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Being a difference maker

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Have you ever been in a place where you desperately needed to hear a word of hope or encouragement from a friend, family member, or pastor but all you heard were crickets? Something tells me that most of you have been in such a situation. It’s not a good place to be in, is it?

I’ve been that person so many times that I’ve lost count. I’ve paced the floor from midnight to dawn all while asking the Lord “why doesn’t anyone care enough to help me”? I have been so broken that I nearly convinced myself that there was no hope for me. Seriously, when your every waking thought centers around the hopelessness of your situation, you are in a dark, dark place.

I’ll never forget going to a “friend’s” house one day, desperate for friendship, a ray of hope, or just a kind word. Instead of being on the receiving end of any of the above, I spent the next two hours listening to his problems and encouraging him. I actually left there in worse shape then when I arrived, and I certainly didn’t think that was possible!

I imagine that some of you have been there as well, haven’t you?

There is a silver lining to this sad tale however. Through it all I have learned that when help is nowhere to be found, look again. You are never far from help if you look to Jesus. If you look for him, he WILL be found! Pace the floor all night long if you feel you need to, but please realize that it is not necessary.

I have learned that our God is faithful to sustain us no matter how dark or bleak our world may appear to be. As a matter of fact, scripture teaches us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”(Psalm 46:1). The enemy of our soul would love to plant the seeds of doubt in our hearts and minds that God cares about us, but the Word of God declares that He is our helper!

There is something else that has come out of all of this, a lesson I wish to pass on to all of you. I have determined that whatever people did not do for me in my time of need, I cannot allow that to prevent me from helping others. What was is gone forever, but tomorrow is a new day, offering hope through the power of the risen Savior.

All of us need to be the difference maker in someone’s life. That’s why we’re here after all. That’s why God saved us from our sins, to be Jesus to someone in desperate need.

Have a blessed day!

Ron

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Sometimes ministry is all about the little things

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This morning my wife and I came upon a family in the parking lot of a McDonald’s that were in a bad situation. We noticed them right away as we pulled into the drive thru, and it was apparent that they were distraught over something. Their minivan that was pulling a small U-Haul trailer had broken down, leaving at least 7 people, 4 of which were very small children, stranded far from home.

When we drove around the restaurant after picking up our order, we pulled up next to them and saw that the hood of their minivan was open. The look on the faces of the adults said it all, and if you’ve ever been in such a predicament, you can appreciate their situation.

I got out of the car and asked one of the men if they had help on the way, and he responded by saying “no sir, we have no one to help us, and we don’t have any money”. He mentioned something about a fuel leak, and by the strong smell of gasoline it was obvious he was right.

In the few seconds I had spoken with him I was able to assess their situation a little better, and it was clear that these little children were frightened. They were also hungry, as one little boy was quick to tell me. These kids were obviously from ‘less than affluent means’ because none of them had shoes, and only the little girl had a shirt on.

I told the man I couldn’t fix his car, but if he would allow me to, I would love to buy them breakfast. You would have thought I offered to give them something of great value, he was that appreciative. When I mentioned breakfast all the kids spoke up and told me they were hungry, which tore at my heart so much that I wanted to hug each one of those children.

I handed the man enough money to buy them all breakfast, and almost in unison those little kids started thanking me, as did the adults. I told my wife later that I hoped that the next person who was supposed to help them would also be right on time, because I just knew the Lord would touch someone’s heart to assist them.

As I was saying goodbye to them, I told them God would bless them with the help they needed. Pulling away, I looked in my mirror and saw all 4 kids being led into McDonald’s for breakfast, and I couldn’t help but think about the old McDonald’s commercial that says “I’m, lovin’ it”. Can it get any better than that?

Real Ministry really is all about the little things!

Be blessed,

Ron

Gems from Proverbs

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Today I thought I would share with my readers a few choice verses from one of my favorite chapters in Proverbs, chapter eighteen.

The Hebrew term mashal, which is translated as “proverb”, means a “parable” or a “wise saying”. Just in case you are not familiar with the book of Proverbs, it is an Old Testament book written by Solomon and other wise men, or “sages” of that era.

These wise men were gifted with both Godly wisdom and counsel, and their writings touch upon the practical and spiritual issues of life. Personally, I find the Proverbs to contain some of the best teaching and Godly counsel to be found in the entire Bible.

So with that being said, here are a few of my favorite verses from Proverbs chapter eighteen. I wonder how many of you will also find comfort and encouragement in these words of wisdom?

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe.   Prov. 18:10

I’m sure I could never begin to count the times I’ve ran to the Lord for shelter and comfort from the storms of life. His name exemplifies strength and power!

