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“Many are the afflictions of the righteous”…

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No doubt many of you recognize those words as part of the 34th Psalm. The entire text reads as follows:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all”. [1]

This particular Psalm has been a great encouragement to me through the years, especially during those difficult seasons that we all go through from time to time.

I find it very comforting to know that the God of the Bible would have such a vested interest in us, and my personal observations through these many years of serving the Lord reveal that He is indeed still a Deliverer of His people.

This Psalm speaks to me in many ways. In it, David states that the righteous are afflicted not once, twice, or even three times, but he says that our afflictions are many.

In other words, David seems to be suggesting that afflictions and trials are to be expected. This aligns perfectly with what the Apostle Peter meant when he said “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you”; [2]

I can almost hear many of you say “Amen” to that!

The issues, or afflictions we deal with are as diverse and complex as we ourselves are. What may be an obstacle or hinderance to one may scarcely get another’s attention, while others of us may feel as though we are being made to pass through the fire, so great is the affliction.

I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping things in their proper perspective, which is why Peter said that we shouldn’t think it strange when we are afflicted, as if perhaps there were something wrong with us or with our relationship with the Lord.

The key issue here is that we not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the afflictions and issues of this life. Easy for me to say, right? You may be thinking that I have no idea what you have been through or are currently going through.

And you would be 100% correct.

What I do know however is that God will deliver you. The Bible declares that God will deliver His children out of all afflictions. Notice that there is no provision made for the severity or frequency of the affliction. “All” in this case simply means all.

I recently had the opportunity to address this subject when I was invited to preach at a local church. On this particular Sunday, I felt strongly that I should speak on the topic of “Overcoming Through Faith and Hope”. In this message, I shared some of these very same thoughts about how that God will deliver us if we will call upon Him.

I also pointed out that the trials and afflictions we endure actually serve a Divine purpose. As Christians, we must understand that while there are times when things happen in a seemingly random fashion, usually when we are in a difficult trial there is a greater purpose.

You see, God uses these as a means of increasing our dependence upon Him. He uses them to mold us and to shape us into the person he has destined we become. Much like the blacksmith uses a forge and a heavy hammer to bend, twist, and shape a raw piece of steel into something useable, so it is with the Lord.

Of course, none of us are likely to say how much we enjoy this process, are we? I know I don’t! After all, I don’t like being pulled out of my comfort zone any more than you do!

Being tested, tried, afflicted, or whatever you wish to call it is all a part of the process of dying to SELF. It is a necessary, albeit sometimes painful road that all of God’s children must walk.

There is great joy in this journey however, because the Lord will deliver you out of all of the afflictions and trials that come your way.

Be blessed and encouraged, because Jesus is Lord!

Ron

 

[1] Psalm 34:19 NKJV

[2] 1 Peter 4:12  NKJV

My personal goal for 2020: Consistency

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While I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, I am a person that is quite used to goal setting. In my working career I had to develop 5-6 goals every year and come up with action plans and schedules to meet all of those goals. Accordingly, I would be evaluated on how well (or not) I did.

Now that I’m retired, I can honestly say I miss absolutely nothing about that process, especially the evaluation part of it. Talk about stressful! That being said, the Princess might argue that I could use a new goal or two just to keep the wheels from getting too rusty. 😉

With that in mind, I did want to mention something that I plan to work on in the coming year, and hopefully shed some light on why I believe this is so important. That something is called “Consistency”.

The Bible is literally filled with examples of how we are to live our lives in a consistent, Christ-honoring manner. Did you know that this a hallmark of the mature believer? By the same token, living our lives in a manner that is opposed to clear biblical teaching is indicative of a ‘less than mature’ believer.

Paul referred to this in many of his writings, but the one that really speaks to me today is this one found in the book of Ephesians.

So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes“.  [1]

Doesn’t that sound like us sometimes? Immature in our relationship with Christ. Tossed back and forth and in a near constant state of confusion about what to believe. Caught up in a web of lies and traps designed to trip us up in our walk with the Lord.

