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And we wonder why…Part 4

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As I conclude this series I want to begin by focusing on a key point of contention being tossed around today, that being that our school systems are somehow to blame for all of the recent school shootings.

What has brought us to this point in our nation’s history, a point where we find ourselves burying innocent children who have been murdered at school, is not an inept educational system.

Dysfunctional at times…absolutely. However, the current media fixation on all that is wrong with our schools being one of the leading causes of the repeated carnage taking place is just plain wrong.

Interestingly enough, if you were to look closely at the past six decades of education in America, you would see that our schools have always been used as a “battleground” of sorts.

For example:

  • In 1954 Segregation was finally outlawed.
  • In 1962 prayer was banned from public schools. The following year reading the Bible was also banned.
  • In 1972 Title IX became law, prohibiting discrimination based upon sex.
  • In 1983 President Reagan issued the report “A Nation at Risk”, detailing the ways in which America’s schools were underperforming.
  • In 2001 President G.W. Bush signed into law “No Child Left Behind” ,increasing funding while ushering in standards based reforms.
  • In 2010 President Obama’s “Race to The Top” program brought with it many additional education reforms.

It is obvious that the education of America’s children has long been a priority. For certain, mistakes have been made, but there have also been tremendous successes.

Today, our educational system is one of the best in the world. More importantly, our children continue to receive a quality education. While some countries may boast of better test scores, considering the sheer magnitude of our educational system I believe we do a great job.

I think we can also safely say that a lack of funding is generally not a problem (yes, I know, tell that to a teacher!). After all, the trillions of dollars spent on providing a good education testify of our commitment to continue doing so.

The problem of school shootings therefore does not lie with either the school or the government. Both of these entities continue to do what they’ve always done. Why anyone would think that either is to blame for the tragedies in our schools is beyond me.

Of course, there is that issue of finding a Scapegoat…

If not the schools system itself or the government, what then is the problem?

Here’s a thought for you: if you are 50 years of age and upward, how many school shootings happened while you attended school? In my case, there were exactly ZERO school shootings during all of my years of education. How about you?

Likewise, when I was in school we had exactly ZERO school psychologists. The closest thing we had to a psychologist was a guidance counselor, and I realize what a stretch that is.

Did you know that the position of school psychologist is currently one of the most in-demand and highest paid positions in the state of Florida? Not an educator of students mind you, but a psychologist. Think about that for a moment and let it sink in.

How have we gone from a nation where our children’s education was of such primary importance that generation after generation approved one tax levy after another in order to support our schools, to a nation where career educators today have less value than a school psychologist?

How have we gone from a nation where we would send our children off to school each day, confident that they would be taught the necessary skills needed to succeed in this world, to a nation where each day we say goodbye to them causes a nagging fear to surface that this might be the last time I see my child alive?

The hard question that no one wants to ask is this: WHAT HAS CHANGED?

What has changed is the heart and consciousness of America is now on life support. Our society has gone from a vibrant, thriving, God loving one to a society known more for its capacity for evil than its good works.

Our collective soul as a nation is on a death watch.

To put it in the simplest terms: as a nation we are sick. We have been infected with an incurable (by man’s standards) disease. And we need to accept the fact that this disease has infected every facet of our society, including our schools.

And we wonder why the killings?

Judging by the frequency of attacks upon our children, one could make the case that we would rather argue and cast blame than admit we have been inflicted with this disease so that we can then be able to ingest the antidote.

Which by the way, is NOT a school psychologist.

As long as we can argue and blame one another, we can avoid having to confront the real issue here. You see, it’s difficult to admit that we have a disease called SIN, because not only is God not welcome in our schools, neither is He welcome in our government.

And He is becoming less welcome in our homes each and every day.

Get rid of God; get rid of the sin issue. Get rid of the sin issue, we have cleared our consciousness of any guilt in the matter. It’s as old as the original sin in the garden! Isn’t that what we have done?

We can talk all day long about policy changes and new/more gun regulations in the hope that they will put an end to the murder of our children. Let me be the first to say that there must be changes made to prevent access to weapons of any kind by anyone. To continue allowing things to continue as they are is madness.

