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A grateful and appreciative heart

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Now that the traditional day of Thanksgiving is over, I thought I’d follow up on my last post with a bit more on what it means to me personally to be both grateful and thankful, particularly in regards to our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

I feel it is very important to maintain a grateful and appreciative heart for the things I have received in this life. Notice that I said the word maintain. That means we have to work at it, otherwise it’s not going to happen. Maintaining a grateful and appreciative heart is all on us, and it doesn’t happen automatically. If you’ve ever slipped into one of those moments when you just don’t feel very thankful, you know what I’m talking about.

By the same token, that I am able to say I am a child of God often leaves me nearly speechless. If you could have seen the person I used to be, you would have numbered me with those who were destined for the scrap heap of humanity.

How God can find something useful in any of us leaves me scratching my head. Have you ever felt this way?

Even today, over 40 years after accepting the Lord Jesus as my Savior, I marvel at God’s unique ability to see past what we were and slowly bring to fruition what we are destined to become. Seriously, who but God can do such things?

I made so many mistakes in my early Christian life that I sometimes wondered why I should even bother trying to live for Him. Comparing myself to other, more mature Christians left me shaking my head wondering how in the world they do it. How could these people never make mistakes? How could they always be so faithful?

Well, as all of us know by now, none of us are perfect are we? Neither do we always have it all together like we want others to believe we do. You see, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been a Christian for four days, forty days, or forty years, we still live in a fallen world that is wrought with one peril after another. Everywhere we turn there are challenges and obstacles in our path.

Some days remaining faithful to Him seems more like a dream than a reality. Can you relate? Can I get an “Amen”!

I will be forever thankful for what God has done in my life. After much work and countless hours spent upon the Potter’s wheel, he has slowly transformed me from a wild, bitter, and angry young man into someone who is now almost unrecognizable from the person I was. I say that knowing full well that He still has much to do to help me to reach my full potential.

No one needs to remind me that I am a man who has been blessed far beyond what I truly deserve. The Lord has taken me from being a blasphemous, proud, and unthankful heathen to a man after God’s own heart. [1]

How could I not praise him for what he has done?

For all that the Lord has done in my life, nothing compares with how that in an instant He changed the course of my eternal destination. I who was once on the fast track to Hell and eternal separation from all that is good, has had his soul re-routed to a destination where joy shall never end.

As my friend Bill Sweeney says, it may sound corny, but I actually believe that one day I’m going to a far better place because of Jesus. [2]

I would be remiss if I failed to mention how thankful and how grateful I am to have by my side the most wonderful wife anyone could ever hope to have. The mere fact that she’s still here is a testament to her abiding love for me. When I think of how much she has had to put up with through the years, I am presented with a clear picture of love, dedication, sacrifice, and commitment.

This may surprise many of you, but I lean towards being very strong-willed(insert smile here). I suppose that comes from being raised the way I was, that and being in positions of authority and responsibility for a large part of my life. My point being, sometimes it isn’t easy to live with someone like me, yet my sweet Princess somehow manages to keep me in check.

She is the calming voice of reason when I want to take a situation in my own hands to right a wrong that may have been done. She is the great communicator in our home when at times I want to clam up, satisfied within my own mind that I know all there is to know about the situation.

I am convinced that God brought us together in a Divine manner at just the right time. Two broken and shattered lives, neither looking for or ever expecting to love again. Yet God somehow orchestrated things so that we would meet one day in the foyer of a church, a church she was visiting only because of a friends invitation.

I could never have imagined that this shy young lady who wouldn’t even make eye contact with me when we were introduced, would one day complete me in a way I never thought possible and that together we would write our own Love Story.

These are just some of the reasons why I am a thankful and grateful man today. And yes, it is true, there are days when I need to be reminded of all of this. When I am, I’m humbled once again at the realization of where I’ve come from and where I’m destined to go.

For all of this, I am forever grateful and appreciative to my Savior.

Have a blessed day everyone!

