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What Does Your Heart Desire?

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This was the title of a sermon I delivered this morning at our church. Taken from Psalm 27, it speaks about what King David considered to be the most important thing in his life.

I’d like to share my text with you, as well a few notes that may be of encouragement to someone.

Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

Hear, O Lordwhen I cry with my voice

When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”

If you have ever felt that overwhelming feeling like it’s you against the world, you can appreciate what David is saying here. I can relate to what he is saying, because just like a lot of you I’ve been in that scary place where I’m surrounded by trouble and despair.

David uses a military analogy to describe his approach to such a situation. Whether it’s a person or an army, or even war itself, should it come against him David said that he would be confident.

The question that immediately comes to mind is confident in what? What David was saying here was that I’ve experienced God’s deliverance many times over the course of my lifetime, and I believe He will do it again.

How about you? Do you believe God will do it again? Is he still able to deliver? I know He is more than able!

David then reveals something from the depths of his heart, something that people in positions of great power and authority rarely do.

He says that he has desired just one thing of the Lord, and that was to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Does that sound like something a man of war would say? How unusual would it be to hear a king say that his desire is to behold the beauty of the Lord and to enquire in his temple?

Pretty bizarre, if you ask me.

My mind immediately goes to thoughts of “is this the same David who committed adultery? The same David who conspired to murder? The same David of whom they sang of killing tens of thousands”?

Yes! Warts and all it was that David!

The David whose life was marred by sin and destruction.

The David who would pay dearly for the sins he committed.

The David who carried an enormous amount of baggage throughout his life.

Want to know something? All of us are marred. All of us carry with us the scars of our past.

Scripture reminds us that there is none righteous, not even one(Romans 3:10).

David was saying to the Lord that he desired to be in the presence of the Lord more than anything else. 

David was King, and as such could have asked for and received anything he desired. But it wasn’t riches, or real estate, or battlefield victories he wanted.

He wanted God. Despite his history and despite the mistakes of his past, what he longed for was intimacy with God.

What are you longing for today? What does your heart desire?

I find it encouraging that David wasn’t looking for entertainment in God’s house. He wasn’t looking to be seen. He wasn’t looking for accolades from the meek and lowly.

He simply wanted to dwell in God’s house, to bask in His presence.

Isn’t that why all of us should desire to be in God’s house? 

David also recognized that in God’s house was safety and security. In the time of trouble David said that God would hide him in His pavilion. In the secret of the tabernacle God would hide him.

God’s house was the one place that David felt safe from his enemies. As King of Israel, David had a target on his back, yet in God’s house he felt safe.

In Psalm 46:1 David declares that “God is our refuge, a very present help in trouble”. 

So many times in my own life I have ran to the Lord seeking refuge from the storm that was raging. Like David, I can testify that He is indeed a “very present help in trouble”.

As I ponder this Psalm of David about being in God’s house, my mind wanders back to an old gospel song that goes something like this:

“When I walk through the doors, I felt His presence.

And I knew this was the place where love abounds.

For this is the temple, Jehovah God abides here.

And we are standing in His presence, on holy ground”.

That’s how I see being in God’s house. A holy place on holy ground.

David then tells us that in God’s house he will offer sacrifices of joy, and that he will sing praises unto the Lord.

I wonder, is this what we do when we enter His courts? Do we come in to the presence of God with a complaint or a praise?

Something to think about, isn’t it?

As a matter of fact, I asked our congregation this morning how long will we remain mute in the house of God. What would it take for us to shake off the heavy bands and lift up holy hands in praise to the King of Kings?

I shared with them how that in Psalm 22:3 David had said “But thou are holy, O thou that inhabits the praises of Israel”.

I am a firm believer that when we lift our praise and worship to the Almighty, He will come down and inhabit, or bask in our worship. Call me a fanatic, but that’s how I see it!

This is the Readers Digest version of my message this morning, and I sincerely hope you will derive some comfort from it.

I will close this blog just as I did the message this morning by asking the question:

“What Does Your Heart Desire”? 

Until the next time, may the Lord keep you safe in His arms.

Ron

 

 

 

Marking a Tragedy

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Tragedy:

an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.

“a tragedy that killed 95 people”   [1]

Do you know someone who has suffered a tragedy? Most of us do.

Perhaps it is you that has suffered a tragedy? I know I have. Several of them actually.

How does one recover from a tragedy? Does one ever really recover from a tragedy?

Are there people who never recover from a tragedy? I believe there are.

