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How secure is your lifeline?

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It’s been said that prayer is the Christian’s lifeline to God, and in this day of rebellion and licentious behavior that lifeline has become more important than ever.

So many vile, reprehensible events are taking place in our midst that one hardly has time to sort them out before the next one occurs. Mass shootings in churches, schools, and synagogues have become horrifyingly common place.

A reduction in violent crime by a mere 0.2% is somehow thought to be a success. Tell that to the 1,247,321 victims (or their families) who in 2017 were raped, murdered, robbed, assaulted, or violated in any number of violent ways. [1]

We live in a time when a new kind of slavery is stealing our children from us. According to the International Labour Organization, more than 1 million children are exploited each year in the commercial sex trade. [2]

Sin, no matter how you choose to define it, has taken control of our government, our schools, our workplaces, and yes even our churches. Just as the scriptures foretold:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:  2nd Tim. 3:1

The foremost writer on the subject of prayer, E.M Bounds, said that “prayer is the most appropriate thing for a soul to do in the ‘time of trouble’. Prayer recognizes God in the day of trouble”.

We are living in a largely prayer-less society. The days when churches would meet regularly for prayer are a thing of the past, an abandoned relic from a time when the fire of God burned in the hearts of His people.

How shocking is this when you consider that the church was birthed in a prayer meeting! [3]

Which brings me to the crux of this particular post. As a child of God, do we actually pray anymore? I’m not speaking of praying over our meals, or ‘now I lay me down to sleep’ prayers.

Prayer is, of course, an intensely personal thing. Everyone does it differently, just as most churches approach prayer differently.

I’m referring to the kind of praying however that the people of God have done in the past when confronted by situations and circumstances beyond their control. In other words, the deep, heartfelt, one on one communication with God that we read about in the Bible.

Again, E.M. Bounds understood this well when he said that “A lack of fervency in prayer is the sure sign of a lack of depth and of intensity of desire; and the absence of intense desire is a sure sign of God’s absence from the heart”!

Take the prophet Daniel for instance. As a teenager, Daniel was part of the captivity of Israel when it was led into slavery by the Babylonians. So determined was he to not forsake the Lord and adopt the ways of the heathen, that he continued to earnestly seek the face of God even unto his 80’s when he returned to Israel.

Because the Lord had given Daniel great favor in the eyes of king Darius, many of the governors became consumed with jealously and plotted his demise. From this the famous story of Daniel and the lions den ensued. [4]

As the story unfolds, we find Daniel refusing to bow to the decree that there could be no worship of any type for 30 days, except it be the worship of the king. Daniel’s response to this was to continue to pray three times a day at his open window, a window that faced Jerusalem.

The prophet knew that his lifeline to God was prayer. In a strange land, surrounded by people and customs he was unfamiliar with, Daniel maintained his integrity by seeking God in prayer three times each day.

He clung to his lifeline.

The story of Danial and the lions den is remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is that it mirrors our own circumstances today.

In just a few days, we here in America will be voting for our chosen candidates, a vote that many believe is one of the most critical this nation has ever faced. For weeks now we have been inundated with viscous attack ads that say nothing about what the candidate plans to do, but rather are all about how evil their opponent is.

The nation is on edge, uncertainty reigns in the hearts of the populace. “Blood in the streets” has been promised if the Democrats don’t take back control of the House. Funny how that inciting comment has gone largely ignored, isn’t it?

Christians, I’m sad to say, are just as anxious as the heathen over the upcoming election. One has to ask if Heaven is our home, and we’re merely pilgrims passing through, then why the fear over all of this?

It is because we have lost sight of whose we are. We say that Jesus is Lord of our life, but we live and act like everyone else who has no hope. This is a testament to how well Satan has done his job in dividing our heart’s loyalty.

It is because we do not truly believe that God reigns in the affairs of men. Christians are no different than the heathen who believe that man is in charge of his own destiny. If we truly believed that God was God and that He reigned in the affairs of men, we would not have one ounce of anxiety over the upcoming election.

But we have allowed Satan to garner a toehold in our minds, and he is exploiting this for all he is worth. The enemy of our soul is confounding us with doubt, fear, and disillusionment.

We are not looking to God as we should for hope, strength, and peace. Instead, we are looking for a candidate that we can throw our support behind who will lead us to the worlds version of the “Promised Land”.

Where are the modern day “Daniels” who will point out to us that we are not to cower in the face of societal unrest and uncertainty? Where are the seasoned Christians who have lived through tumultuous times by clinging to their lifeline to God? Have they too been silenced by the decrees of the unrighteous?

It was Joshua who uttered the famous words…

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”   Joshua 24:15

And it was the Lord himself who said…

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   Matt. 6:21

I know where my hope is. I know where my treasure is. I also know that I cannot let go of my lifeline to God. It is my only real security in these days of uncertainty.

