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Let it go

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Sometimes, you just have to let it go and simply trust.

Trust that Someone much bigger than you has it under control.

For most of us, there aren’t too many things more difficult than that.

We just aren’t wired that way. Instead, we’re a people who have to maintain control of the situation.

If you are a get it done, whatever it takes type of person, letting go and putting your faith in,well, faith, is not easy.

 

Yet this is exactly what God asks of us. He asks that we step back and allow Him to take control of our situations.

That thing that we insist upon having…control….He asks us to relinquish it to Him.

As difficult as that can be, what makes it possible is something that Jesus promised to us.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
‭‭John‬ ‭14:27‬ N‭KJV‬‬

Words to live by.

Words of comfort and rest.

Words of assurance that in every situation, we are secure in His love.

Words that remind us that we can trust Him and let it go.

Be blessed!

Ron

Which is better,being perfect or being anointed?

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A week or so ago my wife and I were asked to sing a song at the new church we’ve been attending for the past few weeks. Being thrilled for the opportunity, we gladly accepted the Pastor’s invitation. We chose an older song that was both familiar to us and one that my wife thought would bless those in attendance.

After practicing the song a few times at home we were ready by the time the mid-week service rolled around on Wednesday. The only music was me on the guitar, and due to some issues with my guitar’s pickup I wasn’t able to amplify it but had to play through a microphone. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but in this case I was not able to hear it clearly while we were singing.guitar sunset

To make a long story short, I stumbled a few times both while singing and playing. The worst was when I tried to play and sing a particular note but because I couldn’t hear it well enough, my fingers went one way and my voice another. Huge embarrassment right there!

Anyway, we got through it and took our seats. Much to my great surprise a lady whom we didn’t know came to us and shared that that particular song was exactly what she needed to hear. Soon, others also expressed their appreciation for our heartfelt song.

Meanwhile, in musicministry-v3spite of all the wonderful comments, yours truly was none too happy over his poor performance. Which brings me to the thought behind this post.

I beat myself up for several days because I was embarrassed at not hitting the right notes, so much so that the resident Princess reminded me that being perfect seemed to be more important to me than ministering to someone’s need.

Ummm…OUCH!

I knew exactly what she was getting at. Rather than permitting the Lord to work through us to minister to a hurting heart, imperfect as our song was, I wanted instead to display perfection in our capabilities. Did you get that…OUR capabilities?

Now, don’t get me wrong,  I believe we should do our best no matter what avenue of ministry we’re working in. To be sure, our version of the song that night would not win any contests, but what it lacked in perfection, it made up for that in that it touched someone’s heart.

When you get right down to it, isn’t that what ministry does? It reaches the heart and does the work of the Holy Spirit, a work that we ourselves cannot do. It is only when we yield ourselves to the Spirit that He is able to accomplish what needs to be done.The-Ministry-of-the-Holy-Spirit

All of us have been called to minister in one way or another. In fact, Peter tells us that “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God“.   1 Peter 4:10

My prayer is that I will get out of His way and permit Him to do what He knows needs to be done. If that involves a sour note or two, what does it matter so long as the end result is someone being strengthened in their walk with the Lord?

Have a blessed day!

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 would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

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Would you change anything? Would you do anything different?

Would you notice the crying baby, or the fussy children?

Would you notice what the person next to you was wearing?

Would you take extra care in picking out what you would wear, or take no thought at all?

Would the volume of the music bother you as much as it usually does, or not at all?

Would you care that your favorite song wasn’t sung, yet again?

I’m jotting all of this down very early Sunday morning as I’m waiting to start getting ready for church. I woke this morning thinking, wondering, is there anything inhibiting my worship? And how would I worship if I had advance notice that this would be my last opportunity?

Worship

To offer Him praise and thanksgiving for all He has done in our lives,to take the time to express our gratitude to God for His many blessings. Isn’t that why we assemble on the Lord’s Day?

As I thought about all of this, my mind began to drift to the different types of worship we read about in the Bible.

Ritual Temple Worship

From the priestly worship inside the Temple we find the descendants of Aaron offering up animal sacrifices as an act of worship for the people: sin offerings, trespass offerings, guilt offerings, and on it goes.

Sacrificial Worship

The people often traveled great distances to worship, and let’s not forget that travel then was very hard and dangerous. Still, they went onward, determined to worship.

We see a man by the name of Elkanah going up yearly to the Temple to make sacrificial worship offerings. Year after year his wives went with him, and God received the worship of his wife Hannah, who was blessed with a son who you might remember was Samuel.

Emotional Worship

And how could we forget David, warrior king of Israel who danced in worship before the Lord with all his might?