I know someone like this. This person keeps a “death calendar”. Every year when it’s time to buy a new calendar, this person will go through it marking the dates when the people they loved died. This is a “death calendar”.

Certain dates are marked with personal notes such as “this is the day my world ended”. This day is marked for mourning and little else. This is a day for closing the curtains and sitting in the dark, alone with the distant memories of the day when life stopped.

This is what I refer to as Marking a Tragedy. An event so traumatic that it causes us to put our life on hold. We don’t move past it because we either cannot or will not.

All life now centers around the tragedy. Indeed, it has become larger than life itself.

In a lifetime of dealing with my own personal tragedies and in observing the tragedies of others,I have come to the conclusion that there is a very fine line between those who suffer tragedy and never recover, and those who suffer tragedy and go on to lead productive lives.

So I wonder, what makes the difference? Why doesn’t everyone recover from their personal tragedy and go on to lead a fulfilling and productive life?

The answer, at least in part, I believe is found in the word purpose. I like the word purpose because it speaks of something, a force perhaps, beyond our own limitations.

When we realize our purpose for being, it propels us forward in life and gives us the necessary strength and courage to overcome life’s challenges. And yes, that includes tragedy.

In my own life, I can say with the utmost confidence that a sense of purpose has kept me grounded and on track(for the most part), enabling me to move beyond situations that otherwise would have likely destroyed me.

As a young man of 23 I accepted the call into ministry, a decision that completely altered my life. For the first time, I had discovered purpose and that discovery was instrumental in seeing me through some very hard times.

For example, I quickly learned that accepting this calling was not met by those nearest to me with the same joy and excitement as I felt. Far from it actually. Because of their “lack of enthusiasm” towards what I was sure God was calling me to do, it caused me to question everything about what I believed. So much so, that I wanted to throw in the towel at least once or twice a month.

Yet for all of that, and there was a lot of “that”, I could never shake the sense of purpose that I felt when doing the work of the ministry. In ways that I could not understand, it seemed that every time I was ready to quit that sense of purpose would become even stronger.

As the weeks and months turned into years and now into decades, several events have occurred in my life that meet the definition of tragedy. At least a couple of those events should have destroyed my life, and even now they continue to try to hinder me.

As someone who has spent a great deal of time studying the scriptures, I have found them to be the antidote for life’s challenges. I have lost count of how many times God’s word has pulled me back from the brink.

Like the time I was sitting in my living room, Bible in my hands, crying out to the Lord that I couldn’t take it any longer. Having been blindsided by what was soon to turn into yet another tragedy, I had reached the end of my ability to hold on.

It was then that I felt the urge to turn in my Bible to the book of Job. Now, those of you who know Job’s story also know that this isn’t the most likely place to turn for encouragement when you are at the end of your rope.

Yet when I opened the book of Job to the 38th chapter, I saw it. In verse 1 it says “The the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said”,

Did you see the “hidden message” that I so desperately need to hear from the Lord that day?

While all along I had been asking, pleading with the Lord to take away my pain and hurt, the Lord used this verse to let me know that He could speak to me in the midst of my storm. He didn’t need to wait until the storm had passed, He could speak out of my storm!

As the realization of this truth became more clear to me, I literally jumped up out of my chair shouting “YES”! I knew then that everything was going to be alright. No, the storm didn’t dissipate immediately, in fact the worst was yet to come. That didn’t matter however, because I was assured that God had a purpose for me and therefore would see me through this tragedy.

My prayer for you today is that you will understand that you have purpose. You are needed, and you are most certainly loved. Life may have knocked you down to the point where you don’t want to get back up. Get back up anyway.

Seasons come and seasons go. Seasons of joy, excitement, and hope, along with seasons of tragedy, despair, and discouragement. Seasons are, however, just that. A season.

I leave you with the 2nd half of Psalm 30:5…

”Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning”.

Be blessed this day, in Jesus name!

Ron

[1] Bing search

Catching up!

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I can hardly believe that it’s been nearly a whole month since my last blog! This certainly wasn’t planned, so I thought I would share with you what has me so preoccupied these days.

If you will remember, several weeks ago I accepted the position of Associate Pastor of our church. Since then, my responsibilities have grown exponentially leaving me little free time to attend to this blog.

At our church we have Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, and a Wednesday mid-week service, all of which I have some responsibility for.

I minister at every Wednesday service, which of course requires study time as well as prayer time. I also teach the adult Sunday School class every other Sunday. Again, more study and prep time.

