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Faithful to the call

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Every Christian is a called Christian.

In spite of the fact that there are over six hundred thousand paid clergy in the United States, every Christian, irrespective of denomination or church affiliation, has been called to “spread the Good News”.

Think about it; there are currently over 7.6 billion souls on the earth. If only those 600,00 paid clergy were sharing the gospel, each of them would be responsible for 12,666 of those 7.6 billion souls. How practical is that?

The ‘Great Commission’, found in Mark 16:15 directs us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature“. This is the defining call upon the lives of all believers everywhere.

The fact is that God intended for all of us, whether paid/professional clergy or laymen and laywomen, to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a solemn and divine mandate handed to us by Jesus Himself.

The question all of us must answer is simple: are we being faithful to this very personal call to preach the gospel? And if not, why not?

We hear many excuses for not heeding the call, don’t we? Let me list a few and see if they sound familiar.

  • It’s not my job
  • That’s what we pay the minister to do
  • I’m not qualified
  • I give in the offering, isn’t that enough?
  • I lack the confidence to talk about such things

The thing is, most if not all of us have used these or similar excuses before to explain away our missed opportunities to share the Gospel. It’s not that we set out to deliberately shirk our personal responsibilities, it’s just that in our humanity we somehow manage to do so.

I’m from the camp that believes that God has not only called us all to spread the Good News, but that He has also equipped us all to do the work. You don’t need to be a Biblical scholar, nor do you need a seminary education to be a witness of His goodness.

You see, God has a unique way of taking our life’s experiences and using them as a catalyst to reach the lost. In other words, he takes what you already have and uses it to reach someone who needs to hear your story.

As an example, I was approached one day by someone I had never seen before who wanted to speak with me about Christianity and divorce. When I asked her why she was coming to me, she replied that she had heard that I had been divorced and had been watching my life from a distance.

Scary, huh?

She wanted to know how I had been able to move past such a difficult and personal issue. This was an opportunity to share with her that the Gospel is both personal and powerful, and that faith in Jesus will sustain us in the worst of times.

God took a tragic season of my life and was able to use it to encourage another of His children to keep pressing on. What’s great about this is that all of us have stories of hurt, abuse, despair, and bitterness that God can use as an opening to to share the Good News with another person.

Our role is simply to be faithful to the call by allowing God to use our brokenness to reach others. It’s a proven fact that some of the most powerful witnesses for Jesus are also some of the most broken.

Like you.

My hope and my prayer is that we would allow God to take our lives and use them as His hands and feet to reach this desperately lost and searching generation.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

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If you’ve ever wondered if God cares

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Let’s face it.

There are very few of us who haven’t wondered from time to time if God really does care about us. When we’re dealing with feelings of insecurity, loneliness, fear, betrayal, or shame this opens the door for the enemy to cast doubt in our minds as to whether God cares.

We rationalize in our minds the thought that if God does indeed care, would I be dealing with these feelings in the first place?

So, we wonder.

This falls perfectly in line with John 10:10 where Jesus said that “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” Satan comes to steal and kill our confidence in God, and once this is accomplished he moves in to destroy.

So how do we know that God really does care about us, and that he knows what we are going through? After all, aren’t there times when even the most ardent follower of Jesus needs to be reminded of John 3:16?

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.”

I’d say that a God who would give His only Son as a sacrifice to pay for your sins has demonstrated His care and concern for you, wouldn’t you agree?

But let’s dive just a bit deeper into this matter. I believe another way that Jesus demonstrates His care for us is in the fact that He knows all about us. That’s right, He knows all about YOU.

Just how do we know this to be true?

Because He has given us detailed examples in His word.

Using the seven churches in Asia found in the Book of Revelation as our guide, we find that Jesus had many things to say to these churches. The word that Jesus spoke to each individual church reflected their spiritual condition and relationship with Christ. Some received words of comfort and edification, while others received words of rebuke and correction.

Imagine if you will two columns, one with pluses and one with minuses, and in each of those columns Jesus lists the positives and the negatives that He has found within each of these seven churches.

Yet for all of that, there are commonalities in what Jesus had to say to them. For example, to each one of the churches of Revelation Jesus says the same two words:

“I KNOW”

  • I know your works, your labor, your patience…
  • I know your works, tribulation, and poverty…
  • I know your works, and where you dwell…
  • I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience…
  • I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead…
  • I know your works…
  • I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot…

“I KNOW”

So how do we know that God really does care about us, and that he knows what we are going through?

Because He knows you more intimately than you could ever know yourself. Just as He knew every detail of each of the seven churches of Revelation, so does He know you.

We can take comfort in knowing that Jesus knows all about it.

Ron

 

How Good Do We Have to Be?

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This is the title of a book written by Harold S. Kushner. Full disclaimer: before seeing this book on a shelf along with several other used books, I had never heard of either the author or the book, therefore I have no idea of its contents.