I must admit, this describes me more than I like. Perhaps you as well? If so, what it says about us is that we lack consistency. Paul understood the importance of this as he encouraged the Corinthian believers to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord”. [2]

Consistent people are steady people. They aren’t easily distracted from the task, or mission at hand. As we progress in our walk with him, we find that we become like a rock, immovable in our faith and resolution to serve God.

Many of you are like this I’m sure. You’ve endured too much to ever turn back. God has kept you when you saw no way, and He’s brought you through situations that you could have never come through on your own.

You’ve joined the ranks of the consistent, steadfast, and immovable Church that has a deep understanding of who you are, and most importantly, who He is. You exemplify a faithful, ‘tried in the fire’ life of one who loves the Lord.

I love how David said “Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride”. [3] God preserves His faithful, or consistent children. How could we not love Him accordingly!

As we begin both a new year and a new decade, I hope you will join me in seeking consistency in all we do for the Lord. By staying in the Word and spending time in prayer, I believe our lives will reflect that steadfast, immovable, and abounding life He wants us to have.

Be blessed on this New Year’s Day!

Ron

[1] Eph. 4:14 ESV

[2] 1 Cor. 15:58 NKJV

[3] Psalms 31:23 ESV

 

 

THIS is what the Church is missing today!

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In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!”
And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.
Isaiah 6:1-4  NKJV

Here a man named Isaiah is given a vision of the majesty of God, seated on His throne, exalted far above anything our minds can comprehend, so capacious that just the train of His royal robe fills the temple, while worshipping angels declare His Holiness and Glory.

Who but God could reveal such things? Seeing and acknowledging God for who He is, the righteous ruler of every kingdom and domain. The Lord of all, unequaled in splendor and Glory on full display!

This vision that Isaiah saw is one that should be permanently imprinted in the minds of all of God’s children. In this vision we are given a glimpse of the mighty God of creation, too glorious and magnificent for our small minds to comprehend.

Yet God, however, chose to reveal a small part of Himself in a vision to his servant Isaiah, and because of that we have a record of His great majesty. I say again, who but God could reveal such things?

To see Him as anything less than the Supreme Ruler of the ages is to view Him as less than, and if there is anything God is not it is ‘less than’.

What a contrast; in our world we strive to elevate man to god-like status, yet God chose to reveal Himself as God to this world! How incredible is that?

Hollywood, sports, politics, all of them have their champions. Indeed, some of them revel in the cult-like devotion of their followers. None of them however can ever be more than what they currently are, for try as they might, they will never be equal to God.

As Believers in Christ who have entrusted our very souls to this One that Isaiah saw. Our hope and trust is in the One who gave his servant a tiny glimpse into eternity. Our future is secure in the arms of the One who is worshipped by the angels of God.

We know that there will come a day when every child of God will see for themselves what Isaiah saw. Not only will we see it, we will live it for all of eternity. Heaven will become real for us one day, and with it the knowledge that we will never be separated from God. Isaiah may have enjoyed a momentary glimpse, but you and I will have all of eternity to bask in His Glory!

The vision that Isaiah saw of God is the vision that the Church must recapture. High and lifted up far above any man. The epitome of Holiness and Righteousness. Worshipped by countless numbers of angels.

If we could recapture this vision of God, it would go a long way towards turning our hearts back to Him.

Blessings to all,

Ron

Five traits you never want to see in your pastor

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There are few occupations that can rival that of being the pastor of a church. Pastor’s are expected to be all things to all people, and no matter how good of a job they do it is a guarantee that someone will not be happy.

Depending on the size of the congregation, a pastor is called upon to do everything from visiting the sick and shut-ins to mowing the lawn and cleaning the restrooms. In very large congregations they also serve as a type of CEO, overseeing all manner of programs and activities.

