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What is faith,really?

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The bible tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.   Hebrews 11:1

I’ve quoted that verse at least a thousand times over the past forty years.

But lately I’m wondering if I understand faith at all. I’m talking about faith as it applies to everyday life. Real life.

For example, sitting in the Dr.’s office this morning I’m dealing with countless thoughts that want to challenge my belief in faith.

Is it still faith when “hoped for” didn’t happen?

Is it still faith when all you can think is “why”?

Is it still faith when the diagnosis you received isn’t the one you hoped for, prayed for?

Is it still faith when you’re told more tests are needed?

Is it still faith when God doesn’t respond?

Is there really such a thing as having faith as a “grain of mustard seed”?

What is faith anyway?

Is it for today?

Does faith keep believing even when things don’t turn out right? Is that the secret?

Here’s what I really think about faith. I think faith is much more than “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.

I think faith is the lifeline between God and his children. A lifeline that God tosses to us in the midst of the storm. A lifeline that has one end secured to the immovable God while we hold firmly to the other end.

All of us need a lifeline from time to time. Faith tells me that God will throw one my way just when I need it most. After all, the cry of a desperate heart to be rescued from the storms has been known to awaken the Master before.

Faith is believing that all I really need is to hear His gentle voice saying “peace be still”,and everything will be alright.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

 

When your questions outweigh answers…

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What do you do?

I have so been there, haven’t you? Left to wonder how-why-what-where-when, or who. Instead of answers, all that come are even more questions.eight-teen-questions

Life is like that isn’t it? At times, answers can be hard to come by. Sometimes they never come at all. Unrelenting streams of questions, however, never seem to be in short supply.

And guess who never fails to seize upon the situation in order to cast doubt in our minds?

Yep, you guessed it. Our adversary loves these situations where we are seemingly overwhelmed with questions and doubt.

doubtSo he can sow even more doubt, of course.

I’ve been in the place where my questions have outweighed the answers so many times that I’ve lost count. I’ve felt the sting of defeat so many times that a “normal” person would have thrown in the towel.

Like a lot of you, I’ve been abandoned, neglected, abused, rejected, and disowned. And each of these “life events”( I refuse to call them tragedies) has raised more questions than I could ever find answers for. As I said, a “normal” person would have thrown in the towel.

The one question that always comes to the forefront when struggling with life’s deepest struggles is simply this: God, where are you? In the midst of despair, isn’t that really all we want to know?

As a Christian, all I want to know, all I need to know, is that God is still there. Just don’t leave me Father.

where-is-god

brucegerencser.net

I know some of you reading this have walked these dark places in your lifetime. And you have asked the question of the ages just as I have: God, where are you? If this is you, I want to share a brief story with you.

In just a few weeks it will have been 17 years since I suffered a major heart attack, the one that the Dr.’s call a “widow maker”. Mowing the lawn one spring day I suddenly ended up laying in the grass after feeling like I had been struck by lightning.

Managing to crawl to the house, my wife called 911 and I was soon on my way to the hospital. Some of the events surrounding this have been forgotten or blurred by time, but I distinctly remember calling upon the Lord to save me, to help me.

To make a very long story short, the next several months involved tests, stents that failed within two months, and heart catheterizations, all of which ended in open heart bypass surgery. Little did I know at that time that the physical part of this ordeal was about to be overshadowed by an even greater battle.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times the enemy would come to me with false accusations. He would tell me I was no longer a child of God, or that I was finished, or that God would never use me again. Suffice it to say that the attacks were relentless.

Now, I would love to be able to report to you that I was a Super Christian, my cape blowing in the wind, the fiery darts of Satan bouncing off of me like they were marshmallows. I would love to be able to tell you this.

But since I am a Christian, I have an aversion to lying.

