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Faithful to the call

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Every Christian is a called Christian.

In spite of the fact that there are over six hundred thousand paid clergy in the United States, every Christian, irrespective of denomination or church affiliation, has been called to “spread the Good News”.

Think about it; there are currently over 7.6 billion souls on the earth. If only those 600,00 paid clergy were sharing the gospel, each of them would be responsible for 12,666 of those 7.6 billion souls. How practical is that?

The ‘Great Commission’, found in Mark 16:15 directs us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature“. This is the defining call upon the lives of all believers everywhere.

The fact is that God intended for all of us, whether paid/professional clergy or laymen and laywomen, to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a solemn and divine mandate handed to us by Jesus Himself.

The question all of us must answer is simple: are we being faithful to this very personal call to preach the gospel? And if not, why not?

We hear many excuses for not heeding the call, don’t we? Let me list a few and see if they sound familiar.

  • It’s not my job
  • That’s what we pay the minister to do
  • I’m not qualified
  • I give in the offering, isn’t that enough?
  • I lack the confidence to talk about such things

The thing is, most if not all of us have used these or similar excuses before to explain away our missed opportunities to share the Gospel. It’s not that we set out to deliberately shirk our personal responsibilities, it’s just that in our humanity we somehow manage to do so.

I’m from the camp that believes that God has not only called us all to spread the Good News, but that He has also equipped us all to do the work. You don’t need to be a Biblical scholar, nor do you need a seminary education to be a witness of His goodness.

You see, God has a unique way of taking our life’s experiences and using them as a catalyst to reach the lost. In other words, he takes what you already have and uses it to reach someone who needs to hear your story.

As an example, I was approached one day by someone I had never seen before who wanted to speak with me about Christianity and divorce. When I asked her why she was coming to me, she replied that she had heard that I had been divorced and had been watching my life from a distance.

Scary, huh?

She wanted to know how I had been able to move past such a difficult and personal issue. This was an opportunity to share with her that the Gospel is both personal and powerful, and that faith in Jesus will sustain us in the worst of times.

God took a tragic season of my life and was able to use it to encourage another of His children to keep pressing on. What’s great about this is that all of us have stories of hurt, abuse, despair, and bitterness that God can use as an opening to to share the Good News with another person.

Our role is simply to be faithful to the call by allowing God to use our brokenness to reach others. It’s a proven fact that some of the most powerful witnesses for Jesus are also some of the most broken.

Like you.

My hope and my prayer is that we would allow God to take our lives and use them as His hands and feet to reach this desperately lost and searching generation.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

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The very real dangers of entanglement

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Are you one of those people who frequently says, “where did the time go”?

This happens to a lot of us, especially when we get too busy. Like when you’re burning the candle at both ends busy.

“Busy” probably describes most people but being ‘too busy’ is what I want to focus on with this post. In particular, I want to talk about how easy it is even on our best days for God to occasionally get left out, while on those ‘too busy’ days He likely isn’t even thought of at all.

I’m one of those who believe that the Lord is at work in our lives each day. Because of this, I recognize that His presence is also a daily occurrence in my life.

My point being that I never have to wonder if God is with me. I know that He is.

Now, does that mean I don’t have times when I question “Lord, where are you”? Of course not! Like all of you, I am sometimes slow to adjust to God’s timing, thinking that He should react immediately to my petitions.

We all know that the Lord just doesn’t work like that.

Well, at least He doesn’t in my life.

None of this however changes the fact that God is always with us. He is the faithful one in our relationship, and fortunately for all of us he is never ‘too busy’ for us, nor does he forget about us. I don’t know how He does it, but somehow, He always makes time for us.

We, on the other hand, can get so busy with this thing we call ‘life’ that God gets shoved aside. Just stop for a moment and think of all the things you’ve done today and add those to tomorrow’s ‘to do list’, and you get a picture of how busy your life really is.

Seriously, some of us could apply for the position of a circus juggler because we are constantly having to juggle our time and schedules.

What’s amazing about this is that we don’t even realize it. In fact, it’s our everyday, normal life isn’t it? It’s like a saying we used to use at work that “the abnormal has become normal”.

Herein is the danger of becoming too busy with life. We don’t realize how much of ourselves we are constantly pouring into other things, people, or causes.

All at the expense of allowing God to pour into us, which He cannot do because we are too busy with everything else but Him!

The apostle Paul recognized the danger of allowing ourselves to become entangled in a multitude of things, things that eventually entrap us much like a bird in a snare. In his 2nd letter to Timothy, Paul wrote the following:

No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”  2 Tim. 2:4

As in all of his writings, Paul sees the relationship we have with Christ as one where we are in a battle. We have been enlisted as soldiers in God’s army, with a duty to carry out His orders.

