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Where do we go from here?

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Many of my older readers are no doubt familiar with the name Paul Harvey. For those too young to remember his radio and TV newscasts, Paul Harvey was a very familiar voice in America from the early 1950’s to 2008.

He is most famous for his “The Rest of the Story” segments where he would talk about a particular subject, and later in the newscast would reminder his listeners that there was more to this story than meets the eye. Hence “The Rest of the Story”.

Throughout his long career he made many special broadcasts such as So God Made a Farmer, Freedom to Chains, and one of my personal favorites If I Were the Devil.

“If I Were the Devil,” was originally broadcast in 1964, but he updated it several times over the years. The version I am sharing with you today aired in 1996. Here, In Paul Harvey’s own words, is what he said he would do, if he “were the devil.”

“If I were the prince of darkness, I would want to engulf the whole world in darkness. I’d have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree — thee. So, I would set about however necessary to take over the United States.

“I’d subvert the churches first, and I would begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please.’

“To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince the children that man created God instead of the other way around. I’d confide that what’s bad is good and what’s good is square. And the old, I would teach to pray after me, ‘Our Father, which art in Washington …’

“Then, I’d get organized, I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

“If I were the devil, I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves and nations at war with themselves until each, in its turn, was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.

“If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellect but neglect to discipline emotions. I’d tell teachers to let those students run wild. And before you knew it, you’d have drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door. With a decade, I’d have prisons overflowing and judges promoting pornography. Soon, I would evict God from the courthouse and the schoolhouse and then from the houses of Congress. In his own churches, I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I’d lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money.

“If I were the devil, I’d take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. What’ll you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich?

“I’d convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun and that what you see on television is the way to be. And thus, I could undress you in public and lure you into bed with diseases for which there are no cures.

“In other words, if I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.”

Now, I do not pretend to make Paul Harvey out to be a saint or a Prophet. I do know that he attended various churches in his lifetime, but beyond that who can say exactly what his relationship was with God?

What do know is that what Mr. Harvey wrote in 1964 has mostly come to fruition. How anyone could argue otherwise is beyond my limited capabilities to understand the human thought process.

Whether he was ‘inspired’ to write the things that he did, or whether he may have somehow seen into the future, no one can truthfully say. In my own opinion, it doesn’t matter how he knew, but what matters is that he was able to ascertain that the societal trends that were evolving in the 1960’s were planting the seeds for the destructive trends you and I are now left to contend with.

For all of our modern sociologists attempts to portray society as an ever evolving one, replete with technological advances the likes of which our forefathers could not have dreamed of, we are actually devolving. We are simply following the well-established pattern of the great cultures of history that long ago found themselves adrift on the ocean of Godlessness.

We are living in strange and difficult times, of that we can all agree. It almost seems as though the ‘powers that be’ are fully aware that they are in over their heads yet dare not admit it to the populace. To do so would be an open admission of their own fallibility.

As Christians, we are often guilty of living in the manner of our choosing, believing Grace and its accompanying freedom will cover the multitude of our sins. It’s as if we have either forgotten or have willingly discarded Paul’s admonition of Romans 6:1,2.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

We know, of course, that to continue in sin and disobedience is a recipe for the worst kind of disaster. This applies to individuals as well as nations.

To quote historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, “What was once stigmatized as deviant behavior is now tolerated and even sanctioned; what was once regarded as abnormal has been normalized. As deviancy is normalized, so what was once normal becomes deviant. The kind of family that has been regarded for centuries as natural and moral – the ‘bourgeois’ family as it is invidiously called – is now seen as pathological.”

Indeed, it would seem that what was once considered shocking and unbelievable is now par for the course. Just as Mr. Harvey said in his “If I were the Devil” broadcast.

All of this reminds me of an event from the Old Testament book of Judges where God was once again contending with the Israelite’s on again, off again relationship with Him.

Also the Sidonians and Amalekites and Maonites oppressed you; and you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hand. Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more. “Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress. Judges 10:12-14

The million-dollar question is now ‘Where Do We Go from Here’?

Do we continue sliding even further from the one Source of hope and security, the one Source of help who can pull us from the mire?

Or do we come to our collective senses and acknowledge our back sliding, and turn our hearts once again to the God who stands ready to make straight our paths once again?

Not unlike Paul Harvey, the answers to these questions will be found in “The Rest of the Story”.

