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God uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary

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Several weeks have passed since the devastating hurricanes in Houston, SW Florida, and Puerto Rico. The news trucks have long ago departed for their next assignment, the local newspapers have pushed any stories related to hurricanes to the 3rd page, and those not seriously impacted by the storms have returned to their normal lives.

hurricane Maria

NASA satellite photo of hurricane Maria

For the tens of thousands whose lives were devastated however, normal will never be “normal” again.

Living all but the last year of my life in the Midwest, I had never encountered a hurricane until Irma came rushing through SW Florida. Like most Midwesterner’s, I never thought much about hurricanes, as tornadoes and the occasional blizzard were the worst type of storms we had to deal with.

Believe me, my thinking has been altered after witnessing the devastation all around me, and I’ll never think of these storms the same way for the rest of my life.

To gain a better understanding of the situation, I was privileged this past week to attend a meeting of SW Florida pastors and their associates where we were to receive an update on the various rebuilding projects in the aftermath of hurricane Irma. After a wonderful fellowship meal, we were ushered into the sanctuary for a time of worship, which I have to say was much needed and appreciated.

MWOA worship

Broadway Community Church, Ft. Myers FL.

There were two local pastors there who spoke of the devastation their churches received at the hands of hurricane Irma.

To see the videos and pictures, plus hearing their first hand accounts, was a bit overwhelming to this previously “sheltered” country boy.

It was immediately apparent that it’s altogether different seeing the news on TV vs. hearing it from someone who lost everything. Listening to the anguish of a now homeless mother, seeing the tears of those rendered helpless, these are very powerful and very moving things.

Of course, many churches and businesses in the area suffered catastrophic damage, just as thousands of homes did. Trying to grasp the level of devastation to families who have lost everything is not easy to do. No wonder such a feeling of helplessness hangs over the affected areas. Can anyone blame those who ask “God where are you”?

 

The main speaker of the evening was the denominational leader for Men and Women of Action for the Church of God, who gave a riveting,”boots on the ground” account of their work in Houston, SW Florida, and Puerto Rico.

Hurricane’s Harvey, Irma, and Maria have kept them going nearly non stop, and to say this team has been busy would be quite the understatement!

His message centered around the theme of how God will take ordinary men and women and use them to do extraordinary things for the kingdom. MWOA 1

I heard powerful stories of God’s provision and care to those in need, and it was a blessing to see first hand how ordinary men and women are transformed into the hands and feet of Jesus.

This is real ministry. 

The main takeaway for me was that even though during a major disaster we sometimes feel as if God is a million miles away, or question why He didn’t stop it from happening in the first place, the truth is God is never far from us.

In this life it is very likely that we will never understand why we must endure the catastrophic events that are a part of our lives. In reality, we can drive ourselves nearly crazy trying to figure these things out.

What I have found to be most important is not the “why”, but rather knowing that in spite of the storms of life, God is there to help us pick up the pieces and rebuild. Hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, etc. are just as much a part of life as the personal tragedies we endure. Yet in spite of it all, God is still God!

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;    Isaiah 59:1

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.   Psalms 46:1

Be blessed!

Ron

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Coming to grips with God’s plan for your life.

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You’ve heard it said that if you’re going to dream, then dream BIG. Most people, I believe, have dreams of a bright future. What kind of husband or wife they will marry, how many children they’ll have, what type of work they will do. All of these are things that the average person dreams about.

Dream-Big.jpg

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These dreams for our future, carefully planned and mapped to the tiniest detail are what we build our lives upon.

For many, these carefully constructed dreams and plans come to fruition, and the “happily ever after’s” of life resemble a movie being played out on the big screen. The happy couple grows old together and ultimately rides off into the sunset, content in a life well lived.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone lived a life like that? In a perfect world, maybe, but we live in a fallen world, not a perfect world. Plans change, and dreams are interrupted. People change, or worse, we find out they weren’t who we thought they were.

