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A part of something much bigger than you or I

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With so much in the world today that is spiraling out of control, I can only say that “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.

The Family of God

I’m so glad I’m a part of the fam’ly of God!
I’ve been washed in the fountain,
Cleansed by His blood.
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the fam’ly,
The fam’ly of God.           Lyrics by Bill and Gloria Gaither

For over two thousand years people have been exhorting those who don’t know Christ to come and receive Him into their hearts.

Humbly, I submit to you that I cannot imagine a time when the need was greater than it is right now.

Look to Him,

Ron

 

 

 

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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

 

 

Another soldier’s coming home

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Yesterday I had the incredible privilege of attending the funeral service for a 95 year old father, grandfather, WWII veteran, and faithful Christian man named Eddie. My wife and I had been asked to provide part of the music and singing, and of course we gladly volunteered to help.

Listening to this man’s two sons speak so eloquently of their father brought many tears to my eyes, for it was easy to sense the deep, abiding love they had for him. But there was one thing that was said that impacted me more deeply than anything else.

As the eldest son came to the front of the church, dressed smartly in the same full dress uniform he had proudly worn many years ago, everyone listened intently as he began to share with us how that recently his father had begun to grieve over the conditions in America being played out on the news.

You have to understand that this man was a decorated soldier who sacrificed  everything to fight for the freedoms you and I enjoy today,and watching Americans turn on one another broke his heart.

Having served in no less than five European countries during WWII, participating in countless battles,including the infamous Battle of the Bulge, this man knew sacrifice and hardship like few of us can even imagine.

Yet unbelievably, at the end of his life he wondered if not only his own sacrifice, but that of millions of others had not been in vain. To set by and watch the nation he fought for be torn apart from within was more than he could bear.

This patriot,to whom America is deeply indebted,died feeling like the country he loved so dearly had betrayed him and his fellow soldiers. He stated on several occasions that the country he loved was being taken from him,and those of his generation, and I’m pretty sure if you were to ask,most veterans would agree with this assessment.

Listening to all of this broke my heart, and the fact that I had met this man only a couple of times prior to his death did nothing to diminish the impact of these powerful words from a man who was part of America’s “Greatest Generation”.

All of us would do well to step back and really think about the sacrifices made by prior generations, sacrifices that we continue to benefit from today. Whether we choose to accept it or not, the fact is that the entire world as we know it would be a much darker place had those before us not responded to freedoms cry.

As we topple the images of our past in a vain attempt to erase the painful memories associated with them, we would do well to remember that just like its individual citizens, our nation has made many,many mistakes, some of which have scarred this nation with a perpetual open wound.

None of which however can ever be forgotten,either individually or collectively.

The mistakes of our past are part of our history,and history cannot be rewritten, though many have tried and continue to try to do so today. The truth however, is still the truth. All we can do is move forward, not backward as we seem to be doing.

 

Eddie knew his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for many decades, and in the end it was this relationship with Jesus that kept him pressing toward the mark in spite of what was going on in America.

For you see, it was Jesus Christ that gave him hope for a future. An eternal future without violence and hatred. A future without racism and bigotry. A future where there would be no need for another world war. A future where sacrifices ceased.

A future not of this world…

As America continues on its march to abandon democracy in favor of socialism, as she slips further and further away from her Godly heritage, hope in this life will eventually become non existent.

The only hope available will be the hope we have in Christ.

As I close this post, the words to a song written about a soldier going home are ringing in my mind tonight, so I thought I would share them with you.

Verse 1

His back is bent and weary, His voice is tired and low
His sword is worn from battle, And his steps have gotten slow
But he used to walk on water, Or it seemed that way to me
I know he moved some mountains, And never left his knees

Chorus
Strike up the band assemble the choir, Another soldier’s comin’ home
Another warrior hears the call, He’s waited for so long
He’ll battle no more, ‘Cause he’s won his wars
Make sure heaven’s table, Has room for at least one more
Sing a welcome song, Another soldier’s comin’ home

Verse 2
He faced the winds of sorrow, But his heart knew no retreat
He walked in narrow places, Knowing Christ knew no defeat
But now his steps turn homeward, So much closer to the prize
He’s sounding kind of homesick, There’s a longing in his eyes

Lyrics to “Another Soldier’s Coming Home” by Janet Paschal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What will you do in the end?” Part 3

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I ended Part 2 of this series by saying that America’s “God problem” is so firmly entrenched as to be all but impossible to reverse.

In Part 3 of “What will you do in the end” I will attempt show just how far America’s elected leadership has gone in their rejection of Godly principles. Remember, these are our LEADERS that are supposed to be our examples (may God help us all).

In fact, according to this article, a large percentage of one of our major political parties believes the Church is having a negative impact on America. Before anyone gets too excited about that, keep in mind that the other party doesn’t lag too far behind.

Of course, pollsters love numbers and statistics, and we all know how easily things can be slanted one way or another. My point being this: if even one half of one percent of our elected leaders believe the Church is having a negative impact on America, it is too much! Something has gone horribly wrong!