But let’s be perfectly clear about something: no policy or regulation has ever been implemented that will change a person’s heart, any more than a simple STOP sign will cause everyone to stop at the intersection.

The biggest obstacle to changing the status quo is the fact that our society has yet to hit rock bottom, thus we do not yet want to change. As perverted as this may sound, apparently we have not yet suffered enough, or else we would take the necessary actions to right this sinking ship.

Until we acknowledge that we are incapable of piloting this ship apart from Almighty God, we will continue to flounder in the cesspool of sin and violence.

And our innocent children will continue to be killed.

I won’t bore you with one story after another from the Bible, because history itself is filled with examples of nations and society’s who have chosen the slippery slope of independence from God. And like the proverbial blind leading the blind, we too will fall into a ditch from which there is no escape unless we repent, humble ourselves, and seek His face.

As horrific as it is now, how loudly will this nation cry when these evil, sadistic murderers turn their guns on the nursing homes or the hospitals? How long will it be before someone bursts into a public library and commits the unthinkable?

Lest we forget, it’s happening in our churches right now!

Whereas this nation was once grateful, humble, and thankful for God’s mercy, compassion, blessings, and divine protection, we have in this generation decided that there is no place for God in America.

Accordingly, the innocent among us are now paying the price for the sins of the fathers.

This is our choice.

This is what we wanted.

This is what we received.

Let no one ever say again that God doesn’t give us what we ask.

May God help us is my heart felt prayer.

Ron

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What’s Behind The Door?

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That was the title of a message I delivered Wednesday evening at my home church. My scripture text came from Revelation 4:1-5.

1 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” 

2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.

3 And He who sat there was[a] like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.

4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns[b] of gold on their heads.

5 And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices.[c] Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the[d] seven Spirits of God.

The crux of my message was that God has so much for for His church than what we are settling for today. Just as the voice told John to “come up here”, I believe the Lord is speaking to the church to do likewise so that He may show us what lies behind our own door.

We cannot do the work of God if we stay in the same place, nor can we do it by doing the same thing the same way we’ve always done it and expect more from our efforts. Talk about the definition of insanity!! We need to finally get on God’s page!

I am convinced that behind the door is MORE.

More power. More love. More compassion. More faith. More strength.

More of everything the church needs to be Jesus to a lost and helpless world.

The question all of us must answer is this: are we willing to “come up here” to see what’s behind the door?

Think about it. Please?

Be blessed!

Ron

What does it mean to be Heavenly minded?

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Everyone is seeking something. That’s how God made us. We’re inquisitive by nature; always searching, looking, wondering.

Life would be pretty boring if we just sat around and became a lump of nothingness, don’t you think?

As Christians however, we must learn to temper our searching, looking, and wandering by prioritizing and aligning the things we deem so important against God’s Word. Paul explains it here in Colossians 3:1-3.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”.‬‬

Does this now mean that because I’m a Christian that I can no longer be passionate about my favorite cause? Of course not! If God’s children don’t participate in this earthly life, if we’re too Holy to get our hands dirty while ministering to others, of what value are we?

You no doubt have heard the expression that we can become “too Heavenly minded to be of any earthly good”. Speaking only for myself, I have yet to meet the person who accurately meets this description! Seriously, if any person becomes as Heavenly minded as Paul describes above, they would do more earthly good than they could ever imagine!

What Paul is saying to us is that as Christ’s representatives on earth we should be involved in what’s going on around us. We should care deeply about the plight of others. If not us, then who will?

But our first priority must be Him. If we will make Him our first priority, if He becomes the focus of our passions, our care and concern for others will be greatly enhanced.

You see, it’s only by seeking those things that are above, that we are then able to effectively reach out to those around us. Or to put it another way, before we can pour into others, we must first be filled ourselves. And we get filled by seeking those things which are above.

I think all of us would agree that we need more of Him at work in our lives. I know I certainly have enough rough edges to keep Him busy for a while! As we endeavor to seek those things that are above, we begin to die to self a bit more each day. Those rough edges become smoother, even our attitudes are improved.

