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Old habits sure are hard to break

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I like to talk to people. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re young or old, male or female, or what nationality they may claim. I find people interesting, and I enjoy striking up a conversation with them.

I’m that guy who goes to Walmart with his wife and disappears for a few minutes, only to be found two aisles over talking to someone he’s never met before.

Yep, that guy.

If I see someone just moving in the neighborhood I’ll probably strike up a conversation with them the first chance I get. Just did that a few days ago as a matter of fact.

The ladies in my house think my talking to complete strangers is a bit odd.

They may be right.

What’s funny (to me) about this is that until I was in my early 20’s I was extremely shy and socially awkward. Even looking someone in the eyes was a major struggle for me. Maybe some of you can relate?

It wasn’t until I became a Christian and began to grown in my faith that I actually began to see myself as “good enough” and on equal footing as the rest of the world. Oh sure, I had plenty of people telling me that I would never be more than the shy, introverted country boy I’d always been, but I was determined to be more than that.

By the grace of God and the support of the best wife in the world I went farther than what anyone ever thought I would or could. Along the way I found my voice and God opened many, many doors for me to use it. Again, it was nothing I did. To God be the Glory for every good thing that has come my way!

So, as I said, I enjoy talking to people. I’m finding out however, that I’m not supposed to be doing that any longer, at least not without some restraints. Let me explain.

A few months ago I was out walking and the school bus dropped off a young lady and as the bus pulled away, I said hello to her. She didn’t respond, which I took to mean she didn’t hear me. So I said something to the effect of “I bet you’re glad to be out of school for the day, aren’t you”? This time she murmured something that I couldn’t understand. With that, she seemed to pick up the pace and hurried to get home.

Odd, I thought.

Just last night I was wandering around Target and I hear the familiar sounds of SuperMario coming from the electronics section of the store. I used to love playing Mario when it first came out, so I was naturally drawn to the sounds.

As I round the corner I see a young boy about 10 years of age intently focused on the game he was playing. He was pretty good at it and I complimented him on his skills. In response he barely glanced over his shoulder at me. I watched a few more seconds and told him that I too used to love to play Mario, and this time he didn’t even look at me. The silence felt very awkward, so I quickly left.

Recounting these events with my family I was told that I was probably thought of as an old creeper. In other words, I cannot strike up a conversation with children I don’t know, because I will be thought of as a potential predator.

As I listened to my daughter(who works with kids at a day care)tell me about how I should keep to myself when I’m around strange kids, it all started to make sense and I knew she was right. After all, no telling how many times these kids have been told about “Stranger Danger”. To them, I’m just another old guy that wants to harm them.

I get it.

Still, none of this sits well with me. I don’t like not being able to smile at a child or make over a baby in the store without it stepping over some line that society has deemed uncrossable. It’s just an automatic, natural thing to want to say “hi”.

Honestly, I get it.

Sadly, I get it.

Actually, tit’s kind of heartbreaking if you want to know the truth about it.

So I guess I’m left to wander around the store, hands in my pockets, eyes straight ahead, wearing blinders so I don’t notice the children. I’m to pretend there are nothing but grown ups within 100 yards of me. Which really stinks, because I seem to get along much better with kids than people my own age.

And that my friends, is the society we have descended into. Not much more to say about that I suppose.

Old habits sure are hard to break…I wonder how long it’ll be before I smile at some kid and ask “how ya doin”?

Be blessed on this Lord’s day,

Ron

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If it’s not in the Bible…

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I just had to share a link to an article that really resonated with me. In a day when many people who attend church do not study the scriptures and therefore will accept just about anything as the “Gospel Truth”, it is indeed refreshing to see that not everyone has jumped off the cliff!

From the “Messed Up Church” website:

“If God really wanted us to “Achieve our Dreams” and “Fulfill our Destiny,” wouldn’t the Bible clearly tell us that? Wouldn’t there be verses in the New Testament where we (the church) would be instructed to “Dream Big” or “Get out of your comfort zone” or “Follow the dream in your heart” or something like that? Did Jesus die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, or did He die on the cross so our dreams can come true”?

You can read the rest of this enlightening article here:

https://www.themessedupchurch.com/blog/dear-christian-stop-it 

Be blessed!

Ron

Why can’t we just love on Jesus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does this happen to us so quickly?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How could we be?

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

Because He is worthy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be blessed on this Lord’s day,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your worship dependent upon?