Think about this for just a moment, would you? Our leaders, elected by we the people, believe the Church is having a negative impact on America! Does that not send alarm bells off in your mind?

Now, to better understand this we need to remind ourselves that elected leaders who support certain agendas will naturally feel the other side is the problem (see part 2 of this series).

So for example, if you are a conservative Christian attending a conservative Christian church that does not support abortion, same sex marriage, the LGBT community, etc.…you of course will be labeled as having a negative impact upon our society.

And much worse.

This does not mean it is true, but the fact remains there are very powerful groups on both sides of the aisle in our nation’s capitol spending untold millions of dollars in their efforts to label anyone who does not go along with their agenda as “negative”. And that is putting it very, very mildly.

Truth be told, if the Church is seen as having a negative impact on society, it is only because of the faithful few (comparatively speaking) that hold to the Biblical standards for living that are a thorn in the side of those that wish to abolish all acknowledgement of, and dependence upon, God.

America’s “God problem” however, is not rooted in politics. Politics is merely a convenient scapegoat, a diversionary tactic used by politicians themselves along with adherents of their respective ideologies to divert attention from the true source of our problems.

America, our great problems lie at our own feet, and WE the Church will ultimately be held accountable for our part in allowing this to happen. Just as Israel was held accountable and banished to enslavement by a foreign power, so shall America be held accountable and suffer the terrible consequences of our choices.

As long as I’m keeping it real here, let’s just throw it out now and acknowledge that America is even now suffering the terrible consequences of its choices. I challenge anyone to show me an example of a time when this nation has been more divided!

Yes, there was a Civil War that divided us. There was a Vietnam Conflict that divided us. There was a decision to allow the killing of unborn children that still divides us. Most recently there was a presidential election that has divided us.

The difference between all of those events,horrific though they be, and those taking place today is that we are not in a battle of ideologies,but one engineered by principalities, by the powers of darkness.

This contest is spiritual in nature, though outwardly it appears to be otherwise. Indeed, what we are seeing play out before our very eyes, is the battle for the soul of America.

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

This battle for the soul of America is not being fought with guns and tanks. It is being fought in a dimension that though unseen physically, its aftermath is leaving a visual trail of untold numbers of casualties in its wake.

My fear in all of this is not that it’s happening. No, the Bible is clear that as the coming of the Lord draws closer chaos would be the norm. My fear is that as we see the end approaching, Christians are placing a higher priority on aligning themselves with philosophies, ideologies, and political affiliations rather than their faith.

As difficult as it is to accept, we can easily make the connection with what is happening in America today with the latter day account of the Church given by Paul in his message to Timothy.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.    1st Timothy 4:1

Again, the scriptures give further evidence of the spiritual battle taking place in which all of us are participants. Deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons are certainly at work among us, causing many of the faithful to forsake their Christian heritage.

My next post will conclude this series with a “big picture” look at how Christians can not only survive the tumultuous times we are living in, but actually thrive in them!

Be blessed,

Ron

Missing: Spiritual Leadership in the Home

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In these chaotic days in which we now live,the absence of leadership,particularly Godly leadership,is most definitely contributing to the moral demise of our homes, communities,and ultimately our society.

It is a natural human tendency to look for leadership, as we’re taught from our youth that there is a hierarchy,or leadership structure in our homes, schools, and government that we are to follow.   Leadership

When people lack leadership at any level, they tend to look elsewhere. For the Christian, we look to the Church, or more specifically to our Pastors and leaders in the local church.

Unfortunately, even that is no longer a given, as evidence by the plethora of wannabe leaders looking to make Church a “career”, rather than a lifetime commitment to servant hood.

So what’s a person or family to do who cannot find sound,Godly leadership? If you are a Christian, you look inward,to those in your own home. In other words…sometimes you have to step up and assume the leadership role of your family.

After all, that’s what God called you to do! Yes…you are called to be the servant leader of your home!

The Bible has established a very clear leadership path for our homes and families, which is that the husband is to be the spiritual head of the family. The Apostle Paul gave perhaps the most in-depth explanation of this in his epistle to the Ephesian church.

Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, …   Eph. 5: 21-33   ESV

Please note, I am fully aware that many will bristle at the word “submit”. Taken out of context, the word “submit” is a demeaning,humiliating term of subservient obedience. That is NOT however what the Apostle Paul is meaning when he used the word “submit”.

The term “submit” was used to describe relationships peculiar to Christian believers. By digging into the scriptures, we find that the true sense of the word describes the Christian grace of voluntarily yielding one’s preferences to another.

In other words, to “submit” in the Christian sense has nothing whatsoever to do with domination,or forcing one’s will upon another. NOTHING! And for you husbands that think this verse gives you a license to lord over your wives like some kind of ogre, think again. You are supposed to love your wife as much as Christ loved the church, even to the point of giving your own life for her!

love your wives

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Of course, even the Biblical example of spiritual leadership in the home can present it’s own share of unique problems today. For example,the family structure in America is undergoing a radical shift away from the two parent household. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2016 there were nearly 12 million single parent households, with a staggering 80% of those headed up by single mothers.

