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We now have life in His name!

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Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

Was blind but now I see.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. To such a blind, miserable, wretched, and lost man as I once was, there is nothing so sweet as Amazing Grace.

Easter reminds me once again of the unfathomable grace that the Creator extended towards humanity when He put into motion His redemption plan. And what a plan it was! God sent His only son into this world to purchase our salvation by His own blood.

I just have to ask: who but God can do such things?

It was the beloved disciple John who recorded these eternal words of lasting hope when he said “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

Before you and I were ever born, God had already thought of us! I just can’t get over that! Oh, if only this world could see that there is no reason to live in hopelessness. There is no reason for us to live our lives in desperation.

Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly!

God so loved YOU, before you were ever born, that He gave His son as a ransom for your sins. By doing this He freed you from every chain and shackle that has you bound! No matter the burdens we bare, or the pains of past mistakes, Jesus died to set us free from all of it!

I am living proof of the power of the Resurrection. You name it, at one time I tried it, did it, and wanted more of it all in a vain attempt to silence the fear, anger, and loneliness that was destroying me.

I was destined for Hell just as sure as the sun is coming up in the morning.

But one day, one glorious day, Jesus tugged at my heart and slowly but surely I began to have my eyes and my heart opened to a love I never knew existed. God’s love, eternal love, the kind of love that will get you from here to Glory enveloped my very soul and I’ve never been the same since!

I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, but in every instance there was that amazing grace to gently guide me back to the straight and narrow way. Thank God He’s still guiding me along every step of this journey.

I once was lost but now I’m found!

I love how John concludes his gospel by telling us that the things that Jesus did were done to help us to believe in Him, and in doing so we can have eternal life in His name.

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.  John 20:30,31

May this Resurrection Day be so precious to you that you will never forget it, and I pray that the Lord will reveal Himself to all of you in a special way.

He is alive forevermore! Amen!

Ron

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From a child’s perspective

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I recently had an enlightening conversation with a friend of mine, and as we were talking he told me about something interesting that occurred in his church’s Sunday school class.

Being one of the teachers of 1st thru 5th grade students, he frequently tells me about some of the things the kids say and do, and I must concur that “Kids Say the Darndest Things”.

On this particular Sunday morning, it seems the lesson was on “Worry”. The gist of the lesson was that each child was given a piece of paper with 15 words listed on it. All of the words involved things you might worry about as a child.

The kids were instructed to circle the five things they would be most worried about from the list that included:

  • the death of a friend or loved one
  • forgetting your homework
  • getting lost
  • fear of the dark
  • being hungry

As each student turned in their paper the teacher tallied the scores, and the results were somewhat surprising. The #1 selection was the death of a friend or loved one. This is understandable, considering the trauma of such an event.

What was very surprising however was that the 2nd most popular selection was being hungry. Especially intriguing is the fact that none of the kids in his class know what being hungry feels like!

How sad is it that little kids who have never missed a meal worry so much about going hungry? What exactly does this say about our society? What does this say about our priorities as a nation? Better yet…

What Would Jesus Do?

Then the little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them; and the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of heaven” belongs to such as these. And after He had placed His hands on them, He went on from there.…   Matthew 19:13-15

Children are precious in the eyes of the Lord. Is it because our adult eyes no longer acknowledge the Lord that we are blind to this fact?

As a nation, we have rejected God and His plan for right living. In its place we have chosen instead to be inundated with 24/7 images of adultery, drugs, murder, prostitution, greed, abuse, divorce, and every conceivable type of debauchery imaginable.

And our children are growing up in these same homes, listening, wondering, and worrying if one day they too will feel the pangs of hunger, if they haven’t already.

If I’m being honest here, I sometimes wonder about the seeds we adults have planted in the minds of our children. The horrible things that we have exposed them to must surely be an affront to God.

Little kids are smart, much smarter than we like to give them credit for, and they instinctively know when things aren’t right. Given the opportunity, how long do you think it would take our children to prioritize the hunger problem in America?

It’s a crying shame that we as adults don’t have the same heart as they do.

Ron

 

Is your focus inward or outward?

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Me!  Me!  Me!

Does that sound like someone you know?

I!     I!     I! All about me

Does this sound like someone you know?

Is it all about them?

Does the world revolve around them?

Do they have no time for anyone but themselves?

Of course, most of us know people like this. The world is a very selfish place, after all.

