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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

All the kings horses,and all the kings men…

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Fractured

Splintered

Divided

Call it what you will, but America is floundering. In the cesspool of its own ignorance, undone by the deliberate abandonment of the Godly principles that once shone brightly for the entire world to see, we are drowning.

I know, I know. Ouch already!

Slowly, almost imperceptibly so as not to garner attention to the ungodly course she had chartered for herself decades ago, the axe was laid to the root of the tree so that death would not come quickly, but rather so slowly as to be unnoticed by the masses.

Generations of men and women who steadfastly held to the belief that they were free and independent of government intrusion in their personal lives have given way to a new generation that expects, no, demands, that government be their new god, their provider.

Decades of “he who has the most money wins” elections have produced the current crop of leaders who could not lead your grandmother across the street. In spite of this atrocity, we blindly cast our lots with them instead of God. The blind leading the blind!

What breaks my heart is that we are better than this! We know the way! The great travesty in all of this is we know the path to victory,yet we choose to stumble along in our own strength.

We are drunken on the new age Kool-Aid gospel of self importance. “You can be anything you dream,so dream BIG” they proclaim.This man made gospel replaces God with you, as though you were in complete control of your life and not God.

No amount of cheer-leading will make America great again. The fact that America is no longer the nation it once was is not a recent development, although the political elite and network talking heads would have you to believe otherwise. We did not get in this situation over night friends.

Do not misunderstand what I’m saying here. I am not criticizing America per se. I believe this country to be the best place on earth to live and raise a family. I love my country and am proud of its countless accomplishments over the past two and a half centuries.

Truth be told, the entire world has benefited from America’s existence. Actually,several nations owe their very existence to this country. But she has fallen far from the lofty heights of the blessed that she previously enjoyed.

Long forgotten is the scriptural admonition to “come, let us reason together”(Isaiah 1:18). The uplifting words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2 seem about as likely to happen in America as the mighty Mississippi reversing its course.

1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.   Philippians 2:1,2

From where I sit on the front row, I see an incredible opportunity right now for the church to arise and be THE CHURCH. The CHURCH must be the hands and feet of Jesus to a people wandering in spiritual darkness. To provide something that our government cannot, will not provide: REAL LEADERSHIP.

We the people need to hear from the God of heaven, not the god of this world. We need truth, not another lying politician. We need hope not vain, empty promises. We need encouragement, not more of the same disparaging vitriol.

Yet more than any of those, what we need most is to hear the clarion call to prayer from our church leadership. Pastors all over this land should be on their collective faces in solemn prayer for revival. God let it be so!

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  II Chr. 7:14

God is still God; in spite of what the antichrist-minded puppets of Satan want us to believe. God is still in the forgiveness business, and He has plenty to spare.

Is it too much to ask that we take a good hard look at our hearts and acknowledge that we are arrogant and filled with pride? Per the verse above, does it surprise you to know that this is what God expects of us?

How is it that we do not seem to grasp the seriousness of the hour? Are we truly so blinded by Satan that we cannot see the outstretched hands of Jesus beckoning us to “come unto me”?

We all know the nursery rhyme about a character that sat on the wall. He did well from his lofty perch, yet when he fell, he fell so hard that he could not be put back together again. This simple analogy cannot be lost on us.

Humpty Dumpty

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My prayer today is twofold; one, that we would recognize the grave seriousness of our present condition, and two; that we would recognize the only remedy for our brokenness is God Almighty.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

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

Sunflower_Beauty.27552109_std

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Church 2016: it’s all about the numbers

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A typical week finds my email inbox filled with the usual plethora of junk mail,solicitations,the occasional plea for money from a Nigerian princess,and a host of other offers “too good to be true”. email pic

On second thought, it’s just about all junk mail these days.

I have noticed a trend however in the emails I get from various ministries,and that trend involves numbers.Lots and lots of numbers.

Here is a small sampling of what I’m talking about:

“Do you want to see your church attendance grow by 30%“?

Five Reasons Church Announcements Cause Problems”

Seven ways members can actively prepare for sermons”.

Six Components of a Strategic Church Communications Plan”

Ten Sentences That Make Pastors Cringe”

“Avoid These 5 Bad Habits that Kill Church Growth at All Costs”

35 Random Thoughts and Tips on The Reading of Books”

Seven Church Facility Trends”

Five Reasons Why the Large Single Site Church Is Declining”

Umm…I think you get the picture.