Holy Worship

In the New Testament we read where there is worship in heaven, glorious, other-worldly worship where twenty four elders cast their crowns at the feet of God while crying Holy, Holy, Holy.

Whenever we find worship mentioned in scripture we typically find God responding to it, because we are told that God inhabits the praise of His people (Psalms 22:3)

Knowing all these things, the thought of “what if today was my last day to worship God” is front and center in my heart. Would we permit anything to inhibit our worship,if this was truly the case? Would all the things that we get hung up on now really matter?

As I continue working on this post, church has been over for nearly three hours. During the service today this topic was never far from my thoughts. Whether during the music portion, receiving the offering, or while being taught the word of God, I purposed in my heart that I would focus only on Him.

I couldn’t even tell you if anyone had a doughnut in their hand!😉

How then should we approach worship? Is there a right way to worship? Should our worship be limited by what our particular denomination allows, or considers acceptable?

Should our worship be traditional or contemporary? High Church or Cowboy Church? Quiet or loud, exuberant or solemn? Last time I checked, the Lord wasn’t handing out style points, but was looking for sincere hearts.

I don’t pretend to be able to answer those questions for you. I can, however, offer up this thought. I believe God expects, no demands, our very best worship. And what is “best” is different for each of us.

Take the busy single mom, who after working all day comes home exhausted knowing that her day is far from over. With kids to feed and bathe, homework to help with, laundry to be done, and a thousand other daily chores that won’t get done without her, her best worship opportunity might mean bowing her head and heart in the shower during her only 10 minute respite of the day.

Or think about the business man or woman who routinely works 80-100 hours a week. The pressure and stress never seems to let up, even on Sunday mornings. The advancements in technology have made intrusions into their quiet time with God almost predictable. For them, their best worship opportunity might be fleeting at best.

As I said, I believe God demands our best worship, and I believe He will meet with us, regardless of method, place, or duration. The important thing is that we acknowledge Him as Lord, and that we connect with Him as often as we can.

So, how would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

If you think you know the answer, why not try it out the next opportunity you get? After all, it could well be your last “audition”.

Be blessed,

Ron

Donuts or fat free cookies: what’ll it be?

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An elderly gentleman said something along those words a couple of weeks ago as we were visiting a new church. For some reason,it seemed he was steering me to the fat free cookies,then again I have put on some weight since I retired.cookies

I had to chuckle at this scene,the old gentleman doing his best to make us feel welcome,me on the other hand just wanting to find a seat and quietly blend in.

Have you ever thought about what really draws you to church?  

What’s the attraction?

Of course, the obvious answer is “to worship,or God”. But what REALLY draws you to church?

Tradition?  It’s the right thing to do?  You like the minister?  It’s your only chance to dress up?  It’s where we meet friends ?  You serve in one capacity or another?  We go to worship God?  Our parents drag us to church? You go to be taught the Word of God? They have the best donuts and coffee?

I confess to you that that going to meet with God hasn’t always been my prime motivation.

Sometimes,many times actually,I’ve went to church because of my responsibilities. Whether teaching a class,ministering from the pulpit,singing in the choir,after a while it can all become routine,like some part time job can become.

Plus,and I’m being really honest here now, sometimes I think it was because God was supposed to meet with me there,not the other way around. Pride does that,doesn’t it?

Funny thing about this journey we’re all on. We go to church faithfully, we support it financially, we often serve in various ministries, we try to live out our faith as best we can. We do all the right things, yet I suspect that….

knowing God

chucklarsen.com

We don’t really know God like we think we do.

We know a lot about God,but we do not know Him.

If we did,I can’t help but believe that our approach to Him would be different.

You see,I’m particularly troubled by something I’ve been observing.And no,I’m not talking about whether or not you wear a suit or shorts and flip flops. Couldn’t care less,actually. Nor does the Lord,I assume.

I’m troubled by the flippant,cavalier attitude I’m seeing in God’s house. In particular,I’m bothered by things going on around me during what is supposed to be a time of worshiping God Almighty.

How can we commune with God while perusing eBay on cell phones and tablets? Are you expecting an email from God,is that why people are checking their email in the middle of Amazing Grace? Does consuming coffee,milk,donuts,and cans of soda bring people closer to God during what is supposed to be a time of worship?

Worship of God Almighty.

This stuff bothers me. And if you say “well,you shouldn’t be looking at what everyone else is doing” you might be right. But it still bothers me. And here’s why.

Can somebody say “where’s the R.E.S.P.E.C.T.“?

respect

Is this the proper way to come before the King? In His own house?

If you were invited to Washington DC to meet a high ranking dignitary,or some other venue to meet someone very important,would you show up with a Mountain Dew in your hand? Or how about that dream job of a lifetime,think the interviewer would mind if you munched on a breakfast burrito in between questions?