Be blessed,

Ron

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There really is an answer

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As we approach this particular Christmas season, I am more thankful than ever that my hope is found in the Lord Jesus instead of man. Today, what should be the happiest, most thankful and appreciative time of the year, sadly has been polluted with an endless stream of negativity from across America.

Instead of messages of hope, encouragement, and gratitude, which the people are desperate to hear, what we are getting instead is commentary and dialogue filled with hate, vengeance, and vitriol of every imaginable type.

Seriously, is there any wonder that so many have given up hope, or are on the brink of throwing in the towel? What we are being inundated with is EXACTLY why the Apostle Paul said this:

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  Colossians 3:2

In other words, Paul is telling us to focus our attention on those things that are eternal, not on those things that will one day pass away. And yes, the day is fast approaching when whatever is not anchored in God will be destroyed.

When I hear the TV commentators’ rail on and on about this or that, I sometimes shake my head in disbelief. How incredibly foolish it is to allow yourself to become so angry, even to the point of violence, over something that has no eternal value!

According to the Bible, there is coming a day when governments will no longer exist. No Democrats, no Republicans, no Independents, nothing. When Jesus comes again, he alone will rule, and he will be a party of One.

If only there was a way for this world to take a step back, take a deep breath, and rejoice for the blessings we do have!

The entire world should be rejoicing today because we are about to celebrate the birth of the Son of God. A birth like none other before or after. A birth that ultimately paved the way to reconciliation between God and man.

If that doesn’t get you fired up for Jesus, I don’t know what will!

I have no reason to succumb to hate today. I have no reason to be overwhelmed by the ills of society. I am not living as one in despair of tomorrow. The things of this earth have zero impact on my eternal destiny!

Because of Jesus Christ I am a new creature in Him. The old man has passed into oblivion, and a new man has risen to take his place. This is the message that the world needs to hear!

Since man’s fall in the Garden, he has lived a life far short of what his Creator intended for him to live. Because of that original sin, the world today bears the burden of rejecting God.

Yet the Good news, no, the Great News is that there really is an answer to the sin that plagues society.

That answer appeared two thousand years ago in a little town called Bethlehem, just six miles south of Jerusalem. That is where God sent the antidote for sin.

May we once again fix our eyes on that brightest of all stars, because just as that star led the wise men to the baby Jesus, it also serves as the answer for all of man’s problems today. There is a reason that the phrase “Jesus is the reason for the season” is so impactful.

It’s because He and He alone is the answer!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

Therefore the land will mourn

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It’s a dangerous thing for a nation to decide that God is no longer relevant. 

Whenever society enacts policies and laws that are void of any regard for God and his word, you can be sure that trouble will soon follow.

Any time that man becomes convinced of his superiority in matters of humanity and proceeds to embark on a path that takes him away from God, the remembrance of nations who long ago became extinct will remind him of the folly of such endeavors.

When mercy and truth are relegated to the furthest recesses of the mind and no place can be found for them in the halls of rulers, kings, or presidents, Satan is given free reign to pour out his wrath upon a society blinded by ignorance.

A people who have chosen not to retain the knowledge of God among them is by all accounts a people awash in sin and degradation, hopelessly entangled in their own filth, unable to know the cleansing freedom that can only be found in Christ.

1 Hear the word of the Lord,
You children of Israel,
For the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land:

“There is no truth or mercy
Or knowledge of God in the land.
By swearing and lying,
Killing and stealing and committing adultery,
They break all restraint,
With bloodshed upon bloodshed.
Therefore the land will mourn; …  Hosea 4

 

Our land is in a perpetual state of mourning, and as a result many have lost hope. Not just for today, but hope for a brighter future. Hope for a better tomorrow.

The most amazing thing about all of this is that God’s children do have hope. We, like faithful Abraham, are looking for a city ‘whose builder and maker is God‘ (Heb. 11:10).

Like the story found within the pages of the book of Hosea, we long for the day of reconciliation, when God gathers his elect from the four quarters of the earth.

We are living examples of a hope that is not of this world, but of a world to come where love rules and evil has been forever banished.

To many that sounds like a fairy tale, but to the Christian who is exhausted from years of unceasing spiritual warfare, it offers the promise of rest.  

I thank God that while I may be a resident of this earth, I am looking for the day when I become a citizen of heaven.

A place where mourning of any kind will never be heard again. Until then, may the Lord  somehow call us back to ‘the old paths, where the good way is…’   Jeremiah 6:16

Ron

Whatever you do, do it with purpose!

