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Sizzling For Jesus?

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About a month ago, my wife and I were discussing some different areas of ministry, and in particular the area of preparedness. In other words, how we might approach the different ways in which we minister to people.

Now, as regular readers may know, my wife is extremely adept at getting to the crux of the matter. In other words, she doesn’t mince words but gets right to the point.

So it was on this occasion as we were discussing the study time necessary in order to prepare and deliver a sermon. Her exact quote is as follows:

”If the only time we push the pan close to the fire is when we are scheduled to preach (teach, sing, pray, etc), then we are not being faithful. We should be as close to the fire as possible at all times!” Of course, she was correct in her assessment.

To use her as an example, she is a gifted soloist and is often asked to sing at our church. To many, she’s just a pretty face standing up there singing her beautiful songs. And I’m just as certain that there are a few who see her as merely the “entertainment”.

I, on the other hand, know differently. When she is scheduled to sing, the first thing she does is to pray about what song to sing. This isn’t a quick thought like “well Lord, what’s it going to be this time?” Not at all!

She will pray until she believes she has heard from the Lord about the song He wants her to sing. Do you know why she does that? It’s because her song is her ministry gift from the Lord, and she takes that very seriously.

So seriously that she wouldn’t think of not being prepared to deliver her gift. That includes much prayer as well as a lot of practice time in her “studio”( it’s actually our garage, but she refers to it as her studio). Her gifting is in worship, and when she sings she is singing as if Jesus was sitting on the front row.

She does not “perform”, rather what she does is worship the King of Kings.

It’s no different then when I am asked to speak in one of the services. I have to know that I’ve heard from the Lord before I will ever step behind the pulpit. To do so knowing that I was unprepared would be an insult to the Lord, and you can believe me when I say that isn’t going to happen.

This takes many hours of study and prayer, because just like my wife, my calling is very serious to me. I understand that many do not take this approach, in fact, I have had my share of people tell me I am far too serious about this. Imagine that!

For me, however, there is no other way.

I’m that serious because it’s very personal to me. It’s like a covenant between the Lord and me, and I don’t ever want to break that covenant. So I endeavor to be as prepared as I possibly can be when I’m called upon.

Whatever area the Lord has gifted you in, I trust that you also take it seriously. Whatever gifts and callings we may have, use them to your fullest capability. They were given to you for a purpose, and that purpose is to use them to bring glory and honor to God.

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.   Romans 11:29

That’s how important and serious this is.

My Princess had one final thought on the matter of preparedness, and I will leave you with that.

You can’t sizzle for Jesus unless your pan is on the fire!

That’s right my love, and we’re going to keep right on sizzling together for Him!

Be blessed on this wonderful Lord’s day!

Ron

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Why can’t we just love on Jesus?

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That was the question my sweet wife asked me the other day.

So, we were having yet another discussion about spiritual things (notice I didn’t say ‘a spiritual discussion’!), which is a common topic at our house. The combination of me being in ministry and her being a pastor’s kid tends to tilt the conversations in that direction a lot of the time.

What I didn’t realize however was how critical I was sounding. That is until my wife stopped my ranting and said this to me:

“Instead of focusing on things that you think are so negative, why can’t we just spend an hour or so loving on Jesus? Why isn’t He our sole focus”?

Now just in case I haven’t mentioned this in a while on this blog, I am forever thankful that God brought my wife and I together. She has been a loving, steady, and positive influence on my life, and without her I would have never known that such a deep love could exist. If ever a woman was heaven sent, it is her, and she alone has my undying love and devotion.

Well, her comments stopped me in my tracks. I’m not sure if my mouth flew open, but it should have. In an instant, my heart was crushed over my negative attitude and critical spirit.

How does this happen to us so quickly?

My mind began to race as I thought of so many scriptures that tell us where our focus should be directed. In Micah 6:8 for example, we are given clear instructions in what is expected of a child of God.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

Nothing there speaks of being critical or negative. What it does tell me is to walk humbly with the Lord. If I do that, He will take care of all the petty details that seem to overwhelm us at times.

If you take a moment to think about it, it’s amazing how different our perspectives can be when we humble our heart before God. Just as amazing I suppose is how we can allow our hearts to become so callous.