If any of this would be deemed unacceptable to you,help me understand why it’s OK to do it in God’s house. Why do we reverence earthly things more than God? Does any of this seem right to you? Is this what people do who expect to meet with God? Doesn’t this say something about our perception of who God is?

I know, I know. All of this is just way too legalistic isn’t it? Some of you no doubt think ‘what a jerk. What’s up with coming off so heavy handed? Lighten up dude! It’s only coffee and donuts after all. Who are you to make the rules anyhow? At least they are in church!!’

Actually,this post isn’t really about what goes on inside a building. It’s more about what goes on inside another type of building: our own temples. But you knew that,didn’t you?

Here’s what’s really bothering me about this attitude. I think we have exceeded all expectations in bringing God down to our level. Yep,we’ve finally done it. We’ve figured out a way to treat God as an equal.

And it shows.

We treat God like He’s part of the furniture. No awe. No wonderment. No amazement. No reverence. No fear.

Just one of the guys.

We don’t really know God,for if we did we would stand before Him, in His house,awestruck at the magnitude of what He has done for us! Instead,we treat His House as though we’re hanging out at Starbucks. Or like He’s the last person we expect to show up.starbucks

If we knew God,it would show.

It would show in our attitudes.

It would show in our behavior.

It would show in our language.

It would show in our worship.

We don’t really know God,for if we did we would spend time in His Presence long before 10:00 AM on Sunday.

We cannot know someone we don’t spend time with. Did you get that?

In her book Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard described her thoughts on how we so nonchalantly approach a typical Sunday:

“Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church. We should all be wearing crash helmets.”

Yes indeed.

Sometimes I wonder if God doesn’t look at us as we sit in our seats,minds a million miles away,coffee in one hand,cell phone in the other and say to Himself “do they really not know who I am”?

So to answer the question “Donuts or fat free cookies:, what’ll it be?“, I think I’ll pass this time.

Seems I have a bigger question to settle.

the_light_end_tunnel

How to know what God really expects of us.

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One of things I struggle with in writing this blog is how to condense topics that I could speak about for hours into a few hundred words,all while maintaining the integrity of the subject matter. I suppose everyone who has a blog struggles with this.

Such is the topic I want to tackle today:how to know what God really expects of us.Of course,I’m aware that a great many people,even some who attend church regularly,do not believe God expects anything of them.

Sad as it is,for many people God is seen as a type of cosmic genie who is supposed to be at their beck and call should a need arise.

The Bible however,paints a very different picture.You see,scripture points us to the fact that God desires to have a relationship with us.

As with any relationship that you might be involved in,it is a two way street.There are expectations,are there not? And if those expectations are not met on a frequent basis,the relationship suffers.

So it is with our relationship with God.He expects certain things from us and when we don’t deliver on our end,this relationship suffers.Think of it this way: God will not bless a relationship He is not involved in. Let that sink in for a minute.

So lets look at a few of those expectations,beginning with a question that the Lord posed to Israel:

He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?   Micah 6:8

act-justly

Jonathonsigmon.com

At the time of Micah’s tenure as a prophet in Israel,God had a problem on his hands with this people.

They had developed a malady not unlike us today in that they suffered from a serious case of ingratitude.

So deeply embedded was this ingratitude that the Lord even asked them “what have I done to you”?(v.3).

In telling them that He has showed them what is good,God is reminding them that for centuries they have had the Law and the Prophets to instruct them in how they should live.In other words,don’t even act like you don’t know what is expected of you.

He then gets to the heart of the matter by telling them three things He requires of them.

  1. to do justly,or to exercise Godly,righteous judgement in their dealings with one another
  2. to love mercy,to willfully and joyfully extend love and compassion to others
  3. to walk humbly with your God,meaning to acknowledge Him in all your ways

Notice something missing here? God did not require them to offer a ram,or a goat,or a calf.No,what He required of them was a different kind of sacrifice.One that came from within their hearts.

What He required of them necessitated a renewed heart.He wanted relationship.The same relationship that He desired when He delivered them from Egyptian bondage,and when He delivered to them His Law.

God has always yearned to have a covenant relationship with His people. Now lets take a look at this question as it was asked in Jesus’ day.

There was a certain lawyer who in trying to tempt Jesus,asked him what the requirements were for him to inherit eternal life.

And he answering said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.   Luke 10:27

Once again we see the answer to the age old question of “what does God require” to be something other than rules,sacrifices,or tradition.Jesus made it as clear as it could be that what the Lord requires must come from the heart.

Loving God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself is only possible when the heart has been transformed.It cannot be done from the mind,or because it’s the morally right thing to do.