The truth is, I struggled with these attacks. I never discussed it with anyone except my wife, but I struggled. I never doubted that I would be OK physically, but I certainly doubted my standing with the Lord.

spiritual-warfare

Capebaptist.org

It wasn’t because God didn’t heal me that I started to embrace this doubt, but because I began to question if it was somehow all my fault. Hearing my surgeon telling me that my condition was 80% hereditary did little to comfort my nagging thoughts.

It took some time for me to work through this, but with His grace and the encouragement of the Word, I did get the victory over my doubts. Just a few months after surgery I was back in the pulpit, and I’ve been going ever since.

So to close this blog, I want to leave you with something from Psalms 119 that speaks to the power of God’s Word. My prayer is that these simple verses will encourage you to draw deeply from the treasure that is the Word of God.

Princes persecute me without a cause,

But my heart stands in awe of your word.

I rejoice at your word,

As one who finds great treasure.

I hate and abhor lying,

But I love your law.

Seven times a day I praise you,

Because of Your righteous judgments.

Psalm 119:161-164

I have learned that through Christ which strengthens me, I can handle just about anything just as long as I know He’s still there. I may not like the fact that I have to face certain things, but there is comfort in knowing He is there.

When your questions outweigh answers, there’s only one place to turn.

To the One who already knows what the answers are,before you even ask the question.

How to have faith in God’s timeless process

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Face it.As much as we’d like to believe that hidden somewhere in the pages of God’s Word there exists a little known formula for living a charmed life,life’s journey has taught us that there is no quick fix,no potion,no enchantment that will deliver the kind of success being touted by the proponents of the prosperity gospel.

No glitzy TV programs,no Sunday snake oil salesman,no faith/power of positive confession/self help/sow your best seed now types of conferences,no slick self promoting “get in on this special offer now” spiel,will ever supplant God’s timeless process of faithful maturation.

You can’t buy it. You can’t steal it. For certain you can’t con your way to get it.

You have to earn it.Like a badge or a medal that is awarded to only a select few,growing in the faith and grace of our Lord is a process that will literally take the rest of your life.Indeed,our faith is continually growing, and that is as it should be lest we become stagnant and die.

In his 2nd letter to the church at Thessalonica,Paul was encouraged by their demonstrations of faith and love toward one another. “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;” II Thess 1:3    KJV

Paul draws us to the fact that their faith was “growing exceedingly”. For him to note this he would have had to have seen some outward,physical proof of this growth,which of course he recognized in their infectious love for one another.

These early Christians serve as wonderful examples to us today of the kind of growing faith and love that comes from God as we walk with Him daily. Did you notice the absence of so much of what we think of as church today? Are we missing something?

Could it be that these early Christians had already discovered the “formula” that so many seek today? I suggest that they had indeed found the secret to living the successful Christian life that the church today is searching for. In all the wrong places I might add.

The fact that this early church loved one another abundantly is ample evidence of their growing faith in God.Consider if you will that these Christians had no internet,no phone,no TV,no church buildings,and no programs for every member of the family.What they did have however… was each other!

Given the current church’s appetite for a “one stop shopping”brand of Christianity where an attempt is made to provide something for everyone,we are left to wonder how these poor,unfortunate,backward men and women ever survived.

They not only survived,but they also prospered because they trusted the Lord to see them through every situation.In other words,they trusted the process. James also,in speaking of the process said that “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”   James 1:12   KJV

All too often this flesh does not want to endure much of anything, but will instead look for the closest exit or way of escape.In doing so we fail to see the hand of God guiding us through the process,thus stunting the growth of our own faith.

So how do we get to the place where we can have faith in God’s process? I think the writer of Hebrews said it best.”For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”  Heb. 10:36

Patience in the process.Patience and endurance to see the race ran to completion.If we can learn patience,we will see a faith that grows exceedingly,a love for one another that abounds,and an enduring spirit that understands the process.

Continue in the things we have learned

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Unlike so many of you,I had little in the way of church,or religious training while growing up. I could count on both hands the number of times I went to church during those years,so to say I got a late start would be an understatement! Quite the contrast to my wife,the pastor’s daughter, whose earliest memories are of being in church!

