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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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What does submission to God look like?

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Recently, I came across a used copy of John Maxwell’s book The Difference Maker, a book about taking control and personal responsibility for our attitudes. I am very familiar with Maxwell’s works as they are particularly popular in management circles,  and I have read several of his bestsellers. After skimming through a few pages, I decided to bring the book home with me.

I have to say that I loved 99% of this book. Within its pages are numerous examples of the type of person that we all wish we were, the type of person that society elevates and the media promotes. The successful and always smiling, a.k.a. the beautiful people.

You know the type I’m sure: the person that chooses to be positive and sees good in practically every situation. The person that makes a conscious decision to not allow discouragement to defeat them. The person who takes charge of the situation. The upwardly mobile fighter that will not accept the status quo.

Yes…that person. The “I’ve got it all under control” person.

Which brings me to the 1% I did not like about this book. Reading it brought me face to face with the harsh reality that I am not always the type of person I just described. Truthfully, in some ways I seem to be very far removed from it.

And therein is the problem. None of us are perfect. All of us have flaws. We all fall short at times. In reality, there is not one person alive that is always happy, always successful, always positive, always in control of every situation.

Yet most if not all of us will inevitably compare ourselves to this impossible, unreachable standard. We can’t help ourselves because the pressure is on for all of us to conform. After all, who wants to be on the outside looking in?

Maybe I’ve been in denial, or perhaps I’ve been afflicted with the ‘ostrich syndrome’. In either case, I didn’t fully realize it until now. No, scratch that. Who am I kidding? I’ve known it for some time now. I am that person on the outside looking in!

Lately, I’ve been asking myself if any of this within my grasp. Can we reach the lofty status of the “I’ve got it all under control” person, or should we even care? Is it really possible to find that place of perfect contentment? Because if the Apostle Paul learned to be content in whatever state he found himself in, why can’t you and I? [1]

My brain says that I should give myself a pass. After all, I am now retired, and as my dear wife often reminds me, there’s nothing wrong with letting myself enjoy this next chapter. In fact, she refers to it as “having joy in the journey”. No deadlines, no stress, no performance reviews, no monthly reports, no business plans, and no budgets to worry about (except for my own).

So where is this seemingly mythical place called ‘contentment’? Having enjoyed it on an occasional basis (at best) , have I have given up the fight for it and chosen instead to simply walk away into the sunset? Have I gotten sidetracked? At times I truly wonder, and the very thought that this might be true scares the daylights out of me because this isn’t who I am!

I am NOT a “just going through the motions” kind of guy!

Now you may be asking yourself what all of this is about, so I guess I should explain. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a real servant, or follower of God. In a sense, I’m trying to better understand where I am on this journey, where I think I should be, and how I fit into God’s plan. [2]

Of course, many will say that at my age what does any of that matter. Why be concerned about where I fit into God’s plans, let the younger people deal with that. After all, isn’t that what so many do when they reach the magical ‘senior adult’ age? Why bother comparing my life to the lives of other people? Isn’t that just setting yourself up for disappointment?

For example, when I read the life stories of incredibly passionate men of God such as David Brainerd, George Whitefield, D.L.Moody, and Leonard Ravenhill, I am struck by their lack of care and concern for the things of this present world.

While it is true enough that these men had their share of faults and shortcomings, meaning none of them ever reached perfection this side of heaven, their singleness of purpose and devotion to God alone is almost ‘other-worldly’.

So I wonder, is this what submission to God looks like? If it is, I am in serious trouble, because I don’t measure up to such lofty standards.

Like so many of you, I can be pretty hard on myself, believing that if God has some sort of celestial balance scale in which we are all weighed, my missed opportunities and times of outright disobedience far outweigh any positives that might be recorded somewhere to my ‘heavenly bank account’.

In truth, I simply want to finish well. I want to come to the end of my days content in the knowledge that my last years were my best years of service to our Lord. I do NOT wish to be just another person in the pew. The thought of just going to church, singing a few songs, listening to yet another sermon, and that being my Christian “experience” makes me want to run out the door screaming NOOOOOO!!!