For all of our services I am also part of the worship team, playing guitar while my wife Debbie plays the keyboard. Even our daughter has joined in the festivities as a children’s Sunday School teacher.

One of my most time consuming responsibilities is editing the video of our services. This is something I have never done before so it has been quite the learning experience for me. Especially since I’m learning completely on my own!

Learning a new software program is challenging enough, but trying to edit a video on a woefully underpowered laptop is the essence of frustration. My computer is so old and underpowered that it actually overheats and shuts down in the middle of what I’m doing!

If you know anything about this type of work, you know that to edit 4K video requires a beast of a computer, which neither our church or myself has. We are currently looking into a new PC that can handle this type of task, but because we are a small church money is tight. We simply don’t have the $2000 (low end!) to purchase what we need. So we continue to pray that God will make a way for us.

I roughly calculated that using my old PC to edit video is taking about 15-20 hours. For ONE video! As someone who is always looking for the most efficient method of getting a task completed, this activity has been “somewhat trying” on me.

One of my other responsibilities is that of managing our church website. It is a work in progress, with yours truly learning on the fly once again. We are locked into the current site hosting plan for the next year, but after that we will reevaluate things and see if we might move it to WordPress or some other platform that gives us more control over our content. For now, it does the job. If you’d care to check it out, head on over to cognocatee.org. Please remember, it still has a ways to go but it is far beyond what it was when I started.

One other thing I’m heading up now is our daily devotional outreach ministry. This is where we send out an encouraging scripture text each day, and include any urgent prayer requests along with it. So, I have had to learn a couple of new communication systems pretty quickly, which is actually very interesting to me.

Ironically, of the many things I am now doing in ministry I doubt I could have gotten up to speed so quickly had I not had the career I had at Honda. Being immersed in various forms of technology there enabled me to bring much of that same aptitude to my ministry work. It almost makes me think this was God’s plan all along. What do you think?

So there you have it.  I know I left something out, but I cannot remember what it is. At any rate, I think you get the picture. This is my new “retired life”, and I love it!

Of course, like every church ours struggles with the whole Covid-19 issue. Reorganizing the sanctuary to ensure safe distance was no easy task, and it severely limits the number of worshipers we can have.

Nonetheless, I am thrilled to be waist deep in ministry during this season of my life. I am blessed beyond measure to have a wife who is not only supportive of what I’m doing, but is right there with me when she can be. She remains my biggest supporter and I am thankful the Lord uses her gifts and talents as well.

With that I will say “thank you” to you who have prayed for me and encouraged me faithfully to press onward. I am always amazed at how faithful God is when we put our hand to the plow.

I promise I will try not to stay away so long before posting again. Believe me, I have a million words stored away for this blog but I am lacking the time to express them for now. As in all things, God knows and understands best doesn’t He?

I pray the Lord blesses you and encourages you daily. In these trying times we need the Lord like never before, and it is a great comfort to know that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”. Psalm 46:1

Ron

Sorry America, but your rage is misplaced

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Coming out of the recent pandemic that saw a near complete shutdown of our society along with critical shortages of many essential items, I am struck by the things we now seem to have an abundance of.

Anger comes to mind as something we have in abundance. And hatred, let’s not forget the overflow of hatred in America. Oh, and I don’t want to forget one other thing we have in great abundance today; finger pointing. Can’t forget that now, can I?

Almost beyond belief, it would seem that the cataclysmic virus that had doomed us all to certain death really wasn’t the apocalyptic event prophesied by the media after all. How could it be, when hundreds of thousands are marching side by side not wearing a mask? Imagine that would you?

Things were so bad that we were strictly forbidden to go to church for fear of spreading this death defying virus, yet somehow or another congregating in crowds of tens of thousands doesn’t pose any health risks at all.

I mean, who knew?

Honestly, I’m thinking the wrong crowds are filling the streets of America. I’m thinking we awful, disease spreading, unenlightened Christians ought to be the ones pouring out into the streets of America to protest the theft of our Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of worship. [1]

Speaking of pouring out into the streets, I have lived on this earth for just over 65 years, and in that time I have seen many instances where people took to the streets out of frustration and anger over issues beyond their control.

I was just a boy of eight years of age when Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.

I was thirteen when the infamous “Chicago Seven” were arrested for their anti war activities during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

Just two years later when I was a 15 year old, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a crowd of Vietnam War protestors, killing four and wounding nine. Living just a couple of hours from Kent State University, it seemed like it was in my backyard.

