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Sizzling For Jesus?

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About a month ago, my wife and I were discussing some different areas of ministry, and in particular the area of preparedness. In other words, how we might approach the different ways in which we minister to people.

Now, as regular readers may know, my wife is extremely adept at getting to the crux of the matter. In other words, she doesn’t mince words but gets right to the point.

So it was on this occasion as we were discussing the study time necessary in order to prepare and deliver a sermon. Her exact quote is as follows:

”If the only time we push the pan close to the fire is when we are scheduled to preach (teach, sing, pray, etc), then we are not being faithful. We should be as close to the fire as possible at all times!” Of course, she was correct in her assessment.

To use her as an example, she is a gifted soloist and is often asked to sing at our church. To many, she’s just a pretty face standing up there singing her beautiful songs. And I’m just as certain that there are a few who see her as merely the “entertainment”.

I, on the other hand, know differently. When she is scheduled to sing, the first thing she does is to pray about what song to sing. This isn’t a quick thought like “well Lord, what’s it going to be this time?” Not at all!

She will pray until she believes she has heard from the Lord about the song He wants her to sing. Do you know why she does that? It’s because her song is her ministry gift from the Lord, and she takes that very seriously.

So seriously that she wouldn’t think of not being prepared to deliver her gift. That includes much prayer as well as a lot of practice time in her “studio”( it’s actually our garage, but she refers to it as her studio). Her gifting is in worship, and when she sings she is singing as if Jesus was sitting on the front row.

She does not “perform”, rather what she does is worship the King of Kings.

It’s no different then when I am asked to speak in one of the services. I have to know that I’ve heard from the Lord before I will ever step behind the pulpit. To do so knowing that I was unprepared would be an insult to the Lord, and you can believe me when I say that isn’t going to happen.

This takes many hours of study and prayer, because just like my wife, my calling is very serious to me. I understand that many do not take this approach, in fact, I have had my share of people tell me I am far too serious about this. Imagine that!

For me, however, there is no other way.

I’m that serious because it’s very personal to me. It’s like a covenant between the Lord and me, and I don’t ever want to break that covenant. So I endeavor to be as prepared as I possibly can be when I’m called upon.

Whatever area the Lord has gifted you in, I trust that you also take it seriously. Whatever gifts and callings we may have, use them to your fullest capability. They were given to you for a purpose, and that purpose is to use them to bring glory and honor to God.

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.   Romans 11:29

That’s how important and serious this is.

My Princess had one final thought on the matter of preparedness, and I will leave you with that.

You can’t sizzle for Jesus unless your pan is on the fire!

That’s right my love, and we’re going to keep right on sizzling together for Him!

Be blessed on this wonderful Lord’s day!

Ron

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The next BIG thing

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I’ve been studying 1st Corinthians 2 where the Apostle Paul speaks about the gospel being presented in a demonstration of Spirit and of Power. I’m sure most of you are familiar with this subject matter, but for reference sake I’ll post a few key verses.

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.  For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1st Corinthians 2:1-5

Knowing the capabilities of Paul to more than hold his own in any theological debate, I find it interesting that he would start this letter by saying he wasn’t coming to them using excellency of speech or wisdom.

We know that this man Paul studied at the feet of Jewish scholars, and was well versed in the Old Testament scriptures. He most certainly had attained a high level of wisdom, and his knowledge of various languages gave him the ability to converse with nearly everyone. He disputed with the Jews and Greeks frequently, clearly demonstrating to all that he was on their level, so to speak.

Yet he said that he pretended not to know anything except for Jesus and him crucified. In other words, Paul’s heart was for winning souls. He knew that the key to winning these people was to become one of them. So he left his superior knowledge, education, and skills at home so that he might be received by these Corinthians.

Do you think there might be a lesson here for all of us today? Might we be better soul winners if we were to lose the attitude? Is it possible that if we humbled ourselves and got down on the level of those who are so desperate for hope, that we might actually have something to offer?

Paul went on to say that his preaching was not done with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power.

What he meant by that is that he did not come to entertain them as though he were some great orator. The people were accustomed to hearing speeches given by politicians, sages, philosophers, and other learned men of the day. As such, they were always on the lookout for the next BIG thing.

If Paul had come to them as one of these, it is likely that they would have paid him very little attention. Paul, however, was hardly in the ‘entertainment business’.

The Apostle knew that the Corinthians had many voices vying for their attention. There was one voice, however that they had yet to hear from. This voice not only spoke at a level they could appreciate, but it was accompanied by a demonstration of God’s power.

These passages remind me of how desperate the Church is today for a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God. When I say that, I am making a clear distinction between the Spirit and power of God as Paul knew it, and that which is passed off today as being from God.

We have a lot of voices in the world today who claim to speak for God and to operate in His power. Sadly, these voices are nothing more than con men(and women), who have figured out that desperate people will shell out millions of dollars in hopes of receiving their miracle.

This is not, however, the power that Paul spoke of. As a matter of fact, the Apostle Paul would have soundly rebuked each and every one of these modern day deceivers.

