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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 reality of God in the midst of suffering

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A lot of people in this world question the reality of God, especially when a catastrophic event takes place in their life.

A sudden loss of life, a devastating report from the doctor, or suddenly finding yourself out of work with a mountain of bills to pay can cause us to ask “God, where are you?”

Being a firm believer in the fact that God reigns over the universe, which includes you and I, I’ve often pondered the issue of human suffering from a Biblical perspective. [1]

I know, I know, I’ve got too much time on my hands, right?

Without trying to come off like some sort of expert on the matter, which I surely am not, I wonder why it is that in this enlightened age of knowledge and power that we brilliant humans have not eradicated human suffering once and for all.

For example, the trials, hardships, adversities, and tests of this life transcend all economic barriers and social classes. They show no favoritism or prejudice. Every one of us “gets” to participate in them.

Every person, regardless of age or nationality, regardless of religious or political affiliation, all of us seem predestined at some point to walk the lonely paths of these human maladies.

From where I sit it would seem that these life issues are handed out randomly, without discretion, thought or (human) reason as to who can deal best with a particular trial.

Of course, I have no way of knowing whether such a thing actually happens, or if there is some far off Heavenly committee that meets on a frequent basis to decide such things, but believing that God reigns, also brings with it several practical questions.

For example, if God really is in charge, then where is He when…

  • Evil people are blowing up innocent men, women, and children?
  • The helpless and innocent are starving to death?
  • A Christian marriage falls apart?
  • Our children, raised in Godly homes, decide they want no part of living for Jesus?

Where exactly is God when all of these things are happening? Isn’t that what most reasonable people want to know? Just where is God when people are suffering?

These are hard, tough questions, aren’t they?

And more times than not, these hard questions are not easily dismissed with a cursory “well, God is in charge, so He must know what He’s doing” answer.

The truth is, God does know exactly what he is doing, just as he knew what he was doing when he created man the way that he did.

You see, we were/are created in His image. That means we were made to resemble God. Of course, God is not flesh and blood as man is, but we understand that the first man Adam was created in perfection.

Being created in the image of God sets human beings apart from the rest of creation, such as the animal, or plant worlds, for example.

We were also created to have dominion over the earth, to have the ability to commune with God, and to establish a relationship with him.

So, what does this brief foray into the story of man’s creation have to do with the hard questions I posed?

Essentially this; man was created with attributes that no other part of creation was granted. Because we were created in His image and likeness, we were given the ability to choose, think, and reason.

It is precisely because of these unique, Godly attributes that Satan appeared in the garden. His mission: to corrupt this perfect, created image of God, and convince man to use his Godly attributes for evil.

Adam and Eve made a terrible decision when they chose to rebel against their Creator. They were told that death would be the result of their disobedience, should they choose to do so, yet they did it anyway.

By choosing their way vs. God’s way, they marred the image of God within themselves, and in doing so passed the damage on to every single person who would ever be born. That includes all of us, in case you didn’t know that. [2]

Unbeknownst to Adam and Eve, because of their careless disobedience,the thought process of mankind was forever altered that day. In one disastrous moment, man was changed from a ‘pure in thought’ worshiper of God to a being possessing the potential for unlimited evil.

Sadly, we now see that unlimited potential for evil being played out without reservation all over this world. The powers of choice and reason, Godly attributes once solely used for good, are now the weapons of individuals wholly given over to the ideology of evil.

Today of course, man is still created in the image of God, but there is a difference now. Because of what happened in that garden, we now bear the scars of sin. [3]

Mentally, morally, socially, and physically, we bear the inescapable effects of sin. The evil and immorality that we are seeing displayed on a daily basis in our world is the result of this corruption.

Every single one of those hard questions I posed can be traced back to the fall in the garden of Eden, when Satan corrupted the pure thoughts of God’s highest creation.

And yes, I am aware of just how simplistic that sounds. Everyone knows that the problems this world is facing are very complex, and that (supposedly) the greatest minds available are working hard to find solutions.

Speaking only for myself, just once I would like to hear someone on a national platform stand up and say what a lot of us already know: that whatever it is we’re doing to make things better, it isn’t working.

And it never will work.

Which is why God sent the antidote for our sin sickness in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ.

What man ruined in the garden of Eden, God restored on an old rugged cross.

Does God still rule and reign today, even in the midst of human suffering?