I want my life to count. I want others to know that I cared enough to fight the good fight. I want to be an encouragement to others, especially to those who are desperately struggling for their spiritual survival. Mostly, what I want is for my life to be an example to others of what God can do when He takes a hopeless young man and completely turns his life around. I desperately want people to know about God’s plan of redemption.

Maybe that’s what submission to God looks like!

Ron

[1] Philippians 4:11

[2] Luke 9:3

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice”! Philippians 4:4 NKJV

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous”…

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No doubt many of you recognize those words as part of the 34th Psalm. The entire text reads as follows:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all”. [1]

This particular Psalm has been a great encouragement to me through the years, especially during those difficult seasons that we all go through from time to time.

I find it very comforting to know that the God of the Bible would have such a vested interest in us, and my personal observations through these many years of serving the Lord reveal that He is indeed still a Deliverer of His people.

This Psalm speaks to me in many ways. In it, David states that the righteous are afflicted not once, twice, or even three times, but he says that our afflictions are many.

In other words, David seems to be suggesting that afflictions and trials are to be expected. This aligns perfectly with what the Apostle Peter meant when he said “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you”; [2]

I can almost hear many of you say “Amen” to that!

The issues, or afflictions we deal with are as diverse and complex as we ourselves are. What may be an obstacle or hinderance to one may scarcely get another’s attention, while others of us may feel as though we are being made to pass through the fire, so great is the affliction.

I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping things in their proper perspective, which is why Peter said that we shouldn’t think it strange when we are afflicted, as if perhaps there were something wrong with us or with our relationship with the Lord.

The key issue here is that we not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the afflictions and issues of this life. Easy for me to say, right? You may be thinking that I have no idea what you have been through or are currently going through.

And you would be 100% correct.

What I do know however is that God will deliver you. The Bible declares that God will deliver His children out of all afflictions. Notice that there is no provision made for the severity or frequency of the affliction. “All” in this case simply means all.

I recently had the opportunity to address this subject when I was invited to preach at a local church. On this particular Sunday, I felt strongly that I should speak on the topic of “Overcoming Through Faith and Hope”. In this message, I shared some of these very same thoughts about how that God will deliver us if we will call upon Him.

I also pointed out that the trials and afflictions we endure actually serve a Divine purpose. As Christians, we must understand that while there are times when things happen in a seemingly random fashion, usually when we are in a difficult trial there is a greater purpose.

You see, God uses these as a means of increasing our dependence upon Him. He uses them to mold us and to shape us into the person he has destined we become. Much like the blacksmith uses a forge and a heavy hammer to bend, twist, and shape a raw piece of steel into something useable, so it is with the Lord.

Of course, none of us are likely to say how much we enjoy this process, are we? I know I don’t! After all, I don’t like being pulled out of my comfort zone any more than you do!

Being tested, tried, afflicted, or whatever you wish to call it is all a part of the process of dying to SELF. It is a necessary, albeit sometimes painful road that all of God’s children must walk.

There is great joy in this journey however, because the Lord will deliver you out of all of the afflictions and trials that come your way.

Be blessed and encouraged, because Jesus is Lord!

Ron

 

[1] Psalm 34:19 NKJV

[2] 1 Peter 4:12  NKJV

Thoughts on Bitterness

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Bitterness

Just saying the word evokes certain feelings and emotions that most of us can identify strongly with. After all, who hasn’t felt the sting of bitterness well up inside of us?

We know that bitterness comes in many forms and from many sources. You may have been done wrong by a spouse or friend. Perhaps you were overlooked for that job promotion. Or maybe you’ve been “church hurt”. And how could you ever forget the diagnosis you received?

All of these can bring about the feelings of bitterness. Some of us may have even felt like God let us down or disappointed us in some way, and we allowed bitterness to cause us to blame God. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has ever screamed at God asking why He allowed ‘this’ to happen.