Unfortunately, the Church isn’t aware of it’s desperate state. Instead, she is only too willing to continue down the path towards capitulation to the gods of this world.

Such is the price that must be paid when the Church embraces the world and its standards, instead of proclaiming herself as the standard bearer of Biblical truth and righteousness.

Oh how I wish that pastors everywhere would once again teach this to their congregations. Instead, what we have is a modern day system of idolatry, where pastor worship has become the norm.

Beloved, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God”(1st Cor. 3:19). Do not allow your hearts to be deceived by placing your faith in man. Whatever wisdom man has, it is temporal. It is fleeting, destined to pass away.

The power of God however is from everlasting to everlasting. It transcends the wisdom of man, indeed the natural man cannot begin to understand such power.

Paul desperately wanted the Corinthians to understand that their faith must not be in the wisdom of men….but in the power of God.

Instead of always searching for the next BIG thing, my earnest prayer is that we who know Him as Lord and Savior will come to experience His power in a very real and tangible way.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

The Sounds of Silence in God’s House

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Have you ever felt grieved over something you cared deeply about, but had no control over? Lately, I’ve been feeling this way, like someone who just stepped out of the pages of the Old Testament.

Like Jacob of old, I have wrestled with the Lord over this post because I know as soon as it is read, I will be branded a critic of the Church. Unlike Jacob however, I have given up trying to hide my feelings any longer and admit that I am defeated.

Let me explain.

Whenever it became necessary for the Lord to deliver a message of correction to His people Israel, often He would raise up a man or woman and instruct them to go to the people and deliver the message. We refer to these servants as Prophets.

These Prophets are scattered throughout the Old Testament. Some we have labeled as “Minor Prophets” while others are called “Major Prophets”. All of them were called of God for a specific task and season in the history of Israel.

Of the many things these Prophets had in common, one was that they all shared a burden for God’s people. They bore this spiritual weight in their hearts because the people loved the pleasures of sin more than they loved God.

Oftentimes, as in the case of the Prophet Jeremiah, the magnitude of the weight they bore would reduce them to tears and cries of anguish. [1]

While I am certainly no Prophet, I can empathize with them because of something amiss among God’s people today. In fact, if I dwell on it too long, I become almost grief stricken. What is it that has me feeling this way?

It is the sound of silence in God’s house.

It is the realization that the church no longer desires revival; thus, she no longer travails in expectation of a new awakening. Rejecting the call from above to “come out from among them” [2], she has decided instead to align herself with the world, and in the process has rejected the Lord of Glory.

There is no longer a sound of weeping and anguish in the house of God over our spiritual barrenness, and the sound of this silence is deafening.

The church of Jesus Christ has married the world and thus has come under its spell. In doing so, the church is now more impacted by the world than the world is impacted by the church. Who can deny this truth?

We have sold our birthright.

I grieve because the church no longer wants God, but rather has discovered a way to carry on without Him. Remove the Holy Spirit from the church? No problem, hardly a soul will notice as we carry on with our regimented programs disguised as religion.

In our efforts to appease the masses, we have compromised all that made us unique, and our birthright has been auctioned off on the altar of pragmatism. We have copied the error of ancient Israel, who rejected the Almighty in favor of a flawed and imperfect king. [3]

I am distraught over the absence of Holy men and women of God, those who have been in His presence and now carry with them the burdens of a people gone astray. Where are those who have heard His voice, who have received the clarion call to sound the alarm and cry aloud for the church to return to its former glory? How long will they remain silent?

Incredulously, in the span of but a few generations the church has become little more than Sunday morning entertainment. Impassioned, God-inspired, soul searching sermons have given way to polished speeches that have more in common with the mantra of positive thinking than they do with the Word of God!

Instead of preparing our hearts for an encounter with the Holy One, we have created a sterile, guilt free environment where our hearts will never be pricked, and our conscious will remain unseared.

This environment is better suited for a coffee house or a nightclub, places where one never need concern themselves with being confronted with the sin that permeates their life.

We dim the lights and crank up the sound system in our efforts to mask the reality that we no longer walk in the Spirit, therefore we are resigned to manufacture a spirit of our own. The cheering thousands are proof enough that we have found the right formula.

Never mind that weeping and anguish of soul are no longer found in God’s house. The church now exists to make us feel good about ourselves, and all who enter its doors have entered a “Guilt Free Zone’. We have created a safe place where sin is never acknowledged or confronted. Come as you are and leave as you came.

We do not want revival. We do not want a return to the old paths. We do not want a fresh revelation from God as to the pitiful condition our souls are in. No, we want none of things because if we did, we would have them!

If the church wanted revival, it would have revival. It would pay any price in order to once again be endued with power from on High. But the church does not want revival because to have it means she would have to divorce herself from the harlot, worldly system it has aligned itself with.

The church is not inclined to return to the old paths, where the good way was [4]. To do so would force us to choose whether we will be hot or cold. To return to the old paths would force us from our lofty seat on the fence of mediocrity and lukewarmness, and we are quite comfortable there, aren’t we?

Instead, we want to be like the world in nearly every respect, while still calling ourselves “Christian”, and we will stop at nothing to accomplish this goal.