Of course He does! He reigns in the hearts of all who have made him Lord. He said he would never leave us or forsake us. [4]

No matter what comes, I have this assurance, that He will be by my side and in my heart at all times!

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] 1st Chron. 16:31, Psalms 97:1, 99:1, 146:10, Isaiah 52:7

[2] Romans 5:12

[3] James 3:9

[4] Hebrews 13:5

 

 

 

Substitute Preacher…

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As I mentioned in my last post, this past week I have been filling in for my Pastor, who is taking a few days off for some much needed rest.

Since we have both Wednesday evening and Sunday morning services at our church, I needed to prepare two different messages, and when you add in hospital visitation it was a busy week.

Well, not that busy, but busier than what has become my new normal since retirement.; )

If you’ve never done something like this, it is both exhilarating and somewhat frightening, especially if you’ve been “out of the saddle” for awhile. It also helps a great deal to know that there are people praying for you, and I sincerely appreciate those of you who lift me up in prayer.

A lot of prayer and study time is necessary to deliver God’s word effectively, at least that’s how it is for me. I understand that many ministers preach from a sermon outline they’ve purchased online, and many simply purchase an entire sermon series which they then tweak to fit their needs.

I decided long ago however that I could not do it this way, preferring instead to spend time in the Word and in prayer in order to hear from the Lord as to what He would have me to deliver to the congregation.

This is not something I take lightly, and I approach it as if the Lord Himself were listening. Which, of course, He is.

As it turned out, it was well worth the effort, and I am happy to report that both messages were received with a lot of sincere enthusiasm, and many reported to be encouraged and strengthened.

I count it a privilege to be able to pray with people who have been broken by the cares of this life. Hearing them pour out their hearts to God, and to be able to pray and weep with them is an honor I do not take lightly.

It is humbling to be reminded that the Lord will still use a willing vessel, and I am thankful for the drive and passion for ministry He has instilled in me.

Sensing the presence of God was just icing on the cake, and that makes it all worthwhile for me.

Have a great Monday everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

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

 

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness…

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“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.”  [1]

This fourth Beatitude is one that I particularly love because I believe it establishes one of the foundational requirements for Godly living. In it, Jesus used two of the strongest human needs, hunger and thirst, to express the passion with which we should pursue God.

Have you ever been so thirsty that it seemed your thirst just couldn’t be quenched? Did that stop you from drinking still more? Of course not! Even if it meant drinking several different things you were determined to quench your thirst.

For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.  [2]

Sometimes when I’m hungry, I’ll go to the cabinet and stand there looking inside, trying to decide what it is that I want to eat. I may grab this or that, and as soon as I’ve eaten it I’ll know that I made the wrong choice, so I’ll try something else.

In much the same way Jesus is describing the hunger and thirst for righteousness that we are to have. The desire for more of Him should permeate our being, as an insatiable appetite does for those that have not eaten.

David said O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You
….[3]

As the hart pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after you, O God…[4]

deer in the lake

anilogics.com

This type of intense longing is exactly the type of hunger and thirst that Jesus is talking about. It means we do not approach the Lord with an attitude of indifference, but rather a passionate zeal to know him and his ways.

To hunger and thirst for righteousness means we must make a conscious decision about which part of us gets fed. If we desire the things of the world more than God, those things will destroy our hunger for the righteousness that Jesus is speaking of in this Beatitude.

This is very dangerous because if we allow our zeal for God to be swallowed up by the pleasures of the flesh, we will spiritually die.

He who pursues righteousness and loving devotion finds life, righteousness, and honor.[5]

My prayer for all is that we are passionate in our search for a closer walk with God, that we develop a hunger and thirst for righteousness that can only be filled by Him.

Be Blessed!

Ron

 

[1] Matthew 5:6

[2] Psalm 107:9

[3] Psalm 63:1,2

[4] Psalm 42:1,2

[5] Prov. 21:21

Blessed are the meek…

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As we continue this series on the Beatitudes taken from the Sermon on the Mount, we now find Jesus saying “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth”.

Meek… now there’s a word we don’t often hear today! Can you even remember the last time you saw that word in action? Let me guess and say it’s been awhile hasn’t it?

I’m dating myself here, but I can remember when meekness was a highly coveted character trait of those who identified with our Lord. It was visible too, no one had to tell you that sister Smith was a meek and humble lady. No, she demonstrated it in everything she did.

