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Is this how God feels?

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As my wife and I were taking a walk through the neighborhood this morning, I felt like asking her a question. It was one of those questions that I’m pretty sure most men would steer clear of, but I felt strongly about asking it.

The question?

“Do you know that I love you?”

Now, you may be saying to yourself ‘man, I wouldn’t ever go there’. Or perhaps you’re thinking of a response more like ‘are you crazy’?

You have to understand that a day doesn’t go by that we don’t tell each other that we love one another multiple times. So when I asked her the question “do you know that I love you?” I was already certain of her answer.

Except that she didn’t give me the answer I was anticipating. Her answer was short and to the point: sometimes.

SOMETIMES? WHAT KIND OF RESPONSE IS SOMETIMES?

Like any loving husband whose mind is now instantly filled with all kinds of wild (and insecure) thoughts, for a moment I didn’t know what to think or how to respond to her answer.

After mumbling something or other about how she must be kidding me, she began to explain her answer. Fortunately for me, she did in fact assure me that she knew that I loved her.

But…..

There’s always a but, isn’t there?

After telling me that yes, she did in fact know that I loved her; she went on to say that there are times when it doesn’t seem like I do.

By now all of my senses are on high alert, shields are up, and I’m steadying myself for “The Talk”. You know the talk I’m referring to, don’t you? If not, just ask any husband!

I guess I should explain something here before I proceed. You see, my wife is the kindest, sweetest, and most gentle person I’ve ever known. For all of that, she is also as honest as the day is long. She can be brutally honest, but with a dash of mercy included, if that makes any sense.

Oh, and lest anyone should mistake her gentleness for weakness, you would be making a huge mistake in doing so!!

So she proceeded to explain why she said the word sometimes, and I felt both my jaw and my heart drop. It seems that she used the word sometimes because of my propensity to withdraw into myself.

By my withdrawing into my own little world, she saw it as me withdrawing from her. Now of course, that was never my intention, but I can clearly see why she would think it was.

Lesson learned, and I have something (else) to work on.

This life lesson has caused me to think about our relationship with our Heavenly Father. I wonder if our actions send Him mixed messages as well.

Is this how God feels, that He’s unsure of how we truly feel about Him?

We go to church to worship Him. Or do we? Are we giving Him our all, our undivided attention? Or are we absentmindedly going through the motions while all along our thoughts are a million miles away?

If we aren’t careful our worship becomes stagnant. It becomes nothing more than rote. It becomes a mechanical routine, void of any spontaneity or enthusiasm. It becomes like the old joke where the man tells his wife “I told you I loved you when I married you, isn’t that enough?”

Well, no, it isn’t enough. Any more than it’s enough to let our Savior know that we love him only at Easter and Christmas.

Love is a verb. It requires action and effort on our part. If it isn’t displayed on the outside, it’s not happening on the inside either.

Hey, that’s good stuff right there!

If we withdraw from Him, how is He to know how we feel about Him? Some will say of course that ‘God knows everything and that includes how I feel about Him, so why do I need to do anything else’?

Ask yourself, is that good enough for your wife or husband? Don’t all of us like to hear those words “I Love You”, and to see them backed up by unselfish actions?

I don’t think our Heavenly Father is all that different from us in that regard. After all, we are made in His image.

Something to think about, isn’t it?

Be blessed everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

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What’s so good about Good Friday?

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A lot of people ask that question at this time of the year. Just this past Wednesday a lady asked me “why do we call it good, and where did the name ‘Good Friday’ come from”?

The second part of her question was a bit difficult to answer because there is no clear cut, definitive answer to the question. At least as far as I’ve been able to understand. I have been able to locate both Protestant and Catholic descriptions of how the name Good Friday originated, and personally I don’t think it matters in the least.

Regardless of its origin, the name Good Friday is exactly what it is. Yes, it marks the day that we commemorate the brutal torture and subsequent murder of the innocent Jesus. It also marks the day that mankind was freed from the bondage of sin.

Good Friday is the culmination of God’s redemptive plan to restore what was lost in the garden of Eden. From the original sin until Jesus’s last breath on the cross, man was held in the bondage of sin, unable to free himself through good works and sacrifices.

It took a spotless lamb, in this case the sinless Lamb of God to break the chains that held humanity captive. Jesus offered Himself once, for all time, upon the most cruel of torture devices in order to pay our sin debt in full.

It was a debt that you and I could never pay on our own. There was only one payment acceptable that would turn away the wrath of a Holy God; the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

What’s so good about Good Friday?

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.   Romans 5:6-11   emphasis mine

That’s what’s so good about Good Friday.

Thank you Father, for the plan of salvation. Without it I would be lost for eternity, and I would never have known that I could be loved so greatly.

Ron

 

 

And we wonder why….Part 1

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The recent massacre of 17 children on Valentine’s Day in Parkland Fl. has turned my thoughts once again to the plight of America’s children, and the ever increasing dangers they must contend with in a society rendered (seemingly) helpless to protect them.

