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The numbers don’t lie

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It’s hard to believe that we are just a few days away from the start of another decade, proof that “time flies” is more than just a catchy saying. So much has happened over the course of the past ten years that it is almost mind-boggling, and it’s not a stretch to say we’ve seen a little bit of everything in the 2010’s.

From Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter to scores of earthquakes and hurricanes, as well as the never-ending threats of terrorism, the events of the past decade have certainly captured our attention.

Time stops for no one, and if there is one thing that will always be inevitable it is change. Speaking of change, something changed during this past decade that most of us are unaware of, yet it impacts all of us in one way or another. This change has to do with the Church in America. The 2010’s were, unfortunately, a decade of steady decline in the Church.

The following graphic from the Pew Research Center illustrates these changes.

 

Whether we realize it or not, these negative changes affect all of us. If you don’t believe that, just look around you. The signs of moral decline and decay are everywhere, and there are precious few areas of our society that do not reflect this. This is true of our government, our schools, our workplaces, and yes even our churches.  The numbers don’t lie!

Now here is an interesting fact about this. According to the Pew Report,“the nation’s overall rate of religious attendance is declining not because Christians are attending church less often, but rather because there are now fewer Christians as a share of the population.” emphasis mine

This should cause all of us to take notice. As the numbers of unchurched, “none’s”, and non-religious Millennials continue to grow, this means that the percentages of active Christians continue to decline.

And that, I fear, spells trouble for this nation. As Christianity continues to decline, this leaves the door open for the enemy to step in and implement his own plan for America. Let’s face it, can any of us seriously argue that we aren’t seeing this plan being implemented already? Being a Christian in America today ranks near the top of the most despised groups of citizens. Categorized as intolerant, bigoted, hateful, and unloving, Christianity is under attack like never before.

Of course, none of this should take any Christian by surprise. The Bible is very clear that this is what would happen before the return of Jesus Christ.

“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God”. [1]

Yes, it’s true that the numbers don’t lie. We are firsthand witnesses to the beginning of what Paul called “the great falling away”. Do you know what else is true? God will sustain His people even in the darkest of days. We are the church, the body of Christ, and Jesus himself said that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it“. [2]

This goes hand in hand with Paul saying that even as we see these things happening all around us, we should remain steadfast and not allow ourselves to be troubled. “Let no one deceive you by any means” the Apostles states.

Wise words that all of us would do well to listen to.

Be blessed on this Lord’s day,

Ron

 

[1] 2nd Thessalonians 2: 1-4  NKJV  emphasis mine

[2] Matthew 16:18  NKJV

 

 

 

 

The bondage of “MORE”

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Would you consider yourself to be satisfied?

Satisfied in what way, you might ask?

Well, generally speaking, are you satisfied with where you are in life and with what you possess (assuming possessions mean anything to you)?

Have you reached the place that the Apostle Paul spoke of when he said “for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content”? [1]

  • Whether you have a little or a lot.
  • If your bank account is running over with excess or your balance is nearing zero.
  • If the pantry is filled to capacity or the shelves are bare.
  • If your closet is filled with designer labels or thrift store bargains.

Satisfied, content, call it what you wish…. but are you there? If you’re like most of us, you are striving to get to that place, but you’ve yet to arrive. If that describes you, follow along with me as we take at look at this peculiar phenomenon we call “MORE”.

“MORE” is peculiar in that it is never enough. “MORE” never reaches the point of satisfaction. “MORE” demands that we never stop striving for it.

It is almost as addicting as a drug. At first “MORE” feels good, it strokes our ego and encourages us to keep after it. Pretty soon the old “MORE” just doesn’t cut it any longer so we take it to the next level. Bigger house. Bigger car.

Sooner or later we come to the realization that there is no end to the vicious cycle of “MORE”. Caught like a hamster on a wheel, there is no getting off point.

We are caught in the bondage of “MORE”, and many of us are in its clutches.