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Worship: reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred. [1]

I asked the question ‘what is your worship dependent upon’ because I wonder if we believe that our worship is dependent on something we do or think.

For example, if our worship is dependent upon something we ‘do’, what is it that we must ‘do’ before we worship the Lord?

  • Do we have to dress a certain way?
  • Do we have to act a certain way?
  • Do we have to say certain words?
  • Do we have to belong to a specific church or denomination?

Perhaps it is something we must think, instead of ‘do’.

  • Do we have to think certain thoughts?
  • Do we have to think like everyone else?
  • Do we have to think about our frame of mind?
  • Do we have to think at all?

Maybe none of that matters. Maybe what matters most is the environment.

  • Is the music too loud?
  • Is the music the ‘correct’ style?
  • Are the lights dimmed?
  • Are the seats comfortable enough?

Can I be honest with you for a moment? Every single one of the things I mentioned so far has at one time or another negatively impacted my worship.

Want to know something else? That was very difficult for me to admit.

If worship truly is “reverent honor and homage paid to God”, can I honestly say that I was reverently honoring and paying homage to God when I allowed anything to negatively impact my worship?

Honestly…no I was not.

You see, there are times when this flesh rises in me and wants to show me that it is still in control, and it usually happens shortly after I have experienced the goodness and grace of God in a tangible way.

The ability to hinder our worship is one of the most effective tools in Satan’s toolbox. Jesus referred to this in a manner of speaking when he said that “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” …[2]

The thief of course is Satan. He is a thief and a liar, and he comes to steal many things from us. If we permit him to do so, he will steal our joy, our love, our compassion for others, even the victory we enjoy in our souls.

What he is most wanting to steal however is our worship. That is because Satan knows that if he can steal our desire to worship God, he has gained a foothold in our lives. The devil knows all too well that if he can get us focused on external conditions and circumstances, he can negatively impact the internal, or our heart.

The Apostle Paul also understood how important it is for the Christian to not allow the devil to steal anything from us, and we find him telling the Ephesian church to “neither give place to the devil”. [3]

What Paul is telling us here is that we are not to give the enemy any access into our lives. Closing every door of opportunity so that the devil will find no entrance into your home or life means just that. Do whatever it takes to keep him out.

If you will remember, Paul was known in Hell [4] and was locked in a battle with Satan that lasted until he drew his last breath. He knew this adversary well, and understood the ramifications of ‘playing with fire’.

So determined was Paul that Satan would not steal his worship that we find him and Silas singing praises to God at midnight while both were in prison! There feet may have been bound in the stocks, but their worship could not be chained! [5]

Beloved, our worship is not dependent upon any external circumstance or situation. It doesn’t matter if the lights are too bright or the songs too fast. All that matters is that our hearts are engaged with our Creator.

When that happens, all external hindrances fade into obscurity. Those voices telling us not to worship because this or that is not to our liking are silenced.

This is when we fully understand what David meant when he said this prayer:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. [6]

All of us, especially me, need to approach the Lord with a clean heart and a right spirit, or attitude. This is what opens the door to our worship.

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

 

[1] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/worship

[2] John 10:10

[3] Ephesians 4:27

[4] Acts 19:15

[5] Acts 16:25

[6] Psalm 51:10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sounds of Silence in God’s House

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Have you ever felt grieved over something you cared deeply about, but had no control over? Lately, I’ve been feeling this way, like someone who just stepped out of the pages of the Old Testament.

Like Jacob of old, I have wrestled with the Lord over this post because I know as soon as it is read, I will be branded a critic of the Church. Unlike Jacob however, I have given up trying to hide my feelings any longer and admit that I am defeated.

Let me explain.

Whenever it became necessary for the Lord to deliver a message of correction to His people Israel, often He would raise up a man or woman and instruct them to go to the people and deliver the message. We refer to these servants as Prophets.

These Prophets are scattered throughout the Old Testament. Some we have labeled as “Minor Prophets” while others are called “Major Prophets”. All of them were called of God for a specific task and season in the history of Israel.

Of the many things these Prophets had in common, one was that they all shared a burden for God’s people. They bore this spiritual weight in their hearts because the people loved the pleasures of sin more than they loved God.

Oftentimes, as in the case of the Prophet Jeremiah, the magnitude of the weight they bore would reduce them to tears and cries of anguish. [1]

While I am certainly no Prophet, I can empathize with them because of something amiss among God’s people today. In fact, if I dwell on it too long, I become almost grief stricken. What is it that has me feeling this way?

