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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

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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.

Why Prayer Meetings Fail

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Many Christians,especially newer ones,do not know that one of the primary strengths of the church used to be the prayer meeting.This should come as no surprise considering that the church was birthed in an Upper Room prayer meeting.

For so many generations churches of nearly every denomination practiced regular,routine corporate prayer because they understood the dynamics of regular communication with God. For the church to do the work of the church,prayer,especially corporate prayer was a necessity that could not be overlooked.

Through the centuries the practice of corporate prayer has dwindled until in most churches it’s not even practiced any longer,and if it is it’s so sparsely attended as to be of little effect. I suppose the case could easily be made that the demise of the corporate prayer meeting coincides with the general attitude of the Laodicean church today,which is that the church of today is in need of nothing.

Especially God.

This mindset that we are in control,that we are capable of sustaining our own evangelical empires apart from God is something that the church of the book of Acts would reject outright. As would countless millions of Christians through centuries past who routinely cultivated their personal relationship with God through prayer.

Today’s prayer meeting,what little there is of it,has drastically changed in many ways from what our predecessors new,especially considering this major point: what we pray about,or for,is different now. Let me explain.

It used to be that churches had a burning desire to have a positive impact on their community for the sole purpose of winning their community for Christ. They lived the Christian life outside of the church and were examples of God’s love and grace,which served to draw the lost to the church. The primary method at their disposal to accomplish all of this was prayer!

In return,communities recognized that the church genuinely cared for them,and were concerned for their well being. What they saw was Christ extended to them in a way that they were receptive to. Such is the love of God. Like moths drawn to a flame,the love of God will draw lost men and women when nothing else will.

Churches,pastors,lay members alike were all united in the shared goal of reaching the lost,and they knew that prayer was the only way to make that happen.Think about it…what else did the church have at their disposal?

Before the days of the internet,conferences of every conceivable type, car shows,and bouncy houses God’s people relied on the sovereign moving of the Spirit,wrought by prayer,to bring the lost in.

Oh,to be able to go back in time!

Today we have every means of the newest,latest technology at our instant disposal,ready to use to market our latest strategy to bring them in.A very small percentage of this works,the vast majority does not.

Church advertising budgets(disguised as evangelism) are expanding every year,yet the results are the same:pitifully few new converts are being added despite the staggering amount of dollars spent. Growth,what there is of it is mostly from other churches,drawn to the latest gimmickry or cult of personality preacher. History has shown that this is not sustainable growth,as true discipleship has given way to strategies and methods not designed to develop the believer,but to entertain.

In short, prayer has been supplanted in today’s church by every means available. God Himself has been replaced by the inventions of man. The Holy Spirit is no longer welcomed or needed in our churches as the principal agent to draw the lost.

And I think I understand why.

Because we don’t know the One we claim to know.

We use His name.

We use His building.

We sing songs supposedly written in His honor.

We preach sermons using His words.

But we do not know Him like we claim.

If we knew Him like we claim that we do,we would be different. We would be changed.Our hearts would be pure,as would our motives. We would not be this sickly,anemic,weak institution that the world mocks in derision. If we knew Him like we say we do,we would demonstrate His attributes in all that we do.

Perhaps most importantly of all,we do not know Him like we claim we do because we ask Him to do everything except what we desperately need the most:

To change us from within.

We ask Him for things. For stuff. For favor. For anything that will please the flesh.

But we do not ask Him to change us. 

Prayer meetings are no longer in vogue. They are considered old fashioned,relics from a by-gone age. At least that’s what the church of today is being taught.

Could it be however that the real reason that prayer meetings fail,have gone out of style,are no longer considered essential,is because we do not know Him after all?

Something I pray that causes us to stop and think about on this rainy Monday…

 

The Beauty of a Life Redeemed

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Unmerited Grace…Favor Undeserved

Unlimited Mercy…Matchless Worth

Heaven’s Best…The Worst in us

Abundantly Blessed…

O The Beauty of a Life Redeemed

One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple.   Psa 27:4 NKJV

The Beauty of the Blood

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