Such is the way of society, isn’t it? We are constantly bombarded with ads that remind us its time for a new car/watch/washer/TV, and if you don’t get with the program and go after it you will be thought of as a dinosaur.

Contentment? Satisfaction? Complete?

Those words never cross our minds as we continue this mad rush for “MORE”.

Now, lest you think this scenario is only played out in the world, let me remind you that this very same game is being played out in the Church every Sunday. That’s right, the Church has its own version of this madness to attain “MORE”.

”8 steps to create the life you want”. [2]

“You need more money”. [3]

”Favor, abundance, and joy”. [4]

All of these and thousands like them are reminders that you don’t have enough, or that you aren’t enough. You are incomplete without the “MORE” being hawked from the pulpit today.

This is what happens when God’s Word is no longer enough for us. We take our eyes off of God’s Word and are seduced by the bright lights and promises of easy blessings. The lure of the carnival barker convinces us that if we put our money down, we’ll go home with the big prize.

”MORE”

Christians everywhere are addicted to it. We just have to have it, and can’t live without it. We are enslaved by it. We all know better of course, but once caught in its web, this addiction proves a daunting adversary.

Do you want to know why all of this has befallen us?

It is because we have exchanged the freedom we have in Christ for the shackles and chains of this world. And here’s the real tragedy in it: we’ve done it willingly, even gladly. The simple freedoms we enjoy in Christ are lain aside in favor of pretty packages of “MORE”.

Sadly, every one of us is guilty to some degree of doing this, proof enough that “the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak”. [5]

This, however, is not the end of the story because we know that Jesus Christ is the bondage breaker! There is hope in Jesus Christ for a new beginning, a new start. Those shackles and chains can just as easily be broken as they were when we first came to know the Lord!

I’m going to conclude this commentary on “MORE” in my next post entitled “Just how FREE are you”?

Until then…

Be blessed in Jesus name!

Ron

 

[1] Philippians 4:11  NKJV

[2] Crefflo Dollar  

[3] Brian Houston

[4] Joel Osteen

[5] Mark 14:38  NKJV

Why we must resist spiritual pride

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Pride is one of those things that all of us possess in one form or another. Having pride in one’s appearance, taking pride in a job well done, or being proud of your children are all different types of pride that are looked upon as favorable.

Having a sense of pride however that borders on arrogance and superiority are not thought of as admirable traits, as most of us are not drawn to individuals possessing them.

When those traits creep into the church they lead to spiritual pride, or thinking too highly of ourselves. When we allow such pride to overtake us, we become unreasonable, rigid, self-serving, and see ourselves as nearly infallible. This does not reflect the nature of Jesus Christ.

For the Christian, this is a very dangerous place to be in because we become hardened to the Spirit of God. We are no longer malleable in the Masters hands, having convinced ourselves that “I’m in complete control, not God”.

Additionally, any Christian, especially one in leadership who operates under the guise of “it’s my way or the highway” is headed for a fall because the scripture makes it clear that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble”. [1]

When those in church leadership positions allow spiritual pride to enter their hearts, they seek honor for themselves and not God. Under the cover of their position or title they exalt themselves (the creature) instead of the Creator. [2]

You may be thinking that this is an extreme example, but I can assure you that it is not. As a matter of fact, there was a time in my past when I found myself in this very predicament, and I don’t think I’m too far off by saying many of you have struggled with this issue at some point in your life as well.

All of this matters because God has a divine plan for each of our lives, a plan where there is no room for a “haughty spirit”. [3] Part of that plan is to mold and shape us so that we conform to His image and not our own. God calls this a “transformation”, which the Apostle Paul spoke of to the church at Rome.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2  (emphasis mine)

When we become a born again Christian, a mighty transformation begins to happen in our lives. Because we live in this world and are a product of its ways, thoughts, and practices, this ‘conforming nature’ has to go if God is going to have his way in our lives.

