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Thoughts on Bitterness

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Bitterness

Just saying the word evokes certain feelings and emotions that most of us can identify strongly with. After all, who hasn’t felt the sting of bitterness well up inside of us?

We know that bitterness comes in many forms and from many sources. You may have been done wrong by a spouse or friend. Perhaps you were overlooked for that job promotion. Or maybe you’ve been “church hurt”. And how could you ever forget the diagnosis you received?

All of these can bring about the feelings of bitterness. Some of us may have even felt like God let us down or disappointed us in some way, and we allowed bitterness to cause us to blame God. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has ever screamed at God asking why He allowed ‘this’ to happen.

Personally, I’ve dealt with just about all of these. On many occasions I might add. Just as you have.

Bitterness strikes at all of us, and while it would be easy to simply say it’s all part of our humanity, there is also a spiritual application to bitterness. How bitterness impacts our walk with Christ is the focus of this post.

The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us to “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled”. Hebrews 12:14,15  KJV.     emphasis mine

How do we avoid bitterness since we are virtually assured that as long as we remain here on this earth, circumstances are not always going to go our way? How am I supposed to live peacefully with those who have done me wrong? How can I escape bitterness when I’ve been dealt life-altering circumstances?

As we just read, the answer to all of these questions lies in the scripture that encourages us to live peacefully with all men, endeavoring to live a sanctified life, set apart from the world and its many temptations.

More often than not, that means we must have a forgiving heart. More on that later.

Whatever the source, unless we deal with it by giving it to God, it will come back to haunt us in the form of bitterness. That is simply human nature, and none of us are exempt from it. Face it, we are emotional beings. We laugh, hurt, get depressed, feel overwhelmed, and have the capacity to enjoy many things in this life because we are so emotional.

The Lord created us this way, but if we’re not careful, the devil will use our negative emotions as an entrance into our lives. This is why we must be diligent, as the writer says, because Satan is always looking to find an avenue to “steal, kill, and destroy”. [1]

Allowing bitterness to enter our hearts is opening the door to the adversary, and once opened it can be very difficult to shut that door on him. The danger in all of this is that if even a tiny root of bitterness takes hold in our heart, it begins to weave its way into every fabric of our life.

Picture bitterness as the root of a plant. A plants roots run deep and spread wide. Roots have to do that in order to sustain the plant they are a part of. Those roots feed the plant, and without the proper nourishment the plant will eventually wither and die.

When we allow bitterness to take hold of us, it does everything in its power to burrow itself deeply within our heart. Left unchecked, it will spread into every facet of our life. When that happens, its impact will be seen by all, and it won’t be pretty.

The things that used to bring us joy no longer will. The things we used to look forward to doing we now look at from a very different perspective. That’s what bitterness does to us. It changes our outlook on life, both in the natural and the spiritual. This is why we must constantly be on guard, checking our hearts lest a root of bitterness find its way in.

Let me give you a personal example of how the enemy would like to ensnare us in bitterness.

Recently, our family made the very painful decision to leave the church we had been attending for the past 2.5 years. It isn’t necessary to share the details here, but suffice it to say that these things do happen unfortunately, and they present a myriad of emotions that must be dealt with. In our case, those included hurt, betrayal, and yes even bitterness.

Shortly after we left, I began to have people tell me that they had been told a very different version of what actually happened that caused us to leave.  Needless to say, this did not sit well with me because if there is one thing I cannot stand it is when people are not completely honest.

So I was now in a position of either allowing my emotions to gain the upper hand, or let it go and ask God to deal with my heart about it. Which is exactly what He has done. You see, I chose not to allow bitterness to rule my heart.

I hope you caught that. I chose, or I made the conscious decision that bitterness was not going to spring up or take root in my heart. That’s right…bitterness is a choice, and if you and I choose the path of bitterness we are actually giving others power over us.

Why would we do this? This is where having a forgiving heart comes into play. I have learned through many seasons of bitterness and despair that the best course of action is to forgive and move on. Easier said than done? Of course it is, but read on please.