Since those tumultuous times of decades past, there have been several other noteworthy examples of citizens taking to the streets to protest for one reason or another. Abortion, LBGTQ, Environment, Guns, Women’s rights, Anti-war, and the Million man and Million woman marches have all made their mark on the fabric of American society.

Today, as our nation once again seethes with anger in the wake of the brutal, heinous murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, millions are again taking to the streets in a show of indignation and defiance of the status quo.

Of course, the violence that has erupted during the peaceful marches is the result of a well planned and well funded attempt to destroy the fabric of American society from within. There is only one word that most aptly describes what is being played out before our eyes: EVIL.

We can dress it up any way we like to, but it’s still EVIL. We can call it racism or bigotry or any number of other names, but it’s still EVIL. And this is what those marching and protesting in the streets do not understand. This is NOT an issue of race. It is an issue of EVIL. Even those violent criminals that have been unleashed upon our society are completely misguided. The issue here is not one group hating another. It goes much, much deeper than that.

What we’re dealing with here is of the spiritual nature. Don’t believe that? Read what the Apostle Paul had to say about the subject of EVIL.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (emphasis mine)

Did you understand what Paul meant? Our battle, your battle, is not with mankind. It is NOT with your neighbor who is of a different skin color than yours. It is NOT with those whose belief system differs from your own. No, the battle is against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

In other words, the battle is against the spiritual forces of darkness that exist in high places. Who is leading the charge of these forces of darkness at play in our society? Why, it’s none other than Satan himself. That’s right, and every person storming the streets today is being played by the devil. Not a popular sentiment, is it?

Why do you suppose racism still exists at the level it does today? Why haven’t supposedly educated, enlightened individuals been able to come up with a permanent cure for racism? The answer is so simple that its almost too simple. The reason racism still exists at its current level is because the cure for racism is the love of God, and the world has largely rejected the Source of this love.

It’s like the old adage about taking a knife into a gunfight. You can be the very best at using a knife, but against a gun you have virtually zero chance of success against your adversary. Fighting systemic racism by protests, even violent protests does nothing to address the root of the problem! To be sure, these marches have gotten the attention of the entire world. They have no doubt spawned new discussions (or soon will) on how best to deal with the problem.

But not one thing is being done to address the root of the problem: we have forsaken God.

And that, dear readers, is not something that can be corrected by marching down Main Street USA. It can only be corrected at an altar.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

 

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? Psalm 2:1

 

[1] The Bill of Rights: Amendment 1

This Little Light of Mine

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How many have heard the old gospel song “This Little Light of Mine”?

It’s a song recognized around the world as a favorite of children. Many of you may have first learned this song in Sunday School or children’s church.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

Oh this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

 

Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine,

Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine,

Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine,

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

 

Won’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine,

Won’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine,

Won’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine,

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Though originally written as a song of love, hope, and devotion to our Savior, This Little Light of Mine was also sung as an anthem of hope and courage during the American civil rights movement of the 1960’s. In fact, it’s still being sung today during times of civil unrest.

America could sure use a little hope right about now, wouldn’t you agree? And we certainly need to shed some light on these times of uncertainty, when it seems that this present darkness is overpowering what little light remains.

Thinking about all of this as I watch the carnage unfolding across the landscape of America, about how desperately we now need the Church to be a beacon of light and a sanctuary of love, I can’t help but be reminded of the words of Jesus when he told the Disciples to let their light shine.  

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.   

15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand , and it gives light to all who are in the house.   

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. [1]   

The Church, that is You and Me, has the answer to the cancer that is racism. We have the antidote within us to calm the fears of a nation bordering on collapse.

The love of God is that light of the world. It is shed abroad in our hearts so that men might see Christ in us. It is given to us that men might see our good works and give praise to God for them.

Now is not the time to hide our lights. It is for such a time as this that God has given you this light, that those stumbling in the darkness may see.

While the politicians and the media are consumed with finger pointing and spewing forth their poisonous venom, the Church must be the Church.

Whether your church’s doors are open or closed has no bearing on who you are in Christ. What God has placed in your heart is not regulated by politicians, but guided rather by a higher Power.

The command to “let your light so shine before men” is in essence the marching orders of every Christian. The light within you is the antidote for hatred, and it must not be hidden from society.