What has this illegitimate marriage given us? It has given us a parade of sexual predators in the church that has left untold thousands broken and bleeding in its wake.

It has given us a litany of ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ [5] disguised as clergy who reject the teachings of scripture in order to cozy up to the world, thus allowing every conceivable and base lifestyle to stand in the pulpit and declare their own twisted version of ‘truth’.

It has given us an anemic and sick substitute for Christ’s church, the very church He bled and died for. What is supposed to be His Body has been rendered powerless to stem the tide of sin and degradation that has enveloped it.

Such a church has forfeited its birthright and is no longer Christ’s representative on the earth. It is a counterfeit, and the deafening silence from within its lukewarm walls is proof enough that she is in danger of being rejected by the Lord. [6]

May God have mercy on us…

Ron

 

 

[1] Jeremiah is often referred to as the “Weeping Prophet because of his own words in chapter 9, verse 1: Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of my people!

[2] 2 Cor.6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you.

[3] 1 Samuel 8:19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, No, but we will have a king over us.

[4] Jeremiah 6:16 Thus says the Lord, Stand you in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk in them.

[5] Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

[6] Rev. 3:16 So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.

 

 

And we wonder why…Part 2

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So…what have we replaced God with in America?

For one, we have replaced God with the great “god” of Entertainment.

This “god” comes in many forms. How many can you think of?

Movies, the internet, music, video games, books and magazines, outdoor activities like fishing and boating, cycling, concerts/shows, and the theater are just a few of the entertainment options available to most of us.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of these activities. There is a problem however with the inordinate amount of our time that these activities consume. When our lives revolve around these entertainment activities, they have become to us a “god”.

When it comes to our children however, we have replaced Almighty God with a different type of entertainment “god”. This “god” comes in the form of a rectangular box, a box that dispenses goodness or morality in bite size portions, while spewing hatred and violence at an unprecedented rate.

This same rectangular box has also replaced parental guidance and nurturing. We have come to the point where we don’t need or want parents pushing their outdated morals on our children. Society has divorced itself from God. Just give us the box!

While you may scoff at such assertions, the evidence is overwhelming. According to csun.esu, the amount of violence our children are exposed to on TV from very young childhood until they reach 18 years of age is nothing short of staggering.

“Number of murders seen on TV by the time an average child finishes elementary school: 8,000….    Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18: 200,000….    Percentage of Americans who believe TV violence helps precipitate real life mayhem: 79%”.

Add to this recipe for disaster the fact that a child spends roughly 900 hours in school each year, but nearly 1500 hours in front of a television!

Did you know that 2000 hours a year is considered the normal number of hours for a full time worker in America? What this means is that our children are watching TV at almost the same rate as having a full time job!

Does this not astound you? Does this not bother you? If our children are spending such an incredible amount of time in front of a TV set, what else does that leave time for? How much blood and gore can a mind absorb before it accepts that this is normal?

And what about the music our children are listening to? Did you know that explicit sexual and violent content have become the norm in a lot of the music our kids are listening to?

Reading the following paragraph from an article entitled Impact of Music, Music Lyrics, and Music Videos on Children and Youth from pediatrics.aappublications.org will give you some idea as to how pervasive this filth is.

Lyrics have become more explicit in their references to drugs, sex, and violence over the years. A content analysis of the top 10 CDs performed by the National Institute on Media in 1999 revealed that each of these CDs included at least 1 song with sexual content. Forty-two percent of the songs on these CDs contained very explicit sexual content.

Lyrics of some music genres, such as rock, heavy metal, rap, and new emerging genres such as reggaeton, have been found to revolve around topics such as sexual promiscuity, death, homicide, suicide, and substance abuse. Most recently, some rap music has been characterized by the presence of explicit sexual language in its lyrics as well as messages of violence, racism, homophobia, and hatred toward women. Drug, tobacco, and alcohol use also tend to be glorified in these songs.”

I purposely chose this particular article, written in November 2009, solely because it references information from 1999. That’s over 18 years ago. How much worse do think the situation is today?

And where are the parental controls the cable provider likes to tell us about?

Our children are acting out what they see glorified on TV and in music videos. This garbage has now become the norm to them, and yet we want to blame the NRA, the Congress, or the President?

And we wonder why the killings?

The sad truth of the matter is that society, and parents in particular, are looking for a “Scapegoat”!

Where does the parent factor in to this equation?

Where are the parents who should be stepping up and taking control of their homes? What has happened to parents assuming responsibility for every facet of their child’s education, both public and private?

We have abdicated our parental rights and responsibilities to the great “god” of Entertainment, and we have the gall to ask why the killings?

We as parents have willingly turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to what our children are watching and listening to, and we still ask why the killings?

Perhaps,and I say this with all due respect, perhaps we should turn our attention away from searching for a Scapegoat, and instead look in the mirror.

In part 3 of “And we wonder why” we will look at the role the Church has taken in all of this. I assure you I have some hard questions to ask of our spiritual leaders, and I hope you will be watching for this next installment.

Until next time,

Ron