Ron

[1] source: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/topic-pages/violent-crime

[2] source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/nation-now/2018/01/30/sex-trafficking-column/1073459001/

[3] Acts chapters 1 & 2 reference

[4] Daniel chapter 6 reference

 

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If you’ve ever wondered if God cares

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Let’s face it.

There are very few of us who haven’t wondered from time to time if God really does care about us. When we’re dealing with feelings of insecurity, loneliness, fear, betrayal, or shame this opens the door for the enemy to cast doubt in our minds as to whether God cares.

We rationalize in our minds the thought that if God does indeed care, would I be dealing with these feelings in the first place?

So, we wonder.

This falls perfectly in line with John 10:10 where Jesus said that “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” Satan comes to steal and kill our confidence in God, and once this is accomplished he moves in to destroy.

So how do we know that God really does care about us, and that he knows what we are going through? After all, aren’t there times when even the most ardent follower of Jesus needs to be reminded of John 3:16?

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

I’d say that a God who would give His only Son as a sacrifice to pay for your sins has demonstrated His care and concern for you, wouldn’t you agree?

But let’s dive just a bit deeper into this matter. I believe another way that Jesus demonstrates His care for us is in the fact that He knows all about us. That’s right, He knows all about YOU.

Just how do we know this to be true?

Because He has given us detailed examples in His word.

Using the seven churches in Asia found in the Book of Revelation as our guide, we find that Jesus had many things to say to these churches. The word that Jesus spoke to each individual church reflected their spiritual condition and relationship with Christ. Some received words of comfort and edification, while others received words of rebuke and correction.

Imagine if you will two columns, one with pluses and one with minuses, and in each of those columns Jesus lists the positives and the negatives that He has found within each of these seven churches.

Yet for all of that, there are commonalities in what Jesus had to say to them. For example, to each one of the churches of Revelation Jesus says the same two words:

“I KNOW”

  • I know your works, your labor, your patience…
  • I know your works, tribulation, and poverty…
  • I know your works, and where you dwell…
  • I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience…
  • I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead…
  • I know your works…
  • I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot…

“I KNOW”

So how do we know that God really does care about us, and that he knows what we are going through?

Because He knows you more intimately than you could ever know yourself. Just as He knew every detail of each of the seven churches of Revelation, so does He know you.

We can take comfort in knowing that Jesus knows all about it.

Ron

 

He That Has Ears to Hear…

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He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches“.

Seven times in the first three chapters of Revelation, we read this particular phrase following a personal message from the Lord to each of the seven churches in Asia Minor.

 

Seven_churches_of_asia_1

tour-turkey.com

Jesus had a unique, personal message to deliver to each of these churches. To one was sent a message of encouragement, while to another a message of strong rebuke.

A couple of churches were admonished because they tolerated the teaching of a false gospel. Still another church was told to strengthen the things that remain,because they were about to die.

Whatever their unique situation was, Jesus called them out to receive his special message. Along with the message was the admonition to hear what the Spirit was saying to them. In other words, listen up because I’ve got something important to say to you!

Listening to the Spirit of God is something that receives a lot of emphasis in the church today. Rather than trusting in the sufficiency of scripture, many believe that God is speaking to them by using other means of doing so.

This is part of the reason why there are over 40,000 Christian organizations today. Everyone is hearing from God (they say), yet everyone is hearing something radically different!

Umm..is God the author of all this confusion? Nope!

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.       1st Cor. 14:33

Of course, we understand that God can and does speak to us in many ways. But here’s the kicker: God will never speak to you in any way, shape, or form that contradicts Scripture.

So that we’re clear on this, I’ll say again: if you believe God has impressed upon you, given you a dream or a vision, or communicated to you by any other method something that is not in agreement with Scripture, you have been deceived.

Which brings me to the gist of this particular post. Why is it that Christians are so willing and able to hear the enemy’s voice, to accept it without question, yet struggle to hear what thus says the Lord?

For example: according to Genesis 1:26-27, we are taught that we have been created in the image of God. No evolving from a blob. No crawling from the depths of the ocean. Created, formed, and fashioned in the image of God. Psalm 139:14 also says that we “are fearfully and wonderfully made“.

fearfully and wonderfully madeConsider for just a moment the complexity of our physical bodies. In all of the world there is nothing so incredibly amazing as the human body, a fact that speaks to the power and might of the Creator. Every aspect of our bodies, all the way down to the cellular and DNA level, paints a picture of just how fearfully and wonderfully they are made.