During those early years I could never have imagined that one day God’s Word would become the bedrock of my life. Indeed,had God never drawn me to Him and instilled in me a deep hunger to know His Word,my life would have been unimaginably different.

As I gaze upon the events unfolding in the world I can’t help but pause to give God thanks that I am no longer the person I used to be,or the person I could have easily become. At this stage of my life,I now know more assuredly than I ever have before,that He and He alone has kept me from reverting back to that person I once was.

He has a plan for my life. And He has one for you too.

Listening to current events can be disturbing to even the most well grounded among us. For those not familiar with God’s Word,some of these events are actually frightening when you realize their potential implications.To those people,it must seem overwhelming watching the evening news.

The Apostle Paul knew something about this as well and even prophesied about it. In 2nd Timothy 3:2 he described the condition of the world in the latter days as a time when men would be lovers of themselves,boastful,proud,and a whole host of other not too pleasant things,most of which we are seeing unfold right before our eyes.

Yet this great Apostle knew something else about this,which was that irregardless of what was going on around us,we were to continue walking with Christ as though nothing was happening. He explained it this way:

10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance,
11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.
12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.    II Tim 3:10-15   NKJV   (emphasis mine)

Paul tells us we must continue in the things we have learned,which brings me to the central point of this post. All of us must remind ourselves from time to time that our hope is sealed in Jesus Christ. The things we have learned through our studies of the scriptures have made us wise for salvation,meaning the Word of God will instruct us in all things necessary for our salvation.

Events taking place now in the world,and events to come in the future all have the ability to divert our attention away from the “things we have learned”. Our responsibility is to make certain that does not happen,which we can accomplish by following Paul’s advice to Timothy.

Have a blessed Wednesday,

Ron

What kind of minister says things like this?

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That was the question I asked myself this morning after hearing the minister say for the sixth time “this stuff is hard to believe,isn’t it”?

Please forgive my pessimistic,somewhat snarky title. It’s been one of those days. You know those kind of days. The kind where you ask yourself “why do I subject myself to this”?  Why not just stay home and have Bible study around the table?

From the Genesis account of creation to the Immaculate Conception, the minister made a point of telling us that these things are hard to believe.A seven point sermon to tells us that the Bible can be hard to believe. Hard to believe for whom?unbelief

To the unsaved person I would agree that most of scripture can be hard to believe when taken at face value. I’m pretty sure that most of us who were not raised in church struggled with biblical concepts while on the outside looking in. At least I know I did. Boy did I struggle! That’s what unregenerate minds do!

But concerning the word of God,what is so difficult for a sanctuary filled with believers to grasp here?

Are there some things in the Bible that challenge us as Christians? Absolutely there are! Do I question certain things? You better believe it. But that does not mean they are not to be believed.

Umm…..I think that’s why they call it FAITH! Some things are more difficult than others to believe and FAITH has to kick in at some point or else we’re no different than the unbelieving world.faith-quote

Maybe I’m an anomaly.I actually do believe the Bible.I actually do believe it was written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.I believe it is God inspired and sufficient for our instruction and admonition.In short, I believe every word of it.

Maybe what bothered me the most about this morning’s message was that at the end of the service this same minister closed the service by asking any non-believers that might be present to “believe on the Lord Jesus”.

And some people wonder why I take the position I do in regards to the church of today?

This morning’s “encounter”reminded me of a quote from one of my favorite authors,Leonard Ravenhill,who said this: “The best title of the (professing) church of God today is Unbelieving Believers“. Well said Leonard.

 

Out of respect for God’s house I sat through the whole ordeal instead of bolting for the door after the 2nd or 3rd “this is hard to believe”.

A very poor choice on my part,of that you can be sure.

To all of you that have a faithful minister who proclaims the word of God I would ask this question: do you pray for them regularly? If not,you should make it a daily practice to not only pray for them but give thanks to God for them.

Believe me,they are becoming more scarce than you think.

