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Create in me a clean heart,O God;

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Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.   Psalm 51:10-12

This was the prayer of David after he had fallen into deep sin. This once humble shepherd boy turned giant killer, the apple of Gods eye, has been knocked off of his lofty throne by pride, arrogance, and lust.

Having committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then having her husband killed in a vain attempt to hide his sin, King David found himself in bitterness and anguish of soul. As you read Psalm 51, the depths of this anguish nearly jumps off the page, and no doubt many of us can empathize with his sorrows.

For the rest of his life David would pay a tremendous price for his moral failures. Not only he, but his family as well would suffer the consequences of “the pleasures of sin for a season”. Indeed, his own son tried to take the kingdom from him, and never again would David know complete peace and contentment in his life.

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Thou Art The Man- by Peter Rothermel

There are several lessons to be gleaned from this tragic episode in the life of Israel’s beloved king, not the least of which is that none of us has to be a murderer or an adulterer to have need of a clean heart and a right spirit within us. All of us are in need of these things.

Everyday events can drain us, leaving us discouraged and feeling so lowly that we have to reach up just to be able to touch the bottom. Life, for all of its joys and triumphs, also brings with it incredible heartaches and disappointments. For these, we need the security of knowing that God is working “all things together for our good”.

Who among us doesn’t need renewal from time to time? Contrary to popular opinion, there certainly is no shame in acknowledging our own inabilities to “fix ourselves” by calling upon the Lord. As a matter of fact, He tells us to “cast all of our cares upon him, because He cares for us.”

I don’t know where you are in your walk with the Lord, but I’m craving a deeper walk with him. So many things in this life cause division and separation between us and God. Even good things, in excess, can come between us and our relationship with him.

The last thing I want is to be found like David, far from God, yet I know that if I don’t pray and study his word that is exactly what will happen. Our prayer then should always be like David’s; “Lord, cast me not away from your presence.”

In perilous and uncertain times such as we are living in today, all of us need the strong hand of the Lord to sustain us, to keep us pointed in the right direction. Let’s face it, we need Him!

David understood that even though he had committed horrible sins before his God forgiveness, albeit at a cost, was available to him. The son that was born to him out of the illicit affair with Bathsheba for example, would become sick and die. No amount of fasting and prayer for him could save his life, yet this event served a greater purpose in turning David’s heart back to God.

Having done that, he began the road back to once again having a clean heart, a right spirit, the joy of the Lord, and a restored relationship with God. Yes, there were consequences for his actions, however with God’s help; David was able to persevere in spite of them.

The grace of God is truly amazing isn’t it? A God that would forgive David is just as quick to forgive us for our own shortcomings. It really is as simple as calling upon Him to forgive us and create in us a clean heart.

Be blessed on this Lords day!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Are We Here: Part 2

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Recently, I happened upon an online discussion about abortion. A key hot button of the discussion was that several of the more conservative participants kept referring to abortion as murder, while those from a more liberal perspective felt that using such a strong word demonstrated a lack of wisdom and compassion.

It didn’t take long before the gloves came off and the participants seemed to forget that they were on a Christian site. In short order, it got ugly. Real ugly. Words were said that certainly did not reflect the love of Christ. Feelings were hurt, and in the end nothing changed except for the fact that yet another wedge was driven between brothers and sisters in Christ.

All of which left me wondering about something. Do we not understand that the enemy excels at getting us to focus more on the things that divide us, rather than the things that bind us together? It seems that we Christians are so naive and gullible that we take the bait and swallow it before we ever have the first inkling as to what Satan is up to!

Am I the only person who thinks this way? Are the differences between us so insurmountable that even Jesus cannot bridge the gap?

Abortion has been one of the tools that Satan uses to cause division in the Church ever since it became the law of the land. Of course, he has many other tools at his disposal, but because abortion is one of those topics that people on both sides of the fence are incredibly opinionated about, it’s easy for the enemy to use it to sow discord among the brethren.

Whether you agree with abortion or not isn’t really the issue any longer. I don’t agree with it, nor do I believe it is a “right”, but then again I (unapologetically) tend to look at life through the lens of Scripture. This puts me at odds with a great many things taking place in our world today, not just abortion.