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Last night I spoke at our church from Daniel chapter one, which tells the story of Israel being carried away into Babylon and of Daniel being selected to stand before the king.

As heartbreaking as it is to read of God’s punishment for their rebellion, the captivity of Israel served a dual purpose.

As prophesied by Jeremiah, Israel was going to be punished for their continual rebellion against God by being carried away to Babylon as captive slaves for a period of 70 years. This was the fulfillment of that prophecy. [1]

While in Babylon, God used Daniel in miraculous ways to revel Himself to a people who otherwise would have never known about Him. Through his ability to interpret dreams and his unwavering faith in God’s deliverance, Daniel was able to turn the heart of the king of Babylon completely toward the Lord. [2]

None of this would have been possible however, had Daniel not maintained a positive attitude in spite of the overwhelming situation he found himself in.

Uprooted from everything he knew at a very young age, Daniel could have easily succumbed to bitterness and allowed his heart to become hardened towards his God.

Like so many of us, he could have asked God “WHY?” a thousand times, yet what he did instead was fall back on what he had already been taught, which was to keep God first in his life.

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.   Daniel 6:8

Daniel had purposed in his heart that despite his circumstances, he would not reject the Lord. In essence, he was drawing a line in the sand and letting everyone know that he would not be drawn into the sinful culture of his captors.

What does that say about this young man? Well, for one thing, it says that his faith in God wasn’t predicated by his feelings. If Daniel was going on feelings alone, I’m pretty sure he had much to be discouraged about had he chosen that path.

Being a hostage in the king’s court, separated from his family, the feelings of loneliness and abandonment could easily have overwhelmed him.

I have a standard answer to tell people who say that they haven’t sensed or felt God’s presence in their life for a season. That is that God has promised to ‘never leave us nor forsake us ‘. And that God’s promises trump our feelings. [3]

Every. Single. Time.

As I told the congregation last night, there are times when we find ourselves in situations that are not of our choosing. We did nothing to warrant the predicament we find ourselves in. Yet here we are, and we must choose how we will face adversity.

I have found myself in those situations and have been forced to endure hardship all because of the poor choices of someone else. While our own poor choices bring about consequences that must be dealt with, it’s quite another matter when you are forced to suffer because of someone else.

Can I get an AMEN?

Let’s face it, there can be no doubt that some things are just not meant to be understood by our limited ability to reason and comprehend. In those times, I believe God calls us to simply place one foot in front of another as we walk with Him. That is real FAITH my friends!

If we choose to be like Daniel, and purpose in our hearts that we will not defile ourselves with doubt and conformity to the world’s way of doing things, we can expect God to stand with us no matter how difficult the test.

God’s vision and hope for you far exceeds your present condition. Think about that, and rest assured that God has his hand upon you.

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] Jeremiah 25:11

[2] Daniel 2:48, Daniel 3: 28,29, Daniel 6: 26,27

[3] Hebrews 13:5

The Glory of the Lord has departed

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Ichabod

What a strange word, and an even stranger name for a child.

Yet that is what a dying mother named her child upon hearing the tragic news that both her husband and father-in-law were dead, and that the Ark of God had been taken from Israel. 

While you can read all about this heart wrenching episode in Israel’s history in the 4th chapter of 1st Samuel, here is an excerpt that tells how it came to be that a distraught mother named her child Ichabod.

19 Now his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, due to be delivered; and when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and gave birth, for her labor pains came upon her.

20 And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Do not fear, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer, nor did she regard it.

21 Then she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband.

22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”

This Ark of God is the very same Ark of the Covenant that went before Israel as they sojourned in the wilderness. Inside of it were the two stone tablets that contained God’s handwritten Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod that budded, and a pot of manna.

To Israel, this Ark represented the very presence of God in their midst, and it was a most Holy possession to them. To have lost the ark was to them the same thing as losing God, hence the reference to “the Glory has departed from Israel”.

As if losing the priest and both his sons in one day weren’t enough, the loss of the Ark had a profound impact upon the nation of Israel. When it was captured by the Philistines, along with it went Israel’s hope, strength, and courage. In short, the departure of the Ark negatively affected an entire nation.

From where I sit, I see an amazing parallel emerging right before our eyes. The world at large today, and in particular America, is suffering the same effects as Israel because in our world “the Glory of the Lord has departed”.