Did you also know that a pastor is expected to be a mind reader? That’s right, they’re supposed to be able discern what you’re thinking and whether or not you’re having a good day or a terrible day.

Sounds like a carefree, fun, and exciting occupation doesn’t’ it?

The word “pastor” is derived from the Latin noun pastor which means shepherd and is derived from the verb pascere – “to lead to pasture, set to grazing, cause to eat”. [1]

Pastors, or shepherds have the grave responsibility of feeding and protecting their flock. They have been entrusted with a holy calling from God to defend their sheep from all predators, and have been divinely equipped to do so.

I trust that your pastor is fulfilling his calling and is watching over you with the careful eye of one who understands that he will give an account to God one day as to how well he performed his sacred duties.

Noted pastor, teacher, author, and theologian John MacArthur gives what I believe to be one of the best descriptions of what a pastor’s responsibilities are. Check out the video below. Please Note: this is not an endorsement of all of John Macarthur’s teachings or of his “Grace To You” ministry. I am simply including his remarks here because I happen to believe with them regarding the primary role of pastors.

How wonderful it would be if every pastor fit the description offered by MacArthur.

Sadly, we live in a time now when there are numerous ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ filling the nation’s pulpits. The Bible refers to them as “hirelings”, meaning they are simply there to pick up a paycheck. In other words, to a hireling being a pastor is just a job. [2]

With this in mind, here are five traits you never want to see in your pastor.

  1. Your pastor is never broken before the Lord. True shepherds are humble and possess a servants heart and attitude. They live to serve others, not themselves. If your pastor is loud, proud, self-serving and arrogant you can be sure that his heart is far from the Lord.
  2. The pastor never mentions that the Lord has been dealing with him privately about spiritual matters. God always works through the leadership of the church. The shepherd is His conduit to reach the people. If the pastor isn’t hearing from the Lord either through the word or his own private prayer time, something is horribly wrong.
  3. The pastor never calls your church to a season of consecrated prayer. Prayer is the lifeblood of a church. It is the means by which God’s people express themselves to their Creator. A church that is not drawn together in unified prayer is a church on the downgrade.
  4. The pastor fails to hold himself accountable to the biblical standards of a shepherd. There are strict moral and spiritual character requirements for the position. This is necessary because not just anyone should be placed in such an important leadership role in Christ’s Church. When a pastor fails to meet the standards as set forth by the Bible, he is in effect degrading the office. [3]
  5. The pastor sees his role as primarily that of a cheerleader rather than one who faithfully proclaims the whole counsel of God. Being a faithful pastor is not for the faint of heart or those who lack the willingness to confront ‘sin in the camp’. At times a pastor must employ biblical correction of wayward behavior among the sheep. A pastor who only wants to be a cheerleader and never impose discipline is not fulfilling the role as intended. [4]

As I said earlier, I sincerely trust that your pastor is fulfilling his duties and watching over you with love, care, and concern. By the same token, all of us should be praying for our pastors that the Lord will guide, strengthen, and encourage them daily.

If however you see any of these traits frequently on display in your pastor, especially if these traits have been discussed with him by those he is accountable to, it may be time to start looking for a new one because your current pastor is no longer hearing from the Lord.

Yes…it is that serious.

Be blessed in Jesus name,

Ron

[1] Wikipedia

[2] Matthew 7:15, John 10:12-13

[3] 1st Timothy 3

[4] Joshua 7:20

Pearls from the Princess

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Recently my Princess and I were discussing how important it is to remain teachable regardless of ones age or position in life. You probably know someone who has convinced themselves that they have ‘arrived’, and that they no longer need to work on improving themselves. Fun people to be around. NOT

Often these kinds of people feel that there are no areas in their life that are in need of God’s help or attention. In their minds it is enough for them to say “I got this”, meaning that they alone are in complete control over every circumstance in their life.

In actuality however, these are dangerous people. They are a danger to themselves and a danger to others. More often than not they are controlling and manipulative. They work tirelessly to build themselves up while neglecting others. Every thing they do points back to themselves instead of towards others.