In order for that to happen God has to first chip away at the “world” that has enveloped all of us. How does He accomplish this? This is accomplished when we are placed on the potter’s wheel as mentioned in Jeremiah. [4]

As the Lord deals with us and we begin to grow in our relationship with him, the transformation becomes visible for all to see. In essence, we are not the same person we were before we found Jesus. Old things pass away, all things now become new. [5]

During this process we must take care not to become spiritually proud and to think more highly of ourselves than we should. Again, the Apostle Paul speaks to this as well.

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans 12:3 (emphasis mine)

Paul is warning us here not to over-estimate ourselves. Don’t allow pride to enter your heart and cause you to become puffed up in your own eyes. This is a clear warning to be mindful of the dangers of spiritual pride.

We must not judge ourselves by our talents, our title, or our position in the church. Instead, we should measure ourselves by our Christian character. If Christ has been at work in our hearts, our character will be transformed, just as our minds are being renewed.

Anything less is not acceptable.

Be blessed, in Jesus name!

Ron

 

[1] James 4:6, 1st Peter 5:5

[2] Romans 1:25

[3] Proverbs 16:18

[4] Jeremiah 18:3

[5] 2nd Corinthians 5:17

 

 

This demon named “Regret”

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Is there one among us who has lived their life in such a manner that they can look back upon it and say “I have no regrets”?

I can state categorically that I am disqualified from being able to make such a claim. When we think of regrets we see images of things we wish we had not done, or at the least done them differently. I stand guilty as charged.

We remember conversations we’ve had with family and friends that did not turn out well, and we wish we had spoken with more kindness. Perhaps what we remember most is that conversation we meant to have, but never got around to having.

The voice of my wife on the night that her father passed away serves as a reminder to me about how it should be when we do things in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. As we drove away from her fathers home that night she looked at me and said this: “I have no regrets. There is nothing left unsaid between us. He knew how I felt about him and I knew how he felt about me because we often told each other”.

There it is…no regrets. Nothing left undone or unsaid. For the rest of her days on this earth my sweet wife can live peacefully knowing that there is no reason to look back and wonder ‘what if?’

The pain of regret for the rest of us is very real though isn’t it? That is why I refer to it as a demon. It brings with it pain and suffering over what might have been…what should have been.

Regret is relentless in its goal of keeping our eyes fixed on our rear view mirror. The enemy knows that as long as he can keep us looking back, we will never be able to look ahead. Up ahead awaits victory, while behind us lies a minefield of defeat.

Past mistake and failures of every sort are hurled at our minds at warp speed, rarely giving us a moments respite from the battle. Oh, and the enemy doesn’t care a bit that a past regret wasn’t your fault. You see, even if it wasn’t your fault he wants to transfer ownership of it to you because once you own it, he will use it against you at every opportunity.

Do you see how diabolical Satan is?

The enemy doesn’t even care that when you became a Christian that you were made a new creation. It doesn’t matter to him that the Bible teaches us that ‘old things are passed way’. He has no regard for the fact that as followers of Jesus Christ we now have ‘the mind of Christ’.  [1]   [2]

None of that matters to Satan. All that matters to him is that you keep looking backwards and not forwards, back to the path of destruction carved by an endless array of regrets.

So what is the child of God to do about this demon named “Regret”?

One of the first things we must do is acknowledge that we cannot undo the past. We get no ‘do-overs’. The best we can do is try to make amends where necessary, but the fact remains that what’s done is done.  [3]

Another thing we must do is to turn the situation over to the Lord in prayer. Peter explains it best here:

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you”. [4]

When we give it to God we are to leave it with Him. Of course, this is easier said than done because the enemy will never accept this as the final word on the matter. As I said earlier, he will bring this up to you time and time again in an effort to turn your attention to the past and not the future.

The Apostle Paul went so far as to suggest that we forget those things that are in our past. Paul knew of course that if he was to ever fulfill his destiny in Christ, it would be because he steadfastly looked ahead and not behind him. [5]

Forgetting our past sins and mistakes is not easy. It never is. I’m sure many of us have forgotten our past sins and mistakes many times. No doubt, we will forget them many more times before we leave this life.