The search for a new church home begins anew 😦

 

 

 

 

A Lifetime of “What if’s “

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What would our lives be like if only we would have…?

Haven’t we all asked ourselves this question? Has there been that “if only I would have…”  moment in your life?

If only I would have taken that job. If only I would have married him instead. If only I had taken more interest in my family. If only I would have acknowledged God sooner.

Or to phrase it differently…

What if I would have…? What if I would have turned left instead of right? What if would have stayed in school…?

These questions used to consume my every waking moment. Let me explain.

A few evenings ago my wife and I were listening to a well known minister delivering his weekly TV message,and while it was interesting it really wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Until he said these words:

“If you were to hold a postmortem over the greatest defeats of your life,you will find in the debris a broken down alter,a closed Bible, and cut off communication with God. Every time. No longer praying,no longer opening the Book or communicating with God is a set up for tremendous failure”.

As I heard these words I immediately looked to my wife at the same time she looked at me. And we both knew that he was talking about a part of my life.

So with that I’d like to share a very personal part of my journey with you that relates to the above quote. It is my hope that it will help you to understand how easy it is to find yourself in the same condition.

I became a Christian over 38 years ago.When I accepted the Lord into my heart He changed the person I was. I no longer cursed,drank,thought wrong thoughts,or ran with the wrong crowd. I left behind nearly every relationship in my life because they were all negative influences on me. I made that decision then and I have never regretted it.

I went “all in” with Jesus and I paid a great price to do so. Family rejected me,and that includes my own mother.I was considered a black sheep,an oddball that no longer fit in.No one wanted anything to do with me any longer.

All I had was Jesus,and to my great surprise I learned that He was all I needed. Oh to be sure I was often lonely and discouraged,but He sustained me in the darkest times.

And those were precious days to me. Days when it was as if I could sense the very presence of the Lord by my side.Days when his word would seem to jump off the page as it entered my heart.

In my personal life I began to prosper in many ways.I began to be financially successful. I found a new job. I made a lot of money. I started collecting a lot of possessions.I began to receive the accolades of the church for the knowledge and abilities I had. People started complimenting me on my status and my success.

And I loved it all.

But after a few years things began to change.Slowly,subtlety at first so that I didn’t know it was happening to me.Until everything fell apart.

I lost the job and the fantastic salary that went with it. The things I had collected were sold or pawned off to pay the bills.The church looked the other way as though I had become an embarrassment to them.The praise of men completely disappeared. There were no compliments to be found.

Oh to be sure I tried to turn the situation around. I tried mightily to reverse my fortunes. But it seemed that at every corner was one roadblock after another.One more mountain to climb.

For a long time in my stubbornness I fought this crazy fight,sure that at some point I would prevail.After all,isn’t that what determined,successful people do? Just fight harder and eventually you’ll come out on top,right?

Yet I eventually had to admit that my life had been completely dismantled and torn apart.

I had asked myself a thousand times “why the struggles? Why the defeats? Why the taking two steps forward and one one step backward? Why are things that should be so easy now so difficult”?

The answer was simple: there was a communication problem between myself and God.

But if the answer is that simple then why didn’t I do something about it?

PRIDE

Pride that says “I can do this on my own”. Pride that says “it’ll be alright”. Pride that says “I will”,but we never do. Pride that says “God understands”.

“If you were to hold a postmortem over the greatest defeats of your life,you will find in the debris a broken down alter,a closed Bible, and cut off communication with God. Every time. No longer praying,no longer opening the Book or communicating with God is a set up for tremendous failure”.

Beloved, I have now lived long enough to fully understand the simplicity of following Christ and allowing Him to direct my steps and take control of my life.

The keys to a victorious life in Christ are an open Bible and prayer. That’s it.

You can read every book out there that touts the latest formula for successful Christian living,and you will come away unfulfilled.

You can “sow a seed” with every ministry on TV and still not be victorious.

You can quote scripture from memory from morning to evening and still come away empty.