What intrigued me about it however was the title, because this is THE question that people have been asking for thousands of years.

Just how much do I have to do, and how good is good enough to make it into heaven?

We all know that the underlying belief system for many people is one based upon works. If you’re a good enough person, meaning that at the end of your life your good deeds outweigh the bad, that’s all that’s required to gain entrance into heaven.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard this all of your life. That’s how pervasive this belief is.

So, is it possible to be ‘good enough’?  If so, how exactly do you measure what ‘good enough’ is? Is there a sliding scale or barometer of ‘good’? Has the criteria for ‘good enough’ been made available to us all?

For the answer to those  questions, let’s go to the official source of information for understanding heaven’s entry fee: God’s Word.

The Psalmist declared that there were none that were good. Not even one!

The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.   Psalm 14:2,3

Jesus, in response to the question of “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”, said “Why do you call me good? there is none good but one, that is, God…”  Matthew 19:16,17

The man that asked Jesus this question was very wealthy, and believed (like many of us) that the key to inheriting eternal life was found in the word ‘good’. He likely thought he could donate a sum of money or possessions, or that by doing a “good thing” it would ensure him entry into heaven.

Unfortunately for this man (and billions like him), the scriptures are clear that any priority placed on ‘good’ is misplaced. That is because ‘good’ as defined by man is never going to be ‘good enough’.

That is why Jesus said that there is no one good, but God.

In other words, apart from God man can never be ‘good enough’ to inherit heaven. If he could, there would have been no need for Jesus to come and offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Indeed, He has died in vain if we ourselves could somehow be ‘good enough’.

If your church or denomination teaches you that God will accept you because of your good works, you are sitting under deception. God will only accept you because he sees that your sins have been covered by the blood of his only Son.

If we were to humble our hearts and really think about it, is there really anything within us that is good, except for the Lord himself? For me personally, I know that the answer to that is NO!

Any good found within me has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with Him!

How about you?

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

The very real dangers of entanglement

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Are you one of those people who frequently says, “where did the time go”?

This happens to a lot of us, especially when we get too busy. Like when you’re burning the candle at both ends busy.

“Busy” probably describes most people but being ‘too busy’ is what I want to focus on with this post. In particular, I want to talk about how easy it is even on our best days for God to occasionally get left out, while on those ‘too busy’ days He likely isn’t even thought of at all.

I’m one of those who believe that the Lord is at work in our lives each day. Because of this, I recognize that His presence is also a daily occurrence in my life.

My point being that I never have to wonder if God is with me. I know that He is.

Now, does that mean I don’t have times when I question “Lord, where are you”? Of course not! Like all of you, I am sometimes slow to adjust to God’s timing, thinking that He should react immediately to my petitions.

We all know that the Lord just doesn’t work like that.

Well, at least He doesn’t in my life.

None of this however changes the fact that God is always with us. He is the faithful one in our relationship, and fortunately for all of us he is never ‘too busy’ for us, nor does he forget about us. I don’t know how He does it, but somehow, He always makes time for us.

We, on the other hand, can get so busy with this thing we call ‘life’ that God gets shoved aside. Just stop for a moment and think of all the things you’ve done today and add those to tomorrow’s ‘to do list’, and you get a picture of how busy your life really is.

Seriously, some of us could apply for the position of a circus juggler because we are constantly having to juggle our time and schedules.

What’s amazing about this is that we don’t even realize it. In fact, it’s our everyday, normal life isn’t it? It’s like a saying we used to use at work that “the abnormal has become normal”.

Herein is the danger of becoming too busy with life. We don’t realize how much of ourselves we are constantly pouring into other things, people, or causes.

All at the expense of allowing God to pour into us, which He cannot do because we are too busy with everything else but Him!

The apostle Paul recognized the danger of allowing ourselves to become entangled in a multitude of things, things that eventually entrap us much like a bird in a snare. In his 2nd letter to Timothy, Paul wrote the following:

No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”  2 Tim. 2:4

As in all of his writings, Paul sees the relationship we have with Christ as one where we are in a battle. We have been enlisted as soldiers in God’s army, with a duty to carry out His orders.

Paul understands that if we are to please the One who is giving us our marching orders, we cannot become entangled with the affairs of this life. To do so would cause our attention to be diverted away from the task He has assigned to us.

Many of you can no doubt relate to being pulled a hundred different directions at one time, and this is what Paul is warning us against. Simply put, if we have become ‘too busy’ to be able to respond to our Leader, we have ceased to be a soldier that is pleasing to Him.

All of us have causes and projects that we support or have any number of family obligations that must be attended to. Paul is not telling us to abandon those things, but rather to make sure they do not become a snare to us.

The key here is to strike a balance between life’s obligations and giving time and attention to the One who makes our lives possible.

By doing this, we don’t have to worry about becoming ensnared by the everyday affairs of this life. We can be productive, positive members of society and also good soldiers of the One who has called us.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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