In spite of this, there are a number of Christians that question, that doubt, and just outright don’t believe this. This same group of “doubting Thomas’s” however appear to have no problem believing the devil when he whispers to them that they are stupid, ugly, worthless, and altogether unlovable.

I know so many Christians living in or near defeat because they have bought the outright lies of Satan. Always discouraged, almost depressed, little joy, even less hope. How in the world does this line up with the Abundant Life Jesus promised in John 10:10?

It bears repeating: why is it that some Christians are so willing and able to hear the enemy’s voice, to accept it without question, yet struggle to hear and receive what thus says the Lord?

Has society conditioned us to accept the negative as normal and forgo any hope of the positive? Does a negative confession seem more natural than a positive confession? If so, we are spending far too much time listening to the wrong voices.

I know a better way!

Maybe it’s high time we put on our spiritual eyes and ears and begin again to see and hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The Word of God, after all, is the Word of LIFE!

He who has an ear, let him hear!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

And we wonder why…Part 3

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Let us now draw our attention to the leadership of our churches here in America. In the face of a national crisis, which the murder of innocent school children certainly is, we should expect our Christian leaders to rise to the forefront in the fight against such heinous acts.

Appreciatively, many of the mainline denominations were swift to respond to the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, which was reassuring to many.

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for prayer and healing. Episcopal bishops are arranging for services of lamentation at churches around the country. The Presbytery of Tropical Florida has announced a “Vigil of Prayer and Light.

While all of this is good, what they all have in common is that they are reactive responses to the violence that has already occurred. In other words, they’re too late!

This level of violence is interwoven with America’s steep spiritual decline, and as such must be met head on with our spiritual leaders LEADING a proactive charge.

Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas, Texas, all of these horrific acts of extreme violence fade quickly from our memory. To be sure, these events shock us, bring us to tears, make us angry, and cause us to point our collective fingers at what we perceive to be the cause.

They do everything except cause us to change on the inside.

Where is the leadership in our churches collectively calling for repentance? Why don’t our leaders issue a call to adhere to 2nd Chronicles 7:14?

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

How is it that our church leaders can rail against the government, against gun manufacturers, against nearly everything except for SIN?

The problem as I see it that our Church Leadership seems more apt to jump on the bandwagon of blame, rather than lead the spiritual initiatives required to combat this issue.

Recently, I read a Tweet from one of the “rising young stars” in the Charismatic church who declared that he was angry at the Congress and angry at the President for not doing something to stop all this gun violence.

Well my brother, I’m so glad you said that because I feel like you should be angry. I’m angry too. Only, be sure you direct your anger in the right direction.

That’s right, I said it.

Before we blame the President and the Congress, the NRA, or the Conservatives or the Liberals, we need to step back and review what our church’s leaders have done to stem the tide.

For example, it shouldn’t be too hard to add up all the hours we leaders have spent on our faces before God pleading for the soul of this nation, should it? I mean, that is part of OUR responsibility, isn’t it?

And no, Facebook and Twitter “I’m praying for you” prayers do not count. I’m talking about the kind of praying that has all but been forgotten in our churches. The kind of praying that requires we first repent of our own apostasy before we call upon a Holy God.

And it should be real easy to add up how many meals we’ve fasted as we assail the throne of God on behalf of our children, shouldn’t it? That is what real men and women of God do, isn’t it?

I mean, if we’re going to blame someone else we ought to make sure our own house is in order, shouldn’t we? That is how this is supposed to work, is it not?

From where I sit on the front row, I am appalled at how carnal we church leaders have become. We wring our hands along with the rest of the nation, while God waits patiently for someone to “lay hold of the altar”, or to “stand in the gap” for this nation and its children.

Surely, the constant pleas from the grief-stricken parents should be enough to motivate us and drive us to our knees!

I can’t help but wonder however, how much longer God will withhold his rod of judgement. And just to be clear, the rod of judgement will be used first in the house of God.

America’s church leaders are not innocent bystanders in the battle against the forces of darkness that are attacking our children. Far from it. We church leaders have blood on our hands just as any other watchman who fails to sound the alarm.

In the 4th and final installment of the series “And we wonder why”, I’m going to address the question of “what has changed?”

Until next time,

Ron

God uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary

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Several weeks have passed since the devastating hurricanes in Houston, SW Florida, and Puerto Rico. The news trucks have long ago departed for their next assignment, the local newspapers have pushed any stories related to hurricanes to the 3rd page, and those not seriously impacted by the storms have returned to their normal lives.

hurricane Maria

NASA satellite photo of hurricane Maria

For the tens of thousands whose lives were devastated however, normal will never be “normal” again.

Living all but the last year of my life in the Midwest, I had never encountered a hurricane until Irma came rushing through SW Florida. Like most Midwesterner’s, I never thought much about hurricanes, as tornadoes and the occasional blizzard were the worst type of storms we had to deal with.