Though this most recent mass shooting occurred about three weeks ago, I have purposely delayed writing this series of posts until now in order to clear my head and heart of the emotions I’ve been contending with as a result of this tragedy.

Parents and average citizens alike are outraged, as well they should be, that yet another mass shooting has taken place in one of our schools. The senseless, cowardly attack on our children has once again left our nation grief-stricken, searching for answers.

Searching for someone, or something to blame.

True to form, whenever a tragedy of this magnitude takes place, the inevitable call to do something about guns, particularly guns such as the AR-15 rifle, soon follows.

Of course, it is understandable that grieving parents would lash out at what they perceive to be the primary cause of why they must now bury their child.

Who wouldn’t?

Also true to form, the moments after such a tragedy find our elected representatives on both the Left and the Right politicizing the event, as if the murder of seventeen innocent children were some sort of sick, twisted, political football to be tossed back and forth.

How sick and perverted is it when the people we elect to represent us cannot lay aside their differences in the face of such a tragedy, and come together in the spirit of unity and compassion for the betterment of the nation?

No offense, but if this doesn’t cause you to feel outrage, you should have someone check your pulse.

Surely one would hope that the cries of anguish from a broken-hearted mother would be able to break through the self-imposed impasse that prohibits having a reasonable, rational discussion among the stakeholders.

You think?

Some say it’s the fault of the NRA, or the Congress. To others it’s the fault of the President. Depending on which side of the political pendulum you swing from, it’s either the fault of the Conservatives or the Liberals.

None of which is completely true. Rhetoric rarely contains more than a thumbnail of truth, after all.

You see, when we don’t know what to do, we look for a scapegoat. For those of you unfamiliar with the word scapegoat, it comes from the Old Testament book of Leviticus.

On the Day of Atonement, the sins of the people were ceremoniously placed upon a goat called the “scapegoat”, who was then released into the wilderness to wander.          Scripture reference Leviticus 16:5-10

When our children are mercilessly slaughtered, our righteous grief and anger demand that we affix blame; hence we look for our own version of the Levitical scapegoat.

And who could blame us? Sins of such magnitude stir within us the desire for revenge and justice. Someone must pay! Someone must be held accountable!

Barring an unforeseen turn of events, the murderer of the 17 kids at Stoneman Douglas High School, confessed killer Nikolas Cruz, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

But does that bring any of those children back? Does a lifetime sentence for Mr. Cruz mean the end of school shootings in America? The answer I’m afraid is NO to both questions. Let me explain why I believe that.

Our nation is drowning in violence, hatred, and evil, and as a nation there is no longer a life preserver of righteousness or morality for us to grab hold of. This is the path that we have chosen, despite those who would say otherwise.

We have systematically removed the one Source from this nation that is capable of defeating the evil that is upon us. Indeed, our “Life Preserver” has been tossed overboard without us. Consider the following:

  • We have outlawed public prayer nearly everywhere. Heaven help you should you want to open a public meeting with a moment of prayer.
  • The ACLU has made sure that the Baby Jesus can’t show up at the town square at Christmas.
  • Football coaches are forbidden to pray with their students before game time.
  • The Ten Commandments have been removed from our courtrooms.
  • Christians who denounce SIN are now denigrated as haters.
  • The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States.
  • The names of God or Jesus cannot be used least someone become offended. Of course, if you want to use those names in a curse, then no harm, no foul.

And we wonder why we’re killing one another?

We’ve removed GOD from America, and what has He been replaced with?

In Part 2 of “And we wonder why”, I’ll share with you just one of the things that has replaced God in America. I’ll also show you some startling facts about the efforts taking place to steal our children’s innocence, and the devastating effects it is having upon them.

Until then…

Ron

What If…

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Recently, I watched a YouTube video produced by a church in Kentucky that featured a number of people giving their reasons why they had given up on the Church.

Listening to these heartbreaking stories, it quickly became apparent that there is a common theme among all of them. For these people, they believe the church has failed to reach them where they live.

The Church has stopped being the Church.

Tales of judgement and condemnation, outright rejection, and worse have left these people doubting whether there is any validity to Christianity. I mean, just imagine how you would feel if you had invited your family to your baptismal service only to be told by the pastor that “he forgot about it”.

The Church is the Body of Christ here on earth.

Do we truly understand what that means, or do we blindly accept the statement as just another one of those religious sayings?

The Church is made up of Christ’s representatives on earth. If that is the case, how representative of Christ are we when our primary purpose is to hand out judgment? How well are we representing Jesus when our churches are known as places of condemnation instead of love?

Speaking with those outside the Church, we hear that our churches have become places of rejection for all who do not look or act the part. Seriously, how many of our churches actually reflect the community in which they reside?

Much to the angst of many, I as well as a few others have been saying for some time now that the Church is broken. It is broken because those who are supposed to be the leaders of it do not know Him. If they knew Him they would go beyond the four walls of their castles and see how much hurt there is in their community.

And they would do something about it.

They most certainly would be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Because LOVE is the greatest motivator of all.