Or perhaps the sincerer assessment would be to acknowledge that the world has departed from God, believing it has found life without Him to be “our best life now”.

Whether through the crushing methodologies of oppressive regimes, or willful, deliberate acts of spiritual abandonment committed by the masses, it is a fair statement to say that the majority of people neither want or know God any longer.

To be sure, we have fabricated an image of God in our minds, one that we have created to serve us at our whim, to pour money into our accounts, to be at our beck and call when trouble arises, only to be shelved until the next crisis.

By and large however, we have abandoned our spiritual birthright and heritage because it is not the God of the Bible that we desire.

In our churches we no longer expect or want God to show up in our midst. For Him to do so would require us to humble ourselves and repent of our transgressions, and that does not compute with a people who only want God on their terms.

Deliberate or not, and I believe it is, we have effectively “engineered” God out of the church. Disguised as the ritualistic order of worship, we carefully plan our church services down to the most minute of details, thus ensuring that even if the Almighty should desire to come down and deal with our hearts, there has been no time allotted for Him to do so.

For many, there is no expectation of going to the house of God in order to meet with Him there. Instead, we go out of a sense of duty, or because we’ve been taught that it’s the “right thing to do”.

Instead of meeting with Him there, we are sadly content to sit and listen to a nice, ‘easy on the ears and conscious’ story about Him! In short, we have no intention of having an encounter with the living God!

This is the result of “the Glory of the lord has departed”.

The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?   Jer. 5:31   emphasis mine

Your experiences are probably different than mine, however I have observed a peculiar phenomenon over these past four decades of my walk with God. That is that when man demonstrates a lack of zeal for God, his word, or his presence, God will not force himself upon them.

His Glory departs, leaving them to go about their religion without Him. In His absence is a cold, indifferent, faithless man-centered organization comprised of dead men’s bones. Good for nothing, entrapping men in its clutches, enslaving them in the bondage of religiosity.

Herein is the real tragedy of all of this: it was never intended to be this way!

Jesus taught that “whom the Son sets free is free indeed”, yet by our own actions we have established that we are not content to be free. Instead of freedom, we long to be chained to the same mistakes of those who long ago learned that “without Me, you can do nothing”. John 8:36, 15:5

As I look around this nation, am I the only one who mourns over what was, and what might have been? My soul is grieved over what we have done to the God who loved us enough to sacrifice His only Son for our sins!

For all of this however, I am convinced that all hope is not lost.

Nations will fall, as they always have when they have abandoned the God of heaven. Nevertheless, as He did in days long gone, I believe God has reserved to himself a remnant that are committed to Him no matter how difficult life becomes.

“Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”  1st Kings 19:18

My hope is in Jesus Christ, and in Him alone will I place my trust. I look to no party or person to give me hope for a better future. That ship has sailed, I am sad to say.

Only God can provide real hope for His children, and I intend to cling to His glorious  hope for the rest of my days.

My prayer is that His Glory never departs from you.

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

Blessed are they that mourn…

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In my previous post, we dealt the 1st of the Beatitudes, the promise made to those who are poor in spirit yet possess the kingdom. With this second Beatitude, we turn our attention to a promise that those who now mourn will one day be comforted.

Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted“. [1]

Whenever I hear the word “mourn” I think of a very deep sadness or grief, the kind that nearly overwhelms the soul. We humans mourn over all types of situations. It’s how we cope, or how we endure trials that are often beyond our capability to handle.

Mourning is an outward indicator of pain and grief. It reflects our inward sense of hopelessness over something that is usually out of our control. The loss of a loved one, for example, is one of the most common events that will cause us to mourn and suffer grief.

Of course, there are other types of mourning as well. In Jesus’ day for example, there was no doubt a spirit of heaviness upon the nation of Israel. This once proud, favored nation had succumbed to sin and found themselves under the authority of a foreign government.

No doubt Jesus himself was mourning the condition of his people as he looked out upon Jerusalem and lamented the fact that though he had continually called them back to righteousness, they had steadfastly refused to come. [2]

On a lesser extent, I’m sure that many of us today mourn the condition of our society, being forced to come to terms with the fact that what once was, is now gone forever.

Perhaps, like me, you mourn the present apostate condition of the Church. Knowing that Jesus gave his very life for the Church that now largely rejects him causes me to mourn greatly for what could have been.

Whenever we find ourselves in a place of mourning, it can be extremely difficult to see beyond our present circumstance to a place of having hope for a brighter day.