Seeking those things that are above transforms our wants and desires into His wants and desires. When we seek to become more Heavenly minded we become more like Jesus. We love like Jesus. We have compassion like Jesus. The world can then see Jesus through us.

Isn’t that what this Christian life is supposed to be about anyway?

Be blessed,

Ron

What If…

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Recently, I watched a YouTube video produced by a church in Kentucky that featured a number of people giving their reasons why they had given up on the Church.

Listening to these heartbreaking stories, it quickly became apparent that there is a common theme among all of them. For these people, they believe the church has failed to reach them where they live.

The Church has stopped being the Church.

Tales of judgement and condemnation, outright rejection, and worse have left these people doubting whether there is any validity to Christianity. I mean, just imagine how you would feel if you had invited your family to your baptismal service only to be told by the pastor that “he forgot about it”.

The Church is the Body of Christ here on earth.

Do we truly understand what that means, or do we blindly accept the statement as just another one of those religious sayings?

The Church is made up of Christ’s representatives on earth. If that is the case, how representative of Christ are we when our primary purpose is to hand out judgment? How well are we representing Jesus when our churches are known as places of condemnation instead of love?

Speaking with those outside the Church, we hear that our churches have become places of rejection for all who do not look or act the part. Seriously, how many of our churches actually reflect the community in which they reside?

Much to the angst of many, I as well as a few others have been saying for some time now that the Church is broken. It is broken because those who are supposed to be the leaders of it do not know Him. If they knew Him they would go beyond the four walls of their castles and see how much hurt there is in their community.

And they would do something about it.

They most certainly would be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Because LOVE is the greatest motivator of all.

If they knew Him they would reach out, not with angry words of criticism and judgement, but in compassion and LOVE.

Ah yes…Love.

What if our churches actually believed and practiced LOVE?

‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

What if our churches actually believed and practiced this?

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

What if our churches actually believed and practiced this?

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.’  I Cor.13:1-3

What if…

What if the Church got back to being Christ’s representatives here on earth?

Here’s what I think would happen if the Church did this.

There would be a huge reduction in the problems that currently plague our society. Drug abuse, hunger, crime, divorce, abuse of all types, all would see a dramatic reduction if the Church got back to being the hands and feet of Jesus.

What if the Church somehow rediscovered the courage to LOVE those in our communities who are hopelessly trapped on the outside looking in?

What if….the Church started looking outward instead of inward?

Ron

Why Are We Here: Part 2

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Recently, I happened upon an online discussion about abortion. A key hot button of the discussion was that several of the more conservative participants kept referring to abortion as murder, while those from a more liberal perspective felt that using such a strong word demonstrated a lack of wisdom and compassion.

It didn’t take long before the gloves came off and the participants seemed to forget that they were on a Christian site. In short order, it got ugly. Real ugly. Words were said that certainly did not reflect the love of Christ. Feelings were hurt, and in the end nothing changed except for the fact that yet another wedge was driven between brothers and sisters in Christ.

All of which left me wondering about something. Do we not understand that the enemy excels at getting us to focus more on the things that divide us, rather than the things that bind us together? It seems that we Christians are so naive and gullible that we take the bait and swallow it before we ever have the first inkling as to what Satan is up to!

Am I the only person who thinks this way? Are the differences between us so insurmountable that even Jesus cannot bridge the gap?

Abortion has been one of the tools that Satan uses to cause division in the Church ever since it became the law of the land. Of course, he has many other tools at his disposal, but because abortion is one of those topics that people on both sides of the fence are incredibly opinionated about, it’s easy for the enemy to use it to sow discord among the brethren.

Whether you agree with abortion or not isn’t really the issue any longer. I don’t agree with it, nor do I believe it is a “right”, but then again I (unapologetically) tend to look at life through the lens of Scripture. This puts me at odds with a great many things taking place in our world today, not just abortion.