Numbers. Apparently that’s what it’s all about.

Lest you think these samples are fictitious let me assure you that they are all from nationally known ministries and various denominations.I’m really not sure why I even get some of these because I sure didn’t subscribe to all of them.Wait…that’s why it’s called spam,right?

I’m not sure what’s behind the church’s fascination with numbers,but I can tell you that it resembles the world’s obsession with growth strategies and expansion planning with an uncanny resemblance.

Coincidence maybe?

I think not. From where I sit on the front row I hear an incessant clamoring for more,more,more.

More people in the pew.

More money in the offering plate.collection-plate-370x280

More and bigger facilities.

More of everything.

Except Jesus and His love.I can’t remember the last time I heard the call go out for more of Jesus.

What’s driving this insatiable appetite for more and bigger everything in the church?

I am of the belief that our carnal,or sin nature is the driving force behind all of this.Our nature is to want more of the things of this life more than the things of God.

It’s a heart issue.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.    Luke 12:34 NKJV

The church’s treasure is no longer Christ and His glory.It is in showing to the world that it is on equal footing with it’s wealth,opulence, and abundance.

In doing so the church has aligned itself with another church we read about in Revelation chapter three,the church of Laodicea.

Long gone are the humble shepherds who care for the flock God entrusted to them.In their place are PhD’s from the business community who know how to obtain financing and create mammoth structures that reach toward the heavens,yet know precious little about matters of the heart.

I cannot help but wonder how our Lord must grieve over this present generation.He who has given unto the church the words of liberty and life surely must wonder why that is not enough.

Why is the church not satisfied?

Why must the church always have more of everything but God?

I firmly believe in organization and structure in the church.But do we really need someone to tell us how to increase attendance by 30%?

Why isn’t 2% or 4% or even 5% sufficient,especially if the growth is real growth and not yet another bunch of church hoppers looking to have their ears tickled?

Six Components of a Strategic Church Communications Plan”? Really?  How about this for a “strategic growth plan”…

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  2Ch 7:14 NKJV

Sounds to me like there needs to be a return to the old paths and cry aloud to a Holy God who said He would hear from heaven.

That is of course,if you’re all about the numbers….

Ron

How Long Has it Been?

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How Long Has it Been…

I was thinking of this old gospel song recently.It was written in 1956 by Mosie Lister at a time when he began to reflect upon his younger years,a time when prayer seemed to be more common.“How long has it been since some people have talked with the Lord?” he asked himself. Maybe you’ve never heard this old song and if that is the case,would you at least think upon the words for a few moments?

1)  How long has it been

Since you talked with the Lord,

And told Him your heart’s hidden secrets.

How long since you prayed?

How long since you stayed on your knees

Till the light shone through?

How long has it been

Since your mind felt at ease

How long since your heart knew no burden?

Can you call Him your friend?

How long has it been

Since you knew that He cared for you? 

(2)  How long has it been

Since you knelt by your bed

And prayed to the Lord up in heaven?

How long since you knew

That He’d answer you,

And would keep you the long night through?

How long has it been

Since you woke with the dawn,

And felt the day’s worth the living?

Can you call Him your friend?

How long has it been

Since you knew that He cared for you?

Written by Mosie Lister

I know that these types of songs are old and outdated in the opinion of many church leaders today. Yet from where I sit on the front row of the church,I see people desperate to know that God loves them and these songs offer encouragement unlike most of what is written today.

I see wounded souls hungry to know that God is real and that He cares for them.I see the masses carrying burdens they were never meant to carry,exhausted from their journey,struggling to find hope in a world gone mad.

I see so many,many people listless and lifeless with no joy and no peace.Not knowing that there is One who longs to be their friend.Their comforter,their advocate,their shelter from the storms of this life.

In times like these….we need a friend that cares for us.

As the story goes it took Mosie Lister about fifteen minutes to write what was destined to become a classic gospel song as the words literally flew from his pen.That’s just like our Lord.

Listen friends,it doesn’t take God long to do what you need Him to do.Call upon His name,ask Him to care for you,to love you,to show you a better way.

If you will do that you will find Him to be a Friend that is closer to you than any friend or family member can be.

