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What’s so good about Good Friday?

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A lot of people ask that question at this time of the year. Just this past Wednesday a lady asked me “why do we call it good, and where did the name ‘Good Friday’ come from”?

The second part of her question was a bit difficult to answer because there is no clear cut, definitive answer to the question. At least as far as I’ve been able to understand. I have been able to locate both Protestant and Catholic descriptions of how the name Good Friday originated, and personally I don’t think it matters in the least.

Regardless of its origin, the name Good Friday is exactly what it is. Yes, it marks the day that we commemorate the brutal torture and subsequent murder of the innocent Jesus. It also marks the day that mankind was freed from the bondage of sin.

Good Friday is the culmination of God’s redemptive plan to restore what was lost in the garden of Eden. From the original sin until Jesus’s last breath on the cross, man was held in the bondage of sin, unable to free himself through good works and sacrifices.

It took a spotless lamb, in this case the sinless Lamb of God to break the chains that held humanity captive. Jesus offered Himself once, for all time, upon the most cruel of torture devices in order to pay our sin debt in full.

It was a debt that you and I could never pay on our own. There was only one payment acceptable that would turn away the wrath of a Holy God; the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

What’s so good about Good Friday?

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.  John 3:16

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.   Romans 5:6-11   emphasis mine

That’s what’s so good about Good Friday.

Thank you Father, for the plan of salvation. Without it I would be lost for eternity, and I would never have known that I could be loved so greatly.

Ron

 

 

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How much longer will you carry that ball and chain?

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Most of us have heard the term “ball and chain” before. It used to be a common term that described an actual weight attached to the ankle of a prisoner, a method of prohibiting the prisoner from escaping.

You may have also heard it used derogatorily by a husband or wife who refers to their spouse as a ball and chain, meaning that they are being dragged down by a reluctant spouse. Hopefully not, but…

It is the rare individual that isn’t walking around carrying some type of baggage, or in this case a ball and chain, these days. As a matter of fact, I am hard pressed to think of even one person who isn’t.

All of us have been negatively impacted by someone or something in this life. Such is the cost of our living in a fallen world. The result of such encounters can leave us damaged and scarred, left to carry around the consequences like a ball and chain.

You know what’s interesting about carrying around a ball and chain? You never feel the impact of it as long as you’re sitting still. It’s not until you wish to get up and move on that you begin to feel the tug of it’s weight holding you back.

This is an apt metaphor for our Christian walk as well. How many of us live lives clouded by guilt, uncertainty, shame, and the like? Many of us do, of this I have no doubt.

We go through life carrying around all kinds of baggage, having learned to function to a certain degree in spite of the ever present weight of it all. This, in spite of the fact that Jesus said that “if the Son make us free, we shall be free indeed”(John 8:36).

How is this possible? It happens because we learn to navigate through this world from the security of our own comfort zone. Thus, as long as I stay in my box, or comfort zone, and do not try to move about too freely, all is well. I can manage the weight of the ball and chain, and still function.

But what happens to us when we feel God wanting to stretch us beyond our comfort zone, to get us out of our special box and move us to a new level? Well, if you’re like me, this brings about a degree of uncomfortableness and forces us to confront the ball and chain once and for all.

You see, sooner or later we must all deal with those things that hold us back. This is because God has a plan and a purpose for your life, and those plans don’t include you becoming comfortable enough to forever manage that ball and chain you’re carrying around.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.   Jer. 29:11

God’s plan for you and I is to be free from our past mistakes, to be free from the harm inflicted upon us by others. God has called us to a life of peace and love. The torments that have enveloped our lives are but shackles that must fall off in the presence of Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown weary of carrying around the ball and chain of past regrets. The things I cannot fix on my own, I must surrender to Christ. If we’re going to surrender all, then all must be willingly lain at the foot of the Cross.

Be blessed,

Ron

“This work isn’t for wimps”…

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I recently heard these words from a sermon preached by a young minister named Reggie Abraham. Reggie and his family attend the same church we have been attending the past several weeks, and this was my first time hearing him minister.

The thought behind this statement was that we all stumble and fall as we journey on with Jesus, but that just as our Leader stumbled on the way to the Cross but got up and continued on, so must we.

I was struck by the irony of Reggie’s statement for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it’s true that we are often knocked down and must pick ourselves up and start again. Sometimes we have the help of fellow believers to assist us, yet there are also times when it takes the Lord to raise us up and right our ship. Either way, we press onward.

I also found it ironic that Reggie spoke about falling down, because for the past six years he has had more than his share of being down. You see, six years ago Reggie suffered a serious stroke while riding his motorcycle. His right side was paralyzed and it was a miracle that he was able to get his bike stopped, especially considering how fast he was going.