When Paul says to forget those things which are behind us, he wasn’t trying to say that they are zapped from our memories never to be drudged up again. What he meant was that we should be so forward-focused that the past stays in the past.

That is how we get the victory over this demon called ‘Regret’. We leave it in the past and focus on running the race that is before us. Regret is a crippling, joy stealing invention of the devil that has no power over us unless we give it power.

As for me and my house, we choose to look ahead to the future that God has ordained we should have. We are free, having been set free by the blood of the Lamb.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”. [6]

Keep looking straight ahead,

Ron

 

[1] 2nd Corinthians 5:17

[2] 1 Corinthians 2:16

[3] Matthew 5:24

[4] 1st Peter 5:6,7

[5] Philippians 3:13

[6] John 8:36

A plea for revival

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I enjoy reading about the lives of some of the great preachers of the past, and often find great encouragement and inspiration in their sermons. Men such as Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd, C.H. Spurgeon, A.W.Tozer, and Leonard Ravenhill spoke with an impassioned, fiery boldness rarely seen in our day.

I guess that passion resonates with me, because through the years I’ve been told several times that I remind people of some of those mentioned above. I can only hope they mean that in a positive manner! Either that, or I need to start hanging out with a younger crowd.

Another preacher that I should mention is a Welsh preacher named David Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones lived from 1899-1981, and preached his first sermon in 1925. In 1943, he became pastor of the famous Westminster Chapel in London, following the retirement of G. Campbell Morgan, another giant of the faith who had spent years mentoring him.

Like so many great preachers of the past, D. Lloyd-Jones had the unique gift of not only ministering to the needs of his own congregation, but also spoke with a prophetic vision.

So it was with his first sermon on the subject of “The Problem of Modern Wales”. What is so interesting to me about this particular sermon is the following passage:

“What Wales needs above everything today is…a revival,…a great spiritual awakening such as took place in the eighteenth century under the influence and guidance of the Methodist Fathers.”

“A revival,….a great spiritual awakening.”

Unfortunately, the hoped for revival that Lloyd-Jones spoke of never occurred, at least not to the extent he had wished. As of the last census in Wales, some 86 years after his message on revival, only 57% of the people claimed to be Christian, while 32% claimed no religious affiliation at all.

Is it fair to say that the more things change, the more they stay the same? I cannot think of a single thing more needed in the land today than a God-sent revival that would awaken us to our dire need for Jesus Christ.

Sadly, however, there doesn’t seem to be much support from within the Church for a genuine move of God like that spoken of by Lloyd-Jones.

Whether in the United Kingdom or the United States, instead of revival what we are witnessing is a falling away rather than a rush to repentance.

One could argue, of course, that the opportunity for large scale revival has passed as we edge ever closer to the end time apostasy prophesied by the Apostle Paul.

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,   2nd Thess. 2:3

Knowing this, one cannot help but cry out to God that He would once again visit his people in a manner that would result in large scale revival. We can only imagine the positive impact such a move of God would have on all facets of our society, a society so broken that it is beyond the scope of human intellect to repair itself.

We desperately need an intervention of the Divine! That is my heart’s cry today, that God’s children would cry aloud to the only Source capable of turning our hearts back to Him.

As a final note about D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, his final days were spent struggling with poor health. Dying of cancer, he had lost the ability to speak. On Thursday evening, February 26, he wrote a note for his wife Bethan and their family: “Do not pray for healing. Do not hold me back from the glory.”

Amazing!

Be blessed,

Ron

“The evil of many is the consolation of fools”, says Catholic Cardinal

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Deflection

[dih-flek-shuh n]
noun
  1. the act or state of deflecting or the state of being deflected.
  2. amount of deviation.
  3. the deviation of the indicator of an instrument from the position taken as zero.

When the news first broke concerning the latest sexual abuse scandal involving six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, like most people (I hope), I was both shocked and outraged.