In Matthew 22:37 we hear Jesus telling people to ‘love God with all their hearts, minds, and souls’. I don’t see a lot of room for criticism there either, do you?

If we love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, that doesn’t leave any room for doubt, criticism, or complaining does it? Seriously, if we love God in such a manner why would we want to be critical?

How could we be?

 In chapter five of Revelation we find Jesus as the center of adoration and worship from the 24 elders as well as millions of angels. Do you know why there is worship of Jesus in heaven?

Because He is worthy.

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”   Rev. 5:11,12

This Lamb who was slain is Jesus Christ, and the host of heaven declares Him to be worthy of adoration, worship, honor, and praise.

If heaven declares Him worthy of all of that, who am, or who are we to say even one word to the contrary, or one word that might be construed as being critical?

As my wife asked me…” why can’t we just love on Jesus”?

So, knowing what I know, I must do what I always must do…pray for His forgiveness.

Heavenly Father forgive me for my critical spirit and lack of love for your Son Jesus. You alone are worthy to be praised. Your word teaches me not to allow any corrupt communication to come from my lips, and I have stumbled in doing so. Anything less than my highest praise and worship of You O Lord is corrupt, and I offer up the prayer that David did: “create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me”. Amen.

Be blessed on this Lord’s day,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

We now have life in His name!

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Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

Was blind but now I see.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. To such a blind, miserable, wretched, and lost man as I once was, there is nothing so sweet as Amazing Grace.

Easter reminds me once again of the unfathomable grace that the Creator extended towards humanity when He put into motion His redemption plan. And what a plan it was! God sent His only son into this world to purchase our salvation by His own blood.

I just have to ask: who but God can do such things?

It was the beloved disciple John who recorded these eternal words of lasting hope when he said “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

Before you and I were ever born, God had already thought of us! I just can’t get over that! Oh, if only this world could see that there is no reason to live in hopelessness. There is no reason for us to live our lives in desperation.

Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly!

God so loved YOU, before you were ever born, that He gave His son as a ransom for your sins. By doing this He freed you from every chain and shackle that has you bound! No matter the burdens we bare, or the pains of past mistakes, Jesus died to set us free from all of it!

I am living proof of the power of the Resurrection. You name it, at one time I tried it, did it, and wanted more of it all in a vain attempt to silence the fear, anger, and loneliness that was destroying me.

I was destined for Hell just as sure as the sun is coming up in the morning.

But one day, one glorious day, Jesus tugged at my heart and slowly but surely I began to have my eyes and my heart opened to a love I never knew existed. God’s love, eternal love, the kind of love that will get you from here to Glory enveloped my very soul and I’ve never been the same since!

I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, but in every instance there was that amazing grace to gently guide me back to the straight and narrow way. Thank God He’s still guiding me along every step of this journey.

I once was lost but now I’m found!

I love how John concludes his gospel by telling us that the things that Jesus did were done to help us to believe in Him, and in doing so we can have eternal life in His name.

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.  John 20:30,31

May this Resurrection Day be so precious to you that you will never forget it, and I pray that the Lord will reveal Himself to all of you in a special way.

He is alive forevermore! Amen!

Ron

The Glory of the Lord has departed

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Ichabod

What a strange word, and an even stranger name for a child.

Yet that is what a dying mother named her child upon hearing the tragic news that both her husband and father-in-law were dead, and that the Ark of God had been taken from Israel. 

While you can read all about this heart wrenching episode in Israel’s history in the 4th chapter of 1st Samuel, here is an excerpt that tells how it came to be that a distraught mother named her child Ichabod.

19 Now his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, due to be delivered; and when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and gave birth, for her labor pains came upon her.

20 And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Do not fear, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer, nor did she regard it.

21 Then she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband.

22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”

This Ark of God is the very same Ark of the Covenant that went before Israel as they sojourned in the wilderness. Inside of it were the two stone tablets that contained God’s handwritten Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod that budded, and a pot of manna.

To Israel, this Ark represented the very presence of God in their midst, and it was a most Holy possession to them. To have lost the ark was to them the same thing as losing God, hence the reference to “the Glory has departed from Israel”.