No where are such people more of a threat than in the Church. That is because one does not expect to find such an attitude among the redeemed, as church has always been thought of as a safe haven. God’s house, or so we have been taught, is a refuge from the evil that is so pervasive in this world.

It is precisely this mindset that enables such dangerous people to hide in plain sight, blending in with the rest of God’s sheep. This is how sexual predators in the church get away with their deviant crimes for so long. It’s also how deceptive and manipulative individuals are able to exercise dominion over unsuspecting people.

These are described by the Apostle Paul as “having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away”! [1]

Conversely, people that remain teachable understand that they may have several short-comings. Perfection is not a part of their vocabulary. They are not self-reliant but rely upon the Lord to help them get those areas under control. Far from “having arrived”,  they know that they are a work in progress.

Through prayer and the study of God’s word they see that He is doing a work in their heart. Yes, it is a life-long process, but they are able to see progress nonetheless. The important thing is that they remain humble, not lifting themselves up with a prideful, arrogant spirit. [2]

Two very different types of people; those who remain humble and teachable and those who have convinced themselves that they “have arrived”and thus are in command of their destiny.

I have worked with and for both types in my lifetime, in the church as well as the corporate world. At some point in my life I am certain that I was both of those people. Just as certain is the fact that I much preferred one over the other.

I know that who I am today is not who I once was. In His own good timing, the Lord has a way of weeding out the hinderances to our spiritual growth if we will allow him to do so. And yes, that includes things, circumstances, and even people.

Having the choice of the two, I know the type of person I desire to be. I want to be the teachable, malleable, humble vessel that God chooses to work through.

There’s an old saying that says “you’re never too old to learn”. This saying should come with a disclaimer however that says “as long as you’re teachable”.

Have a blessed day everyone!

Ron

 

[1] 2nd Timothy 3:5

[2] Proverbs 16:18

 

Four words you never expect to hear in church

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“You’re Not Good Enough”.

Stinging, painful words of rebuke. Whether they were deliberately spoken in order to hurt you doesn’t matter. What matters is they hurt. They cut deeply and wound our hearts.

Some of you have heard these words spoken to you or about you. Maybe not verbatim, but they may as well have been because the hurt is the same. Those four little words possess an enormous ability to tear down and destroy.

I heard these words from someone at my church last Sunday. And they hurt. They hurt deeply because they cut me deeply. They reached a part of my heart that I thought couldn’t be reached with such words. I thought the walls guarding my heart were impenetrable. But I was wrong. I was so very wrong about that.

For accuracy’s sake, those exact words weren’t spoken. But what was spoken was interpreted as “You’re not good enough to be permitted to do a certain thing here”. And to make sure there wasn’t any confusion about it, the point was made that I would never be good enough.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH

All of my adult life, and particularly in the business world, I have been told that I wasn’t ‘good enough’.

  • Not enough education
  • Not enough experience
  • Not enough connections
  • Not good enough

Because I was labeled as such, I was forced to work much harder and longer to achieve what others did in a much shorter amount of time. I accepted that as just how it was, and never allowed others to impose their limitations upon me. That is how God created me, and it has served me well for over six decades now.

So, back to the point I wanted to make. It took me all of Sunday and part of Monday to process this. And do you know what the Lord showed me about this? He showed me that He alone sets the standard, not man. He reminded me once again that there is no one that is ‘good enough’ except for the Lord.

As for me, with the Lord’s help I have moved past those four stinging words. In fact, I choose instead to focus on a different set of words because in them I am assured that it is the Lord that ultimately gets to decide who is ‘good enough’.

But “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.   2nd Cor. 10:17,18.  NKJV

The next time someone tries to tear you down by telling you that you aren’t ‘good enough’, you just remind them that when it’s all said and done, God alone will determine who is ‘good enough’, not the person telling you that.

Have a blessed day everyone,

Ron

 

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

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