For many days this has weighed heavily on my mind and heart, and I’ve wanted to express my outrage at this abuse, yet knowing that if I did many would consider it nothing more than “Catholic bashing”.

Since the story initially broke, new information has come to light, and my conscious will not permit me to remain silent any longer. If what you are about to read upsets or offends you, that is not my intent. I am only seeking to call attention to the horrors being perpetrated by those who claim to be Christ’s representatives upon the earth.

So widespread is this scandal (it began as far back as 1947), that it has encompassed 54 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. For 71 years, nearly three quarters of a century, the Catholic Church has willingly and knowingly participated in the coverup of the most horrific sexual abuse of children in our time.

The grand jury * responsible for investigating internal church documents from these six dioceses revealed that more than 300 “predator priests” were ‘credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims since 1947’.

Do NOT miss this key point: the incriminating document were from the Church’s own internal records!

More than 1000 child victims!

Upon learning of the unfathomable atrocities committed by these imposters of Christ, one has to ask: where is the outrage from America and the rest of the world?

Are we simply numb with disbelief? Are we so apathetic as to have nothing to say? Are we so gutless as to have no fight left in us, even for our own children?

Americans will riot in the streets over a decision made by a President they say they hate, yet the fact that over 1000 children have been raped, abused, impregnated, and threatened garners hardly a whimper from these same impassioned, hate spewing ‘pretenders of the American Way’.

Where are the organizers who are so quick to make a few well-placed phone calls to their millionaire backers and political lobbyists? Why don’t we see them marching on Washington demanding justice for these 1000+ victims of the most sinister cover up of child abuse ever documented?

I say again, where’s the outrage?

Perhaps if we had a separate #MeToo Movement for these sexual abuse victims more people would join in the protest!

Our precious children were sexually assaulted for over 71 years, and there is no collective outrage? Are we so brain washed that we willingly turn a blind eye to this because it was done by supposed members of the Clergy?

Is this because the evil was perpetrated and subsequently covered up by the Catholic Church? Is that why the story dropped off the evening news almost as soon as it appeared? Does our society live in fear of retribution from the Catholic Church, therefor we remain mute? Do we have a subconscious fear that if we speak up it will bring about another Inquisition?

You who cannot resist the opportunity to continually rail against the President, have you nothing to say about the documented facts of the Catholic Church sexually exploiting our children?

Oddly, when we hear that some sadistic monster is found to have been torturing and sexually abusing his victims, it is all the talk around water coolers, the evening news, and the internet.

Web sites, blogs, and forums are on fire with comments for weeks on end. Yet we remain strangely silent about one of the most evil, diabolical, systematic patterns of sexual abuse ever devised by humans.

Tragically, for a variety of reasons many of these cases will never be prosecuted. Whether the statute of limitations has run out, or the victim or the accuser has died, criminal justice will never come for many who thought the one place they would be safe was in the Church.

Of course, this recent discovery of abuse is just one of many.

That we know about.

Few realize that the Catholic Church has even stooped so low as to spend millions of dollars on lobbyists in an effort to block child sex abuse reforms.

These lobbyists were retained, in part, to work on issues associated with “statute of limitations” and “timelines for commencing certain civil actions related to sex offenses.” In layman’s terms what this really means is that when it comes to protecting predator priests, money is no object.

What has been the official response from the Catholic Church? In his speech to the Irish Republic this weekend, the Pope said ‘he is ashamed of the Catholic Church’s failure to adequately address the “repellent crimes” of sex abuse by clergy.’

Nice sounding words that we’ve heard many times before. What he did not say however is perhaps more important than anything he did say. What he failed to do was offer a solution to this plague of abuse. He failed every single one of the abused.

In essence, the official response has been NOT MUCH.

Unless of course you consider deflecting the attention away from their own guilt by reminding their accusers that they too have a few skeletons in their closets, that is.

Apparently, deflection is the name of the game for Mexican Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera, who recently spoke to journalists saying “I’m here happy to talk about nice things, not about problematic things.”