Additionally, 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 — a total of about 17.2 million — are being raised without a father! So much for men assuming the traditional spiritual leadership role of the home. How can they, when they aren’t even there?   source: https://singlemotherguide.com/single-mother-statistics/

Is it any wonder then that our children’s lives are being wrecked by gangs, drugs, violence and despair? There is no Biblical family structure in so many of these situations, and lacking that many of our children are left to fend for themselves, often becoming easy prey to the streets.

Single mothers are attempting to provide the family structure,income, and spiritual leadership that God intended for BOTH the husband and the wife to provide. This is a HUGE problem! This is NOT what the Lord intended for our families, that they be ripped apart in front of our eyes.   women-in-christian-leadership.jpg

So who’s going to provide this much needed spiritual leadership given that the home is under such an attack? One thing is for certain, and that is that if families are to survive the spiritual onslaught they are being subjected to, and it is indeed a spiritual attack, God has to become the focal point of the home!

Whether the home consists of a husband and wife or a single parent, someone must step up and assume the role of spiritual leader. There can be no other solution. There MUST be a spiritual head in our homes.

There must be that “go to person” that prays for their family. There has to be a clearly defined spiritual leader that can offer Biblical guidance and wisdom to their children. And lest I be misunderstood, whoever is the spiritual head of the home must seek advice,counsel, and wisdom from each member of the family.

This cannot be a one man or one woman show! Spiritual leadership in the home that fails to seek input from others is not true leadership, it is equivalent to being a taskmaster ordering their subjects to obey his or her commands.

OK, you’ve read this very lengthy post. Now what do I do? Here are three simple ways to provide spiritual leadership for your family:

  1. Learn to pray for your family! Every day, the spiritual leader of the home should be taking their families to the throne of God. Ask God to cover your family with His divine protection.
  2. Pray for wisdom. Just as King Solomon prayed and asked the Lord to give him wisdom to rule the people of Israel, so should we be asking the Lord for such wisdom. Parents, especially new parents don’t always know what is best for their families. After all, it’s not like or children come with an instruction manual!
  3. Lead by example! Be the man or woman of God that you have been called to be. Be strong and courageous in the Lord. As David encouraged himself in the Lord, we too should look to Him as our source of encouragement.
Dear Lord

Beliefnet.com

My prayer is that we will assume our rightful position as spiritual leaders in our homes, whether male or female.

It is our only chance to take back what the enemy has stolen from us. Indeed, it is our only hope for a future!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

The Vine

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“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away;and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.       John 15:1,2     NKJV
Grape vines.Have you ever seen one in person?
When I was a young boy I would find them growing wild in the woods where they would attach themselves to the trees. For an adventurous young boy like me they offered a rare opportunity to grab one and swing from them like Tarzan! And even though these weren’t the type that produced grapes,they sure did produce a lot of fun!
It wasn’t until later in life that I learned that grapes came from grape vines.That’s probably about the time I realized my “Tarzan” days were over.
I see many homes around me that have grape vine trees used as decorations.I have a large one myself on the front porch and at night it’s very pretty, all lit up like it is.
So I guess what I’m saying is grape vines aren’t all that unusual after all,and there are a lot of uses for them.And if you’re using them as a food source,they require a lot of hard work. But more about that in a minute or two.
When you look at a grape vine from a biblical point of view,you begin to understand that they were very important in older cultures. They produced food,either as fresh picked grapes or dried into raisins,and of course they were used to make wine,another very important part of the culture of the day.
In the two verses I quoted above Jesus is making the statement that He is the true vine. Not a wild vine,or not a grafted vine,but the True Vine.And that’s important folks.It’s important in the sense that there can only be One True Vine.Oh,there can be off shoots and secondary vines,etc….but they all emanate from that One True Vine.
Jesus is telling us here that He is the source,or that He is that One True Vine that all others are attached to.
Then He says that the Father is the vinedresser,or the one who actually does the work that is required to keep the branches producing at maximum efficiency.Yes,grape vines require a lot of work.They must be kept pruned in order to produce the greatest yield.Old branches that no longer produce must be cut off so that new growth can take place,thus starting the cycle all over again.Even new branches must sometimes be trimmed back so that they also will produce new vines.Grape vines require constant work-it never stops.
Do you see the analogy yet? We are the branches that are in constant need of pruning and care. Left on our own without the care of the vinedresser, we will eventually wither and die,even while attached to the vine.The truth is that we all require a LOT of work!
The message here is simple: we are not our own.We cannot sustain ourselves apart from the vine and the vinedresser.Not only must we remain attached to the vine,we must also undergo a constant pruning in order to keep producing more fruit. And may I say that oftentimes,this process of pruning is not pleasant.Fact is,it can be down right painful at times.Yet is it necessary,and there is no way around it.
For you see,we are not called to the vine to simply be able to say “I belong,or I’m one of them”.  No,we are part of the vine because we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.We are part of the family of God.
Be blessed,
Ron