Obviously, many people, and that includes Christians, would object to my rather simplistic approach to this subject, and I have no problem with that. I happen to believe that God’s family is much larger than some of us believe it to be, and as such there is plenty of room for Christians who believe differently than I do. Insert 😊

Therefore, knowing that abortion is here to stay, is our best course of action to berate and condemn those who have an abortion, or has God called us to a higher purpose? Are we to continue down the path of division, or should we be seeking God for wisdom in how best to minister to those affected by abortion?

How would Jesus respond to the divisive issue of abortion? And of even greater importance, what would be His response to those who have had an abortion? I believe we can get a glimpse into how He would approach the subject by recalling His interaction with the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. Scripture reference John 8:3-11

As the story goes, a group of men brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in the very act of adultery. According to the Law, she was to be stoned to death. They were hoping however that Jesus would do something contrary to the Law so that they might have an accusation against him, thus giving the religious rulers just cause to eradicate him.

The story takes a very unexpected turn however when Jesus looks at the woman’s accusers and says to them “he that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone”. Their arrogant hearts condemned, as none of them were without sin; one by one they walk away. Can’t you just hear the stones dropping to the ground?

Jesus then looks to the woman and asks where her accusers are, to which she responds that there are none. Jesus then uttered what had to be the most gracious words this woman had ever heard. Deserving of death for her sins, Jesus tells her that neither does he condemn her, and to go and sin no more. Emphasis mine

This is how I see Jesus responding to the abortion issue. Notice that Jesus did not excuse the adulterous woman’s sins, but rather he acknowledged them for what they were, yet offered forgiveness instead of condemnation.

Jesus was much more concerned with forgiveness than punishment. Do you know why that was? It was because Jesus came to reconcile people to God. He could have delivered this woman to be stoned, but instead He offered her reconciliation! How amazing is that?

All of us have done things worthy of punishment, or worse. Some of us, like the adulterous woman, have committed sins worthy of death. Yet God, through His Son Jesus Christ, has chosen instead to forgive our sins and offer to us the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Does this give us a “free pass” so that we can do whatever we want to do without consequence? Of course not. No one gets a free pass. We must repent of our sin and turn to Jesus.

‘‘He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation”.   2 Corinthians 5:17-19.  ESV

The Church has been entrusted with this message of reconciliation. We were not entrusted with a hammer of condemnation. Neither were we entrusted with the gavel of judgement.

Our ministry, our very purpose, is to extend mercy and reconciliation to a lost world that gropes in darkness. We can serve no higher purpose here on earth than to represent Jesus Christ in meekness and love to those left devastated and wounded by the poor choices they have made.

That we have made.

This world doesn’t need another argument for or against abortion. It needs the people of God to stand in the gap and offer comfort and hope to those who are struggling with issues that are bigger than they are. The world needs to see Jesus.

In all of us.

In every situation.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

Why is this so difficult?

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Giving to God what is rightfully His. Why is this so difficult? Is it because His requirements are so out of reach for us mortals that we give a weak, anemic effort?

To answer that, let’s first understand what His requirements actually are.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?   Micah 6:8

Anyone? Can anyone give a reasonable explanation as to why it is so difficult for us to do just these THREE things? To do justly and treat people fairly, to be kind one to another, and acknowledge that there is One much greater than any of us…is this so hard?

Or how about this? (emphasis mine):

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ‘ Matthew 22:35-40

Anyone? Can anyone give a reasonable explanation as to why it is so difficult for us to do even these TWO things? For us to love God with our entire being, and to love one another as much as we love ourselves, is God asking the impossible of us?

It seems so trite, so obvious for us to say that the reason we struggle with doing these very doable things is because we live in a fallen world. Or that it’s because the enemy is hard at work.

As if he hasn’t always been hard at work.

Here’s what I think. Like everything else in life, we make time for the things that are important to us. With unending devotion we sacrifice for what we deem necessary. We exert monumental effort to achieve our dreams.

Don’t we?

And the things that are not important to us…..

Ron

 

A recipe for disaster

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The Princess and I have been talking a lot lately about prayer. Specifically, how that prayer is a key ingredient in the life of a Christian, and how that if we leave the Lord out of our daily lives it’s like making a cake without all of the necessary ingredients.

