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“You know better than that”

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As a child and into young adulthood, I heard those words from time to time. Specifically, I heard them nearly every time I did something wrong and couldn’t squirm, weasel, or outright lie my way out of it.

Come to think of it, saying I heard those words “from time to time” isn’t completely true. I heard them far more frequently than that.

The inference, of course, is that I was raised to know right from wrong, good from bad, and so on and therefore should have known better than to do the thing that got me in trouble.

Looking back on those carefree days of my early childhood, I can safely say that I liked to see how close to the edge I could get before hearing my name called out. I came to understand that when I heard a loud “RONALD!” I had fallen off that edge and it was only a matter of time before the hammer would fall.

Like the time when I was 8 or 9 years old, and I started a small fire on the floor in the hay loft of our barn. Actually, I prefer to think of it as a ‘controlled burn’ because I went to great pains to make sure I had cleared the immediate area of any excessive hay that could catch the barn on fire.

Which, by the way, I never got the proper credit for.

Anyway, all was going according to plan until one of my two younger sisters who were there with me ‘somehow’ managed to burn her finger and headed to the house, crying like a baby. Captivated by my advanced fire making skills in the middle of the barn floor, my other sister and I never gave her a second thought.

That is until a few minutes later when I saw my dad’s head at the top of the ladder. What followed next can only be described as “other worldly”, because it is simply not possible for a human being to move as quickly from the top of a ladder to where my small, ‘controlled burn’ was.

In a nanosecond, with super human skills that would make Jason Bourne envious, my dad had leaped off the ladder with a single bound, extinguished the ‘controlled burn’, grabbed me and threw me across a bale of hay, and proceeded to give me a whipping for the ages with a strap of leather that was hanging on a nail just seconds prior.

Thankfully, the years have dulled my memory to the point where I cannot remember which was the loudest, the thud of the leather strap across my body or the screams coming from the deepest recesses of my soul.

After what seemed like a good 30 or 40 minutes at the hands of my inquisitor, (though in reality it was not quite that long) I was released from the ‘hayloft turned torture chamber’ and sent to the house with strict orders to go straight to bed.

No supper. No TV. No bath (yeah!). No nothing. I still remember my mom coming into the bedroom to check on me, and her pleading with my dad to at least let me eat supper. That wasn’t happening, of this I was made sure. Now THAT hurt!

Later on, my sisters snuck into my room to see if I was still alive. Either that, or they wanted me to know that the chicken leg, mashed potatoes, gravy, and biscuits that was supposed to be my supper did not go to waste, thank you very much.

So, I stayed in my room until the next morning. I don’t remember the specifics, but I do know that at some point that morning there was a very stern discussion, I mean LECTURE, about the dangers of playing with matches in a hay filled barn loft.

Even after all that had happened, I tried to plead my case by saying how responsible I had been by clearing away the hay and choosing the best place for my campfire. My dad, however, was hearing none of it. Knowing how to start a fire on the river bank was an admirable skill it seemed, while in the barn, not so much.

I can’t recall how many times the phrase “you know better than that” was used during THE LECTURE. No doubt I heard it many times that day, as well as the ensuing days when I was assigned some type of hard labor as further punishment for my foolishness.

I’d love to be able to say that this escapade forever changed my thought process, and from this day forward I was never again to engage in anything so dangerous and foolish. Yes, I would love to be able to say that.

But I can’t. Oh, to be sure I never played with matches in the barn again. But I did many other, equally dangerous things through the years as I was growing up. When my dad died when I was 12 years old, I went through a rough period of several years of living as close to the edge as I could get. Things like riding in a friend’s car doing 145 MPH on a two-lane country road, for example.

And worse. Much worse.

I suppose though that all of us do things we know better than to do, which I guess is why my Princess reminds me from time to time that I still need ‘direction’.

No doubt, it’s in our DNA to push the envelope. I believe that is how our Creator made us, to push the boundaries, to explore the unknown, to be curious enough to try something for the 1st time. Not destructive things, mind you, but things that require us to reach beyond ourselves. Things that require us to reach out to a Power far beyond our own.

When we do things that we know are wrong, or dangerous, or destructive, there is a still small voice that reminds us that “you know better than that”. It isn’t a condemning voice, but rather a Father’s voice, born of concern and love for His children.

