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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Beatitudes: conclusion

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As I have a very busy week ahead of me filling in for my Pastor, I need to finish up my thoughts concerning the Beatitudes. So even though it makes for a lengthy read, I have included the remaining four in this final blog.

Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.

Mercy is the act of forgiveness and compassion from someone who has the authority to punish you, but instead chooses to offer mercy. If you’ve ever been the one in need of mercy, and you know you have, you can surely appreciate knowing that your Father in heaven is merciful.

When we are merciful and forgiving to others, we give them a glimpse of the Father’s heart of mercy and forgiveness that is offered to all. As his representatives on earth, we must always be mindful that we are often the only examples of the hands and feet of Jesus that people will ever see.

Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.

The Bible talks a lot about the heart, doesn’t it? The condition of our heart as it relates to God is of the utmost importance in our daily walk. Having an impure heart, for example, keeps us from seeing God for who he is because having such a heart is like walking around wearing blinders.

Having a pure heart, however, allows us to see God in all his glory and splendor because our vision is no longer clouded by sin, judgement, or guilt.

When the Psalmist prayed “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me“, he was essentially asking God for a pure heart. [1] May this be our prayer as well.

Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

Would you agree with me that the world could use a few more peacemakers? After all, God is a peace-loving and a peace-making God, and we sure could use a respite from the constant bickering and fighting among ourselves today.

Peace is something that God has always desired for us. The whole history of redemption, starting with the fall of Adam in the garden to the death and resurrection of Jesus, is all part of God’s plan to establish a just and lasting peace between man and himself.

Not to be overlooked in this plan of redemption is God’s desire for men to also have lasting peace among themselves. It is never God’s will for men to quarrel and fight against one another.

If this message would somehow be heard by all today, what a different world we would be living in! All of us would do well to remember that if we are truly our Father’s children, we will display his attributes and character. What he loves, we will love. And God loves peace.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Persecuted. Not exactly a word that we associate with being blessed, or as some say today “highly favored”, is it?

Yet Jesus does calls us blessed if we are persecuted for righteousness sake. For certain, there are many types of persecution, and varying degrees of it as well.

Some will say that they are being persecuted because someone said something that hurt their feelings. Perhaps a promotion did not come your way and you determine that because of that, you are being persecuted.

I believe though that the persecution Jesus was referring to here is the type that results in the loss of liberty, freedom, and even one’s very life. So while American Christians have been spared (so far) such persecutions, regular readers will note that I have posted several articles on this blog detailing the severe persecution taking place in other parts of the world today.

Literally tens of thousands of Christians are being persecuted, imprisoned, and murdered for the testimony of Jesus in our day. Yet for all that, Jesus calls those of his servants enduring such persecution “blessed”.

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Let’s face it, the world in which we live is becoming increasingly hostile towards Christianity. Today, anyone who aligns themselves with Jesus is mocked, scorned, slandered, and generally treated with disdain.

This isn’t something new however, as Jesus said they did the same things to those who came before us. Our job is simply to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”. [2]

Peter even went so far to say that if we were insulted for the name of Jesus, we are blessed because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon us! [3]

I hope that this series on The Beatitudes has been both worthwhile and a source of encouragement to you. I never tire of reading these words of Jesus because they seem to fan the flames when we need a little spark to keep us pressing onward, and my prayer is that you feel the same way.

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] Psalm 51:10

[2] Philippians 3:14

[3] 1 Peter 4:14

 

From a child’s perspective

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I recently had an enlightening conversation with a friend of mine, and as we were talking he told me about something interesting that occurred in his church’s Sunday school class.

Being one of the teachers of 1st thru 5th grade students, he frequently tells me about some of the things the kids say and do, and I must concur that “Kids Say the Darndest Things”.

On this particular Sunday morning, it seems the lesson was on “Worry”. The gist of the lesson was that each child was given a piece of paper with 15 words listed on it. All of the words involved things you might worry about as a child.

The kids were instructed to circle the five things they would be most worried about from the list that included:

  • the death of a friend or loved one
  • forgetting your homework
  • getting lost
  • fear of the dark
  • being hungry

As each student turned in their paper the teacher tallied the scores, and the results were somewhat surprising. The #1 selection was the death of a friend or loved one. This is understandable, considering the trauma of such an event.

What was very surprising however was that the 2nd most popular selection was being hungry. Especially intriguing is the fact that none of the kids in his class know what being hungry feels like!

How sad is it that little kids who have never missed a meal worry so much about going hungry? What exactly does this say about our society? What does this say about our priorities as a nation? Better yet…

What Would Jesus Do?

Then the little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them; and the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of heaven” belongs to such as these. And after He had placed His hands on them, He went on from there.…   Matthew 19:13-15

Children are precious in the eyes of the Lord. Is it because our adult eyes no longer acknowledge the Lord that we are blind to this fact?

As a nation, we have rejected God and His plan for right living. In its place we have chosen instead to be inundated with 24/7 images of adultery, drugs, murder, prostitution, greed, abuse, divorce, and every conceivable type of debauchery imaginable.