I encourage everyone to pray for the situation in America. Pray that men would desire peace, and that the Lord would send peace that “passes all understanding”. [2]

I know that many today hold to the opinion that prayer doesn’t work. The Bible, however, tells us that “the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”. [3]

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

Oh this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Don’t let anything stop your light from shining. America and the rest of the world need to see it!

Ron 

[1] Matthew 15:14-16    

[2] Philippians 4:7  

[3] James 5:16 

 

If it’s all the same to you…

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Setting outside this morning, I am struck at how beautiful, calm, and peaceful it is here. The sun came up just as it always does, rising above the treetops in slow motion as it unveils an endless kaleidoscope of color. All around me butterflies are darting from flower to flower, gathering the nectar that ensures their survival. The colors and patterns of their wings give evidence that God’s imagination and creativity far exceeds our own.

Flying about are birds of all kinds, each singing their uniquely beautiful song. One can’t help but be envious at the incredible variety of sounds they make. It’s almost like attending a concert, where every song is different and if you hang around long enough, you will eventually hear that special one that thrills your heart. Occasionally, all the birds will start screeching at once, and we have learned that this is the signal that a Bobcat is hiding in the grass or under a shrub close by.

Squirrels, of which there are many, are chasing each other in an endless game of tag. Only the heat of the day slows them down, yet the evening finds them once again running all over my back yard.

In the dead palm tree that I intend to make a weathervane post out of, several birds have taken up residence in the holes the Woodpeckers have created in their search for insects. I’m pretty sure at least one nest has babies in it, so the weathervane post will just have to wait a while longer.

On top of that, a beautiful Red-tailed Hawk has recently taken a liking to the top of this palm tree. From atop this perch it watches for the slightest movement on the ground, and its arrival sends every playful squirrel on a mad dash to the safety of the thick cluster of gnarled Oak branches all of us have in our yards.

There is enough here to make this now retired country boy feel like there is no place I’d rather be. Unfortunately, I cannot stay here forever, as my increasing list of ministry responsibilities calls me out into the world to do what I know God has called me to do.    

Leaving this idyllic scene, I step out ever so cautiously into the world where I am immediately greeted by noise and chaos. I am confronted by people who are scared, angry, apprehensive, and uncertain. “When are we going to get back to normal” they ask. Shouts of “I can’t take any more of this” are heard on a frequent basis. The difference between my backyard and the outside world could not be more dramatic. I cannot wait to get back to my sanctuary.

Everywhere I go, the prevailing topic of conversation is COVID-19. For reasons I am not completely sure of, this virus has paralyzed most of the world. Yes, of course it is serious, however it does not mark the beginning of the end of the world as many in the media would have you believe.

If there is one thing this pandemic has revealed about us here in America, it is that we do not handle uncertainty well. Uncharted waters throw us into a frenzy of apprehension and uncertainty. We need to feel as though we are in control of our destiny, and right now control has slipped through our fingers leaving us dazed and shell-shocked.

Disease frightens us in ways that few things do, especially disease that there is no rational explanation for. The unknown tends to either frighten us or make us angry. We are fearful of that which cannot be explained to our satisfaction, angry at our inability to eradicate it by throwing vast sums of money at it, or even angrier at the level of distrust that exists among those who should be united in leading the efforts to solve this current crisis.

As I reflect upon the scene unfolding before us, I cannot help but think of the number of books I have read about other periods of hardship in America. Two World Wars, the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, Polio, Poverty, etc.

Any one of these events could have brought America to its knees and prevented this nation from ever rising to the heights of prosperity it has become accustomed to. 

Yet none of them did, and the question begs asking “why didn’t they”?

I believe it was because of two primary reasons:

  1. Americans come from the hardy stock of immigrants who asked only for an opportunity. They supplied the hard work and “can do” spirit that enabled them to overcome adversity and misfortune. These hard-working men and women forged a nation out of prairies, forests, and mountains, willing to pay the price of endless pain and suffering to make a better life for their families. In short, nothing would deter them from taking full advantage of the opportunities before them.
  2. During past times of severe crisis, Americans always turned to God for help. Acknowledging their own inabilities, they looked to the One who could pull them from the depths of despair and hopelessness that often attempted to crush their dreams. They knew, as did their own ancestors, that survival meant they had to stare down adversity and press forward.

Today, I hear very little in the way of pleading for help from the Lord. I hear no cries for mercy, no repentance for the way that we have rejected the Almighty. It is as if God has been erased from our consciousness.

What I do hear are the voices of fear and uncertainty. As if on que, the TV newscasters cannot wait to tell us of the next shortage of meat, toilet paper, or hand sanitizer. Followed immediately, of course, by a camera shot of an empty grocery store shelf to prove the validity of their story.