But what if we substituted them, they, and themselves for me, us, and ourselves?

That changes things a bit, doesn’t it? It sort of places us in the uncomfortable position of determining whether our focus is inward or outward.

As Christians we know that we cannot live our lives only for ourselves because the Bible is very clear that this life is not all about us, our wishes, our desires, or our needs.

It’s actually ALL about Him.

Because it’s ALL about Him, our focus then must be outward and not inward. As difficult and as challenging as that might be at times, we have no other choice. The fact is, we have been commanded to love others just as Christ loves us.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”   John 13: 34-35

Loving one another is one of the foundational truths of the Church. Our love and concern for one another tells the world that we have Christ abiding within us.

The world in which we live however, says that YOU are number one, that YOU are the most important person in the world. This concept is both unbiblical and self-defeating because it attempts to lift us up while denigrating God.

In Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia, he reminded them that through love they were to serve one another. To emphasize this, he also gave them a warning that if they did not do this, but rather turned on one another, they would eventually destroy each other.

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! Gal. 5:13-15

Helping handsOurs is a call to serve, to prefer others, to put another’s needs before our own. This is the litmus test of whether we are who we say we are, or if we are yet another in a long line of imposters.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.   1 John 3: 17-18

Do you and I care about others?

If so, do they know it because we tell them, or because we show them by our actions?

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.   Gal. 6:9-10

By focusing outward instead of inward, we are presented with innumerable opportunities to minister to others.

From where I set, I think the world could use a whole lot more of that.

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

“Sometimes it takes a storm”…

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All of us endure storms in this life of one type or another. Most of the time they catch us unaware as they strike without warning. Having little or no time to prepare, more times than not we’re forced to endure the best way we can.

Truthfully, just hanging on is sometimes the equivalent of a major victory.

One of life’s great lessons however is that no one gets a free pass, everyone must confront their personal storms. There is no other way.

The good news in all of this? We don’t have to confront the storms alone. The Bible tells us that “God is a very present help in the time of trouble”(Psalm 46:1). He is our helper when life is teetering out of control.

In Mark’s gospel,there was an event that took place that caused all of the disciples to fear for their lives. What started out as a simple boat ride soon turned into a confrontation with a violent storm that threatened to destroy all of them.

35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to Crisisthe other side.” 36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”               Mark 4:35-41

Had Jesus not been there,how different this story might have ended! But the fact is Jesus was there with them in the boat,and the disciples knew their only hope was to awaken the Master.

A crisis will do that to us won’t it? Sometimes it takes a storm to enable us to better see the sun.

Do you know that the same thing happens when we call upon the Lord during the times of storm? He will calm the troubled waters of your soul, because He is the peace speaker.

If today you find yourself in the midst of a raging storm, there is a Savior who will rise up and speak to that storm and say “peace…be still”.

All you are required to do is call upon the Master.

Please listen to this beautiful song if you are in need of shelter from the storm.

Sometimes it takes a storm”, by Jessica King

Have a blessed day, in Jesus name!

Ron

It’s what comes OUT of a man that matters…

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Do you agree that we often place far too much emphasis on outward appearances? And in doing so, are sometimes guilty of misjudging someone? After all, isn’t it still true that looks can be deceiving?

do-not-judge

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Consider this lesson from the gospel of Mark.

One day Jesus was confronted by a group of Pharisees and scribes because they had observed his disciples eating bread with unwashed hands.

You see, the Pharisees were all about maintaining outward appearances, and they used this opportunity to inform Jesus that his little band of followers were now defiled for failing to keep up with tradition.

Then, as now, we humans seem to have this need to elevate ourselves while tearing down others. Why is that?

At any rate the Pharisees were all about outward appearances and traditions, believing that putting on a good external show somehow equates to a healthy inward relationship with God.

NOT.

Hmmm…makes one wonder if not a lot has changed over the space of a couple thousand years. OK….back to the topic at hand.

After Jesus admonished the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”     Mark 7:9 NKJV

In other words, Jesus is telling them that they rejected God’s word and his teachings in favor of their own man made traditions. And this is a snare that all of us must be on guard to avoid. Jesus came to set us free, but I dare say many of us are ensnared in traditions of our own making, thus rendering the word of God of no effect.

traditions of men

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Instead of worrying about and focusing on trivial things that mattered little, if at all, in the grand scheme of things, Jesus went on to explain to them what truly defiles a man.