Paul understands that if we are to please the One who is giving us our marching orders, we cannot become entangled with the affairs of this life. To do so would cause our attention to be diverted away from the task He has assigned to us.

Many of you can no doubt relate to being pulled a hundred different directions at one time, and this is what Paul is warning us against. Simply put, if we have become ‘too busy’ to be able to respond to our Leader, we have ceased to be a soldier that is pleasing to Him.

All of us have causes and projects that we support or have any number of family obligations that must be attended to. Paul is not telling us to abandon those things, but rather to make sure they do not become a snare to us.

The key here is to strike a balance between life’s obligations and giving time and attention to the One who makes our lives possible.

By doing this, we don’t have to worry about becoming ensnared by the everyday affairs of this life. We can be productive, positive members of society and also good soldiers of the One who has called us.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

 

 

 

 

Who Then is a Faithful and Wise Servant?

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In today’s society, we don’t hear the words servant or master very often. In fact, just hearing the words conjures up images in our minds that we would just as soon not think about.

America is a relatively young nation, and it was not all that long ago that the words servant (or slave) and master were a part of an everyday life that nearly destroyed this nation. So, it is easy to understand why we have an aversion to these words.

In the Bible however, the words servant shows up 885 times in the KJV Bible (741 OT/144 NT), while the word master appears 184 times (100 OT/84 NT).

Obviously, it was common practice in those days for there to exist several different classes, or levels of people in society, and the lines between servant and master were clearly drawn.

In his Matthew 24 discourse, Jesus used this class distinction between servant and master when explaining to his disciples the conditions that would exist just prior to his second coming. He knew, of course, that his audience at the time would clearly understand his references.

45 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?

46 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.

47 Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.

 48 But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’

49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,

50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,

51 and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.        Matthew 24:45-51

Jesus is warning all to be on guard and not to become like the servant who lost sight of the fact that his master was indeed going to come again. Jesus refers to this type of servant as “evil” because he has become like the world around him, mistreating others and partaking of things that drove him even further away from his master.

On the other hand, Jesus refers to the “faithful” servant as one who is busy doing the will of his master. This servant has not forgotten that his master is coming again and is working diligently to faithfully fulfill his charge.

All of this points to us today who are living in the hour where we are witnessing the beginnings of the “falling away”, spoken of by the Apostle Paul in 2 Thess. 2:3.

The hearts of many are becoming cold, just as Jesus said they would in Matt. 24:12. We hardly need to be reminded of this fact by scripture, but it was prophesied nonetheless.

From where I sit on the front row, it would seem that we are fast approaching the time when we will once and for all have to make the decision to either be counted as faithful, or to join the ranks of those already fallen away into unbelief.

One thing is for certain, the day is at hand where straddling the fence between the two will no longer be an option.

My prayer is that all who will read this will take the attitude of Joshua, who said “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”.   Joshua 24:15

Be blessed,

Ron

Has life paralyzed you?

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My wife and I were recently discussing the impact that her father’s death has had on her mother. Married for over fifty-six years, she has never recovered from the death of her soulmate five years ago.

Nearing eighty years of age and in very good physical health, she still goes to the store, still goes to church, still does a few of the things she’s always done. The difference however is that while she may still function at a certain level, in essence she stopped living the same day that he did.

Gone is the joy, the spark of life, the passion for living.

Of course, everyone processes grief and trauma differently, and it’s for certain that one can never place a time frame on how long it will take to begin really living life again. What must become our “new normal” takes time to adjust to, and we are all on a different clock in that regard.

Let’s face it, life will sometimes put you in a difficult place. Whether because of your own actions and choices, or those of others, the end result may find you incapacitated emotionally or physically.

In my own life for example, I still vividly remember the day my father passed away. As a 12-year-old boy who thought his dad was Superman, I was devastated beyond words. I remember like it was yesterday the feeling of numbness that enveloped me.

Little did I know that this feeling would last for many months, and in some ways for years.  Nothing was the same, nor would it ever be again.

I was hurt, bitter, depressed, and angry. That one event haunted me for many years, even well into adulthood. I cannot begin to tell of the poor decisions I made in life, many of which I want to think could have been avoided had my dad still been alive to guide me.

I struggled for many years with being able to deal with my emotions regarding the loss of my father. In those days, one didn’t go to a psychologist or therapist for advice or treatment. My “therapy” consisted of being told to ‘suck it up’ and get on with my life.