Ron

[1] 2 Timothy 3:2 (KJV)

[2] For more of Bill Sweeney’s story of how the Lord has sustained him through a long battle with ALS, check out his website here: https://unshakablehope.com/about/

 

 

 

Four words you never expect to hear in church

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“You’re Not Good Enough”.

Stinging, painful words of rebuke. Whether they were deliberately spoken in order to hurt you doesn’t matter. What matters is they hurt. They cut deeply and wound our hearts.

Some of you have heard these words spoken to you or about you. Maybe not verbatim, but they may as well have been because the hurt is the same. Those four little words possess an enormous ability to tear down and destroy.

I heard these words from someone at my church last Sunday. And they hurt. They hurt deeply because they cut me deeply. They reached a part of my heart that I thought couldn’t be reached with such words. I thought the walls guarding my heart were impenetrable. But I was wrong. I was so very wrong about that.

For accuracy’s sake, those exact words weren’t spoken. But what was spoken was interpreted as “You’re not good enough to be permitted to do a certain thing here”. And to make sure there wasn’t any confusion about it, the point was made that I would never be good enough.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH

All of my adult life, and particularly in the business world, I have been told that I wasn’t ‘good enough’.

  • Not enough education
  • Not enough experience
  • Not enough connections
  • Not good enough

Because I was labeled as such, I was forced to work much harder and longer to achieve what others did in a much shorter amount of time. I accepted that as just how it was, and never allowed others to impose their limitations upon me. That is how God created me, and it has served me well for over six decades now.

So, back to the point I wanted to make. It took me all of Sunday and part of Monday to process this. And do you know what the Lord showed me about this? He showed me that He alone sets the standard, not man. He reminded me once again that there is no one that is ‘good enough’ except for the Lord.

As for me, with the Lord’s help I have moved past those four stinging words. In fact, I choose instead to focus on a different set of words because in them I am assured that it is the Lord that ultimately gets to decide who is ‘good enough’.

But “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.   2nd Cor. 10:17,18.  NKJV

The next time someone tries to tear you down by telling you that you aren’t ‘good enough’, you just remind them that when it’s all said and done, God alone will determine who is ‘good enough’, not the person telling you that.

Have a blessed day everyone,

Ron

 

Is there a mountain in your life that needs removed?

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Have you ever driven through the mountains? If you have, you have no doubt marveled at how the road was seemingly carved out of solid rock.

It’s interesting to see how the engineers overcame certain obstacles in the building of these roads. Some roads go right through the mountain in elaborately constructed tunnels, while others wind all the way around the outside of the mountain.

However the method, one thing is certain: it took a lot of very hard work to move that mountain in order to construct safe roadways in its place.

Much like those roadways, all of us have mountains in our lives that serve as giant obstacles to us. These mountains come in many shapes and sizes, and all of them have one thing in common: they are in our way, and we must find a way around them.

Fortunately for us, Jesus gave His disciples an important lesson in removing these mountains from their lives.

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.    Mark 11:22-24

Knowing that we are children of faith, all of us can say that we have been given a certain measure of faith. Understanding this, it should be easy enough to follow Jesus’ instructions, agree?

Except that when we look at our own circumstances in light of the verses above, we question just what kind of faith we actually have. After all, Jesus makes it sound pretty easy, doesn’t he? Just say the words and POOF!, it’s done!

Yet when we say to our own mountain “be removed”, it doesn’t budge. What gives?

The key to understanding this is when Jesus says if we do not doubt in our hearts, we shall have what we ask.

Talk about a mountain! DOUBT is the biggest mountain in all of our lives. Well, at least it is in my life. If we are to have the faith to remove these mountains from our lives, DOUBT has to go.

How do we accomplish this?

The answer my friends is found in our hearts. The only way to remove the mountains from our lives is to assume a fighting position, and for a Christian that means to humble our heart before God and pray.

You see, it is only when we pray that we bring God into the battle. Merely reciting a repeat after me prayer that someone else prayed is not believing in your heart.