My prayer is that we will come to know that Voice, and that we will allow it to be our guide when making life’s many decisions.

Trust me on this, it sure beats the consequences of acting on our own impulses!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Create in me a clean heart,O God;

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Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.   Psalm 51:10-12

This was the prayer of David after he had fallen into deep sin. This once humble shepherd boy turned giant killer, the apple of Gods eye, has been knocked off of his lofty throne by pride, arrogance, and lust.

Having committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then having her husband killed in a vain attempt to hide his sin, King David found himself in bitterness and anguish of soul. As you read Psalm 51, the depths of this anguish nearly jumps off the page, and no doubt many of us can empathize with his sorrows.

For the rest of his life David would pay a tremendous price for his moral failures. Not only he, but his family as well would suffer the consequences of “the pleasures of sin for a season”. Indeed, his own son tried to take the kingdom from him, and never again would David know complete peace and contentment in his life.

thou-art-the-man_peter_rothermel_david_nathan_b

Thou Art The Man- by Peter Rothermel

There are several lessons to be gleaned from this tragic episode in the life of Israel’s beloved king, not the least of which is that none of us has to be a murderer or an adulterer to have need of a clean heart and a right spirit within us. All of us are in need of these things.

Everyday events can drain us, leaving us discouraged and feeling so lowly that we have to reach up just to be able to touch the bottom. Life, for all of its joys and triumphs, also brings with it incredible heartaches and disappointments. For these, we need the security of knowing that God is working “all things together for our good”.

Who among us doesn’t need renewal from time to time? Contrary to popular opinion, there certainly is no shame in acknowledging our own inabilities to “fix ourselves” by calling upon the Lord. As a matter of fact, He tells us to “cast all of our cares upon him, because He cares for us.”

I don’t know where you are in your walk with the Lord, but I’m craving a deeper walk with him. So many things in this life cause division and separation between us and God. Even good things, in excess, can come between us and our relationship with him.

The last thing I want is to be found like David, far from God, yet I know that if I don’t pray and study his word that is exactly what will happen. Our prayer then should always be like David’s; “Lord, cast me not away from your presence.”

In perilous and uncertain times such as we are living in today, all of us need the strong hand of the Lord to sustain us, to keep us pointed in the right direction. Let’s face it, we need Him!

David understood that even though he had committed horrible sins before his God forgiveness, albeit at a cost, was available to him. The son that was born to him out of the illicit affair with Bathsheba for example, would become sick and die. No amount of fasting and prayer for him could save his life, yet this event served a greater purpose in turning David’s heart back to God.

Having done that, he began the road back to once again having a clean heart, a right spirit, the joy of the Lord, and a restored relationship with God. Yes, there were consequences for his actions, however with God’s help; David was able to persevere in spite of them.

The grace of God is truly amazing isn’t it? A God that would forgive David is just as quick to forgive us for our own shortcomings. It really is as simple as calling upon Him to forgive us and create in us a clean heart.

Be blessed on this Lords day!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

Of course you can do it your way,but…

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Human nature being what it is, most of us are pretty sure we know what’s best for ourselves don’t we? Think back to when you were a teenager for example. Your parents no doubt tried to steer you the right way so that you would avoid making mistakes. Or perhaps a teacher tried to influence your choice of careers.

If you’re like most teenagers you probably let all of this sage advice go in one ear and out the other, because after all, you knew more than your parents or your teachers. Am I right?

God also wants what’s best for us, and He surrounds us with influences in the hope that we will pay attention, learn, and avoid making bad choices.

The Word of God, for example, is a powerful influence on our behavior. If we will heed its instructions, we can be assured of avoiding the negative consequences so often associated with making “less than intelligent decisions”.

Sometimes however, we deliberately choose to ignore God’s instructions. When we do this, we can be sure that there will be serious consequences to follow. For example, take the story of Israel and their desire to have a king reign over them.

In the book of 1st Samuel, chapter eight, we find the children of Israel telling Samuel that they wanted a king to rule them, just like all the nations round about them had. By this time, Samuel had grown old and had appointed his son’s judges over the people, but the people rejected them because they were only in it for the money and prestige.