However, a few moments completely alone with Christ and His word will keep open those avenues of communication,and victory shall be yours.

I praise God that I no longer live in a world of “what if’s” or “if only’s”. I am eternally thankful that God loves me enough to bring about correction,even when it hurt.And I am especially grateful that I have seen God restore that which the locust has destroyed.

My prayer is that all of us take to heart the depths of Christ’s love for us. It is unreachable and unsearchable in it’s vastness.

Let us go forward in Him in such a way that when we reach the end of our days no one will gaze upon us and say “if only”,but rather they will be able to say they loved the Lord with all their heart.

Ron

 

Partnership or Ownership?

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If you listen to many of the more popular speakers in the church today there seems to be a consensus that God needs us in order to accomplish His will on earth.

Often,this reasoning is a result of misapplication of the word “Covenant”found scattered throughout both Old and New Testaments. For example:

Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;   Deut. 7:9

They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers who refused to hear My words, and they have gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers.”   Jer. 11:10

 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ,that it should make the promise of no effect.   Gal 3:17

that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.   Eph 2:12
These verses,and dozens like them point to the fact that when scripture refers to covenant,it is speaking about a solemn promise,or relational agreement that God makes with his people.
The prevailing thought today however is that covenant means that we are in a partnership with God,meaning that this is a relationship mutually dependent upon one another.
This thought process is a an outcome of the word faith cult that elevates man to god-like status. To understand the status that word faith teachers give to man is a topic I will delve into in a later post in great detail.For now,suffice it to say that word faith believers say that when a man is born again,he has regained his divine nature that they believe he had before the Fall. Because of this he is now able to (once again) use his divine powers of creation and domination. Sad though it may be,this heresy is creeping into mainline protestant denominations at a rapid pace and shows no sign of slowing down.
So the big question is this: is God really needing us to “partner” with Him in order to accomplish his will on the earth? Does the God of heaven need us in order to accomplish anything on earth?
Well, yes and no.
I believe God does wish to establish His covenant with everyone and scripture backs this up in many instances. We know that since the beginning God has desired a people with which to forge a relationship with,and to that end He has established his promise,or covenant with us, through His Son Jesus Christ.
For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Matt. 26:28
 Jesus described a New Covenant that was brought about by the shedding of His own blood. This speaks to a relationship so intense as to be created,purchased,and sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ. He did not need a “ministry partner” to do this.He did this because of His divinity,and no one else ever had or ever will do such a thing again.
This is where those who believe that God needs us in order to accomplish His will on earth are in error. Does God desire that we position ourselves with Him so as to be available to be used by Him? Of course He does! If we fail to position ourselves in such a manner does the work of God come to a halt? Of course not!
God’s work cannot be stopped.If it could then He would not be God.
He desires for us to enter into a covenant relationship with Him,of this there can be no argument.But I would argue that rather than partner with us He desires to own us!
What do you mean, and how can this be?
Simply this.If we submit ourselves unto the Lord,and by that I mean complete submission to the point where my needs no longer matter,only then can the Lord actually use us to do the great work that needs to be done before His return.
Until and unless we are willing to submit to Him in such a manner,we can never know Him in the deep covenant relational manner He so earnestly desires.We will only go so far with Him before the flesh wins out and we begin to pull back into our comfort zone.
Those claiming that God needs us to partner with Him are attempting to either elevate man to a god like status or bring God down to their level in order that they would be considered as equals.And that my friends,is the crux of the issue isn’t it?
To be thought of as being so spiritual as to be equal with God.
The late Paul Crouch,owner of The Blasphemy Network (aka TBN) used to claim that “we are little gods”. Seems that he and millions of others who subscribe to such drivel forgot that there was another well known character who believed that.You might know his name as Satan,or Lucifer.
No, God does not need us. It is us who are completely dependent upon Him for everything. The very air that we breathe is supplied by Him.The water that sustains life on this earth is supplied by Him in the form of rain.
Not much we can do to partner in that,is there?
Be blessed!
Ron

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