This must be personal!

I have found that having ‘mountain moving faith’ is a process. A very long and arduous process. It’s a process built upon one small victory after another until eventually you have the faith to say to those mountains in your life “be removed”, and they will obey you.

If you have a mountain in your life that needs to be removed, I suggest the starting point is simply humbling our heart before the Lord.

Self needs to disappear into the background, while the Lord needs to come to the forefront. When we are diminished, He is exalted. Less of us…more of Him.

That is the foundation of ‘mountain moving faith’. When we build upon it daily, we will begin to see those impassable mountains begin to crumble before our eyes.

Have a blessed day!

Ron

 

 

 

When Religion Takes Priority Over Ministry

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Unless you live in a bubble, a cave, or in a penthouse surrounded by opulence, you cannot help but see the misery of suffering humanity all around.  On the TV, on the sidewalks of your city, standing in line at a food bank, dialing the crisis hotline, misery and suffering are things this world has an abundance of.

But what if you don’t live in a bubble, a cave, or a penthouse and yet see nothing of the sufferings of humanity that are all around you? What then?

There is an old saying that goes something like this: “there is none so blind, as he who will not see”. The meaning of this is that there are people who willingly choose not to see by closing their minds and their hearts to their surroundings. [1]

Such are those in our day who are ‘religious’ in name only. They have the title but not the heart. They want the appearance of godliness but not the costs associated with it. To maintain appearances within the community they open their checkbooks, but never their hearts.

Jesus had a name for religious people like this. He called them hypocrites. Not a very flattering term, is it? And while it is easy to look at them with disdain, in all honesty, most of us would have to plead “guilty” to some degree of hypocrisy as well. Pretending to be something we’re not comes rather easily for us, does it not?

Jesus had an encounter one day with just such a person while teaching in the synagogue. Follow along with me as we find Him confronting the high priest on a certain Sabbath day.

Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.
And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up.
But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.”
And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”
The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?
“So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”
And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.   Luke 13:10-17

This story perfectly illustrates how religion separated from a relationship with Christ can become more important than ministry. The religious leader was concerned only with the letter of the Law, rather than the spirit of the Law. His strict interpretation was that no one should lift a finger to perform any type of work on the Sabbath Day, and in his view what Jesus did in healing the woman was work. Thus he was condemning Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.

Isn’t it amazing how ‘hard’ and uncaring religion can be? When it’s more important to follow your creed than it is to follow your heart, something is terribly wrong. When rigidly enforcing “the rules” takes precedence over serving others, we are out of step with our Savior.

For eighteen long years this woman had not been able to stand upright. Have you seen someone like this? I have seen several people in this condition, where their body was permanently affixed in a jackknife position. Some are so bad that their life has been condemned to staring at the floor because they can no longer look up. It is truly a horrible affliction. [2]

This is the situation that Jesus was confronted with that day in the synagogue, and I doubt He hesitated even for a moment to reach out to this woman. While everyone else came that day to hear the Law taught, Jesus had a divine appointment with someone in need of much more than words!

Did you notice how the high priest told Jesus that there were six other days in which to work? I guess he would have preferred that Jesus tell the woman to “come back tomorrow’ than for Him to heal her right then.

That’s another difference between religion and ministry. Religion doesn’t feel the pain of its adherents, rather it is more concerned that everyone fall in line and follow the established protocol. Real ministry feels the infirmities and sufferings of people, and does not wait around for prior approval to meet the need.

I love how Jesus turned the tables on the religious ruler by telling him if he had an animal that was thirsty, he would untie it and lead it to water on the Sabbath Day. By all accounts that too was ‘work’, so we see that the real issue here was not that Jesus was breaking the Law, but that this man’s religion was more important to him than ministering to the needy. In other words, this man had a ‘heart condition’ that would not permit him to offer comfort to the needy at the expense of his doctrine.