Now, this demand for a king did not sit well with Samuel, and so he prayed to God about the situation. Here is the Lord’s response to Samuel’s prayer:

And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them”.             1st Samuel 8:7.  NKJV

God told Samuel to give the people what they wanted. In essence, they were going to be permitted to have it their way. Up until now Israel was a theocracy, meaning God Himself was their ruler.

So desirous were they of the nation’s surrounding them and their monarchical systems of government, Israel rejected God in favor of man.

And God said “OK”.

There is, however, more to this story. For certain, they would indeed have it their way by having a king rule over them. But listen to what they were getting for a king.

Samuel told the children of Israel that their new king would take their sons and daughters, their fields and vineyards, even their sheep and donkeys (verses 10-17).

Doesn’t sound like such a good deal after all, does it?

So harshly would their new king deal with them, that Samuel told them the day would come when they would cry out in despair over their new leader.

But the Lord would not hear them in that day (verse 18).

Scary stuff there, when God refuses to listen to their voices any longer. When I really think about it, there aren’t too many things that I can think of that are worse than God turning a deaf ear to me!

How many of us are familiar with the expression “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it”? I’d say Israel could identify with that particular saying.

The moral of this story of course is that we are free to choose who will lead us. We are free to choose this world’s leaders, or we can choose God. We can freely choose to be like everyone else, or we can choose to be identified with God.

It really does come down to choices.

Choices…and their consequences that is.

Have a blessed day, in Jesus name!

Ron

 

 

“What will you do in the end?” Conclusion

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For those of you following along, I began this miniseries with a look at Jeremiah 5:30,31, which ends with God asking the children of Israel (through the prophet Jeremiah) “what will you do in the end?”

In the three previous posts I have attempted to provide enough information about the current state of affairs in America to hopefully get everyone to see the parallel between ancient Israel and America today. In my opinion, the similarities are almost unbelievable.

In today’s conclusion, I wish to show you that in spite of the ungodliness that has pervaded America; we can have both hope and confidence in Jesus Christ to not only see us through these tumultuous times, but cause us to flourish and prosper in them.

To the discerning Christian, it is evident that the breakdown of the moral fabric of our society is all part of God’s master plan for the times we are living in today. Notice I did not say that God caused this, or that it is His fault.

Oh no. What we are seeing here is history repeating itself, as in the sins of Israel and the subsequent consequences being repeated right here in America.

I am simply saying that scripture makes it very clear that before the return of Christ, lawlessness and chaos will be the norm (II Tim. 3:1, II Peter 3:3,). It does not take a trained theologian to understand that we are seeing this played out each and every day.

Indeed, what we are seeing is the beginning of the inevitable separation of the sheep and the goats. Of course, you may not agree with this and believe that eventually everything will return to normal. I believe however, that “normal” is gone forever.

But be all that as it may, I am reminded of Paul’s encouraging letter to the church at Thessalonica where he told them “not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come“.  II Thess. 2:2

Just as then, so it is today that our hope is rooted and grounded in the Lord Jesus, therefore we should not be shaken or troubled by the events we are seeing played out before us. Easier said than done? Not really! Our task is simply to keep our eyes on the prize.

Our hope cannot be placed in political parties and systems, or candidates who promise things impossible to fulfill. Our hope must be in the Lord Himself. Listen to the question that Jeremiah asked:

Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Are you not he, O Lord our God? We set our hope on you, for you do all these things”.  Jer. 14:22   ESV

Our Provider is none other than the Lord! Nations have always crumbled; none have endured because they have all forsaken the Lord at some point in their history. Only God is steadfast and unmovable. Why would we want to hold to anything but Him?

As I mentioned previously, we in America are horribly divided. Voices of every type and flavor are clamoring for our attention. Follow us. Follow them. Go this way. Go that way.

All of this reminds me of something that Joshua said when telling the children of Israel that they must make a choice about whom they would serve.

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond 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   ESV

I believe that America has been presented with this very same dilemma today. Whom will we serve? Are we prepared to forsake all others in order to stand with Joshua and declare that as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord?

Or if we choose to serve another besides the Lord, are we prepared to answer the burning question:

But what will you do in the end“?