Believe me, my thinking has been altered after witnessing the devastation all around me, and I’ll never think of these storms the same way for the rest of my life.

To gain a better understanding of the situation, I was privileged this past week to attend a meeting of SW Florida pastors and their associates where we were to receive an update on the various rebuilding projects in the aftermath of hurricane Irma. After a wonderful fellowship meal, we were ushered into the sanctuary for a time of worship, which I have to say was much needed and appreciated.

MWOA worship

Broadway Community Church, Ft. Myers FL.

There were two local pastors there who spoke of the devastation their churches received at the hands of hurricane Irma.

To see the videos and pictures, plus hearing their first hand accounts, was a bit overwhelming to this previously “sheltered” country boy.

It was immediately apparent that it’s altogether different seeing the news on TV vs. hearing it from someone who lost everything. Listening to the anguish of a now homeless mother, seeing the tears of those rendered helpless, these are very powerful and very moving things.

Of course, many churches and businesses in the area suffered catastrophic damage, just as thousands of homes did. Trying to grasp the level of devastation to families who have lost everything is not easy to do. No wonder such a feeling of helplessness hangs over the affected areas. Can anyone blame those who ask “God where are you”?

 

The main speaker of the evening was the denominational leader for Men and Women of Action for the Church of God, who gave a riveting,”boots on the ground” account of their work in Houston, SW Florida, and Puerto Rico.

Hurricane’s Harvey, Irma, and Maria have kept them going nearly non stop, and to say this team has been busy would be quite the understatement!

His message centered around the theme of how God will take ordinary men and women and use them to do extraordinary things for the kingdom. MWOA 1

I heard powerful stories of God’s provision and care to those in need, and it was a blessing to see first hand how ordinary men and women are transformed into the hands and feet of Jesus.

This is real ministry. 

The main takeaway for me was that even though during a major disaster we sometimes feel as if God is a million miles away, or question why He didn’t stop it from happening in the first place, the truth is God is never far from us.

In this life it is very likely that we will never understand why we must endure the catastrophic events that are a part of our lives. In reality, we can drive ourselves nearly crazy trying to figure these things out.

What I have found to be most important is not the “why”, but rather knowing that in spite of the storms of life, God is there to help us pick up the pieces and rebuild. Hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, etc. are just as much a part of life as the personal tragedies we endure. Yet in spite of it all, God is still God!

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;    Isaiah 59:1

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.   Psalms 46:1

Be blessed!

Ron

Make America Great Again?

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Catchy slogans are just that: slogans.

make America great

They’re words on a billboard,magazine cover,or TV ad.

Oh, and they’re on ball caps too.

Mostly though,slogans are just words that someone thought would provide motivation to accomplish a goal or a task.

Did you know there are companies that employ people to make up slogans? I found that out when I was still working. Go to any trade show or conference and you will see booths plastered with eye catching slogans.

So while the slogan “Make America Great Again” sounds wonderful,we must be careful to understand that it is impossible for a simple slogan to make that happen.

It’s sort of like our paper currency. The slogan “In God We Trust” sounds wonderful. But does it actually encourage people to trust in God? I think you know the answer to that.

You see, patriotism and nationalism aside,and forgive me if I don’t sound like a team player here,but neither hard work,government intervention,or catchy slogans can make America great again. Any more than riots and demonstrations in the streets will make America great again.

I happen to believe that slogans and demonstrations aren’t what is needed in order for America to become great once again. Oh sure,they may effect change at the local level,and they can be effective at rallying the troops.

Our need however,is so much greater than that. For America to become great again she must look beyond herself. Far beyond herself.

Our priorities are out of order. We seem to think that we alone can fix what ails us. Lest we forget, the brightest minds and trillions of dollars combined have failed to right the ship.

This is what happens when a people is lifted up with so much pride that it replaces God with themselves. We cannot see the forest for the trees! We have bought into the lie that we are in control of our own destiny because our collective pride will not permit us to recognize One greater than ourselves.

And if we are brave enough to dig even deeper, what we have in America is a consciousness problem. As in…

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,” I Timothy 4:1-2   emphasis mine

Paul’s letter to Timothy contained an important message for the church of today. What we have failed to recognize is that as the church goes, so go the nations of the world. Think about that for a few moments.

I will end this post by saying this. A couple of thousand years ago a warning went out to a group of churches located in what we now refer to as Asia Minor.

revelation_Turkey_map

“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” Revelation 3:17,18

While the verses above were directed to the church of Laodicea, America clearly resembles these words from Revelation almost to a “T”.

Make America Great Again?

The only way for America to become great again is for Americans to make God great again in America.

I’d like to see that on a ball cap.