Cardinal Rivera

Credit: CNS photo/Paul Haring

 

 

Attempting to deflect attention away from the unimaginable evil committed by predatory priests against more than 1000 children over seven decades, Cardinal Rivera sent a warning to those who would dare accuse “men of the church”.

To his credit, the good Cardinal did acknowledge that the accusations “make us feel bad and we want to improve.”

Wow. The sexual abuse, rape, and destruction of lives committed by supposed “men of the church” against innocent children makes them ‘feel bad’. They don’t want to talk about “problematic things” however.

Let me see if I understand this correctly. Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera acknowledges that some of the accusations are true, but wants to draw attention to the skeletons in the accusers closets instead, telling them they “should be ashamed”.

No true remorse. No indication of a need for repentance. No clear acknowledgement of guilt.

Just deflection.

The only thing I can think of more disgusting than this man’s reprehensible comments is that the faithful continue to support a diabolical system in which innocent children are fair game for an untold number of sexual predators dressed in priestly garb.

This, dear reader, is NOT the Church whose head is the Lord Jesus Christ.

And what of the Protestant,or Evangelical Church, where are the ‘protests’ from within the various denominations that make up this Church of between 400 million and one billion members?

Could it be that the deafening silence emanating from within the Protestant, Evangelical camp is because it is just as guilty as the Catholic church when it comes to its own patterns of sexual abuse? Or worse?

May God in His mercy open the eyes of the blind, and give them the courage to flee before another child has to endure years of unspeakable torment at the hands of these “men of the church”.

Ron

*I urge you to read as much as you can stomach of the 1300+ pages of the grand jury’s report linked above.

 

 

 

 

Do you believe, I mean REALLY believe?

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“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;”  and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”             2nd Timothy 4:3-4

The misguided congregation of Elevation church has done exactly that. They have placed in the position of pastor a young man that is openly sowing unbelief in the midst of his own congregation, and none dares to call him out on it.

This ‘pastor’ recently preached a message to his congregation, stating that he had doubts in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Furthermore, he claimed that no one in the congregation fully believed these things.” [1]

Wow! The ‘pastor’ of the church openly declared that none of his congregation was without doubt regarding the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. There is not one single person attending that church that is convinced by scripture of the truth surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ? What kind of a place is this?

This my friends, is an abomination. It is a slap in the face of Jesus Christ that an unbeliever such as this man would be placed in the position of shepherd over God’s people.

Yes, I’m sure many of you didn’t like that. It’s awful harsh and judgmental, isn’t it?

It’s also the truth.

At the end of this debacle the ‘pastor’ stated “I have my doubts. Is that alright? Do you need to find another church now that you know the man with the mic has doubts? I have my doubts.”

The answer the congregation should have given was a resounding YES!, followed by an immediate mass exodus to the nearest exit doors, never to return.

I may have doubts about my own capabilities, motives, and yes I even have doubts about my personal value to God’s kingdom. It’s a very normal and human thing to doubt such things about ourselves. If you’re reading this, I dare say you feel the same way at times.

That being said, I can however testify with 100% certainty that I have no doubts as to the truth of the death, burial, and resurrection of my Savior. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

Everything I believe about Him, indeed my very salvation is secured by the truth of His death, burial, and resurrection.

To doubt this is to acknowledge that I have yet to pass from death to life. [2]

If He did not die, I am still lost. If He did not raise from the dead, I am still lost. There is NO MIDDLE GROUND!

How can I be so certain about this? It’s because I have a relationship with Him! I know exactly who He is! Every page of scripture has His DNA embedded in it! He is the Word that was made flesh and dwelt among us!

What about you? Do you REALLY believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Or are you seeking for a ‘teacher’ who will lead you down the path of fables?

My sincere prayer is that you can answer YES to the former while rejecting the latter.

Be blessed and secure in His Truth!

Ron

 

[1] For the record, I do not endorse or agree with every article or post from the Pulpit and Pen.

[2] John 5:24

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