As Christians, this is not what we are to be. Knowing that Jesus came not for those who were whole, but for those that needed a physician, it stands to reason that such a mindset should be ours as well. [3]

As we gaze upon humanity with open hearts and minds, it is plain for all to see that people are imprisoned by sin, sickness, addictions of every sort, and are in distress and great need.

Our world is quickly losing its capacity to exhibit mercy and compassion, and is becoming insensitive to the plight of others. Additionally, we seem to have an insatiable appetite for gore, violence, and immorality. Such is the cost of a society that has rejected God.

May it not be said of us that we looked, but did not see. Rather, may it be said of us that we looked upon suffering humanity with the same eyes and heart that Jesus did.

After all, that is why we are here. Isn’t it?

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] This saying has been traced back to 1546, and has its origins in Jeremiah 5:21

[2] The affliction this woman had is known medically as Camptocormia, and is typically associated with another disease

[3] Scripture reference Mark 2:17

Calling evil good,and good evil

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Perhaps you have heard it said that things today are not what they appear to be. Maybe you’ve lived long enough to see the evolution of what used to clearly be either right or wrong now muddied to the point of uncertainty. You might have even noticed that what was once undeniably black or white has now been replaced with “fifty shades of gray”.

All of this is a result of man’s attempt to create a utopian society where he is god and master of his own destiny, where absolutes simply cannot be tolerated. Right or wrong are seen as relics of a people whose time has come and gone.

In their place has arisen a new code of conduct whereby a simple yes or no has been replaced with maybe. The position of absolute right or wrong has been declared extinct, giving rise to the more palatable position of undetermined.

What we are witnessing is man replaying one of the most insidious chapters in its history from Genesis 3:4, in what is commonly referred to as “The Fall” as recorded in the book of Genesis.

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”   Genesis 2:15-17

Here we see that the Creator has given clear, concise instructions to His highest creation. God did not use words like maybe or undetermined, but rather He specifically said “You Shall Not”, leaving exactly no wiggle room or uncertainty regarding His expectations.

Enter the adversary into the garden, knowing full well what God had said and what was meant by what He said. The enemy needed to do something about God’s clear instructions to Adam and Eve, because to do nothing would be to allow the relationship God had with man to blossom.

And that was something Satan could not tolerate.

So he came up with a plan to sow uncertainty in the hearts and minds of Adam and Eve. How would he do that? By insidiously twisting God’s Word to make what had previously been clearly understood as though it wasn’t clear at all.

Then the serpent said to the woman,You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  (Genesis 3:4)

With one seemingly innocent statement, the enemy of our souls planted doubt and uncertainty in Eve’s heart and mind, thus altering forever the relationship between God and man.

Good had become Evil, and Evil had become Good.

Now, if you’re thinking all of this is nonsense it is worth noting that history has seen this before. Try as we might to want to believe we are somehow enlightened to the point of discovering a new order of things, we are merely following in the footsteps of another nation that was also once the dominant power of the world.

In the book of Isaiah, chapter 5: 8-32, we see six “Woes”, or statements of judgement pronounced upon six types of sins.

  1. Greed
  2. Drunkeness
  3. Mockery of God’s power to righteously judge sin
  4. Distorting God’s moral standards
  5. Arrogance and Pride
  6. Perversion of justice

The distortion of God’s moral standards is called out in verse 20 of Isaiah chapter five.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Society today has chosen to retrace the steps of ancient Israel and Judah by exalting sin. How are we doing this? By calling perversion and immorality by another name. Today we refer to those sins as virtuous and freedoms of expression, while calling Godly righteousness evil or bigoted.

Sexual perversion is commonly known today as an alternative lifestyle, one that is openly accepted and applauded, while opponents of such conduct are labeled as haters and oppressors.

Pro abortion advocates are looked upon as caring people deeply committed to women’s rights, while pro life advocates are called extremists or religious fanatics.

Good has become Evil, and Evil has become Good.

So where is all of this leading us? I don’t have a crystal ball so I cannot predict the future. What I do possess however is God’s Word, and in it you will find a very clear description for where all of this is leading us.