And our children are growing up in these same homes, listening, wondering, and worrying if one day they too will feel the pangs of hunger, if they haven’t already.

If I’m being honest here, I sometimes wonder about the seeds we adults have planted in the minds of our children. The horrible things that we have exposed them to must surely be an affront to God.

Little kids are smart, much smarter than we like to give them credit for, and they instinctively know when things aren’t right. Given the opportunity, how long do you think it would take our children to prioritize the hunger problem in America?

It’s a crying shame that we as adults don’t have the same heart as they do.

Ron

 

What’s so good about Good Friday?

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A lot of people ask that question at this time of the year. Just this past Wednesday a lady asked me “why do we call it good, and where did the name ‘Good Friday’ come from”?

The second part of her question was a bit difficult to answer because there is no clear cut, definitive answer to the question. At least as far as I’ve been able to understand. I have been able to locate both Protestant and Catholic descriptions of how the name Good Friday originated, and personally I don’t think it matters in the least.

Regardless of its origin, the name Good Friday is exactly what it is. Yes, it marks the day that we commemorate the brutal torture and subsequent murder of the innocent Jesus. It also marks the day that mankind was freed from the bondage of sin.

Good Friday is the culmination of God’s redemptive plan to restore what was lost in the garden of Eden. From the original sin until Jesus’s last breath on the cross, man was held in the bondage of sin, unable to free himself through good works and sacrifices.

It took a spotless lamb, in this case the sinless Lamb of God to break the chains that held humanity captive. Jesus offered Himself once, for all time, upon the most cruel of torture devices in order to pay our sin debt in full.

It was a debt that you and I could never pay on our own. There was only one payment acceptable that would turn away the wrath of a Holy God; the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

What’s so good about Good Friday?

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.   Romans 5:6-11   emphasis mine

That’s what’s so good about Good Friday.

Thank you Father, for the plan of salvation. Without it I would be lost for eternity, and I would never have known that I could be loved so greatly.

Ron

 

 

The renewal of Spring

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The first day of Spring brings to mind thoughts of Renewal.

While much of the Northeast and Midwest are bracing for yet another round of snow and ice, winter is about to loosen its grip. It has to at some point, just as it does every year.

Soon the ice will melt away, and the snow drifts will become smaller and smaller until we almost forget about those snowplow mountains.

It’s time for Spring. Time for the seasons to change. Time for the Crocus to pop through the cold ground.

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Photo by Wilfried Santer on Unsplash

All of us look forward to the close of another long winter, and impatiently wait for the warm spring breezes that are surely on their way.

It’s time for renewal.

As a nation, as individuals, we all need to be renewed, to be cleansed.

We all need to wash off the cobwebs and dust that have collected over these past months. The time has come to snap out of these winter doldrums!

The prophet Jeremiah knew a thing or two about renewal when he prayed for Israel to be restored to their proper relationship with God. How his heart must have been breaking when he prayed these words!

Turn us back to You, O Lord, and we will be restored;
Renew our days as of old,   Lamentations 5:21

My hope is that all of us would pray this prayer:

Lord, we have wandered far from you, so far that we can scarcely remember how we once enjoyed your presence. But we know that you are faithful to forgive us, both as a nation and as one of your children. Father, we pray for renewal. We pray for the new growth of Spring, that it will restore in our hearts that which the locust has eaten and the worm has destroyed.

Revive us O God. We are desperate for Renewal.

Ron

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

 

 

An appointment with the King

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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

I’ve never met a king or queen before. For that matter I’ve never met a President or Senator either. Come to think of it, other than a Mayor or two I’ve never met anyone who held a public office, or if I have it must not have been a memorable occasion.

 

No matter, I happen to have a very important appointment coming up with someone many of you will instantly recognize when I tell you his name. You see, I’m scheduled to see King Jesus one day soon.

I don’t know the exact day and time, but the appointment has been scheduled nonetheless. He’s already told me that he’ll call me when He gets here, so I’m not really worried about the exact timing.

Did you know that you also have an appointment with Jesus? An appointment that was made a long,long time ago? It’s true, everyone has an appointment with this King.

eric-rothermel-23788 (1)

Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

 

I remember very clearly what it was like to have entire days blocked off with one meeting or appointment after another. A lot of days it became a challenge  to squeeze in just 15 minutes to grab a bite to eat. Most days evolved into an appointment juggling act that would have made Barnum and Bailey proud. I’m sure many of you can relate.

 

Funny thing though about this Divine appointment with Jesus that we all have. None of us will be too busy, and none of us will be able to say “sorry, I can’t make it, something else came up”. Not one of us will be late for this appointment. No juggling of schedules allowed.

I’m looking forward to that appointment. Unlike hundreds of others I’ve been involved with, there is no sense of dread associated with my upcoming meeting with  Jesus. I won’t hear voices of anger, fists slamming down, threats of “or else”,or any of the kind.

What I will hear instead will be this:

Matt 25

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“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?

And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'”     Matthew 25:34-40

How about you? Are you prepared and looking forward to meeting the King one day?

Be blessed!

Ron

 

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