So, ‘suck it up’ I did, immersing myself in work, the lives of my kids, and anything else that would help me to move on from the pain of my loss. For several years I worked two jobs, including weekends and nights in a vain attempt to keep my mind busy so I wouldn’t have to continually replay the thoughts of what was, and what could have been.

At some point in our lives however, we come to a fork in the road where a decision must be made. Either we stay in a place of despair, or we climb out and begin to live again. For me, that happened when at 22 years of age I gave my life to Jesus.

Only then did I realize that God had a purpose and a plan for my life after all.

I learned that if I were ever going to overcome adversity, I had to learn to trust again. And that trust started with the Lord. I had to learn to lay aside the hurt and anguish that was consuming my life and grab hold of something much bigger than I, trusting that He knew better than I what was best.

Bit by bit, I came to see ” that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” [1] and that there was an antidote for the paralyzing baggage I had carried around for so many years.

After many trials and failed attempts in my search for answers, what I found that helped me more than anything was God’s Word.

His Word became my lifeline. More than once when I was on the edge of despair I found comfort in one verse or another, as God made his word come alive in my heart. Despite the storms of life that have raged, He has provided hope and comfort like no other, and he has proven himself to be a friend that sticks closer than a brother. [2]

Perhaps you have experienced some type of trauma or a devastating, paralyzing loss in your own life. If you have, may I encourage you to take one small step in His direction?

I promise you that if you will trust Jesus with just a tiny portion of your hurt,doubt, and fear, He will in no wise cast you off.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

As you begin to trust Him more, you will begin to understand that in spite of your circumstances, it is the Father’s plan to give you a future and a hope. [3]

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

[1] Psalm 34:8

[2] Proverbs 18:24

[3] Jeremiah 29:11

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business as usual?

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The other day my wife heard a somewhat amusing story about a pastor and his struggling church,and she thought I might want to pass it along via the blog. I thought it made a pretty good point and I hope you will agree.

Seems a church was struggling to make ends meet, and the situation had caused the pastor to inquire of the Lord as to why this was. The Lord responded and said “you are in the church business, but I am in the redemption business. If you will get in the redemption business, I’ll take care of your church business”.

Sometimes we get caught up in things and situations, and in doing so we forget who is really in charge and what is important. Some call this majoring in the minors, and that sounds about right.

The thing is, we all do it to some degree. It’s hard not to when you’re struggling to get by or are trying to figure a way out of a seemingly impossible situation.

It’s in these times however when we need to take a step back and remember that God is our Helper. We are not alone and have no reason to doubt or fear because God is with us.

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble.   Psalm 9:9

We have the assurance that we can trust in Him and that he will not forsake us. Our job then is to be about the Lord’s business. Or as my Pastor likes to say: “let go and let God”.

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,then these other things will be given to you. Matthew 6:33

If we are faithful to do that, to be about our Father’s business, he then is faithful to “supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory.”  Philippians 4:19

Be blessed!

Ron

Biting the hand that feeds you

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You’ve probably heard that expression haven’t you? It’s typically used when a person displays ungratefulness to others. For instance; if someone in your life helps you out, or provides sustenance to you and you act in an ungrateful manner towards them, you are “biting the hand that feeds you”.

The truth is that when ungratefulness surfaces on the outside, it’s merely reflecting what’s going on inside of us. Murmuring, complaining, ungratefulness, being unthankful, these are all outward symptoms of inward rebellion.

As Christians, we must be especially careful about complaining and being ungrateful. I wonder, how often do we check ourselves to see if we are displaying the symptoms of an ungrateful heart?

complain

aarc.org

There is an almost unbelievable example of this found in the book of Exodus. We all know the story of God’s great deliverance in setting Israel free from Egyptian bondage.

With excitement and enthusiasm the Israelite’s left Egypt, headed for a land that flowed with milk and honey.

Not only did God deliver them, but they left carrying the riches of Egypt with them! Gold, silver, and clothing in abundance were given to the children of Israel as their former masters sent them away in haste.

Yet just three days after walking through the Red Sea on dry land, the children of Israel began complaining. It’s important that we grasp this. Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for 430 years. Generation after generation knew nothing of freedom, yet within just three days of tasting freedom for the first time, they are already complaining! Here’s the story in detail (emphasis mine)ungrateful

1. “They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.

2. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness,

3. and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

4. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.

5. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”

6. So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt,

7. and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?”

8. And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD.”” Exodus 16:1-8

What is the key takeaway from this story? On the surface, it may appear to be that the nation of Israel is about as ungrateful as a nation could be. While that may be true, the key point here is that while Israel vented their complaints to Moses and Aaron, in reality they were complaining against God.