Obviously, many people, and that includes Christians, would object to my rather simplistic approach to this subject, and I have no problem with that. I happen to believe that God’s family is much larger than some of us believe it to be, and as such there is plenty of room for Christians who believe differently than I do. Insert 😊

Therefore, knowing that abortion is here to stay, is our best course of action to berate and condemn those who have an abortion, or has God called us to a higher purpose? Are we to continue down the path of division, or should we be seeking God for wisdom in how best to minister to those affected by abortion?

How would Jesus respond to the divisive issue of abortion? And of even greater importance, what would be His response to those who have had an abortion? I believe we can get a glimpse into how He would approach the subject by recalling His interaction with the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. Scripture reference John 8:3-11

As the story goes, a group of men brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in the very act of adultery. According to the Law, she was to be stoned to death. They were hoping however that Jesus would do something contrary to the Law so that they might have an accusation against him, thus giving the religious rulers just cause to eradicate him.

The story takes a very unexpected turn however when Jesus looks at the woman’s accusers and says to them “he that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone”. Their arrogant hearts condemned, as none of them were without sin; one by one they walk away. Can’t you just hear the stones dropping to the ground?

Jesus then looks to the woman and asks where her accusers are, to which she responds that there are none. Jesus then uttered what had to be the most gracious words this woman had ever heard. Deserving of death for her sins, Jesus tells her that neither does he condemn her, and to go and sin no more. Emphasis mine

This is how I see Jesus responding to the abortion issue. Notice that Jesus did not excuse the adulterous woman’s sins, but rather he acknowledged them for what they were, yet offered forgiveness instead of condemnation.

Jesus was much more concerned with forgiveness than punishment. Do you know why that was? It was because Jesus came to reconcile people to God. He could have delivered this woman to be stoned, but instead He offered her reconciliation! How amazing is that?

All of us have done things worthy of punishment, or worse. Some of us, like the adulterous woman, have committed sins worthy of death. Yet God, through His Son Jesus Christ, has chosen instead to forgive our sins and offer to us the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Does this give us a “free pass” so that we can do whatever we want to do without consequence? Of course not. No one gets a free pass. We must repent of our sin and turn to Jesus.

‘‘He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation”.   2 Corinthians 5:17-19.  ESV

The Church has been entrusted with this message of reconciliation. We were not entrusted with a hammer of condemnation. Neither were we entrusted with the gavel of judgement.

Our ministry, our very purpose, is to extend mercy and reconciliation to a lost world that gropes in darkness. We can serve no higher purpose here on earth than to represent Jesus Christ in meekness and love to those left devastated and wounded by the poor choices they have made.

That we have made.

This world doesn’t need another argument for or against abortion. It needs the people of God to stand in the gap and offer comfort and hope to those who are struggling with issues that are bigger than they are. The world needs to see Jesus.

In all of us.

In every situation.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

Thanksgiving Memories

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Thanksgiving Day has always been my favorite holiday of the year. When I think back to my early childhood, Thanksgiving Day was always the holiday I looked forward to the most. Aside from getting out of school for a few days, the expectation of seeing Aunts and Uncles, and cousins my own age to play with was something I looked forward to with great anticipation.

Well, that and knowing there was going to be a mountain of great food to eat! Even today, my wife believes the food is the real reason I love Thanksgiving. Me, I’m not saying one way or another.

Those happy times are forever etched in my mind, and as another Thanksgiving approaches, I enjoy remembering the laughter and non-stop chatter around our crowded kitchen table. I remember how that all of us kids who had to sit at the “kids table longed for the day when we could set at the grown-up’s table and join in.

For days and days my parents would be preparing special things that were only served on Thanksgiving Day, and I know that they always brought home the largest turkey the store had. We could also count on any visiting relatives to bring along even more goodies, and could my Aunts ever cook! I think I could write an entire blog just about my mom’s turkey and dressing, and my Aunt Marlene’s chocolate pie made me wish I had eaten nothing else but that!

The men in my family always went hunting on Thanksgiving morning, and being a young boy I wasn’t allowed to tag along because I would either slow them down, get hurt, or some other made up reason to keep me home. I was forced to stay behind and endure the heavenly smells coming from the kitchen, which, I can finally admit, wasn’t so bad after all.

At long last the dinner hour had come, and everyone gathered in the kitchen. I honestly don’t remember if anyone said Grace before the meal, as none of my family was particularly religious. If they did, I’m sure it fell on deaf ears with me as I stared at a turkey leg, or a large ham, knowing that very soon I would be enjoying a heaping plate of delicious food.