Rather than me giving you the details, I urge everyone to read it for yourself and to become acquainted with what God has said is coming upon all the world. Here’s a hint though: read Paul’s letters to Timothy and to the Thessalonian church just for starters.

If you’re honest and open minded, you might be surprised to learn that none of this has taken the Lord by surprise. In fact, you will find that all of this perversion of justice has been foretold many times over in the Bible.

We are simply repeating the mistakes (sins) of those who have gone before us.

May God have mercy upon us is my heartfelt cry, even though we are undeserving of such.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

From a child’s perspective

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I recently had an enlightening conversation with a friend of mine, and as we were talking he told me about something interesting that occurred in his church’s Sunday school class.

Being one of the teachers of 1st thru 5th grade students, he frequently tells me about some of the things the kids say and do, and I must concur that “Kids Say the Darndest Things”.

On this particular Sunday morning, it seems the lesson was on “Worry”. The gist of the lesson was that each child was given a piece of paper with 15 words listed on it. All of the words involved things you might worry about as a child.

The kids were instructed to circle the five things they would be most worried about from the list that included:

  • the death of a friend or loved one
  • forgetting your homework
  • getting lost
  • fear of the dark
  • being hungry

As each student turned in their paper the teacher tallied the scores, and the results were somewhat surprising. The #1 selection was the death of a friend or loved one. This is understandable, considering the trauma of such an event.

What was very surprising however was that the 2nd most popular selection was being hungry. Especially intriguing is the fact that none of the kids in his class know what being hungry feels like!

How sad is it that little kids who have never missed a meal worry so much about going hungry? What exactly does this say about our society? What does this say about our priorities as a nation? Better yet…

What Would Jesus Do?

Then the little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them; and the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of heaven” belongs to such as these. And after He had placed His hands on them, He went on from there.…   Matthew 19:13-15

Children are precious in the eyes of the Lord. Is it because our adult eyes no longer acknowledge the Lord that we are blind to this fact?

As a nation, we have rejected God and His plan for right living. In its place we have chosen instead to be inundated with 24/7 images of adultery, drugs, murder, prostitution, greed, abuse, divorce, and every conceivable type of debauchery imaginable.

And our children are growing up in these same homes, listening, wondering, and worrying if one day they too will feel the pangs of hunger, if they haven’t already.

If I’m being honest here, I sometimes wonder about the seeds we adults have planted in the minds of our children. The horrible things that we have exposed them to must surely be an affront to God.

Little kids are smart, much smarter than we like to give them credit for, and they instinctively know when things aren’t right. Given the opportunity, how long do you think it would take our children to prioritize the hunger problem in America?

It’s a crying shame that we as adults don’t have the same heart as they do.

Ron

 

Why are we here?

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Christians, a.k.a. the Church. Why are we here? What is our purpose?

One would think the answer would be obvious, but is it? In Acts 2 we read “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

According to this verse, the purposes of the church are 1) doctrinal,biblical teaching, 2) creating an opportunity for the fellowship of believers, 3) observing the Lord’s supper, and 4) praying.

While all of this is true, it barely scratches the surface because the Church is so much more than that!

Paul gave an excellent illustration of this to the believers at Corinth. He taught them that the Church is to be the visible, living, hands, mouth, and feet of God in this world. In other words…the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). We are to be doing the very things that Jesus Christ would do if He were here physically on the earth.

We are to be replicating the work He already did. This is one of the greatest travesties of our day, that the Church is constantly trying to reinvent itself in order to become more relevant. The die has already been cast friends, we simply need to do what Jesus did.

The Church consists of ordinary people held together by an extraordinary God for the extraordinary purpose of revealing His heart to a lost world. Why is the church here? The answer is so that we can be Jesus to the world!

As individual members of the Church, we are tasked with asking ourselves “does this world know by our actions that we are the hands,mouth, and feet of God”?

Something to ponder on this warm, sunny December day!

Ron

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