While I don’t know all of the details, having just met him, I do know that he has spent a long, long time trying to rehabilitate his body and return to some sense of normalcy. Today, six years later he is still greatly afflicted on the right side of his body and just recently was able to find employment.

What is so remarkable about Reggie, and others like him who have had to overcome tremendous obstacles in their lives, is his indomitable spirit. His smile is contagious and his sense of humor will leave you laughing along with him as he delivers the Word in a manner that is guaranteed to touch your heart.

All of us face obstacles don’t we? I honestly don’t know a single person who can truthfully claim that their life has been one without hardship, regret, illness, or some sort of catastrophe.

I’m not saying it isn’t possible, but I have yet to meet the person who lives in a bubble, unscathed by the world and all its trappings.

Jesus in fact told us that we would have trouble in this life. He said “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world“.   John 16:33.  ESV

I love how Jesus tells us to “take heart”. Even though trouble will no doubt come our way, He’s saying to us to be encouraged and empowered because He has overcome the world. Do you know that because He has already overcome, you also are an overcomer through Him?

He has gone before you and has walked in some of the same places you walk through. Scripture reminds us that “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin“.   Hebrews 4:15.  ESV

It is a faithful saying that Jesus understands your predicament. He’s been there, done that. Your greatest temptations, the ones that knock you off of your feet, the ones that send you reeling from their consequences, know that Jesus understands them because no one has ever endured the magnitude of temptations He endured.

Unlike many of us however, He successfully overcame them all, and so can you if you’ll place your hope in Him.

As Reggie said, “this work isn’t for wimps”. We all know serving the Lord brings with it unique challenges, and sometimes the journey can seem difficult at best. But the great thing about it is we don’t need to fight or overcome by our own strength or abilities.

Thankfully, God isn’t looking for perfect physical specimens to carry out His work. He isn’t concerned with our BMI, or if we have 13.1 or 26.2 decals on our car windows.

No, we have a great high priest who is leading the charge against our enemies. Our hope, our ultimate victory, is assured in Christ. His resurrection spelled defeat over Satan, over death, over Hell, and over the grave!

And besides, even if you are a wimp, it’s not your battle to fight but Jesus’s. All we need to do is get out of His way!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

Looking for something to brag about?

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I was listening to someone today sing a song when they mentioned that it wouldn’t matter to them if they lost everything as long as they had Jesus. I thought that was a noble thing to say,and I really do hope they meant it.

I hope all of us would feel this way,especially since an ever increasing number of Christians are experiencing exactly that across this world.

For me the song made me stop and think hard about that particular statement. Would it matter to me if I lost everything except Jesus? My honest answer is yes,it would matter a great deal to me.

Shocked? Disappointed? You shouldn’t be, because if you’re anything at all like the average American,you love stuff as much as I do. And if I can go one step further while I’m being honest, I am learning that I love stuff far more than I should.

I do not fancy myself a Biblical scholar,and while I have studied the Word for close to forty years now,it is increasingly evident that I must have slept through this part from the Apostle Paul:

I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content — whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:12-13‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

The King James Version translate those verses to say that Paul had learned to be content in whatever state he found himself.Using these two verses as a measuring stick,it is apparent that I have a ways to go.How about you?

I love also that as great a man of God that Paul was,he still remained humble before the Lord. Though he had reached that place of contentment that so many of us struggle to attain,he had this to say regarding his position in Christ:

But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world. For both circumcision and uncircumcision mean nothing; what matters instead is a new creation.
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:12-15‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

Amazing isn’t it,what happens to a man who holds nothing back,but completely gives his life to God.He had it all at one time, respect of his peers,wealth and prestige beyond his fellow teachers.It was only after Jesus met him on a dusty road that he began to realize that he possessed nothing of real value.

If you’ve ever bragged on your own abilities,ever thought that you were smarter or knew best,or even once thought yourself just a little superior to those around you,just remember this man named Paul.A man that was taken up to the third heaven and heard things that are not lawful for  man to hear.A man that wrote most of the New Testament.

His boast was in the cross of the Master.All that the world could offer him meant nothing because he had died to the pride of life and the lust of the flesh. What mattered to this man of God was seeing the lost repent and come to Jesus.

Oh God,let this be MY prayer from this day forward.

If you have a few moments,give this song a listen. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

So you want to be a follower of Jesus do you?

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I admit it. I’m old school.I was taught that anything worth having was worth working for.That if I were to ever accomplish anything or have anything nice I had to put my nose to the grind stone.That no one was going to give me anything.Boy,has this proven to be true!