I see the fear in some of the faces of the elderly at Walmart. You can always tell which ones have endured hard times before. They quietly go about their business and get on with their lives. They don’t hoard because they’ve been here before. They understand that any extra, unneeded purchases mean someone else who is in need may have to do without.

Those who have lived a life of relative ease are just as easy to spot. They are the ones who buy as much of a given product as allowed, because fear of the unknown grips their hearts. They have never done without or had to ration what they had in order to make it last. They are the ones with a grocery cart piled high with toilet paper and frozen dinners.

These are trying times, of that there can be no doubt. As for returning to normal, whatever that is, I’m not convinced we will ever see that again. I feel as though we have turned the page in the book of God’s prophetic timetable. To be perfectly honest, I believe we are on the threshold of the days Jesus described as the “beginning of sorrows”.

Even though it’s not possible, if it’s all the same to you, I’d just as soon hang around my back yard and watch the coming events unfold. I much prefer the birds, butterflies, squirrels, and hawks to the anger and uncertainty “out there”.

Take care everyone, and remember: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble“. Psalm 46:1

Ron

 

 

What Are You Anchored To?

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Things have been moving along at a fairly good clip recently in spite of the quarantine/lock-down we’ve been under for the past month or so. I’ve been busy with church work, hospital visits, and recording radio broadcasts. Our church is busy acquiring new camera and recording equipment so that when we are able to make use of our sanctuary again, we will be able to produce top quality material to upload to YouTube, Radio, and our own Podcasts. We are working hard, using this “downtime” to better equip our church to reach our community and far beyond.

Speaking of hospital visits, there is nothing normal about visiting someone in the hospital now thanks to the Corona virus. As a matter of fact, my pastor was hospitalized for several days recently and he was not permitted a single visitor, not even his wife! Imagine having to communicate by phone while looking at each other through the window. These are strange times indeed.

A couple of days ago I received a call early in the morning from my pastor asking me if I wanted to go to the hospital with him to pray for someone. This wasn’t a member of our church or someone we knew, which of course doesn’t make a bit of difference to us, so of course I was happy to go along.

I didn’t realize until we arrived at the hospital that they weren’t going to allow both of us to see this person, so while pastor had his temperature taken and filled out the lengthy questionnaire, I decided to spend the time speaking with the family members gathered outside.

It has always amazed me what you can learn about people if you will just take the time and listen. During a crisis, especially when it is life and death, people are also more prone to listen to what you have to say as well. It makes for a good opportunity to talk with them about eternity, in fact I found this family very willing to talk about spiritual things.

So, for the next 20 minutes that’s just what we did. I learned that this family knew quite a bit about God yet were living their lives far from Him. I listened as I was told of how they used to attend church a long time ago, and in fact two of their daughters still attend church. Interesting, isn’t it, that the parents who used to take their kids to church many years ago now no longer attend, yet their children do.

Whenever you get in a conversation with folks who “used to go to church”, they always want you to know that. It’s a type of defense mechanism I believe, a way to let you know that they know all about God and church, so you don’t really need to go into all of that with them.

I think it’s called deflection.

At any rate, I gently reminded the person I was speaking with that what we used to do so far as attending church didn’t mean that we had somehow accumulated enough “points” with God to permit us to ignore Him today. I let her and her family know that God isn’t a genie that can be summoned to our rescue whenever it was convenient for us to do so.

Altusfineart.com

I find that a lot of people treat God this way. They live their life in whatever manner they choose and give little if any thought to eternal, or spiritual things. They can’t be bothered with religion, spirituality, or God. Those are things that one comes to terms with when they get old and are coming to the end of their days.

I used this family as an example as I was recording the radio broadcast yesterday. I was speaking from Mark chapter 4, the story of Jesus rebuking the winds, and how the disciples did the only thing they knew to do during this violent storm, which was to call upon Jesus.

The point I was making was that we cannot wait until we are in the storm to turn to God because there may not be time do so. The time to turn to Jesus is right now, before the next storm comes rushing into our lives.

And that is where I will leave this post. All of us have faced the storms of life, and it is for certain that storms will come again. The question we need to ask ourselves is this; “what are you anchored to”?

Will you be like the family I was speaking with at the hospital, with no anchor and no lifeline? Will the next storm find you tossed about, at the mercy of the wind and rain? Will you be forced to cry out to your “genie” to save you?

