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God is still turning sorrow into joy!

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We all know that sometimes bad things happen to good people. Hardly any of us could say that we don’t know someone who has had to endure hardships not of their own choosing. Some of us are afflicted with incurable diseases that we wouldn’t wish on anyone. Still others of us have had to endure the hellish torment of abuse.

Oftentimes it is people we know and trust, people we are close to that will inflict the greatest hurt, leaving the victim shell shocked and asking “why?” or “how”?

Living as we do in a fallen world, a world seemingly dominated by evil, it is inevitable that hurt and pain will come to us. This, however, is not a new thing but merely a repeat of past human performances.

In the Bible there is a story of a young man named Joseph who was the apple of his father’s eye. His older brothers were so jealous of him that they found an occasion to sell Joseph to a caravan of slave traders, thinking they had finally rid themselves of their father’s “pet”.

Unbeknownst to the older siblings however, God had another plan. You see, God knew that a great famine was coming upon the land and many people would starve unless He intervened. Aren’t you glad that God intervenes in the affairs of man?

As impossible as it sounds, it was God who had orchestrated the selling of Joseph into slavery. In the years to come God gave Joseph favor in the house of Pharaoh to the point that he was second in power over all the land. Because of this divine intervention, Joseph was able to provide food and sustenance to the children of Israel, including his own father and brothers.

The wonderful story of Joseph ends with him telling his brothers…

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”     Genesis 50:20

Many of us have a similar story of God’s deliverance to tell, and I am no exception. I have experienced firsthand how that God can take a horrible situation and turn it into something beautiful.

There are few things a Christian would rather avoid than divorce, especially a divorce that you not only did not want, but one in which there are no biblical grounds for. I was forced into just such a situation many years ago, and the impact to me was completely devastating.

The mental anguish, the heartbreak that seemed to never go away, the catastrophic impact upon a once very promising ministry, all of these and much more were the result of a decision made by another person. A person I trusted.

When you are living a nightmare such as this, you feel as though your life is over. Everything you believed in, trusted in, and longed for is now gone. What remains is a void, a vacuum that cannot be filled. Life becomes a painful, daily chore of going through the motions, somehow detached from the living but existing nonetheless.

Each day of this zombie like existence becomes a test of your will to survive, because you don’t dare think beyond your present circumstances. To do so would be too risky, and at such a vulnerable state you cannot permit yourself to have even the slightest hope.

Thirty years ago I could never have permitted myself to have hope for a future. I was convinced that my life was destined to be one of failure, hurt, and misery. After all, how could I expect anything but that? When you have sunk so low that you have to reach up just to touch the bottom, what hope is there?

To be sure, evil can and does interrupt our lives with often devastating results, but I have learned that God always has another plan! Even though others might devise evil and hurt to inflict us with, God will take that and turn it into something beautiful if we will allow Him to take us through the refining process.

Yet God, the merciful and loving Father, had a different plan. A plan I could not see for the hurt and the tears, but a plan nonetheless. His plan included a hope for a future, one without hurt, pain, and resentment.

As I write this today, I am mindful of where I have come from. God not only delivered me, but He restored my life back to me, and in fact gave me a better life than I ever would have had! Who but God could do such things?

If today you find yourself in despair, the victim of someone’s evil intentions, you really can hope for a better life. In the shelter of our Fathers arms there is comfort and warmth, a respite from the fiery darts of the wicked.

May I encourage you to run into those arms today? I know that if you will do so, He will begin to reveal to you a better plan and a better life. It may not come over night, but there is a peace that passes all understanding in knowing that He is working on your behalf.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

There’s Hope,then there’s HOPE!

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Hope,I really love that word because it speaks of having something to look forward to.It speaks of turning the page,of a new day with new opportunities.

We all have hope of some kind don’t we? Some of us hope for things,some of us hope for relationships,and still others of us hope for a better life altogether.

My wife and I even started a ministry called H.O.P.E.!

I think hope is something we all have to one degree or another.Granted,life can be challenging to the point that we feel that all hope is lost, yet God remains faithful even in the darkest of times.I don’t remember who said it, but someone stated that hope is being able to see that there is light in spite of the darkness.Love it.

In this world today many are questioning “where is that light”,for all that seems to take center stage is darkness.The senseless murder of innocents is increasing at an alarming rate throughout the world,and the pleas of the religious to stop the violence go unheeded.

Unquestionably,the hearts of many have become hardened to the point of unfeeling or uncaring.And it will get much worse.

Jesus said it would be so in the time in which we now live.

Yet…hope remains strong in the hearts of those who have placed their trust in the Lord Jesus.Not just any kind of hope,not just a maybe someday kind of hope.But a hope that is alive!

You see,there is one reason and one reason only why we have this kind of hope and it is summed up in one word:

Resurrection

For it is through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that we are able to lay hold on this hope.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,   [1Pe 1:3 NKJV]

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the cripplegate.com

Peter and the rest of the disciples understood that though they had suffered the loss of everything dear to them and had become social outcasts because of their faith in Christ,the faith that carried them from day to day was a living hope.

They had the kind of faith that was alive because they knew that their Lord was alive.And that hope is available to all of us today because Jesus is still alive!He is still alive and He is still offering that living hope to a world lost and headed for Hell.

That living hope is still the driving force that keeps us going through unspeakable tragedy.Hope that is alive is hope that will sustain us beloved!The tempest may blow,the storms of life will rage,our world will be rocked,but that living hope will see us through it all.