I’ve basically lived my entire life with this being one of my guiding principles.I started working for wages at 15 years of age at a local farm.If any of you have bailed hay from the time the dew has dried until dusk you know what hard work is.

I recently retired after nearly 28 years at an automotive manufacturer,and my total working career is somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 years.In that time I’d like to say that I think I earned my keep. At least I tried to.

I see that same philosophy of hard work and dedication being necessary in the Lord’s work as well.While the current wave of easy believeism and “no cost” church membership is all the rage,I maintain that there is a price to pay if we’re to follow Jesus.

Rest assured,I am not referring to salvation here.That is not something any of us could ever earn by our own merit,works,or good deeds.Salvation is the ultimate free gift that the Father has given to all of us,bought and paid for by His only Son Jesus.

No,the philosophy of hard work and dedication I’m referring to is an essential component of true discipleship.A study of the gospel of Matthew points us to this fact as Jesus is teaching his disciples about the high cost they must pay to be a follower of His.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  Matthew 16:24

Prior to this particular verse Jesus has just shared with his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem,be killed,and raised on the third day.After sharply rebuking Peter for not accepting this word,Jesus tells them of the high cost they must pay if they are to follow Him.

There is something both powerful and frightening about this.

Powerful,because in these words Jesus clearly lays out the “formula”for becoming a follower of Christ.It could not be any clearer.I hear many today touting their own version of a plan,or formula.Sadly,most of these involve your money.

Which is why the worldly church of today has invented a “discipleship for dollars”,aka sow a seed method for discipleship. Let’s face it,giving money is very easy compared to denying ourselves anything.Why deny myself anything when I can just write a check?

This verse is also frightening because what Jesus expects of us is perhaps the most difficult thing he could have asked of us.To deny oneself is not easy.In fact,it is extremely difficult.Especially for those of us that like to do things our own way.Which is nearly all of us.

Lets look closely at this three step discipleship mandate from Jesus.

  1. They must DENY themselves
  2. The must TAKE UP his cross.
  3. Only then can they FOLLOW him.

This denying of oneself is something most of us rarely think about,especially in the consumerism driven world that we live in.If you think about it,is there ever a time when we are not bombarded with the media telling us that we deserve it? TV,Web,Magazines,it’s seemingly endless!Whatever it is…we have to have it!

The entire world of commerce is predicated upon the belief that the consumer is number one.This is 180° opposite of the command of Jesus to deny our self.If I can be very plain here,Jesus is actually telling us that if we are to follow Him,WE can no longer be number one! How does that sit with us?

Perhaps you know someone like this.No matter the subject,it inevitably comes back around to them.It’s the American culture,it’s all about ME because I’m special,or to be blunt it’s because we have exalted ourselves in such a prideful manner that we can scarcely think of anyone but ourselves. We are number one and that’s just the way it is.

Kind of hard to deny ourselves with that mindset,isn’t it?

Jesus then tells the disciples that they must take up his cross.Did you see how Jesus personalized the cross? They must take up his cross. That’s right,your cross.Did you know you were expected to pick up your own cross?

The cross was known for one thing,a cruel method of crucifying the flesh that ultimately ended in the death of the one who was crucified.That’s what Jesus is saying to his disciples and us,that if we are to be a follower of Him we must crucify this flesh.

Just as the straw is burned when it comes in contact with fire,so must our selfish desires burn away that we might take up our cross.We are to take up our cross and gladly carry it through the good times and the bad.This friends,is the mark of a follower of Christ.

When self has been denied,the cross is more easy to bear.

It is only after we learn to discipline ourselves through denying this flesh,then taking up our cross daily,does Jesus invite us to follow Him.This is the only way,just as Jesus is the only Way.There are no shortcuts beloved.This road can be long and dusty,but a journey worth the effort.

My hearts cry for the church is that it will return to the command of Jesus to deny ourselves,take up our cross,and follow Him.The world needs this more than it can imagine.

Jesus,the Hope of Glory must work through His church.You and I make up His hands and feet,His very heart.This world is dying a painful and horrific death,alone and destitute for the love of God. The love of God that must come through you and I.

I wonder sometimes,do we as the church somehow think that God is going to do this all by Himself? If that were so,why would He need you and I? The easy believeism I mentioned earlier is a perfect example of this.

I see it all the time: “repeat this prayer after me,now say… I am saved”. That’s all there is to it they say. But where is the discipleship?Where is the instruction on how to walk with the Lord?This is one reason why so many who start out for the Lord fall by the wayside!

So you want to be a follower of Jesus do you?

Well get ready,because it’s going to cost you something.