It is the sound of silence in God’s house.

It is the realization that the church no longer desires revival; thus, she no longer travails in expectation of a new awakening. Rejecting the call from above to “come out from among them” [2], she has decided instead to align herself with the world, and in the process has rejected the Lord of Glory.

There is no longer a sound of weeping and anguish in the house of God over our spiritual barrenness, and the sound of this silence is deafening.

The church of Jesus Christ has married the world and thus has come under its spell. In doing so, the church is now more impacted by the world than the world is impacted by the church. Who can deny this truth?

We have sold our birthright.

I grieve because the church no longer wants God, but rather has discovered a way to carry on without Him. Remove the Holy Spirit from the church? No problem, hardly a soul will notice as we carry on with our regimented programs disguised as religion.

In our efforts to appease the masses, we have compromised all that made us unique, and our birthright has been auctioned off on the altar of pragmatism. We have copied the error of ancient Israel, who rejected the Almighty in favor of a flawed and imperfect king. [3]

I am distraught over the absence of Holy men and women of God, those who have been in His presence and now carry with them the burdens of a people gone astray. Where are those who have heard His voice, who have received the clarion call to sound the alarm and cry aloud for the church to return to its former glory? How long will they remain silent?

Incredulously, in the span of but a few generations the church has become little more than Sunday morning entertainment. Impassioned, God-inspired, soul searching sermons have given way to polished speeches that have more in common with the mantra of positive thinking than they do with the Word of God!

Instead of preparing our hearts for an encounter with the Holy One, we have created a sterile, guilt free environment where our hearts will never be pricked, and our conscious will remain unseared.

This environment is better suited for a coffee house or a nightclub, places where one never need concern themselves with being confronted with the sin that permeates their life.

We dim the lights and crank up the sound system in our efforts to mask the reality that we no longer walk in the Spirit, therefore we are resigned to manufacture a spirit of our own. The cheering thousands are proof enough that we have found the right formula.

Never mind that weeping and anguish of soul are no longer found in God’s house. The church now exists to make us feel good about ourselves, and all who enter its doors have entered a “Guilt Free Zone’. We have created a safe place where sin is never acknowledged or confronted. Come as you are and leave as you came.

We do not want revival. We do not want a return to the old paths. We do not want a fresh revelation from God as to the pitiful condition our souls are in. No, we want none of things because if we did, we would have them!

If the church wanted revival, it would have revival. It would pay any price in order to once again be endued with power from on High. But the church does not want revival because to have it means she would have to divorce herself from the harlot, worldly system it has aligned itself with.

The church is not inclined to return to the old paths, where the good way was [4]. To do so would force us to choose whether we will be hot or cold. To return to the old paths would force us from our lofty seat on the fence of mediocrity and lukewarmness, and we are quite comfortable there, aren’t we?

Instead, we want to be like the world in nearly every respect, while still calling ourselves “Christian”, and we will stop at nothing to accomplish this goal.

What has this illegitimate marriage given us? It has given us a parade of sexual predators in the church that has left untold thousands broken and bleeding in its wake.

It has given us a litany of ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ [5] disguised as clergy who reject the teachings of scripture in order to cozy up to the world, thus allowing every conceivable and base lifestyle to stand in the pulpit and declare their own twisted version of ‘truth’.

It has given us an anemic and sick substitute for Christ’s church, the very church He bled and died for. What is supposed to be His Body has been rendered powerless to stem the tide of sin and degradation that has enveloped it.

Such a church has forfeited its birthright and is no longer Christ’s representative on the earth. It is a counterfeit, and the deafening silence from within its lukewarm walls is proof enough that she is in danger of being rejected by the Lord. [6]

May God have mercy on us…

Ron

 

 

[1] Jeremiah is often referred to as the “Weeping Prophet because of his own words in chapter 9, verse 1: Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of my people!

[2] 2 Cor.6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you.

[3] 1 Samuel 8:19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, No, but we will have a king over us.

[4] Jeremiah 6:16 Thus says the Lord, Stand you in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk in them.

[5] Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

[6] Rev. 3:16 So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.

 

 

We now have life in His name!

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Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

Was blind but now I see.

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

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

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

It was the beloved disciple John who recorded these eternal words of lasting hope when he said “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”.  John 3:16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I once was lost but now I’m found!

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

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

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

He is alive forevermore! Amen!

