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He is not here!

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He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.  Matt. 28:6

With those words, spoken by the angel who had rolled the stone away from the entrance to the tomb where Jesus had been placed, the destiny of all mankind was forever altered.

Having risen from the dead, Jesus Christ became the death conqueror. Man has been freed from all fear surrounding death. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, thus breaking the stronghold of Satan once and for all!

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.  1st Cor. 15:20-26 

I rejoice this Easter Sunday in the knowledge that the tomb is empty. My hope is no longer in anything but Christ, and I am sealed to the day of redemption in Him.

If you do not know Jesus as your risen Savior, you can! Simply call upon Him, confess your sins to Him, believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins, and receive Him as your Lord.

Have a blessed Easter everyone!!

Ron

 

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So many voices, still only one Truth

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

prosperity-gospel

Gospelcoalition.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

half truth

Gettyimages.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it not working in us?

Gods word is alive

Pinterest.co.uk

If not, why not?

What’s missing?

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

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

Something to ponder on this beautiful, sunny Tuesday.

Ron

 

 

 

Don’t Rush The Process!

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We live in a world where speed is of the essence. All of us are impatient and want what we want-when we want it-which is usually immediately. custom_clock_hands_16007

Sound familiar?

When it comes to the process of shaping and molding us into the child of God that we are destined to become however, speed does not appear to command a position of priority with the Lord.

At least where I am concerned, He doesn’t seem to be rushing the work along. Maybe you feel the same way? It would seem then that by all accounts, God has his own timetable when it comes to the work he is doing in us.

Christianity 101 says that all of us are on a journey with Christ. On this journey are mountain top experiences, below sea level valleys, incredible growth spurts, times when we seem to be mired in quicksand, and dare I say, a time or two in God’s woodshed.

All of this is just part of the refining process being wrought in us, a process intended to remove the impurities and replace them with more of Him. custom_bubbling_cauldron_15528

The Bible is filled with accounts of ordinary people like you and I going through this process. One of the best examples of this is found in Acts chapter seven, where Stephen is recalling the story of Moses being exiled to the wilderness where he would eventually receive the call of God.

To save space here, I’ll leave it to you to read Acts 7:23-30 for yourself. The key takeaway that I want to impress upon you from these verses is that Moses was 40 years old when he was exiled to the Midian desert.

He was 80 years old when God sent him back to Egypt to deliver the people of Israel from bondage.

This means that Moses spent 40 years on the back side of the Midian desert before God called him out. I don’t care who you are, that’s a long time to wait!

What do you think was happening during those 40 years? Well, we know that he had a wife and two sons, and we know that he worked for his father in law. But what about Moses, the future leader of Israel, what was happening to the man?

desert

Photo by Dan Grinwis on Unsplash

Here’s what I believed happened to the man Moses. I think God went to work on him, and it took God all 40 years to get Egypt out of Moses!

Remember, Moses was raised in luxury and privilege in Pharaoh’s household until he was 40 years of age. It’s only natural to think that during those years he had become accustomed to the finer things in life. I know I would!

What a stark contrast to go from Pharaoh’s household to a burning desert!

During those long years in isolation, Moses was no doubt subjected to countless hardships, hardships he was not accustomed to.

Brokenness, Humility, and Solitude became the new way of life for Moses, and I have no doubt that this was very painful for him to endure.

Ah, but you see, even Moses had to go through the refining process.

And the process could not be rushed.

Just like the process you’re going through cannot be rushed.

The process by which Moses was transformed into a mighty servant of God was not without pain and sacrifice. It came with a great price to him, requiring him to forsake all that he once held dear to his heart.

Sometimes this is what God requires of us, to sell out completely to Him. Maybe this is you at this moment?

You see, God had another plan for Moses life, one he could not begin to imagine.

Consider this thought: God spent 40 years getting Egypt out of Moses, only to send him right back there with an assignment that no one could have seen coming.

I mean seriously, who but God could do such a thing?

To Moses, 40 years must have seemed to be an eternity. To us, 40 days seems like an eternity, but when God is in the works He will sustain our strength and equip us for the task ahead.

I want to encourage all of you who may be on the Potter’s wheel or passing through the Refiners fire to be patient and wait upon the Lord.

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.   Isaiah 40:31 

wait upon the Lord

Don’t rush the process friends; He knows what He’s doing with you!

Be blessed,

Ron

Is today the day?

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“Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.”  1 Chronicles 28:20   ESV

The words of King David to his son Solomon, as he was about to depart this life.

Words of…

  • encouragement
  • hope
  • promise
  • courage
  • faith

You know what I think? I think that sometimes its not only the kings sons that need to hear these words. I think everyday people like you and I need to hear words like these as well.

In these troubled days we all need to encouraged and strengthened by the Word of God.

Maybe today is the day that you speak these words into the life of someone desperate to hear that there is hope after all.

Perhaps today is a strangers day to receive a word of encouragement. Perhaps God has called you to deliver them?

Who knows, today might just be the day that you discover a new faith to overcome that which has defeated you in the past.

For all of us, let this day be one in which we are encouraged and strengthened in the Lord!

Ron

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

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

successtreasurebox.com

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

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