After dinner, the family would all find a place to sit in the living room, where we would spend hours reliving the important things that had happened in our lives over the past year.

Back then, we might have been able to get a football game on one of the three TV channels our old black and white TV pulled in, but no one ever thought of turning it on. Why spoil such wonderful family time by inviting a football game into our home? Our family was the main attraction after all!

Late at night, when everyone was tired and had to leave to return to their own homes, we knew that for at least one more year our family was, well, still a family. It’s funny how that even after all these years, I can still remember the feeling of security I had just in knowing that we were family.

Today, my own small family celebrates Thanksgiving in much the same way as I did as a child. Sure, there aren’t nearly as many people around the table, and the amount of food is a lot less than what is needed for a huge family. My wife cooks a pretty awesome turkey, and her baked beans are legendary around our house, so we have plenty and then some.

The most important things are there however. A deep, abiding love for one another, a home built upon the sure foundation of Christ, and the knowledge that no matter what comes our way in this life, we are family.

As my family gathers around the table this Thanksgiving, we have much to be thankful for. God blessed us to make it to retirement, He brought me through a very serious health issue, and my family is healthy and prospering. To say we are blessed just doesn’t seem adequate.

My prayer is that all of you will have a memorable Thanksgiving Day, surrounded by those you love and care about. I hope everyone slows down a bit and takes the time to create some memories and new traditions that can be passed down to the next generation. Talk to one another. Enjoy one another. Make time for one another.

The Bible describes this life as but a vapor. It’s gone before you know it, so live each day to the fullest.

Most of all, be thankful. Be thankful for one another, and thankful that you can enjoy this time together as a family.

Be thankful to God for His many blessings.

Ron

We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.   Psalms 75:1

Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!   Psalms 107:8

He’s All I Need

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Have you ever struggled with something that was so much bigger than you that it seemed like a hopeless situation?  Perhaps the better question for many of us would be not if we have such a situation, but  how many of those types of situations are we struggling with!

Lets face it, in this world everybody is dealing with something. The size of the “something” might differ with us, but we all have our battles to fight.

But I love how the Word always seems to have just the right nugget for the particular situation we’re dealing with. Take the everyday battles we all endure, don’t they make you weary at times?  They sure do that to me.

That’s why I love the following:

Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.

My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalms 73:25-26

The Lord understands that we don’t have an endless supply of strength and energy. Our strength runs out,and to be honest we can get weary in our hearts and spirit as well. In fact, throwing in the towel might not seem like the worst option at times!

To offset our weaknesses, God takes over and gives us the necessary strength to keep going. You know how we know when God takes over? It’s when we sense His peace in the midst of the storm. That’s right,God doesn’t always remove the problem,but he is faithful to walk beside of us in the midst of it all.

Many of us have prayed for certain things such as healing, restoration, peace of mind, etc.,only to see the situation either not resolved or perhaps grow more serious. This leads us to ask one of those “questions of the ages”…

“Lord, why aren’t you answering my prayers. Are you not even hearing me?”

This can be one of the most disheartening things to deal with as a child of God, these unanswered prayers. What are we to do when we’ve done all we can do, when we’ve followed the script and still get no answer?

Well, I can tell you what one of the greatest men of the bible did when he was facing a similar situation. The Apostle Paul had a physical issue, exactly what it was remains a mystery, but the fact is he had a physical issue and he had prayed three times for healing.

And got nothing in return. No healing. Nothing.

Has that ever happened to you? I’ve lived it myself, and I’m pretty sure most of you have as well. We pray and pray, we do our best to believe and not waver in our faith, and boom! Nothing happens.

So what about the great Apostle Paul? This man prayed for many others and saw them healed. Why on earth did God not heal him?

Lets see what Paul himself had to say about this.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.”

“And He said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  II Cor. 12: 7-9

Paul prayed three times for healing. Perhaps you’ve prayed hundreds of times more than that without an answer?  The truth is, Paul did receive an answer, it just wasn’t the one he was expecting.

Jesus told Paul that His grace was sufficient for his situation, and that His strength was made perfect in our weakness. Please don’t brush this off with a “well, some consolation that is”!

If we will learn to trust Him in all things, His grace will be enough to see us through. No one can adequately express why God doesn’t answer our prayers in the manner we ask Him to. Countless theologians have tried and failed. The truth is we want what we ask for.

