such as the Seventh Day Adventist church and the LDS, I haven’t found much from mainline Christianity

Which in itself is an abomination.

It never ceases to amaze me how legislation that is diametrically opposed to all things “Godly” can be proposed, and the Church will step aside and allow it to become law without any resistance.

Then again, we’ve seen this movie played out before, time and time again. The tens of millions of lives destroyed by the likes of Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Kim Jong Un, and more recently Saddam Hussein all took place with barely any organized resistance from the Church.

How any rational person can remain oblivious to the fact that the Church is in an epic battle with “spiritual wickedness in high places” is quite simply beyond me. [1]

All that is left is for individual Christians to pray and seek the face of God. Pray for the strength to stand in the face of the severe trials that are surely coming upon this nation. Pray that we will be given the grace to to hold fast to our convictions, no matter the personal cost we must endure.

Ron

 

[1] Eph 6:12  “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”.

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