If you answered YES to these questions, then you need to turn your heart to Jesus. Don’t wait, don’t keep making excuses, just do it. NOW.

Trusting in His promise to never leave us or forsake us,

Ron

Help in trying times

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I sincerely hope that this post finds all of you safe and as well as can be expected during these times of unrest and uncertainty. 

It seems that all of us are impacted in one way or another by COVID-19, and the staggering toll this virus is taking on the entire world leaves many wondering how much longer they can endure the restrictions, closures, quarantines, lockdowns, and empty grocery stores.

Of course, none of these temporary hardships can begin to compare with the loss of lives, those still hospitalized, and the hundreds of thousands of confirmed cases.

By actual count as of 3/28/2020 @ 3:16 PM EST the numbers look like this:

  • Coronavirus Cases = 650,926
  • Deaths = 30,299
  • Recovered = 139,555

Source = https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

All of this says nothing about the impact to families, businesses, schools, and even churches. The financial impact alone is almost incalculable. No one has a clue as to how long real recovery will take or even what that will eventually look like. 

Now that certain states are contemplating the closure of their borders, one has to wonder if we won’t soon see armed military guarding all entrances to states in an effort to stem the tide of this deadly pandemic.

If all of this seems more than a little surreal, you are not alone in thinking that. Americans all across this nation are now confronted with an enemy that strikes at will, and to date has met little resistance.

That being said, and contrary to the 24/7 NNN (Negative News Networks) portrayal of hopelessness, we know that we can go to our Lord in prayer for help and support during these trying times. All throughout the Bible we have examples of God’s people turning their hearts toward Him in their hour of distress, and we are afforded the very same privilege today!

Wanting to encourage our church family, yesterday I recorded a message for our church’s radio broadcast and entitled it simply Strength for These Uncertain Times. In this message I recounted the story of David and his army, who upon returning to their home base of Ziklag, found the city burned and their wives and children taken captive.

So distressed were David’s men that they talked among themselves of stoning David to death. Knowing he was outnumbered and that his life was in peril, David did the only thing he could do; he strengthened himself in the Lord his God. [1]

I love this particular story because it points to the fact that when we are at the end of our rope and out of options, God is more than able to help us if we will turn our hearts toward Him. David found this to be true when he recovered all of their families that had been taken.

For many of us however, God is always our last resort. We will try everything in our own power to fix, overcome, or otherwise do it on our own before as a last resort calling upon the Lord.

I would like to encourage all of us to tackle the challenges we are facing today in a different, even radical manner. How about we look to the Lord first instead of as our last option?

If we would just remember that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, it is my firm conviction that He will give us the strength we are all going to need for the days to come. [2]

It is true that we are facing an uncertain future, a future that is changing at such a rapid pace that few of us can keep up. 

Just as true however is the certainty that none of this has taken God by surprise. The very One that knew us while we were yet in our mother’s womb is also the One who holds the future in His hands. What is uncertain to all of us, God has already seen.

I end this post with a final thought from the Psalmist of Israel:

The Lord is on my side. I will not fear. What can man do to me”? [3]

Take courage beloved, God is still God, and He always will be God!

Ron

 

[1] 1 Samuel 30:6

[2] Psalm 46:1

[3] Psalm 118:6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cold, hard truth is that this COVID-19 virus is unmanageable for a President, a Prime Minister, a Chairman, or any governmental powers. If anyone says otherwise, or that they could have reacted better or faster, or that they have the solution, to them I say you are either a liar or you have no conscious. Otherwise you would have stepped forward and made your case.

This is the worst possible time to be pointing fingers, but the nauseating debacle of getting the stimulus package approved was a classic example of a childish game of “it’s all your fault”.

How disheartening that the politicians on both sides of the aisle made it clear that the 2 Trillion dollar relief bill wasn’t really about you, it was about them getting their pet projects approved.

Any rational person understands that every cent of that 2 Trillion dollars should be earmarked for costs directly associated with this virus, not more pork from Washington. Under the guise of a $1,200 relief payment, politicians from across this nation have once again shown us that they are not worthy of our trust.

I bring this up dear reader, because regardless of your political affiliation, what has just happened here shows you once and for all that you and I simply do not matter. We are merely pawns in this diabolical shell game between warring factions of arguably the most corrupt political system the world has ever known.

And that is a bitter pill to swallow. It didn’t start out this way. It was never supposed to be this way.