Just remember:anything worth having is worth working for.

Have a great Thursday everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

Prosperity: God’s way

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Last week my wife and I were privileged to minister at the Eastview Church of God in Dayton,Oh. It was so wonderful to hear my wife sing the praises of God while I accompanied her on the guitar.She is such a blessing in my life and there is no doubt that God himself smiled upon this unworthy man the day she came into my world.

Since it has been far too long since my last post,I thought I would share a bit from the message I delivered last week.I do apologize for this,but we are currently consumed with moving and I haven’t had the time to really think about the blog.

My message for the day was based on 2nd Chronicles 15:1-8. The theme of these verses is God’s clear instruction that if you walk with Him, he will walk with you,but if you turn away from Him he will also turn away from you.

Though Judah had previously enjoyed God’s blessings they now found themselves broken,discouraged,and defeated. They had in effect walked away from God.

Sin will destroy a nation.

Every time.

Yet because Asa turned his heart to the Lord God gave him rest and peace during his reign. Stability was also one of the hallmarks of Asa’s reign as he ruled for 41 years. Contrast that with the fact that during those 41 years, Israel had crowned seven different kings!

Asa tore down the pagan gods. He even destroyed the images his own mother had erected!asa-cuts-down-image

Clearly there is an historical precedent that we could learn from by examining what the Lord said unto Asa. Lets read together from my text from last week’s message.

1 Now the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded.

2 And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.

3 For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law;

4 but when in their trouble they turned to the Lord God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them.

5 And in those times there was no peace to the one who went out, nor to the one who came in, but great turmoil was on all the inhabitants of the lands.

6 So nation was destroyed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every adversity.

7 But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!”

8 And when Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had taken in the mountains of Ephraim; and he restored the altar of the Lord that was before the vestibule of the Lord.       2nd Chronicles 15:1-8  NKJV

“The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you”.

Could the God of heaven make it any more plain than this?

Contrast this Word with what America is hearing from its pulpits today. We are being told that the way to prosperity is to GIVE. TV preachers constantly use the same tired,worn out shtick that if you give,it will be given to you…

Of course the Word says that. But the last time I checked,there were also an additional 65 books of the Bible that teach us the full understanding of God’s plan of prosperity!

Can you imagine that the God who said that the earth and the fullness thereof is the Lord’s is at all behind such lunacy?

For us to prosper as individuals and as a nation,the die has been cast. There is no “formula” or “special prayer” that will cause us to prosper.You can give all you have to your favorite hipster preacher and it will not prosper you one bit so long as their remains sin in the camp!

No, it is a heartfelt commitment unto the Lord that brings prosperity to our lives, to our nation.

“For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law;”

Sound familiar? Recognize any similarities? Hello North America!!

“But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!”

Clearly,God wants to prosper His children. But it can only happen when we turn again to the Lord.He will not prosper us if we are double minded,if we live like the world and partake of it’s sin. God said rather that He would turn away from us.

I told the congregation that I’m around people all day who make the sign of the cross but speak as though they spend most of their time in the bars! It should be obvious to anyone that we cannot have it both ways!

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.   3rd John 1:2  KJV

Have a blessed Sunday everyone!

A Final Thought From The Vine

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12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends”.       John 15:12,13   NKJV

The gospel of John is far and away one of my favorites books out of the 66 books that make up our Bible.In it you will find just about every conceivable human trait on display at one time or another,and I often marvel at the sheer range of emotions found within it.

Jealousy…Anger…Bitterness…Love…Forgiveness…Greed…Grief…Despair

All of these and more are on display. Life is on display here.

Whenever I read John’s gospel I look to the end of the book with apprehension,knowing of course that before I get there Jesus is going to be violently murdered.But before the lies and betrayal, before the accusers line up to spew forth their hate filled demands for vengeance, Jesus spends His final hours doing what He always did.

He taught.

About love.

Jesus taught his disciples that He had a commandment for them. And that commandment was that the disciples were to love one another as Jesus had loved them.

What? Jesus is within a few hours of enduring the most horrific death imaginable. And He knows it’s coming.It’s unavoidable. He knows it’s coming because it was for this hour that he came into the world.

Yet His focus is on imparting one last word to those who had walked with him for over three years. His focus was on love,and more specifically that the disciples would love one another like He had loved them.

All of this begs the question “what kind of love is this”?

Well,for one thing Jesus loved them to death,didn’t He? He even went so far to say that there was no greater love than this,that a man would lay down his life for his friends.

Other worldly love. Incomprehensible love. God love.

I’d like to know that someone loved me this much,wouldn’t you?

How about you?

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