Jesus, however, said that those who mourn shall be comforted. So, what do we take away from that statement?

Perhaps the most important thing to learn from what Jesus said is that there will be an end to the mourning. Overwhelming as it may be in the moment, the source of our mourning must give way to the peace and the presence of God.

The Apostle Paul said that the peace of God surpasses all understanding [3], and it is during these intense times of mourning that He will show up, often when we least expect it, bringing the comfort of a peace beyond our own understanding.

That alone offers great comfort, because I can tell you from personal experience that there are times in our lives when it appears the pages of our circumstances will never turn.

To this very day, I mourn and grieve over certain things that I have been forced to deal with. And while the pain may not be as intense as it once was, it is still there, scarcely hidden beneath a thin veneer of faith and hope.

I thank God however that the story doesn’t end there, because Jesus said that comfort was coming! In fact, we are told that while weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning! [4]

We have inherited the promise of Jesus that we will be comforted. Whatever is causing us to mourn, it has an expiration date affixed to it. It will not last, nor can it defeat us.

I hope you will join me in clinging to the promises of God that one day, every tear will be wiped away. The day is coming when neither death, sorrow, or crying will ever be heard again. [5]

Until that day, take solace in knowing that God sees, hears, and understands the things that cause us to mourn.

Comfort is coming, in Jesus name!

The next Beatitude we’ll look into is “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth”.

Be blessed!

Ron

[1] Matthew 5:4

[2] Matthew 23:37

[3] Philippians 4:7

[4] Psalm 30:5

[5] Revelation 21:4

 

So many voices, still only one Truth

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Recently, I was thinking of something someone said about a well-known prosperity Bible teacher, and how that this teacher had helped them more than anyone else ever had.

prosperity-gospel

Gospelcoalition.org

So much so that this person bought several of the teacher’s books and other materials, and had come to rely upon them as their primary source for truth and inspiration.

You probably know someone like this, don’t you?

Now, I don’t know about you, but this concerns me. It just doesn’t compute with me that someone who professes Christ as their Savior will seek truth, hope, and inspiration apart from God’s Word.

This is not to say that there aren’t many wonderful “helps” out there, because there are. God has equipped the body of Christ with many exemplary teachers who have not departed from the Word unto “another gospel”,which is exactly what the prosperity gospel is.    Scripture reference Galatians 1:6-9

There is nothing wrong with seeking input from those more knowledgeable than ourselves. That’s how we learn after all. There is something very wrong however when we place the greater emphasis upon man’s opinion and interpretation, rather than seeking understanding from our Lord.

Some will argue of course that there are many “truths”, just as many say there is good in all religions. For the record, “good” isn’t good enough, just as half-truths aren’t really Truth.

half truth

Gettyimages.com

There is obviously no shortage of choices today no matter what it is you’re looking for, as all of us are inundated with voices claiming to have the answers, to know the way, to have unlocked the truth.

Sadly, the world is largely ignorant of real Truth, because they reject its Author. Just listen to Jesus defining Truth:

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth”.    John 17:17

Wow! No long dissertation on the various aspects of truth. No comparison tables or charts for our viewing pleasure to help us decide what is truth.

Just a simple proclamation by the Son of God: God’s Word is Truth.

This creates a potential dilemma for us all, saint and sinner alike.

For those who have rejected God and His Truth, you have no place else to turn to. Oh sure, there are a great many voices from which you can choose, but they all lead to the same conclusion: they may contain an element of truth, they are not Truth.

The Christian also faces a dilemma with what to do with this statement from Jesus. Foremost is if you are like the person I talked about at the beginning of this post, how do you reconcile in your heart the fact that you draw more inspiration from the teachings of men than the Word of God?

We are taught in 1st Thessalonians 2:13 that the Word of God is working in us who believe.

For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe”.

If we choose as our primary source of hope, inspiration, guidance, etc..one of the countless volumes from the Christian book store, or order a book from your favorite TV preacher, what does this say about our relationship with Christ and the Word?

Is it not working in us?

Gods word is alive

Pinterest.co.uk

If not, why not?

What’s missing?

Or maybe the root of the problem lies with our churches that have abandoned the Word of God and replaced it with a feel good cultural,social gospel.

Perhaps the real reason we are seeking truth and inspiration outside of the Word of God is simply because we are so malnourished, sitting on the pew.

Something to ponder on this beautiful, sunny Tuesday.

Ron

 

 

 

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