The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge,
And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.   Prov. 18:15

The study of God’s word is a lifetime endeavor. Wisdom and knowledge do not come to those who approach the Lord with arrogance and a prideful heart. Wisdom and knowledge are earned…they are not given!

Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.   Prov. 18:21

What comes out of our mouth has eternal implications. Do you know that the words our tongue produces reveal what is in our heart? Words of hatred and evil have the power of death in them, while words of kindness and love have the power of life in them.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing,
And obtains favor from the Lord.   Prov. 18:22

I could have written this verse! I know I’ve found a good thing in my Princess. As a matter of fact, I’ve found my best thing in her!

A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.   Prov. 18:24

Yes, there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Many people believe that to be their BFF. For me personally, that friend is called Jesus.

These are just a few of the verses in Proverbs 18 that really speak to me. What are some of your favorite verses?

Have a blessed Lord’s day!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

“Why can’t people just be nice…?”

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That was the comment I received from my wife this morning as we were out enjoying a nice Christmas day walk, relishing the sunshine and warmth of 73°. Sorry, I couldn’t resist…IMG_20180612_055103

I had asked her if she had given any thought yet to 2019, and if there was anything she had hopes for in the coming year. True to her nature as the kindest, most gentle person I’ve ever known, she just wants people to treat one another with kindness.

As she pointed out to me, there is so much anger, malice, and evil in this world today that Christians can’t just talk about love any longer, but must demonstrate love for one another.

Listening to her this morning, I was reminded of a preacher by the name of Paul who gave us an entire chapter on the importance of love. You can find this amazing teaching in 1st Corinthians, chapter 13.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  1st Corinthians 13:1-7   ESV

Understanding that Paul was given great faith and power, whereby he did many great miracles, only serves to heighten the importance of his teaching about love.

You see, Paul the Apostle understood that the foundation of the Church was love. Going back to John 3:16, we know that to be true because of these words that Jesus spoke.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”.

Jesus came because of love, served God and man in love, and ultimately gave his life out of love for you and I. Jesus is the head of the Church, and he built, and continues to build his Church on love.

To treat people with respect, to love them as Jesus does, or as my sweet wife would say “just be nice”, requires us to walk humbly before the Lord. It requires us to live our lives in daily submission to Him who gave his best for us.

I hope that going forward all of us will see the importance of being nice, treating one another with respect, and living our lives in a manner that brings honor to our God.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

Why is this so difficult?

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Giving to God what is rightfully His. Why is this so difficult? Is it because His requirements are so out of reach for us mortals that we give a weak, anemic effort?

To answer that, let’s first understand what His requirements actually are.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?   Micah 6:8

Anyone? Can anyone give a reasonable explanation as to why it is so difficult for us to do just these THREE things? To do justly and treat people fairly, to be kind one to another, and acknowledge that there is One much greater than any of us…is this so hard?

Or how about this? (emphasis mine):

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ‘ Matthew 22:35-40

Anyone? Can anyone give a reasonable explanation as to why it is so difficult for us to do even these TWO things? For us to love God with our entire being, and to love one another as much as we love ourselves, is God asking the impossible of us?

It seems so trite, so obvious for us to say that the reason we struggle with doing these very doable things is because we live in a fallen world. Or that it’s because the enemy is hard at work.

As if he hasn’t always been hard at work.

Here’s what I think. Like everything else in life, we make time for the things that are important to us. With unending devotion we sacrifice for what we deem necessary. We exert monumental effort to achieve our dreams.

Don’t we?

And the things that are not important to us…..

Ron

 

Where is the Lord?

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That was the question Jeremiah heard from the Lord.

We don’t hear much about prophets today,unless it’s something about the fact that there are so many false prophets in the world.discernment

True prophets are not popular people. In fact,if you were called to be a prophet in Old Testament times you were virtually guaranteed a life of hardship. The prophets mantle was one of harsh words,condemnation,and “thus saith the Lord”.

Not exactly the ingredients necessary to make friends. Then again, God never sought out His prophets from a Charm School either.

Jeremiah was one such prophet. A prophet during the last 40 years of Judah’s existence,Jeremiah became known as the weeping prophet. He had been given a harsh message to deliver to Judah,which was made even more challenging because he possessed a sensitive and broken heart over the condition of his people.

Unfortunately for Jeremiah,this tender spirit made his anguish even more intense as his family,friends,kings,priests,basically the entire nation of Judah rejected his words.Called of God at a young age,rejection and loneliness were to become his two constant companions for the rest of his life.