No,the expectations set forth by Jesus bespeak intimacy with God,and that can only come with spending time with Him in prayer and in the Word.Which brings me to the title question of this post:”how to know what God really expects of us”.

The answer is found within the pages of God’s Word.The two examples I shared with you are representative of the content found within the sixty six books of the Bible,nearly all of which contain an abundance of instruction and admonition for our spiritual development.

My hope,my earnest prayer is that we first understand that God does indeed expect something of us.He expects US. Not our things,not our money,not our deeds or even our sacrifices,but rather our hearts.

Secondly,that we regularly read His Word,because the Word of God is alive and more relevant for today than most can imagine it to be.It will keep and sustain you in the darkest hours you may face.It will compel you onward as you draw near unto Him.

since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God“.   1 Peter 1:23   ESV

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!

Ron

 

 

No Matter What…

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I will remember what you have done for me O God.

I have not forgotten how you spoke peace into my heart when I was at my lowest point so many years ago. Job 38:1,which I had read many times before, suddenly came alive in my heart that day when I realized that you are God even in the midst of the most violent storm. I knew at that moment you were going to rescue my soul from the waters that sought to drown me.

I have never forgotten that “encounter”.

It has sustained me and encouraged me more times than I can remember. It has left an indelible mark upon my heart,as if You knew all along that this would be a defining moment between us.A reference point that I could draw from again and again.

Like I am now.

Your word has been a constant in my life. Is it any wonder the Word of God has been described as “a lamp unto my feet”? Surely there can be no greater road map in this life than your word,a guide that directs us even in the darkest of nights. Like an old familiar friend, it always calls me back to its pages should I become slothful and inattentive to its beckoning voice.

the-unity-of-the-church-jesus-is-our-lord-thy-word-is-a-lamp-unto-my-feet-a-light-unto-my-path-1416064589nkg48

prayerpins.org

Through the years I have rejoiced at the transforming power of your word. I have been witness to seeing the hardest hearts melt when confronted with the message of hope and renewal found within its pages. I have seen grown men and women literally run to the alter under the convicting,yet loving wooing of the Holy Spirit.

I often marvel at what some men consider to be miraculous,or at the numbers of people seeking miracles, when by the simple act of a wayward soul repenting of their sins the angels of heaven begin to rejoice. What else can men do here on earth that causes celebration in heaven? Can anything be more miraculous than the Creator reclaiming one of His own?rejoicing-among


As much as I wish it were not so, I have also been witness to my own failures. I have faltered,fallen short on countless occasions,and no doubt disappointed many people. I find that even at this stage of my life there is still much I do not understand about this covenant relationship with our Lord. There are days when I still have more questions than answers. Is this how it is supposed to be? That this sense of wonderment about unanswered questions will serve as our own “thorn in the flesh” to keep us on our knees?

You know how hard I have tried to become one of “them”,to fit in with the crowd. I’ve joined their ranks. Several times. Sat through the classes. Studied their course materials.Taken and passed the exams. Have the sheepskin in the frame. Attended their conferences. Shook hands with the “right people”. Held titles and positions. Yet for all of that, I did not fit in. I could not bring myself to “go along to get along” when my conscious balked at the shallowness of it all. For this I am branded a “what might have been”. I’ve heard “I don’t know what to do with you” more than once.

Still,no matter what,I will remember what you have done for me O God.

I will praise you,for I remember your kindness to me these many years. Though men and denominations have long ago abandoned me,and many others like me by the side of the road,yet you remain faithful to me.Your mercy endures forever.

I confess that I struggle to understand why my phone never rings. Why my inbox remains empty. Why the invitations have all dried up. Why so many that I poured into over the years have forgotten that I exist. Could it be that since I am no longer in a position to help them ascend the ladder,I am of no value to them? The “amens”, the slaps on the back,the firm handshakes of approval,now there is nothing but silence.

if-you-live-for-peoples-acceptance-you-will-die-from-their-rejection

quotlr.com

Except from you O God.I hear your voice calling out to me daily.

Actually, I do understand. I am an embarrassment to the Laodicean church of this generation. There is no place for the likes of me in a church that has become so much like the world as to be nearly indistinguishable from it. I speak the truth in love,which means I refuse to soften the message for the sake of men; to do so would be to prostitute your Word.I am an anomaly,a throwback to a long forgotten age, an age before political correctness ensnared the church in its damning choke hold. I know no other way.

I will remember what you have done for me O God.

Where you are leading me I do not know,but time has proven that I can trust you to take me safely there.How I will get there remains a mystery,yet I know that you have it all worked out.

No Matter What.

I will praise You in this storm.

 

 

 

 

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