Now, I like cake. Not all kinds of cake mind you, especially if it’s loaded with rich, too sweet, gooey icing a half inch thick. I know, I know, that’s what everybody loves, right?

Not me, I like enough icing to add some flavor, but I don’t want to eat it by the forkful.

pineapple upside downMy favorite kind of cake is pineapple upside down cake, if you’re interested. My second favorite would probably be German chocolate, even with its sweet coconut icing. I know what you’re thinking; he wants his cake and he wants to eat it too. Yep.

No matter the kind of cake we like, one thing is for certain and that is if you leave out a key ingredient, you will end up with a less than perfect cake. In which case, why bother?

Isn’t this how our lives are with Christ? There are many “ingredients” that come together and are intertwined with one another in the development of our faith. Things such as worship, study, and fellowship are hallmarks of a committed relationship with Christ.

Yet there remains one more, major ingredient in this ever developing relationship, one I personally feel is the most important.

Prayer

One of the most important aspects of any relationship is a little something called communication. Lack of communication is one of the greatest hindrances in any relationship. Just ask any married couple about this!

In the life of a Christian, communicating with God in prayer is absolutely essential, yet it is one of the most overlooked, neglected parts of our spiritual lives. How do we know that we have neglected our prayer life?

It will show up in many ways. It will show up in our attitude. When we don’t pray, we easily become distracted by the negativity around us, and that same negativity attaches itself to our attitudes.

Bad-Attitude-Quotations-012

Golfian.com

Christians who don’t pray are moody and temperamental. They are no fun to be around. They tend to see the bad more than they see the good. They are judgmental and unforgiving. Mercy and compassion are traits that are rarely seen in them.

If you want a reality check, try this little exercise: go back over the past month and add up all the time you have spent alone with God in prayer. Now, take that same time frame and add up all the time you have spent on social media or watching TV.

Would you say the results are sobering?

As you know, Jesus spent time training his disciples how to pray. Yet before he actually gets to the part about “Our Father, who art in heaven”, he says this:

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 

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. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”         Matthew 6:5-7

Do you see the command to pray in these verses? In these two verses of scripture, Jesus said “when you pray” three times. He did not say “if you want to pray”, nor did he say “if you feel like praying”. No, he said “when you pray”.

We know, of course, that Jesus was our example when it comes to praying. After all, there were many times when he would go off to be by himself so that he could pray (Mark 6:46, 1:35, Matt. 26:36).

The expectation therefore is that as children of God we will pray. We will talk to God. We will enhance our bond with Him by communicating with Him through prayer.

praying man

pastorlyons.org

Beloved, if there is any one reason as to why the Church is so anemic today; it is because we don’t pray enough. We are not in contact with the Source of our strength!

Someone has said that the church of today has grown to the point that she is 10 miles wide, yet only ¼” deep.  Ouch.

The Lord Himself told Israel that if they would humble themselves,and PRAY,and seek my face,and turn from their wicked ways, then He would hear from heaven….(II Chro. 7:14).  Sounds pretty important, doesn’t it?

How then can our faith grow without prayer?  Prayer is the engine, or power behind our faith. How can we pray a prayer of faith if we never spend time with Him in prayer?

Can we ignore God until a need arises and then expect Him to come to our rescue when we rub our “prayer lamp” like the proverbial Genie? Is that how we think this works?

Talk about a recipe for disaster!

The apostle Paul said that we were to “pray without ceasing” (1st Thess. 5:17). A Christian that doesn’t pray is like the baker who sets out to make a cake without flour. The end result might resemble the real thing, but the proof is on the inside!

I encourage everyone to begin to pray a little more each day. Talk to God; tell Him all about it, just like the chorus to the old gospel song “Just a little talk with Jesus” says.

“Now let us have a little talk with Jesus
Let us tell Him all about our troubles
He will hear our faintest cry
He will answer by and by
Now when you feel a little prayer wheel turning
And you know a little fire is burning
You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right”.

For sure,we need all of the key ingredients to produce the desired results. Leaving out just one of them is a recipe for disaster.

With that, I’ll end this post. I need to go pray!

Be blessed!

Ron

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