And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.””
Mark 7:20-23 NKJV

Notice anything missing from this list? None of the things on it are matters of tradition or outward appearance, but matters of the heart!!

What defiles us, what condemns us are the evil, sinful acts born out of an unregenerate heart. That’s what Jesus is saying here. A heart that has resisted the love of Christ and has determined to forge its own path is a heart that is capable of doing the unthinkable.

As lest any of us should be lifted up with pride because we are so good, residing within each of our hearts are the seeds of each of the sins Jesus mentions above. I don’t care who you are, that’s a powerful and sobering thought.

The point is, our good intentions will never be good enough, but instead a life lived apart from God will give way to a heart that is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it”?   Jer. 17:9

There is but one cure for such a thing; the Lord Jesus. He alone has the cure for what defiles a man. Only Jesus can transform our hearts from one of stone into one that is fully alive in Him. He is the heart mender.

It’s what comes out of a man that matters most, and when Jesus has been given control of our lives we must continually strive to gain control of the flesh that produces the things which defile.

Walking with Jesus is not about keeping church or religious traditions, it’s not about maintaining appearances or your standing in the church. Walking with Jesus is about relationship, one that produces the fruit of the Spirit, not the deeds of the flesh.

do-not-judge-2

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Be blessed,

Ron

 

A personal God. A personal Father.

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The word “Father” is an important one in nearly every society. To some, Father denotes the elder, or leader of the family. Others use the word Father when referring to someone who originated something, like the Father of a particular industry.

In today’s post however, I want us to look at how God was first revealed as our Father.

In the prelude leading up to Jesus teaching his disciples about how they should pray, on no less than five occasions do we find Jesus referring to God as “your Father”.         Scripture reference Matt. 6:1-9

Why is this important? It is important because with the words “your Father” Jesus did something that had never been done before.

He personalized Almighty God by attributing to Him an intimate nature.

Think about that statement. I cannot find one instance in the Old Testament where the Jews ever referred to God as their Father in the first person. When I first realized this I was stunned!

To think that the God who revealed Himself to mankind, first in the garden and then throughout the Old Testament history of the Jews, was never thought of in a personal way as Father was almost unbelievable.

In fact, studies have been done (by real scholars) of every book of the Old Testament, as well as every known Jewish writing up until about the tenth century, and there is not one single reference of a Jewish person addressing God personally as their Father.

This makes Jesus referring to God as “your Father” all the more remarkable!

As a matter of fact, the very first Jewish rabbi known to have called God “Father” was Jesus of Nazareth!  In Judaism, this was such a radical departure from tradition that it cannot be overstated in its importance.

So great was the Jews anger against Jesus for suggesting that God could have an intimate relationship with man, that He was somehow approachable by mere mortals, that it incited the Jews to want to destroy Jesus.

To refer to the One True God as “Father” was unthinkable to the Jews, who would have deemed such a name as disrespectful. Of course, they used many distinct names for God; in fact in the Old Testament they used as many as sixteen different names that were deemed appropriate when addressing God. Perhaps you have heard most of these?
* El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)
* El Elyon (The Most High God)
* Adonai (Lord, Master)
* Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah)
* Jehovah Nissi (The Lord My Banner)
* Jehovah-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd)
* Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals)
* Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There)
* Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness)
* Jehovah Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You)
* El Olam (The Everlasting God)
* Elohim (God)
* Qanna (Jealous)
* Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide)
* Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace)
* Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts)

None of these names, however, refer to Him as “Father”. They are all names that reflect Holiness, Worship, and respect. They reflect upon his many incredible attributes.

In revealing the intimate nature of God by referring to Him as “our Father”, Jesus introduced to mankind the concept that God Almighty was also approachable.

Jesus revealed to the world for the first time that God was not some cold, unfeeling entity in a galaxy far, far away. No, Jesus pulled back the curtain of religious mystique and revealed God as Father, a title that suggests intimacy and personal relationship.

Because scripture teaches us that God has adopted us into his family and made us joint heirs with his only Son, we have been granted the right and the privilege to come into the presence of God and call him Father.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”           Romans 8:14-17

A personal God, a personal Father, has adopted us into His family. We belong to Him, and as such we can call Him our Father.

I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t get any better than this for me.

Be blessed, and have a wonderful day,

Ron