You know what else I have learned? I’ve learned that forgiveness is a product of a heart that is right before God. When we hold grudges against someone, forgiveness cannot come. If we remain angry at someone over a wrong that was done, forgiveness cannot come.

Forgiveness is a product of a heart that is right before God.

I encourage all of us to remember this the next time we’re faced with hurt or disappointment. Choose wisely friends, choose the path of love and forgiveness instead of the path of bitterness.

Be blessed in Jesus name!

Ron

[1] John 10:10

Where do we go from here?

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Many of my older readers are no doubt familiar with the name Paul Harvey. For those too young to remember his radio and TV newscasts, Paul Harvey was a very familiar voice in America from the early 1950’s to 2008.

He is most famous for his “The Rest of the Story” segments where he would talk about a particular subject, and later in the newscast would reminder his listeners that there was more to this story than meets the eye. Hence “The Rest of the Story”.

Throughout his long career he made many special broadcasts such as So God Made a Farmer, Freedom to Chains, and one of my personal favorites If I Were the Devil.

“If I Were the Devil,” was originally broadcast in 1964, but he updated it several times over the years. The version I am sharing with you today aired in 1996. Here, In Paul Harvey’s own words, is what he said he would do, if he “were the devil.”

“If I were the prince of darkness, I would want to engulf the whole world in darkness. I’d have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree — thee. So, I would set about however necessary to take over the United States.

“I’d subvert the churches first, and I would begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please.’

“To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince the children that man created God instead of the other way around. I’d confide that what’s bad is good and what’s good is square. And the old, I would teach to pray after me, ‘Our Father, which art in Washington …’

“Then, I’d get organized, I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

“If I were the devil, I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves and nations at war with themselves until each, in its turn, was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.

“If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellect but neglect to discipline emotions. I’d tell teachers to let those students run wild. And before you knew it, you’d have drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door. With a decade, I’d have prisons overflowing and judges promoting pornography. Soon, I would evict God from the courthouse and the schoolhouse and then from the houses of Congress. In his own churches, I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I’d lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money.

“If I were the devil, I’d take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. What’ll you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich?

“I’d convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun and that what you see on television is the way to be. And thus, I could undress you in public and lure you into bed with diseases for which there are no cures.

“In other words, if I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.”

Now, I do not pretend to make Paul Harvey out to be a saint or a Prophet. I do know that he attended various churches in his lifetime, but beyond that who can say exactly what his relationship was with God?

What do know is that what Mr. Harvey wrote in 1964 has mostly come to fruition. How anyone could argue otherwise is beyond my limited capabilities to understand the human thought process.

Whether he was ‘inspired’ to write the things that he did, or whether he may have somehow seen into the future, no one can truthfully say. In my own opinion, it doesn’t matter how he knew, but what matters is that he was able to ascertain that the societal trends that were evolving in the 1960’s were planting the seeds for the destructive trends you and I are now left to contend with.

For all of our modern sociologists attempts to portray society as an ever evolving one, replete with technological advances the likes of which our forefathers could not have dreamed of, we are actually devolving. We are simply following the well-established pattern of the great cultures of history that long ago found themselves adrift on the ocean of Godlessness.

We are living in strange and difficult times, of that we can all agree. It almost seems as though the ‘powers that be’ are fully aware that they are in over their heads yet dare not admit it to the populace. To do so would be an open admission of their own fallibility.

As Christians, we are often guilty of living in the manner of our choosing, believing Grace and its accompanying freedom will cover the multitude of our sins. It’s as if we have either forgotten or have willingly discarded Paul’s admonition of Romans 6:1,2.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

We know, of course, that to continue in sin and disobedience is a recipe for the worst kind of disaster. This applies to individuals as well as nations.

To quote historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, “What was once stigmatized as deviant behavior is now tolerated and even sanctioned; what was once regarded as abnormal has been normalized. As deviancy is normalized, so what was once normal becomes deviant. The kind of family that has been regarded for centuries as natural and moral – the ‘bourgeois’ family as it is invidiously called – is now seen as pathological.”