If they knew Him they would reach out, not with angry words of criticism and judgement, but in compassion and LOVE.

Ah yes…Love.

What if our churches actually believed and practiced LOVE?

‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

What if our churches actually believed and practiced this?

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

What if our churches actually believed and practiced this?

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.’  I Cor.13:1-3

What if…

What if the Church got back to being Christ’s representatives here on earth?

Here’s what I think would happen if the Church did this.

There would be a huge reduction in the problems that currently plague our society. Drug abuse, hunger, crime, divorce, abuse of all types, all would see a dramatic reduction if the Church got back to being the hands and feet of Jesus.

What if the Church somehow rediscovered the courage to LOVE those in our communities who are hopelessly trapped on the outside looking in?

What if….the Church started looking outward instead of inward?

Ron

Why Are We Here: Part 2

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Recently, I happened upon an online discussion about abortion. A key hot button of the discussion was that several of the more conservative participants kept referring to abortion as murder, while those from a more liberal perspective felt that using such a strong word demonstrated a lack of wisdom and compassion.

It didn’t take long before the gloves came off and the participants seemed to forget that they were on a Christian site. In short order, it got ugly. Real ugly. Words were said that certainly did not reflect the love of Christ. Feelings were hurt, and in the end nothing changed except for the fact that yet another wedge was driven between brothers and sisters in Christ.

All of which left me wondering about something. Do we not understand that the enemy excels at getting us to focus more on the things that divide us, rather than the things that bind us together? It seems that we Christians are so naive and gullible that we take the bait and swallow it before we ever have the first inkling as to what Satan is up to!

Am I the only person who thinks this way? Are the differences between us so insurmountable that even Jesus cannot bridge the gap?

Abortion has been one of the tools that Satan uses to cause division in the Church ever since it became the law of the land. Of course, he has many other tools at his disposal, but because abortion is one of those topics that people on both sides of the fence are incredibly opinionated about, it’s easy for the enemy to use it to sow discord among the brethren.

Whether you agree with abortion or not isn’t really the issue any longer. I don’t agree with it, nor do I believe it is a “right”, but then again I (unapologetically) tend to look at life through the lens of Scripture. This puts me at odds with a great many things taking place in our world today, not just abortion.

Obviously, many people, and that includes Christians, would object to my rather simplistic approach to this subject, and I have no problem with that. I happen to believe that God’s family is much larger than some of us believe it to be, and as such there is plenty of room for Christians who believe differently than I do. Insert 😊

Therefore, knowing that abortion is here to stay, is our best course of action to berate and condemn those who have an abortion, or has God called us to a higher purpose? Are we to continue down the path of division, or should we be seeking God for wisdom in how best to minister to those affected by abortion?

How would Jesus respond to the divisive issue of abortion? And of even greater importance, what would be His response to those who have had an abortion? I believe we can get a glimpse into how He would approach the subject by recalling His interaction with the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. Scripture reference John 8:3-11

As the story goes, a group of men brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in the very act of adultery. According to the Law, she was to be stoned to death. They were hoping however that Jesus would do something contrary to the Law so that they might have an accusation against him, thus giving the religious rulers just cause to eradicate him.

The story takes a very unexpected turn however when Jesus looks at the woman’s accusers and says to them “he that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone”. Their arrogant hearts condemned, as none of them were without sin; one by one they walk away. Can’t you just hear the stones dropping to the ground?

Jesus then looks to the woman and asks where her accusers are, to which she responds that there are none. Jesus then uttered what had to be the most gracious words this woman had ever heard. Deserving of death for her sins, Jesus tells her that neither does he condemn her, and to go and sin no more. Emphasis mine

This is how I see Jesus responding to the abortion issue. Notice that Jesus did not excuse the adulterous woman’s sins, but rather he acknowledged them for what they were, yet offered forgiveness instead of condemnation.

Jesus was much more concerned with forgiveness than punishment. Do you know why that was? It was because Jesus came to reconcile people to God. He could have delivered this woman to be stoned, but instead He offered her reconciliation! How amazing is that?

All of us have done things worthy of punishment, or worse. Some of us, like the adulterous woman, have committed sins worthy of death. Yet God, through His Son Jesus Christ, has chosen instead to forgive our sins and offer to us the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Does this give us a “free pass” so that we can do whatever we want to do without consequence? Of course not. No one gets a free pass. We must repent of our sin and turn to Jesus.

‘‘He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation”.   2 Corinthians 5:17-19.  ESV

The Church has been entrusted with this message of reconciliation. We were not entrusted with a hammer of condemnation. Neither were we entrusted with the gavel of judgement.

Our ministry, our very purpose, is to extend mercy and reconciliation to a lost world that gropes in darkness. We can serve no higher purpose here on earth than to represent Jesus Christ in meekness and love to those left devastated and wounded by the poor choices they have made.

That we have made.

This world doesn’t need another argument for or against abortion. It needs the people of God to stand in the gap and offer comfort and hope to those who are struggling with issues that are bigger than they are. The world needs to see Jesus.

In all of us.

In every situation.

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

 

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