Moses told them that “Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD”. In essence, they were biting the hand that fed them!

So the million dollar question is this: are we any different than they when we complain,grumble, and generally have a terrible attitude?

I don’t know about you, but I too used to be a slave. I was a slave to sin and all that went with it, until one day God sent a deliverer to rescue me from my condition. What should my response be to what God has done for me?

When I’m going through difficult times, should I remind Him of how good I used to have it before I became a Christian? Should I remind God that I was doing well enough on my own? Should I say to God that I’d rather go back to my old life?

Of course not! I don’t care how my life is measured or by whom; at the end of the day I count myself among the most blessed of any people! My life has been just like everyone else’s, full of up’s and down’s, trials and successes.

At the end of the day however, what matters is that God has been right beside me through it all. I don’t understand some of the hard things, but I realize that I don’t need to understand everything. All I need to be sure of is that God is faithful, and as such He will never leave us or forsake us.

My prayer is that all of God’s children will appreciate Him for what he has done for us.

May we never bite the hand that feeds us!

Be blessed,

Ron

Temptation as seen through God’s eyes

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One of the most commonly quoted but misapplied verses in the entire Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13. This is the verse that speaks to us about enduring temptation.

When this particular verse is referenced it is almost always stated that “God won’t allow us to be tempted with more than we can handle”. While that is true, it is only partly true. Here is the verse I’m referring to:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
I Corinthians 10:13 NKJV

There are several components to this verse that I would like to bring out in this post. Let’s begin with “no temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man”. Often when we are tempted, we tend to gravitate towards the thought that no one has ever had to endure anything like this.

When we are tempted, or tried, it is only natural for us to feel as though it is overwhelming, as though it is so great that we cannot overcome it. Our finite minds struggle to garner a measure of faith and hope that we can endure the temptation and yet come out of it victorious.

The scripture makes it clear however, that when we are tempted it is a “common” temptation, meaning that it is the same temptation that everyone deals with. We are drawn away from Christ by lust, impure thoughts, greed, malice, and a whole host of common temptations.

In short, we aren’t special.   Sorry!

Next, we read that God is faithful. Most of us know that, but when we are being tempted our nature is to question whether or not He will stand with us. Feelings of panic often set in, followed by doubt and confusion about whether or not we will have to deal with this alone. It is at this point that we must fall back on the promise that “He will never leave us nor forsake us”.

This is where God wants us to simply trust him, and to trust the process.

Finally, we come to the part of the verse that I alluded to in the beginning. The part that is most often misused or misapplied: “But with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”.

When people quote1 Corinthians 10:13 they almost always leave off this part of it, which is rather strange because it’s actually the best part! To say that God won’t allow us to tempted with more than we can handle is great. But that’s only part of the story.

In reality, God doesn’t withhold temptation from us. Did you ever question why that is? Well, there are likely several reasons, not the least of which is that He knows that in order for us to grow in faith; we must be stretched beyond our comfort level.

That’s an uncomfortable thought, isn’t it?

We could look at this another way and ask why doesn’t God just put a shield around us to prevent temptation from coming against us in the first place? Many of us would no doubt choose this option if we could, for who wouldn’t rather not have to deal with such things?

The fact is however, that just as your own children must learn and grow, so must we as children of God. How stunted would our growth be if we never experienced adversity?

I believe there is another motive behind the Lord permitting us to endure temptation, and that is that until we are tried in the fires of temptation, we really do not know what we’re made of (in Christ).

Let’s use the analogy of a heavy weight boxer. If the boxer is only allowed to fight against equal or lesser skilled fighters, do you think he will improve? It’s not very likely. That’s why you will sometimes see a young fighter matched against a more powerful, more experienced one. It’s used to reveal to the young fighter how good he really is, but also to reveal the areas he needs to work on.

Isn’t it so when our faith is tested through various temptations? Instead of bemoaning the temptation, what if we approached it from the mindset that God is exposing an area of weakness within us that must be worked on?

Lastly, we must always be cognizant of the fact that God permits us to be tempted. We MUST grasp this fact. God permits it. This is where so many of us falter in our walk. God himself will never tempt us to sin, but he will allow us to be tempted by the enemy. What I’m trying to say here is that God is still in the works because He is still in control of our situation!

Even though He permits the temptation, He will not allow more than we can bear. In this fact we can take heart! In the midst of temptation, God is still there because He is going to make a way of escape in order for you to bear up under it. Plainly stated; the temptation will not overtake you if you will place your trust in Christ.

Something to remember, the next time you’re being pulled a dozen different ways.

Be blessed, in Jesus name.

Ronear tickled

 

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