Be blessed and encouraged in His might!

Ron

 

 

A Matter of the Heart

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Heart Disease

Did you know that about 610,000 people die each year from heart disease? Or that 25% of deaths in the U.S. are attributed to heart disease? Add to these staggering numbers the fact that about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack each year.  Statistical source: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/statistics.htm

Unhealthy eating and drinking, lack of exercise, and stress are all major contributors to heart disease. We all know this, yet somehow we continue to justify our unhealthy lifestyles. Too busy, too tired, too whatever.

With these kinds of numbers it’s getting harder to find any family that has not been impacted in some way by heart disease. My own family, for example, has a long history of heart disease. Maybe yours does as well?

My father, older brother, all of my uncles, and even my mother has succumbed to this dreaded disease. Unfortunately, I too am being forced to deal with this monster.

As one who has this condition, I am always interested in learning about the latest procedures and techniques for dealing with heart disease. Suffice it to say that in the past 20 years, incredible advancements have been made in the treatment and diagnosis of this disease, all leading to healthier,longer,and more productive lives for the patient.

What a wonderful time we live in that doctors possess such incredible knowledge and amazing technology with which to work, and all of us are the beneficiaries of these advancements.

There is, however, a far more sinister type of heart disease that no doctor can cure. This type of heart disease strikes every person. It excludes no one, small or large, rich or poor, privileged or destitute. No one gets a pass.

What is this type of heart disease that is immune from the wonders of medical science?

SIN

That’s right. SIN is a heart condition, the outcome,or consequences of an inwardly rebellious heart. And it is consuming more lives on a daily basis than all other physical types of heart disease combined.

I won’t bore you with an endless array of statistics. Most are numb to them anyway, and it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ve heard it all before. Besides, as someone would surely say, how does one measure sin in the first place?

Of course, SIN cannot be measured, as in percentages and ratios. The aftermath of sin, however, can easily be calculated by the amount of human suffering left in its wake.

Take substance abuse for example. The following table gives a snapshot of self-induced human suffering in America that is almost beyond belief. Abuse of tobacco products, alcohol, and illegal drugs is astoundingly costly to our nation, exacting more than $740 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care.

table 3

source: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics

One of the problems with the above information however, is that it attempts to “clean up” the damage by calling it abuse, rather than SIN. Substance abuse sounds so much better than SIN, doesn’t it? “Societal issues” is so much easier to stomach than SIN,would you agree?

By taking away that nasty word SIN, we eliminate the morality of it all. Besides, if we choose to use the word abuse instead of SIN, we are implying that the participants are somehow in charge, as in they alone choose to over indulge, or abuse.

It’s seemingly OK to indulge in the items listed in the table above, just don’t over indulge, or abuse them. Really?

Now let’s look at yet another heart issue that is taking a staggering toll on society.

The divorce rate in America currently stands at 40-50 %( depending upon which method of calculation is used-some cite a much lower rate). Irregardless, can any of us argue the point that divorce is primarily a heart issue? Specifically, a hardened heart issue with one or both parties?

What do you suppose is the price of divorce to America just in dollars? According to published reports, a conservative, minimum cost of $112 billion dollars annually is attributed to divorce in America.

And you ask, where does our money go?

We live in a fallen world, one that has been decimated by SIN, or outright rebellion against God. Things like substance abuse, divorce, crime, and the like are not however the causes of SIN. They are merely the output of an unregenerate,or unrepentant heart.

While medical science is not equipped to treat SIN or it’s contributing factors as they relate to the heart, I know Someone who can. His name is Jesus, and He has the antidote for every unregenerate, unrepentant heart.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.   Psalms 51:10

What would happen if all over America, millions of professing Christians were to pray that simple prayer that David prayed after he had been confronted of his sin? I believe we would see a dramatic reduction in SIN (or abuses if that makes you feel better) and a dramatic increase in love for one another.

Our SIN induced heart issues,while untouchable by medical science, are the very reasons why Jesus came to this earth in the first place.

When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.   Mark 2:17

Looking for a solution to your “matters of the heart”?  Look no further than Jesus my friend. He alone has the antidote for all of our heart issues.

Be blessed,

Ron