Unfortunately, it is, and no upcoming election will change things. The lines have been drawn in the sand. The word “compromise” has been stricken from the vocabulary of this current crop of politicians.

You want to know the real tragedy in all of this? What we are currently witnessing is mild compared to what awaits us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Relentless Attack on the Family

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This post is a brief summary of a recent lesson I taught on the war that is being waged against the family in America today.

It is an undeniable fact that families in America are under attack, most especially those who still hold to the once common “bring up the child in the fear and admonition of the Lord” point of view. [1]

With an ever-growing list of governmental, secular, and societal obstacles to overcome, the traditional family structure is precariously balancing on the verge of extinction. One doesn’t have to do much more than open their web browser or turn on the TV to see this being played out.

Sociologists, Anthropologists, and Psychologists all agree that families must change, evolve, and adapt along with the society surrounding them or they risk being left behind. Few of us, for example, would prefer to return to the labor intensive, pre-technology days of our past. If you’ve ever driven by an Amish farm, I think you would agree with that sentiment.

Of course, nothing ever stays the same, and we all know that change in inevitable. How we manage those changes however, especially those that threaten our family’s spiritual values, will likely determine whether we continue raising those families in a Christ-affirming manner, or succumb to the changes brought on by an increasingly hostile and anti-Christian society.

The plain truth is that the family is facing an unprecedented assault by none other than Satan himself. Cleverly disguised so as not to revel his true identity, he alone is the family’s number one enemy. [2]

From the beginning, Satan has fought against the family. He has done his best to sow division and discord within it. By attempting to change the family from the original God-ordained structure we read of in the creation story, Satan has corrupted the family into the “define your own family unit as you see fit” example being presented today.

Be that as it may, I cannot overstate the importance of the fact that God is the greatest supporter of the traditional family the world has ever known. He should be, after all He created the very first family.

Had the original family not been blind-sided by a cunning, cruel, and deceptive adversary, the Utopia that was Eden might well have been our existence as well. At least I’d like to believe that.

In God’s original plan for the family, there was no hatred, jealousy, or distrust to be found. Indeed, so innocent and pure were the first two humans that God Himself walked among them in their garden, communing with them.

It didn’t take long before the adversary took note of this and sowed the covenant-breaking seeds of discord that literally shook the known world. A shaking that continues to this day, I might add. How could the original “first family” have known that a seemingly innocent conversation would alter the course of human history for all time?

Fast forward a few years and we see children being added to their family. Two sons were born to Adam and Eve, sons that grew up to become young men, one of whom was destined to follow his parent’s footsteps by making his own foundation-shaking poor choice.

As if his parent’s disobedience wasn’t bad enough, by murdering his younger brother Abel, Cain’s actions forever proved mankind as being incapable of resisting the whims of the adversary should man choose to disobey his Creator.

The sheer volume of heartache attributed to this disobedience is unquestionably a major contributor to the overall decline in the values and morals of our society. Small wonder then that Satan is so relentless in his ambitious campaign to destroy the family in America.

Here are just a few of the “methods” Satan is using to attack the family in America today:

  • Divorce (1 every 13 seconds, or 2.4 million a year) [3]
  • Drug & Alcohol addiction (over 21 million Americans have at least one addiction. Aside from the horrendous personal cost to the addicted and their families, addiction imposes a staggering $600 billion cost to the U.S. economy each year) [4]
  • Abuse & Neglect (nearly 700K abused children each year) [5]
  • Abortion (Reported CDC statistics do show a reduction in abortions from 1.4 million in 1990 to 623K in 2016). By some estimates, nearly 60 million babies have been aborted since it became “legal” to kill the unborn. [6]

As brief as this list is, it is nonetheless sobering to consider the magnitude of what the family is up against today. This is why mere words cannot turn the tide in this war against the family in America. What is required is divine intervention.

God’s people must rise up in prayerful unity and begin calling upon the Lord to fight this battle for us. Just as a young shepherd boy summoned the courage to challenge the status quo by declaring that “the battle is the Lord’s”, so must we in our day take the fight to the enemy by bringing God into the battle. [7]

My heartfelt prayer is that every child of God will do just that.

Be blessed in Jesus name,

Ron

 

[1] Ephesians 6:4

[2] 2 Corinthians 11:14,15

[3] WF-Lawyers.com

[4] Addictioncenter.com 

[5] Nationalchildrensalliance.org

[6] Wikipedia.org

[7] 1 Samuel 17:45-47

 

 

 

In Times Like These

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