And sometimes, believe it or not, God Himself interrupts our lives.

That’s right; there are those among us who have been sailing along in life, content in discovering our own destinies, only to have God literally turn our lives upside down when He reveals HIS plan for our lives.

Whatever your profession, your calling in life, when you throw yourself into it, it becomes your life’s work. It becomes your identity, it defines you. Like it or not.

After spending what may well be the best years of our lives perfecting our craft, or calling, God begins to deal with us about going in a different direction.

Make no mistake; we will know when this happens to us. Jobs and positions disappear. Careers turn into a dead end. A sense of keen dissatisfaction sets in. Nothing brings excitement to our lives. We start to wonder what in the world is going on.

A host of emotions begin to pull at us. Bewilderment, confusion, a sense of loss, disappointment, even grief torments us as we try to figure it all out.

I have experienced all of these emotions, and many more, as one at a time my hopes and dreams of a life in ministry were stripped away.

I felt that my life’s work had been chartered for me, and all that was needed on my part was to simply do what others more experienced than I told me to do. Follow the formula, execute the plan, and voila, success!

The pulpit was my refuge, the only place where I felt like I was in control. It seemed to be the only place where what I said mattered. It became my identity, my safe haven, an inanimate security blanket that shielded me from the world.

But God had another plan for me. It was a plan that would take me to the back side of the desert, where no pulpit existed, where all of my plans would be systematically stripped away.

You see, I realized early on that I was incapable of being a follower “just because”. I could never be another “cookie cutter” minister. There was always too much of man and too little of God in the prescribed formula, and I soon found myself on the outside looking in so far as man was concerned.

Moses went through this sifting process, spending forty years in the desert as God prepared him for what lay ahead. Being raised in opulence, Moses was humbled to the point of needing God for his very breath.    (Exodus 3:1)

The Apostle Paul was also a companion in this process. His three years in Arabia were spent tearing away every vestige of his former life. Indeed, he said of his past that he counted it all as loss, that he might win Christ.  (Galatians 1:7, Philippians 3:7)

God’s plan all along was that I relinquish control of my life, a plan that I resisted for far too long. Even when I ventured into the world of business and enjoyed a measure of success, I never felt as though I was where I belonged. I never felt as though “this” is what I’m destined to do.

Looking back, I know that God had been calling me, preparing me for a long, long time for that which I still am not 100% certain about. I just know that He is.

We humans are a funny lot at times. We say we recognize God as Sovereign that he is in complete control. Yet in actuality, it is we who want control, we who want to plot our course. In short, we lock horns with the Almighty over who will reign supreme over our life.

All of us are meant to become vessels that our Father can use in His great kingdom. Vessel’s that can be filled with His Spirit and poured into those who need a Savior.

You are called of God, your destiny is secured in Him. Find your place in the kingdom and let God peel back the layers of Self, that you might be used of Him for His Glory.

Coming to grips with God’s plan for your life doesn’t have to be a lifetime process. You can do it today if you will humble your heart before Him and simply say Lord, I want your will to be done in my life.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two of the hardest “EASY” things to do

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Have you ever thought about how we Christians go out of our way to make life harder than it needs to be?

Consider the church or assembly where you worship. I imagine there are certain rules that you are expected to follow in order to be a member in good standing. For instance, some churches have rules on attendance, and others prohibit smoking and drinking. No gambling is also found in most list of rules.

rules

chypsministry.org

Some churches still prohibit women from wearing makeup and jewelry. These are typically associated with long jean skirts for the ladies and white shirts for the men. UGH. When will we ever learn that personal holiness begins in the heart and not the closet?

Oh, and did you know there are different rules for the Methodists than there are for the Baptists? Did I mention the rules in the Black church, whatever that is? In addition to all of this, perhaps most important of all are the unspoken rules, which of course everyone is somehow supposed to know.

There can be no room for personal liberty in such an environment, as personal liberty might allow one to step out of order, thus creating chaos, and if there’s one thing we like about rules it is that they bring order.