Indeed, it would seem that what was once considered shocking and unbelievable is now par for the course. Just as Mr. Harvey said in his “If I were the Devil” broadcast.

All of this reminds me of an event from the Old Testament book of Judges where God was once again contending with the Israelite’s on again, off again relationship with Him.

Also the Sidonians and Amalekites and Maonites oppressed you; and you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hand. Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more. “Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress. Judges 10:12-14

The million-dollar question is now ‘Where Do We Go from Here’?

Do we continue sliding even further from the one Source of hope and security, the one Source of help who can pull us from the mire?

Or do we come to our collective senses and acknowledge our back sliding, and turn our hearts once again to the God who stands ready to make straight our paths once again?

Not unlike Paul Harvey, the answers to these questions will be found in “The Rest of the Story”.

Be blessed,

Ron

Evil transformed into art?

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WARNING! This post may be offensive to some.

Like many of my readers, I am often stunned by what appears on the evening news. The evil that man is capable of inflicting upon one another is almost beyond comprehension, yet even as I write that statement I know that what we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg.

So horrific are many of these acts that I choose not to discuss them in detail, both out of respect for the victims and not wanting to give any more publicity to these demon controlled monsters.

Of course, there are many types of evil in this world, just as there are many types of evil perpetrators committing the acts. I’ll spare you the details, not that they matter. After all, evil is the devil incarnate, and he is at the root of it all.

Take, for example, the “Sacred Goods” exhibit which was displayed at the Haifa Museum of Art, located in Haifa, Israel. In August of 2018, they displayed a sculpture of Ronald McDonald being crucified on a cross.

f3663570-572c-40a3-883a-f4818ded1970The “McJesus” sculpture by Finnish artist Jani Leinonen on display at the Haifa Museum of Art. (Haifa Museum of Art)

As I stated, there are many types of evil in this world, and many types of evil perpetrators. For the Christian, there cannot be a more vile, disguting image than to see the Savior of mankind mocked in such a manner as this.

This is evil, pure and simple, and the mind that “created” this blasphemous image has been wholly given over to Satan.

Of course, the Jews overwhelmingly do not believe that Jesus was their Savior, so it is of no great offense to them to see this in their museum. The fact that this is considered “art” at all and was prominently displayed in their museum testifies to the fact that they are still mocking, still rejecting Him after delivering him up to be crucified over 2000 years ago. [1]

Indeed, a people once called out from all other nations by none other than God Himself to be the “elect”, have continued on the same path of destruction that their ancestors walked thousands of years ago.

But the days of ridicule and mockery are coming to an end.

This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the Lord of hosts.

The Lord will be terrible unto them: for he will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him, every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen. Zephaniah 2:10-11

As Christians we know a day is coming when the last mocker will have been heard. There is coming a day so dreadful, and from which there is no escape, that instead of ridiculing Him, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess when the name of Jesus is declared.

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.   Philippians 2:8-11  emphasis mine

In that day no one will compare Jesus to Ronald McDonald. There will be no mockers, scoffers, or reprobates to ridicule Him ever again. What there will be a lot of is kneeling and confessing.

On that great day the sheep will be separated from the goats, and one’s nationality, fame, or wealth will not save him. The last words the lost will ever hear will be from the Almighty, who will say “depart from me, I never knew you”.  [2]

Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Be blessed in Jesus name,

Ron

[1] For a detailed account of this sordid display and to read about the Arab Christian opposition to it: https://www.timesofisrael.com/arab-christians-in-violent-clash-with-police-in-haifa-over-mcjesus-sculpture/

[2] Matthew 7:23

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caught in the middle of an all out war

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I’ve never been to war.I would have been,except that as a wild and angry young man 18 years of age, God intervened and prevented what surely would have been a catastrophe when I tried to enlist in the Army towards the end of the Vietnam war.