But there are those…

How sad that men and women choose to live out their lives not knowing that there is something beyond this life that is far better than anything they could ever imagine.The Apostle Paul said that if all we have hope for is in this life we are miserable!

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.    1Co 15:19 KJV

If you are reading this and you can say that you are without hope,or that your only hope is in this life,I invite you to consider Jesus the Living Hope.

He is the way maker when there doesn’t seem to be any other way.He is the peace speaker in the middle of the raging storm.He is the One and only One that can be called the difference maker.

He is alive,and He offers to all a living hope through His resurrection!

Have a blessed Easter,

Ron

Christianity…. Detached From the Vine

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This morning I was looking forward to service and hearing an encouraging message from God’s Word. Not having been in church for a few weeks due to vacation and other things, it felt good getting ready for church again.

Church is one of those things that I love and it’s been a central part of my life for almost forty years now.I love the Word.I love reading it and hearing again and again the many ways that God is for us and not against us. I love the encouragement I get from God’s word and know that I can go in the strength of that word many days.

I wish I could write that the service was fantastic,that the sermon was inspiring,that the music took me to new heights of worship.I wish I could.Oh,how I wish I could.

But I can’t.Because it was just “OK”.

Actually…it was a carbon copy of nearly every other service.

Forgive me for saying this….but it was boring.

Singing,or praise & worship, accompanied by Meet & Greet.

Offering.

Message.

Prayer.

Go home.

Leave the same way we came. Still longing for encouragement.

Smiling faces,yet no joy.

And before you say to me “hey Ron,did you ever think you’re the problem?”,let me assure you I’ve thought that for a long,long time.

But not any more. I think I finally figured it out.Or perhaps it’s more likely that I am finally ready to accept what the Lord has been saying to me through His word for some time now.

Why is church boring? Why is service almost the same every week? Why are lives never changed, or why are hearts rarely encouraged?

It’s because the Church has detached itself from the Vine.

Consider this from God’s Word:

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser. 2 “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. 3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.   John 15:1-6 NKJV

Why else are our services so fruitless except that the branch (that’s us folks) is no longer attached to the Vine(Jesus)?

We think we have this all figured out don’t we? We model our churches after Wall Street.Our church business plans are nearly indistinguishable from any major corporation in America.Instead of depending upon God we enslave ourselves to debt and interest to build ever larger churches,all the while proclaiming God’s favor upon our efforts.

Oh sure,we have churches that attract thousands every Sunday. Our buildings are often the grandest in town.We have programs that are the envy of any secular program out there.We have developed a system of self reliance second to none.

“Without ME,you can do nothing”! When was the last time we consulted HIM about anything?

We have structured our services to the point that God Himself would have a hard time getting our attention! And the horror of it all is that the church in America doesn’t even notice that God is not even present! How is this possible you ask? It’s because we must follow the script, and the script does not allow time for God to interrupt our programmed services so that He can break our hearts!

Sunday morning Christians who week after week raise their hands as if in humble worship,yet whose Facebook writings from the night before are filled with filth and vulgarity. Detached from the Vine yet still playing the part.”Repeat after me”salvation’s that cannot change the heart.Withered branches cut off from the only Source of Life there is.

We are the church of the Laodiceans, rich and in need of nothing (God). We have created in our own image a form of Godliness,but deny the power thereof.We are ensnared by the very system we have ourselves created and cannot break free of it. And we dare ask ourselves “what about that abundant life Jesus promised us”?

15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’–and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked– 18 “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.   Rev 3:15-18 NKJV

Oh God,if only! If only our eyes were opened to allow us to see ourselves even as You see us!

Our feeble attempts to bear fruit of ourselves apart from God are doomed to complete and utter failure.We do not love one another with the love of Christ.We make time only for those in our inner circles,and too bad if you aren’t one of the “chosen ones”because you will be left on the outside looking in.outside-looking-in

Father in heaven; surely there are hungry souls still on this great planet of yours,souls hungry for a touch from on high.A people whose lips have been touched with a coal from the alter of God.Just as Elijah learned there were yet seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal,my heart’s cry is that there are still multitudes yearning for an encounter with you.

Count me in that number.

Ron

How Do We Love?

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I talk about Christian love a lot. I believe it needs to be talked about, preached about, sung about, and most of all practiced…. a lot. Love is a gift from our Father in heaven, given freely to everyone who will accept it. But what do we do with it? Do we keep it bottled up inside of us? Do we share it with others? Do we only share it with a select few?

What’s the point of all of this you may ask? Well, I have been observing a very disturbing trend regarding the love of God. I have noticed that it is not so freely given away by we who are the recipients of this powerful gift. To be more precise, we give it to whom we will and we withhold it from whom we will. We have become very selective in who we deem worthy of our love, as if it is up to us to choose such a thing!

Someone told me long ago that love is a verb. It requires something of us, we must do something with it. It calls us to action. John said it best this way: “My little children,let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth“.     1st John 3:18

In other words, we love by doing! To say I love you, or I’ll pray for you sounds nice and oh so very Christian doesn’t it? Often I’ve heard someone mention a particular need that they have, only to have it fall upon deaf ears. We’re all guilty of it. We all fail at times to follow through on a prayer request, or to offer support when we have the means to do so. John told us we were not to love in word only, but in deed and truth. The church is to be an army of doers!

So…..how do you love? 

Be blessed,

Ron