Be blessed,

Ron

Much More Than a Lump of Clay…

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Jeremiah 18:1-6 (NKJV)
1 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying:
2 “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.”
3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel.
4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying:
6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!

I’ve written before about the potter’s wheel from the perspective of our heavenly Father molding and shaping us into the vessel He has ordained that we should become.I think all of us understand that this molding and shaping is all part of the overall process called LIFE and that we will never be a completed vessel this side of heaven.

Now I’d like to take another look at this potter’s wheel, a completely different approach to this shaping process.For example; how do we start out on this potters wheel?

The truth is that we all start out exactly the same.In fact, it doesn’t matter what your social status is,what your family’s last name is, or what church(if any)that you come from.No,the potters wheel is the great equalizer of us all.To put it bluntly, we all begin as the same lump of humanity in desperate need of a divine makeover.

For all of the matchless benefits of grace,for all of the times we have been forgiven,for every time we stood in need of an eternal advocate to plead our case before a Holy God,the truth is that Almighty God is a perfectionist and even a slight imperfection is one too many.

Almost is never good enough with Him.

Close may be acceptable in horseshoes and hand grenades but it just won’t cut it with God.

And let us praise His mighty name for this because you see if close was good enough,we might all be walking around as marred vessels with no hope of ever being all that the Lord had planned for us. Yet because of His perfectionist ways we are placed back on that wheel time and time again,ever being shaped into more than we ever thought we could be.

And lets be honest here shall we? This wheel can be painful and it can be lonely.It is often a wheel of rejection and hurt,of desperation and endless tears.Yet without this wheel we will never be a completed vessel.

Does this mean that God demands that we be perfect? No it does not,even though there are many examples in the New Testament that speak to our becoming perfect(this speaks to the condition of the heart,but that is for another post!).

Our perfection can only come from above,we cannot attain it in and of ourselves.If that were possible then has Christ died in vain and we are eternally lost in our sins.

A Lump of Clay? Maybe so, but that is just the beginning of the process.There is much more to come and the end result will be a vessel that will bring glory to God and not ourselves.

My prayer is that we will allow the Master Potter to perfect His work upon the wheel and that we will endure the process with love,humility,and patience.After all,if a diamond starts out as an ugly lump of coal before it is transformed into a beautiful jewel,how much more shall this lump of clay be miraculously transformed into something that the God of heaven can use for His glory!

Ron

Who Do I Have But You Oh Lord?

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In my work I am often in the company of people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.At any given time I can hear conversations in English,Japanese,Indian,and a few others that I am unfamiliar with.Being raised in a very small Midwestern town it was quite a cultural shock to be suddenly thrust into an environment that was so different than what I had ever been exposed to.

That initial exposure was 25 years ago and in that time I have learned a lot about various cultures and traditions.One of the most important things I have learned is that none of us is really all that different from anyone else.We all have the same basic needs for food and shelter.We all want to provide for those who depend upon us.And we all have a need to be loved.

I am often in situations where people speak to me about the problems they are facing in life;divorce,abuse,betrayal,loneliness,abandonment,etc…and what always comes through the hurt and anguish is this need to be loved,to be accepted.And that’s where God comes in my friends.

The best of us doing the best we can on our very best day will never be able to accomplish what God can accomplish through the ministering work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His children.Take a look at what Asaph said when he found himself wondering about the conditions around him.He questioned why the wicked prospered so greatly.He wondered at the wickedness of the world around him and why the righteous seemed to suffer more than those who rejected God.After considering all these things he summed it up in the following verses:

Psalm 73:25-28 (NKJV)
25 Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
28 But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all Your works.

Maybe you have wondered why life has thrown you more than its share of curve balls. Perhaps you too have questioned the logic of why some who aren’t even trying to live for the Lord  seem to have it so easy, and yet others who have been faithful for so many years seem to catch all the bad breaks.You’ve probably asked the Lord “when is it my turn”?

May I let you in on a great theological secret? We’re all just like you.We’ve all been there.We’ve all had to patiently endure one endless season of heartache after another.And still we soldier on.From one corner of this planet to the other God’s people soldier on for we know that ahead remains the ultimate prize.

I have learned through much hardship and disappointment that there is but One who is faithful.”Whom have I in heaven but you”?

I have it all in Christ.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

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