As an out of control teenager bent on finding a release for the pent up rage within me,a God that I did not know stepped in and saved my life.Unbeknownst to me,in a few more years He would step in and save my life again when He saved my soul.

So while it is true that I have never been to war on a military battlefield,I have however been on a battlefield of another kind.A spiritual battlefield.In fact,for the past forty years I have been in the middle of an all out war for the control of my eternal soul.

It has been relentless,this battle.Like the old Wide World of Sports TV show used to declare, I can relate to “the thrill of victory,and the agony of defeat”. Though not defeated,I have felt that way many,many times.

In that vein,I thought I would share something very personal with the readers of this blog in the hopes that it might encourage someone who may be locked in a battle where the outcome seems in doubt.

Some time ago I came home from work one day,just as I did every other day.While tired from the long day,I was no more tired than any other day so to me it was just a normal day.I hadn’t been home but a few minutes however when a wave of drowsiness came upon me to the extent that I couldn’t stay awake.

Now,you would have to know me to know that that was not normal for me.So intense was this drowsiness that I went and laid upon the bed,thinking it would pass in a few minutes and I would resume the rest of my day.

The next thing I was aware of was that I was in a dream,or a vision,and I was kneeling at a large rock in a garden like setting.Sort of like the picture here.praying-in-the-garden

I actually saw myself praying there,and it was so real that in my dream I had no doubt that it was me.

In the next moment I saw on either side of me two figures.One was clearly good,and one was clearly the enemy.

I cannot say whether or not the “good” figure was Jesus or an angel,but I knew instantly that the other one was Satan.I remember having no fear at all,but what became very clear to me was that these two figures were having a discussion about ME.

I knew that because I clearly heard the enemy say that he would take me back.Just as clearly I heard the other saying “you can’t have him”. At that,the enemy made a comment to the effect that he would not give up the fight for me.Somehow,even in the midst of this dream or vision,I became acutely aware that Satan would never stop in his attempts to defeat me.Just before I awoke I heard the “good” figure say to me “you must pray always Ron”.

Now,if you’re still reading this I need to explain something.I do not believe every dream we have is a vision or revelation from God.And I am very aware that you who are reading this may think I’ve lost it. Or that”much learning hath made me mad”. Regardless, it was very real and it is something I’ve never forgotten about to this day.

The point of my sharing this very personal story is to show you that we are indeed locked in a spiritual battle with a very real and powerful enemy (II Cor 10:4). The scriptures are clear however that our battles are not with flesh and blood (Eph.6:12). No,our battle is with the devil himself.

prophecies-of-war

propheciesofrevelation.org

We must be careful to understand that the enemy desires to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). He has placed before all of us roadblocks of discouragement so that he may steal our joy.In doing so he will then proceed to steal away our new life in Christ. Having accomplished this,the door is now open for destruction.

This is the process(there’s that word again!) that Jesus spoke to Peter about. And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.  Luke 22:31

As Christians we should understand that the devil desires to have each of us,and that he will never stop trying.To my way of thinking,this is Christianity 101. I also know that this battle will not end until the day that either death or the return of the Lord claims me.

What I’m trying to say here is that we should not be surprised at the enemy’s tactics or his devices.Expect them.Know they are coming.More importantly however,prepare for them so you are not caught unaware.

Jesus Christ is the devil destroyer.He alone conquered the enemy at Calvary,and He alone possesses the keys of death and hell (Rev. 1:18). Yes,the devil may roar,but never forget that he is already defeated and as such he has no power to defeat you!

He may try to sift you as he desired to do to Peter,but the same Jesus that prayed for Peter will also sustain you in the midst of the battle.

I pray these words will encourage and comfort someone.

Ron

 

 

 

 

He Remains Faithful

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Have you ever doubted your faith? Have you ever dared to question the existence of God? Have you ever felt like you’re in this thing all alone?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions congratulations!,you are in the company of untold millions of other Christians who have doubted,questioned,and felt abandoned along the journey.Who,thanks to Jesus, just happen to be standing stronger today than at any other time.