Personally, I’ve dealt with just about all of these. On many occasions I might add. Just as you have.

Bitterness strikes at all of us, and while it would be easy to simply say it’s all part of our humanity, there is also a spiritual application to bitterness. How bitterness impacts our walk with Christ is the focus of this post.

The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us to “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled”. Hebrews 12:14,15  KJV.     emphasis mine

How do we avoid bitterness since we are virtually assured that as long as we remain here on this earth, circumstances are not always going to go our way? How am I supposed to live peacefully with those who have done me wrong? How can I escape bitterness when I’ve been dealt life-altering circumstances?

As we just read, the answer to all of these questions lies in the scripture that encourages us to live peacefully with all men, endeavoring to live a sanctified life, set apart from the world and its many temptations.

More often than not, that means we must have a forgiving heart. More on that later.

Whatever the source, unless we deal with it by giving it to God, it will come back to haunt us in the form of bitterness. That is simply human nature, and none of us are exempt from it. Face it, we are emotional beings. We laugh, hurt, get depressed, feel overwhelmed, and have the capacity to enjoy many things in this life because we are so emotional.

The Lord created us this way, but if we’re not careful, the devil will use our negative emotions as an entrance into our lives. This is why we must be diligent, as the writer says, because Satan is always looking to find an avenue to “steal, kill, and destroy”. [1]

Allowing bitterness to enter our hearts is opening the door to the adversary, and once opened it can be very difficult to shut that door on him. The danger in all of this is that if even a tiny root of bitterness takes hold in our heart, it begins to weave its way into every fabric of our life.

Picture bitterness as the root of a plant. A plants roots run deep and spread wide. Roots have to do that in order to sustain the plant they are a part of. Those roots feed the plant, and without the proper nourishment the plant will eventually wither and die.

When we allow bitterness to take hold of us, it does everything in its power to burrow itself deeply within our heart. Left unchecked, it will spread into every facet of our life. When that happens, its impact will be seen by all, and it won’t be pretty.

The things that used to bring us joy no longer will. The things we used to look forward to doing we now look at from a very different perspective. That’s what bitterness does to us. It changes our outlook on life, both in the natural and the spiritual. This is why we must constantly be on guard, checking our hearts lest a root of bitterness find its way in.

Let me give you a personal example of how the enemy would like to ensnare us in bitterness.

Recently, our family made the very painful decision to leave the church we had been attending for the past 2.5 years. It isn’t necessary to share the details here, but suffice it to say that these things do happen unfortunately, and they present a myriad of emotions that must be dealt with. In our case, those included hurt, betrayal, and yes even bitterness.

Shortly after we left, I began to have people tell me that they had been told a very different version of what actually happened that caused us to leave.  Needless to say, this did not sit well with me because if there is one thing I cannot stand it is when people are not completely honest.

So I was now in a position of either allowing my emotions to gain the upper hand, or let it go and ask God to deal with my heart about it. Which is exactly what He has done. You see, I chose not to allow bitterness to rule my heart.

I hope you caught that. I chose, or I made the conscious decision that bitterness was not going to spring up or take root in my heart. That’s right…bitterness is a choice, and if you and I choose the path of bitterness we are actually giving others power over us.

Why would we do this? This is where having a forgiving heart comes into play. I have learned through many seasons of bitterness and despair that the best course of action is to forgive and move on. Easier said than done? Of course it is, but read on please.

You know what else I have learned? I’ve learned that forgiveness is a product of a heart that is right before God. When we hold grudges against someone, forgiveness cannot come. If we remain angry at someone over a wrong that was done, forgiveness cannot come.

Forgiveness is a product of a heart that is right before God.

I encourage all of us to remember this the next time we’re faced with hurt or disappointment. Choose wisely friends, choose the path of love and forgiveness instead of the path of bitterness.

Be blessed in Jesus name!

Ron

[1] John 10:10

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