Now, I like order, to an extent. Order, or Rules, brings with them a sense of stability and security, and who doesn’t appreciate that?

I do not like order however that is so inflexible that I cannot be free to express myself. Here’s a personal example of what I’m talking about. I like color, lots of color, especially bright colors. Maybe it’s because I have a degree of color blindness and struggle to see color like everyone else. Whatever the case, I love bright, bold colors.

On Sunday’s I always wear a suit to church. Why?  Because I like wearing them. I also like wearing a tie to church, which I am acutely aware, goes against the norm these days. But I won’t wear just any tie. No boring, ugly ties in my closet! That’s why I wear ties that are bold, colorful, and bright.  Like this for example….IMG_0111

Sorry, but no dress codes for this guy!

OK, back to my topic. One of the greatest problems with church rules is that we expect everyone to follow them, thus creating carbon copies of ourselves in the process. And as if that weren’t bad enough, we will follow up on our rules by making even more rules.

So, are all of these rules necessary to be a follower of Jesus? Do we really need a list of can’s and can not’s? Well, let’s consult the manual, shall we? Surely there we can find some direction.

In the gospel of Matthew, chapter 26 we find the following:

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.   Matthew 22:35-40  KJV

twogreatestcommandments

the-ten-commandments.org

Love the Lord. Love your neighbor.The two hardest “easy” things you can do.

It’s because we the Church make it so. Not the Lord. Not the Word. WE make it so hard. It’s as if we cannot fathom that loving the Lord and loving your neighbor could be enough. So we add our own special flair to it in the form of Rules.

And look what we’ve made of the church!

All of the Law and all of the prophets hang on just these two commandments. Nothing else is required. No list of Rules. No list of do’s and don’ts. No clothesline religion here, no sir.

All of the Law and all of the prophets hang on just these two commandments. This easy, this simple, this uncomplicated.

Maybe the reason we make it so hard is because of the word “love”. If it were anything else, perhaps it wouldn’t be so troubling, but love, well that hits us right in the heart doesn’t it?

Just like it’s supposed to.

Be blessed,

Ron

Can somebody give God some praise?

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We came through Hurricane Irma without a scratch. What can I say, except that we are humbled, grateful, and extremely blessed to have lived through something like this.

After a quick walk around the house this morning I didn’t see even a single shingle missing. Even the pool cage and the screen are still intact! Somehow or another we never even lost power, while so many millions here are in the dark this morning.

Thank you for every prayer that was prayed on our behalf.  You cannot begin to know how humbled we are by knowing that people we’ve never met would care enough to pray for us.

I’m reminded of something I told our church Wednesday evening, and that is that God is a giant killer! I also reminded them of David saying that if we fear the Lord, then we should also trust Him. Pretty sage advice, I think.

Be blessed everyone!

Ron

5 reasons why I don’t fear the future

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The daily barrage of  political upheaval, North Korean saber rattling, “end of the world proclaiming” Eclipse watchers, frequent terrorist attacks, and America’s insatiable appetite for anything that pleases the flesh has left many Christians wondering if it’s time to head for the hills and await the second coming.

I can understand why those who are not Christians would think this way. After all, they have placed their trust and hope in governments, science, military protection and the like, all of which offer little solace in the face of a continual sense of crisis.

For the Christian however, none of these things should move us. Should we be concerned at the magnitude of evil we are confronted with on a daily basis? Of course we should, we are human after all. Yet there is a huge difference between normal concern about the things going on around us and outright fear.

With all that said, I thought I would list five reasons (in no particular order) why I don’t fear the future.

1. My hope is not in this present world, but in a world where there exists a new heaven and a new earth.  “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”    II Peter‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭

2. Jesus has given us a clear road map of upcoming events, therefore nothing should surprise us.  Read Matthew 24 in its entirety. Then read it again.

3. Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.  “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world“.   1 John 4:4

4. God has a plan for my life. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end“.  Jer. 29:11

5. God has me in the palm of His hand.   “The LORD is on my side;I will not fear.
What can man do to me?”   Psalms 118:6

So there you have it. Five simple reasons why I can lay my head down at night and not worry. I trust that everyone reading this can say the same thing.

For all of us who claim Christ as our Lord, we have a decision to make: either we believe God’s word is true or we don’t.

No fence sitting allowed!

Have a blessed day!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

Not just “A” name, but “THE NAME”

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Lots of people around this world are instantly recognizable by their name. Icons of entertainment, the sports world, politicians, the wealthy. Some more well known than others, but easily recognizable just the same.

There is one name however that all others must defer to, and that is the name of the Son of God, King of Kings. Jesus Christ our Lord.

His name is so great and mighty that no one before Him or after can lay claim to it. It belongs exclusively to Him and Him alone. Read along with me as the Apostle Paul explains to us how the name of Jesus came to be the name above all names.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:5-11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Take note that Jesus wasn’t just given “a” name, but “THE NAME”. This is significant because with this name comes power and authority like no other.

If you consider the most powerful and influential people you know, not one of them has the power and authority to cause every knee to bow before them. That is reserved for Jesus Christ alone.

He earned THE NAME that is above every other name by humbling himself to the point of dying on a cross for the sins of the world. The Son of the Most High God chose to do this in obedience to His Father so that you and I might have life, and not just any old life, but an abundant life.

Jesus. God has given Him THE NAME. 

Be blessed friends…..

 

 

 

 

Which is better,being perfect or being anointed?

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A week or so ago my wife and I were asked to sing a song at the new church we’ve been attending for the past few weeks. Being thrilled for the opportunity, we gladly accepted the Pastor’s invitation. We chose an older song that was both familiar to us and one that my wife thought would bless those in attendance.

After practicing the song a few times at home we were ready by the time the mid-week service rolled around on Wednesday. The only music was me on the guitar, and due to some issues with my guitar’s pickup I wasn’t able to amplify it but had to play through a microphone. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but in this case I was not able to hear it clearly while we were singing.guitar sunset

To make a long story short, I stumbled a few times both while singing and playing. The worst was when I tried to play and sing a particular note but because I couldn’t hear it well enough, my fingers went one way and my voice another. Huge embarrassment right there!

Anyway, we got through it and took our seats. Much to my great surprise a lady whom we didn’t know came to us and shared that that particular song was exactly what she needed to hear. Soon, others also expressed their appreciation for our heartfelt song.

Meanwhile, in musicministry-v3spite of all the wonderful comments, yours truly was none too happy over his poor performance. Which brings me to the thought behind this post.

I beat myself up for several days because I was embarrassed at not hitting the right notes, so much so that the resident Princess reminded me that being perfect seemed to be more important to me than ministering to someone’s need.

Ummm…OUCH!

I knew exactly what she was getting at. Rather than permitting the Lord to work through us to minister to a hurting heart, imperfect as our song was, I wanted instead to display perfection in our capabilities. Did you get that…OUR capabilities?

Now, don’t get me wrong,  I believe we should do our best no matter what avenue of ministry we’re working in. To be sure, our version of the song that night would not win any contests, but what it lacked in perfection, it made up for that in that it touched someone’s heart.

When you get right down to it, isn’t that what ministry does? It reaches the heart and does the work of the Holy Spirit, a work that we ourselves cannot do. It is only when we yield ourselves to the Spirit that He is able to accomplish what needs to be done.The-Ministry-of-the-Holy-Spirit

All of us have been called to minister in one way or another. In fact, Peter tells us that “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God“.   1 Peter 4:10

My prayer is that I will get out of His way and permit Him to do what He knows needs to be done. If that involves a sour note or two, what does it matter so long as the end result is someone being strengthened in their walk with the Lord?

Have a blessed day!

Ron

 

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