But for many of us, the doubts and the questions won’t go away.

Think about this: the enemy speaks to us in countless ways through a variety of circumstances all carefully designed to plant the tiniest seed of doubt in our minds. In no time at all it seems we’re asking how or why.

Those two little words,each containing but three letters,have the potential to grow into a raging firestorm that left unchecked,will shipwreck our faith.

It’s during these times that we must draw upon our armor and prepare to defend ourselves against the onslaught of the devil.

The apostle Paul authored the majority of the New Testament,and the following text is,in my opinion,one of the clearest assurances that God is faithful to those who are faithful to Him.

“Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel,

This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”
‭‭II Timothy‬ ‭2:8, 11-13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Beloved, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.

He has promised us that if we endure,if we hold on,if we faint not away but hold to His promises,we shall reign with Him.

Doubts will always come. Questions will arise in our hearts and minds for which there are no answers. Loneliness will sometimes feel like abandonment.

But I have good news! It’s not over until He says it’s over!

He remains faithful.

Have a blessed week!

 

Wanna Wrestle?

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Wrestling is still a huge attraction for those that favor the “made for TV”variety of wrestling. It doesn’t seem to matter that the matches are well rehearsed,scripted events pitting the good guy against the bad guy and nearly everyone knows who the “winner”will be before the sound of the bell. This stuff is still raking in hundreds of millions every year!

wrestlers

clipartcow.com

Too bad life isn’t like that. Wouldn’t it be great to know ahead of time when disaster would strike? To be able to “script”our lives to a certain degree? To know when the bad guys were going to “clothesline”us? To be able to see in advance when the opponent was sneaking up on us from behind?To be able to fix the match?

Of course there are others who say that they wouldn’t want to know any of these things ahead of the time. “Might ruin the journey”they say. Hmmm..

If only there was a way to know ahead of time who the winners and losers will be in real life.To know our opponent so well that we could foresee his every move and plan accordingly.

Well, if you’re a Christian,you already know who the winners and losers will be! The old,old story was written a long time ago and God wins!

That doesn’t mean however that there aren’t some battles to fight.

As a child of God we understand all too well who our opponent is.We know him by many names including Satan,the devil,Lucifer,deceiver,and a host of others.

Not only do we know who he is,but we also know how he operates.His forte is wrestling.

He lies,he cheats,he steals,he kills,he destroys.He wrestles.

Good-vs-Evil

pridenews.ca

In the age old battle of good vs.evil Satan is the ultimate bad guy.He is the opponent no one wants to face and there is no quit in him.His chief purpose is to destroy everything that is good,and that includes everyone who claims Christ as their Savior.

Yet as “bad” as he might be,he proved to be no match for Jesus Christ! Matter of fact,even though Satan orchestrated the “match of eternity”at an arena called Calvary,a place where he thought he had every advantage,it was a simple wooden cross that proved to be his undoing.

A simple Jewish carpenter who never raised a hand against him,but who instead simply used the word of God to rebuke him,had defeated this enemy once and for all.

For all of us.

The scriptures make it very clear who our enemy is.The world,in it’s twisted way of distorting the truth,would have us to believe that as divided as the church may appear to be we are defeated.The enemy has won.Uh…no

Not so fast.Let us consult the authority of God’s word for a closer look at this.

No less an authority than the Apostle Paul had this to say about this great wrestling match called life:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Eph. 6:12  NKJV

Our enemy is not one another.My battle is not against Baptists,Lutherans,or Methodists,and neither is yours.We are not told to battle any denomination or it’s creed or doctrine.Our fight is against the powers and spiritual forces of the devil that have enslaved this world in darkness and confusion.

The next time you feel you’re being challenged by the “ultimate bad guy”,just remember that Jesus has taken the fight out of the devil for you.So if you get the sense that the devil is challenging you to a wrestling match,you can rest assured that he cannot win.

He’s already been counted out.