As God began to speak into the life of His young prophet,it becomes apparent that he will have little time in which to “grow into the job”. Almost immediately, Jeremiah hears these words from the Lord:

The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.  Jer. 2:8

The fact that the priests weren’t even asking where the Lord was says volumes about the moral and spiritual condition of Judah. They had become so insensitive to the presence of God that they did not even recognize that He had departed from them.

Forsaking the Lord,Judah had installed a new religion,one that included the worship of nearly everything except God.In doing this,they had long ago stopped wondering why the Lord’s presence had departed from them,and why they no longer enjoyed His blessings. For them,it had become business as usual.

Herein lies a great danger that the church must guard against today. In our “we must have it now” culture the pressure is on to produce results. This has largely been brought about by the church departing from the biblical model of church growth in favor of a more corporate mentality.

It is my firm conviction that this pressure to perform has brought about a devastating change in our approach to a Holy God. Instead of waiting upon the Lord in our own “upper rooms”,we have instead invented a new church paradigm where results can be manufactured at will.

Church services are now planned down to the minute,much like a board meeting. From the opening greeting to the closing prayer,everything has been carefully scripted.Statistics are consulted as though they were inspired data points.Results are measured in percentages,not souls.Business plans,not God,are the driving force behind our actions.

There is an incredible and valuable lesson that we today can learn from the question “where is the Lord?”. That being that when we no longer see the manifestation of God’s presence in our midst,alarm bells should be going off.

When I speak of the manifestation of God’s presence,I am referring to the acts of love,kindness,mercy,and compassion that are the hallmarks of a transformed life.I am not referring to the foolishness that passes for God’s presence in many churches today.

Any pastor today who is shepherding a congregation where these traits are not outwardly and abundantly apparent for all to see,should be greatly concerned about the overall spiritual health of that congregation.

Think about the church you currently attend. Do you see the fruits of lives transformed by Christ,or is it business as usual in your church?

Perhaps most tragic of all is this: has God departed and we don’t even know it?

Something for us to think about this Lord’s day.

Are you satisfied with just one day of Christmas?

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Am I the only one that thinks we’re getting ripped off here?

December 25th. Christmas Day.Here for just 24 hours then gone until next year.

Right this moment the TV news is touting yet another heartwarming story about someone reaching out to someone else just in the nick of time to avert a disaster of some sort. I love that.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been hearing these kinds of stories regularly on the evening news. People from all walks of life start performing incredible deeds of kindness and generosity.

Some good news is indeed welcomed right now,especially given that we have just survived an incredibly cold,mean,and heartless national election. Yeah,we could use some good news for a change!

What I have never understood however is why these types of things only seem to happen at Christmas time? Maybe they do happen all the time,but you sure don’t hear about them like you do at Christmas.

Or at least it seems that way.

Some people call it the magic of Christmas. Others say that Christmas just makes them feel good. Then you have those that declare that its the spirit of Christmas.

Whatever you call it,what I want to know is where is it the rest of the year? Why can’t we have that Christmas feeling all the time? And just where does the spirit of Christmas go after December 25th?

Why don’t we give extraordinary tips at the restaurant every day to help out that single mom whose waiting on tables to help make ends meet? Surely they can use the help throughout the year.

Why is it that Christmas is the only time of the year when you hear about the “secret santa’s” paying off someone’s layaway at Walmart? Is Christmas the only time of the year when people use layaway?

Just yesterday I saw where hundreds of volunteers showed up to put together Christmas dinners for the homeless and needy in this area. What is it about Christmas that makes people do what they would not do in July?

Could it be that Christmas is the one time of the year when we actually open the door to our hearts so that we can then see the needs of others? If so…why? Why not every day?

Could it possibly be that at this one time of the year Jesus becomes real to us? To all of us?

Why do we wait all year to show a little kindness and compassion to others? Surely those wonderful traits are needed throughout the entire year,aren’t they?

In this cold,callous world showing acts of kindness and mercy are often viewed as a type of weakness.After all,only the strong survive,right? Is that why we refrain from doing them at other times?

Whatever the reason for the sudden outpouring of love and kindness,don’t you wonder why it can’t be this way all the time? Could it? Can it? Do we dare hope that it could be?

Here is what I think. I think it starts with one person. That could be you. Or it could be me. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that we open our eyes to the needs of others. That we allow ourselves to feel. To care.

What matters is that we recognize that we are so blessed to have so many good things,and that for the grace of God any one of us could be that person in need of some Christmas love.

Frankly,I’m not satisfied with one day of Christmas. Not when I know how easy it would be to keep the true meaning of Christmas going day after day.

Pipe dream you say? Pie in the sky? Maybe it is. But I’ve always heard that if you’re going to dream,dream big.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Ron