Aren’t we like that in all things? We want it our way, and we want it now.

God however, doesn’t operate on our schedules. Well, at least He doesn’t on mine. He is not tied to a calendar or a clock, and it is for certain that His ways are higher than our ways. Meaning, it is futile to try and understand the why’s and how’s of God’s doings.

The one thing we can do however is accept that His grace is sufficient for our every need. Accept that when I’m weak, His strength takes over.

Acknowledge that He is all you need.

Be blessed,

Ron

Encounters of the God Kind

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Have you ever had an encounter with someone that impacted your life so powerfully that you have never been the same?

Perhaps your spouse, a teacher, a famous person? How about a complete stranger?

My point is that we encounter all types of people along the way as we journey from here to there, and those encounters can be impactful both positively and negatively.

Reading the four Gospels, we find people of every social and economic class encountering Jesus. Rich young rulers, poor destitute beggars, religious leaders of various sects, even a tax collector or two thrown in for good measure. It seems Jesus was no stranger to any of them.

What I find so amazing about the encounters Jesus had with all of these people is that all of them share one commonality. That is, whenever anyone encountered Jesus, they never left the same way they came. In other words, their encounter with Jesus impacted them in ways that forever changed them.

Which brings me to the heart of the matter: if we have had an encounter with Jesus, how has it impacted our lives, how has it changed us for the good?

Those are powerful questions, aren’t they?

Recently, my wife shared an article with me that she happened upon which in essence declared “that because of grace, we are all a work in progress”.

The article further went on to make the case that when someone comes to faith in Christ it can take decades to weed out some of our bad habits and sins. Therefore, established Christians are not to think badly of, or look down upon these new converts that have yet to mature in their faith.

I find that I am in agreement with some of the points made in the article, and others I am in opposition to. For example:

I certainly do agree that we are all a work in progress. I know that I am!      Romans 3:23 tells us that “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Pretty safe to say that all includes each one of us, agree?

And no one could argue that our sanctification is a lifelong process in which God chips away at this veil of flesh every day, forming, molding, and shaping us into His likeness.

I also agree that we cannot sanitize grace. Let’s face it; sin is messy, dirty, complicated, and downright ugly in the face of a Holy God. Grace demands patience, for it cannot be rushed lest its work in us fall short.

Where I disagree however is with the premise that after decades of Christian living, our growth and maturity can remain negligible. While we can debate the expected growth and maturity rate of a new believer, I contend that anyone who has come into the very presence of Jesus will grow and they will mature.

Think of it this way; if you stayed at the same levels you were at while attending the 1st grade, you would never accomplish much over your lifetime, would you? Of course not! You had to grow, to learn, to mature, because all of these elements are necessary for your success.

It’s really no different when you become born again. You are a new creation in Christ. The old man has passed away, and a new man has taken its place. This new man is essentially starting over in the 1st grade of life, and embarks on a lifelong journey of learning.

What would happen to that new believer if they stayed in the same place? They would not grow, not mature, and not learn. In reality, they would exist and not much more.

Is that what the Lord desires for us? Hardly! Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.  III John 1:2

My prayer today is that we would understand that God wants us to grow and mature in our walk with Him. It is not His will that we stay the same, but rather that we have a life of blessing and abundance!

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.   John 10:10

An encounter of the God kind will change you for all of eternity. Being with Jesus means you can never stay the same, for “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”…   Philippians 1:6

Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

Ron

 

How to ensure mistakes don’t ruin your life

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“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Ps. 51:10

The words of the sweet Psalmist of Israel, King David, as he acknowledges his sin with another man’s wife,the murder of her husband,and his futile attempts to cover it up.If only David could have seen into the future,perhaps a vision of what was to come would have convinced him to keep his eyes from wandering.

Every time I read this verse I am reminded of how weak this earthly tabernacle

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is. In an instant we can go from the highest highs to the lowest lows,all because we decide to yield to a voice that calls us to do the unthinkable. It humbles me to think that if the King of Israel could do it,I know I could as well.

And so could you.

David’s entire being was affected by what he had done. His relationship with God was severed,the joy of the Lord had departed him, and he was left alone to reflect upon the magnitude of his error.I cannot imagine how his soul must have been tormented!

Think about this for a moment.This wasn’t just another King of Israel.This was David.The shepherd boy anointed to be King.A ma

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n after God’s own heart. Chosen of God,anointed King of Israel,feared by his enemies and adored by his subjects.Legendary giant killer and warrior without equal.