As if losing the priest and both his sons in one day weren’t enough, the loss of the Ark had a profound impact upon the nation of Israel. When it was captured by the Philistines, along with it went Israel’s hope, strength, and courage. In short, the departure of the Ark negatively affected an entire nation.

From where I sit, I see an amazing parallel emerging right before our eyes. The world at large today, and in particular America, is suffering the same effects as Israel because in our world “the Glory of the Lord has departed”.

Or perhaps the sincerer assessment would be to acknowledge that the world has departed from God, believing it has found life without Him to be “our best life now”.

Whether through the crushing methodologies of oppressive regimes, or willful, deliberate acts of spiritual abandonment committed by the masses, it is a fair statement to say that the majority of people neither want or know God any longer.

To be sure, we have fabricated an image of God in our minds, one that we have created to serve us at our whim, to pour money into our accounts, to be at our beck and call when trouble arises, only to be shelved until the next crisis.

By and large however, we have abandoned our spiritual birthright and heritage because it is not the God of the Bible that we desire.

In our churches we no longer expect or want God to show up in our midst. For Him to do so would require us to humble ourselves and repent of our transgressions, and that does not compute with a people who only want God on their terms.

Deliberate or not, and I believe it is, we have effectively “engineered” God out of the church. Disguised as the ritualistic order of worship, we carefully plan our church services down to the most minute of details, thus ensuring that even if the Almighty should desire to come down and deal with our hearts, there has been no time allotted for Him to do so.

For many, there is no expectation of going to the house of God in order to meet with Him there. Instead, we go out of a sense of duty, or because we’ve been taught that it’s the “right thing to do”.

Instead of meeting with Him there, we are sadly content to sit and listen to a nice, ‘easy on the ears and conscious’ story about Him! In short, we have no intention of having an encounter with the living God!

This is the result of “the Glory of the lord has departed”.

The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?   Jer. 5:31   emphasis mine

Your experiences are probably different than mine, however I have observed a peculiar phenomenon over these past four decades of my walk with God. That is that when man demonstrates a lack of zeal for God, his word, or his presence, God will not force himself upon them.

His Glory departs, leaving them to go about their religion without Him. In His absence is a cold, indifferent, faithless man-centered organization comprised of dead men’s bones. Good for nothing, entrapping men in its clutches, enslaving them in the bondage of religiosity.

Herein is the real tragedy of all of this: it was never intended to be this way!

Jesus taught that “whom the Son sets free is free indeed”, yet by our own actions we have established that we are not content to be free. Instead of freedom, we long to be chained to the same mistakes of those who long ago learned that “without Me, you can do nothing”. John 8:36, 15:5

As I look around this nation, am I the only one who mourns over what was, and what might have been? My soul is grieved over what we have done to the God who loved us enough to sacrifice His only Son for our sins!

For all of this however, I am convinced that all hope is not lost.

Nations will fall, as they always have when they have abandoned the God of heaven. Nevertheless, as He did in days long gone, I believe God has reserved to himself a remnant that are committed to Him no matter how difficult life becomes.

“Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”  1st Kings 19:18

My hope is in Jesus Christ, and in Him alone will I place my trust. I look to no party or person to give me hope for a better future. That ship has sailed, I am sad to say.

Only God can provide real hope for His children, and I intend to cling to His glorious  hope for the rest of my days.

My prayer is that His Glory never departs from you.

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

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

God,the lifter of my head…

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All of us need encouragement from time to time, so I thought I’d share one of my favorite Psalms with everyone today.

Psalm 3

O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people!

It’s even more powerful when it’s sung. Enjoy!

Ron

 

 

Worthy is the Lamb

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I guess it’s just a fact of life that some people think way too highly of themselves. Preachers, politicians, athletes, entertainers all seek the praise and adulation of others. Some people never learn the difference between being confident and egotistical, unfortunately.

Who is worthy to receive worship, praise, adoration, and honor from the saints of God? There is no man or woman past, present, or future who is so deserving. That right is reserved for Jesus Christ alone, the perfect Lamb that was slain for our transgressions.

8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

9 And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,

12 saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever. Revelation 5:8-14  NKJV

The day is coming saints of God, indeed our turn is coming, when we too will gather around the throne and cry “Worthy is the Lamb!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

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