Without even trying!

Quite a contrast in our world today when those that display meekness, or a humble spirit, are thought of as weak, or somehow lacking in toughness. Funny, isn’t it, how that the world says that only the strong survive, yet Jesus said that the meek shall inherit the earth.

Who are the meek he is referring to? Jesus is speaking of those who are humble and submissive to God, who have committed their ways unto the Lord in all they do. They prefer others before themselves, for they have a servant’s heart.

They are the opposite of the proud, arrogant, puffed up and selfish world that they dwell in. While the majority are concerned about getting all they can get, the meek are more concerned that all get some, even if it costs them what should be theirs.

Jesus pronounced a blessing on those who are meek, saying that they will inherit the earth. That’s quite a statement isn’t it? To think that those who willingly defer to others, often doing without themselves, will one day receive such an inheritance is nothing short of amazing!

While not saying it explicitly, I think Jesus is telling us here that the day is coming when he is going to even the score, so to speak. Those that have walked humbly and upright before the Lord the meek and powerless, will one day find that God has been keeping tabs all along.

I’d say meekness will be a highly coveted character trait then, one that everyone will wish they had desired.

Up next is “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.”

Until then, be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

Blessed are they that mourn…

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In my previous post, we dealt the 1st of the Beatitudes, the promise made to those who are poor in spirit yet possess the kingdom. With this second Beatitude, we turn our attention to a promise that those who now mourn will one day be comforted.

Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted“. [1]

Whenever I hear the word “mourn” I think of a very deep sadness or grief, the kind that nearly overwhelms the soul. We humans mourn over all types of situations. It’s how we cope, or how we endure trials that are often beyond our capability to handle.

Mourning is an outward indicator of pain and grief. It reflects our inward sense of hopelessness over something that is usually out of our control. The loss of a loved one, for example, is one of the most common events that will cause us to mourn and suffer grief.

Of course, there are other types of mourning as well. In Jesus’ day for example, there was no doubt a spirit of heaviness upon the nation of Israel. This once proud, favored nation had succumbed to sin and found themselves under the authority of a foreign government.

No doubt Jesus himself was mourning the condition of his people as he looked out upon Jerusalem and lamented the fact that though he had continually called them back to righteousness, they had steadfastly refused to come. [2]

On a lesser extent, I’m sure that many of us today mourn the condition of our society, being forced to come to terms with the fact that what once was, is now gone forever.

Perhaps, like me, you mourn the present apostate condition of the Church. Knowing that Jesus gave his very life for the Church that now largely rejects him causes me to mourn greatly for what could have been.

Whenever we find ourselves in a place of mourning, it can be extremely difficult to see beyond our present circumstance to a place of having hope for a brighter day.

Jesus, however, said that those who mourn shall be comforted. So, what do we take away from that statement?

Perhaps the most important thing to learn from what Jesus said is that there will be an end to the mourning. Overwhelming as it may be in the moment, the source of our mourning must give way to the peace and the presence of God.

The Apostle Paul said that the peace of God surpasses all understanding [3], and it is during these intense times of mourning that He will show up, often when we least expect it, bringing the comfort of a peace beyond our own understanding.

That alone offers great comfort, because I can tell you from personal experience that there are times in our lives when it appears the pages of our circumstances will never turn.

To this very day, I mourn and grieve over certain things that I have been forced to deal with. And while the pain may not be as intense as it once was, it is still there, scarcely hidden beneath a thin veneer of faith and hope.

I thank God however that the story doesn’t end there, because Jesus said that comfort was coming! In fact, we are told that while weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning! [4]

We have inherited the promise of Jesus that we will be comforted. Whatever is causing us to mourn, it has an expiration date affixed to it. It will not last, nor can it defeat us.

I hope you will join me in clinging to the promises of God that one day, every tear will be wiped away. The day is coming when neither death, sorrow, or crying will ever be heard again. [5]

Until that day, take solace in knowing that God sees, hears, and understands the things that cause us to mourn.

Comfort is coming, in Jesus name!

The next Beatitude we’ll look into is “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth”.

Be blessed!

Ron

[1] Matthew 5:4

[2] Matthew 23:37

[3] Philippians 4:7

[4] Psalm 30:5

[5] Revelation 21:4

 

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