If ever the phrase”how the mighty have fallen”fit a man,it was David.Here was the man who literally “had it all”. This was God’s chosen one to replace a king that had forsaken the Lord.David was to “right the ship”in Israel.Yet for all of this,it wasn’t enough to keep his feet from wandering.

Surely David must have asked himself a thousand times if the momentary pleasure of sin was worth it.How could it have been,when his momentary lapse of judgement led to the rest of his life being one of sorrow and turmoil?

David’s sin led to lies and deception that culminated in Uriah’s death. And what of the child conceived from this rendezvous with the beautiful Bathsheba? Despite his fasting and praying before God night and day, the child born of his adulterous union became sick and died.Unfortunately for David,his sin also mightily impacted his other children as well.

David’s beautiful daughter Tamar was raped by her brother Amnon, who in a revengeful rage killed Absalom, who in turn was slain by Joab.Think of it,the King’s family destroyed by the sins of their father.And for what?

In his despair and brokenness,David came to the realization that the high price of sin was more than even he could bear.He soon learned that being King not only has it’s rewards,but also it’s share of heartache. All that was left for him to do was to throw himself upon the mercies of God.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

How gracious is our Father to forgive us when we come to Him with a broken spirit. David did not offer to God mere lip service, but rather a broken heart and a contrite spirit.David wasn’t just sorry because he was found out.No,David was truly sorrowful of heart and soul.This beloved,is true repentance.

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For certain,if we attempt to cover up and hide our sins,God will reveal them in His time.Fortunately for all of us,if we expose them to God He will cover them with His mercy.

As we come to the end of another year many of us will be spending time reflecting on the year’s past achievements and disappointments.Maybe there are some things you need to take to God? Maybe there are some things haunting you,just as they did David.

I want you to know that mistakes don’t have to ruin your life,nor should they define who you are.David could have used a friend to remind him of that,couldn’t he? Perhaps you could too?

May I encourage you to do as David did and simply turn to the Lord and ask His forgiveness for your sin? If you will do this, you will find as David did that our Lord is a restorer of the broken.He is the heart-mender after all.

I can’t think of a better way to start 2017,can you?

Ron

I Don’t Deserve This!

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How many times have you heard someone use this expression in describing a situation they find themselves in?

Abandoned wives or husbands use this expression.And no wonder as the average duration of a marriage in the U.S.is now down to 8.8 years.That’s not hard to believe when you factor in the divorce rate being between 40% to 50%,and subsequent marriages failing at an even greater percentage.These appalling numbers don’t even take into account the immeasurable suffering of the children of divorce.Surely they don’t deserve this.

Victims of abuse use this expression.According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States has been raped in their lifetime.
  • 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.

All of these maddening statistics suggest a people gone mad with brutality, and represent untold suffering inflicted upon the innocent and those unable to defend themselves.Surely they don’t deserve this.

Those enslaved by poverty use this expression.Poverty is perhaps one of the most cruel,inhumane tragedies of our time.It’s effects are far reaching and in many corners of the world Poverty is accepted as the norm.

I must admit that it took me quite a long time to fully understand Poverty and it’s devastating effects on society.You see,I was taught as a young boy the value of hard work and it’s subsequent rewards.To me it was very simple:work hard and you would be rewarded with money to be able to have things that you wanted.If you didn’t have, it was because you were too lazy to work. Simple!

Unfortunately,the reality is that there are tens of millions of people who have no opportunity for work.Go to work where? What job? Their life,if you can call what they do “living”consists of receiving handouts or public assistance, begging,stealing,or worse committing violent crimes in order to survive.

Just last evening I was watching a ministry program on TV that showed a small army of children descending upon a garbage dump.Not too many things more heart wrenching than that,unless it was the ministry “host” telling a dejected,hungry,no hope in her eyes  little girl to “think upon Jesus”. Huh? Surely they don’t deserve this.

So what’s the point of all of this? Well, I’ve been thinking about something that was dealt to me that I surely did not deserve. I didn’t ask for it. It was thrust upon me out of nowhere.I never saw it coming.

God’s Grace.

In a world engulfed by poverty,in a nation where abuse has been relegated to the 2nd or 3rd page of the paper,in a society where divorce is just as common as marriage,the Grace of God still shows up in a hungry heart.

Surely I don’t deserve this.

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