Ron

Being separate from the world does not mean ignoring the world

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In such a time as this, when the lines of distinction between the church and the world are growing ever more indiscernible, we must exercise caution in order not to fall prey to deception and false teaching.

While there are a great many beliefs today that are outright heresies, there are also beliefs that contain a modicum of truth yet miss the mark entirely when applied incorrectly.

Such is the case with the teaching that Christians are to separate themselves from the world. Certainly, no true follower of Christ should argue that we are not to emulate the world and its behavior. Nor are we to align ourselves with its un-Christ-like ideologies. Scripture makes this very clear; I believe.

We must be careful however in our application of this teaching because God has called us to be salt and light to this world. Or to put it another way, if we are to be effective witnesses for Christ we must interact with this world. We cannot hide our light under a bushel. [1]

To sequester ourselves apart from the world is to destroy both our witness and our credibility. The world today is in desperate need of a Savior, and you and I have been assigned the awesome responsibility of taking the Savior to the world, not hiding Him from the world.

It’s true that God has called us to be a people set apart unto himself. Sadly, due to a misapplication of this concept, many people use this as justification in setting themselves up as morally superior to everyone that doesn’t subscribe to their erroneous doctrine.

We see this attitude on display among pseudo Christian cults, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as certain “fringe” Christian groups like Oneness Pentecostals. Both groups consider themselves to be the “elect of God” and anyone not in agreement with their doctrines as apostates, thus condemning any “outsiders” to be lost. [2]

Obviously, we need to examine the scriptures in order to determine the truth about the whole notion of separation from the world. Here is what Paul said about this in his teaching to the church at Corinth.

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.”

 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”

“I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty.”
   2nd Corinthians 6:16-18

So, is Paul teaching that Christians are to have nothing to do with those outside the church of God? Of course not! That is the hallmark of a Pharisee, to see oneself as superior to others because of religious position or tradition. [3]

Paul is saying here that once we have been born again, God’s Spirit takes up residence within us and we then become His dwelling place, or temple. As such, God both lives in us and walks with us, all of which means we are on intimate terms with the Creator.

This special, intimate relationship requires that we abstain from those things, or idols, that defile our hearts and corrupt our intimacy with the Father. We may be in the world, but not of the world.  [4]

What are these idols Paul speaks of, the ones we are to come out from and separate ourselves from? Some are obvious, such as having no other gods in our lives, but some are not so obvious. And dare I say they can be different for all of us?

An idol is essentially anything that comes between you and your Creator. Whatever consumes the bulk of your time, or so much of it that you have little time left to worship God, is an idol.

For some of us it is sports. Maybe TV takes all your time. Or a job that demands most of your waking hours. It could even be your boat, golf clubs, or fishing rods. For some of us it’s our electronic devices, such as cell phones and iPads.

What Paul is NOT saying in these verses is that we are to cut off all contact with anyone who isn’t part of our tribe (church). True enough, we should not hang around with people who are obviously negative influences. None of us should desire to become best friends with the neighborhood drug pusher, for example.

The fact remains however that even the worst among us needs a Savior, just as you and I did at one time. We may not have been the neighborhood drug pusher, but we were just as lost as they now are before coming to Christ. Our hearts were just as sin-laden as any other lost person. [5]

After all, sin is sin, and lost is lost. Race, ethnicity, income, ancestry, or any other factors notwithstanding, everyone needs the Savior. That’s why Jesus came: to seek and save that which was lost. [6]

Paul tells us that because God now dwells within us, we are the sons and daughters of God. As such, our light should shine before all men that they might come to know Jesus Christ as Lord. [7]

Come out from among idols? Absolutely! Separate ourselves from those things which turn our hearts away from the Lord? Without question!

Please don’t however, turn away from anyone in need of a Savior just because they aren’t like you. Don’t distance yourself so far from them that you can no longer have compassion on their plight.

Remember: that was you and I at one time.

Be blessed, in Jesus name.

Ron

 

[1] Matt. 5:14,15…You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

[2] Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult because they deny the deity of Christ, which makes them anti-Christ even though they claim to be ‘Christian’. John 1:1 states “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. In their New World Translation, Jehovah’s Witnesses translate John 1:1 as “the Word was a god”, thus denying Christ His divinity.   Emphasis mine

[3] Matt. 23:1-7…Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.

[4] John 17:14…I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

[5] Colossians 1:21,22…And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight

[6] Luke 19:10…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

[7] Matt. 5:16…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

 

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