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For the lost

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What really matters to you from a Kingdom perspective?

Probing a bit further, what do your spiritual priorities look like?

I have been thinking about all of this for several months now because I have been feeling very restless in my soul. It’s almost like I am being pulled in another direction, a direction far from my comfort zone. A Holy discontent with the religious status quo. Knowing that change is forthcoming, yet not having a clue as to what/when/how. Maybe you can relate?

I know that this feeling has to do with my desire to be more personally involved in ministering to others. Organized, institutionalized church where the format never changes may work for others, but it leaves me scratching my head wondering about how impersonal it all is. It leaves me wondering if God did desire to show up some Sunday, would He need to ask to be put on our program?

I have come to realize that I have reached a crossroads in my life where I can no longer be content to just show up and throw money at a situation or problem, or toss an envelope in an offering plate. No, I want to see the faces of the people who need that money. I want to see their faces because I know that tangible things are just a part of what they really need. These unknown faces need to see the love of Jesus demonstrated.

It is this demonstration of love that people crave.

At times it seems to me that the Church is losing its passion for those on the ‘outside’, content to coddle and entertain those on the ‘inside’. It makes me wonder if we have become ‘too good’, at least in our own minds, to be bothered by those less fortunate than ourselves when we take measures to shield ourselves from lost, hurting, and desperate people.

Is this not our mission? Is this not why Jesus came, to seek and to save that which was lost? [1]

Years ago a church I attended decided that a good way to minister to the community was by having a food bank that gave away food to the needy. To be honest, more than a few of us questioned that need, wondering if these needy people actually existed in our small town. Imagine our great surprise that as the word got out, people began showing up at all hours of the day!

It was heartbreaking to see these families who had very little to eat, especially little children. And to think that prior to our starting the food bank we didn’t even know these needy people existed! Hearing their stories would always touch me deeply, and I suppose this is where I learned to love the downtrodden.

Now, places exist that are funded by churches and community service groups so the needy have a place to go to away from the church. This serves two purposes: 1, hurting people have a centralized place to go to receive help, and 2, the church doesn’t have to get its hands dirty.

An institutionalized clearing house for the hurting if you will, where the opportunity for personal contact from the church is lost.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t believe that this is what Jesus meant when he taught that we were to have mercy and compassion for the lost and needy among us. We give money to far away places, content that we did something for someone whose face we will never see. We have bought into the world’s philosophy that if you throw enough money at the problem, eventually it will fix itself. [2]

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I’m driving around and see so many people who are obviously struggling, I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t more that can be done to help them. Please understand me, I am not advocating for more government handouts or more welfare type programs. Those are temporary, stop gap measures(at best).

Of course, there are a great many well funded programs already in existence to help those in need. The question I am asking though is are they the right kinds of programs?

No, what I’m referring to are more and better opportunities. Better paying jobs for instance would enable a person to afford better housing, higher quality food, and an overall better quality of life. Sometimes just an equal opportunity is all that is needed to lift someone up and out of poverty because I firmly believe that all most people want is a chance, and equal chance to succeed.

This nation is rich beyond anything most of the world can imagine. We have an obligation to “the least of these” to do more for them than giving them monthly handouts. [3]

Our churches should be on the front lines, fighting to see that these people are given the respect and dignity they deserve as human beings. Our churches should open their doors and their checkbooks because after all, it is the church that is in the mercy business, not the government. With the tremendous resources our churches have at their disposal, we could make significant inroads into improving the plight of the poor and needy if they would once again pick up the mantle.

An “institutionalized clearing house for the hurting” is not the answer. Demonstrating the love of Jesus with a personal touch followed up with practical, tangible “put your money where your mouth is” blessings would have a tremendous impact for those in need.

I close this post with a song about compassion for the lost. I heard this song a few days ago, and instantly recognized it as one I used to listen to regularly a long time ago. I pray it will touch your heart.

 

Ron

[1]Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

[2]For the record, I am 100% in favor of missions giving as long as their is a regular accounting given of those funds

[3] Matthew 25:45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

 

 

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Sometimes ministry is all about the little things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real Ministry really is all about the little things!

Be blessed,

Ron

Gems from Proverbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a blessed Lord’s day!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

Why can’t we just love on Jesus?

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That was the question my sweet wife asked me the other day.

So, we were having yet another discussion about spiritual things (notice I didn’t say ‘a spiritual discussion’!), which is a common topic at our house. The combination of me being in ministry and her being a pastor’s kid tends to tilt the conversations in that direction a lot of the time.

What I didn’t realize however was how critical I was sounding. That is until my wife stopped my ranting and said this to me:

“Instead of focusing on things that you think are so negative, why can’t we just spend an hour or so loving on Jesus? Why isn’t He our sole focus”?

Now just in case I haven’t mentioned this in a while on this blog, I am forever thankful that God brought my wife and I together. She has been a loving, steady, and positive influence on my life, and without her I would have never known that such a deep love could exist. If ever a woman was heaven sent, it is her, and she alone has my undying love and devotion.

Well, her comments stopped me in my tracks. I’m not sure if my mouth flew open, but it should have. In an instant, my heart was crushed over my negative attitude and critical spirit.

How does this happen to us so quickly?

My mind began to race as I thought of so many scriptures that tell us where our focus should be directed. In Micah 6:8 for example, we are given clear instructions in what is expected of a child of God.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

Nothing there speaks of being critical or negative. What it does tell me is to walk humbly with the Lord. If I do that, He will take care of all the petty details that seem to overwhelm us at times.

If you take a moment to think about it, it’s amazing how different our perspectives can be when we humble our heart before God. Just as amazing I suppose is how we can allow our hearts to become so callous.

In Matthew 22:37 we hear Jesus telling people to ‘love God with all their hearts, minds, and souls’. I don’t see a lot of room for criticism there either, do you?

If we love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, that doesn’t leave any room for doubt, criticism, or complaining does it? Seriously, if we love God in such a manner why would we want to be critical?

How could we be?

 In chapter five of Revelation we find Jesus as the center of adoration and worship from the 24 elders as well as millions of angels. Do you know why there is worship of Jesus in heaven?

Because He is worthy.

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”   Rev. 5:11,12

This Lamb who was slain is Jesus Christ, and the host of heaven declares Him to be worthy of adoration, worship, honor, and praise.

If heaven declares Him worthy of all of that, who am, or who are we to say even one word to the contrary, or one word that might be construed as being critical?

As my wife asked me…” why can’t we just love on Jesus”?

So, knowing what I know, I must do what I always must do…pray for His forgiveness.

Heavenly Father forgive me for my critical spirit and lack of love for your Son Jesus. You alone are worthy to be praised. Your word teaches me not to allow any corrupt communication to come from my lips, and I have stumbled in doing so. Anything less than my highest praise and worship of You O Lord is corrupt, and I offer up the prayer that David did: “create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me”. Amen.

Be blessed on this Lord’s day,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your worship dependent upon?

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Worship: reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred. [1]

I asked the question ‘what is your worship dependent upon’ because I wonder if we believe that our worship is dependent on something we do or think.

For example, if our worship is dependent upon something we ‘do’, what is it that we must ‘do’ before we worship the Lord?

  • Do we have to dress a certain way?
  • Do we have to act a certain way?
  • Do we have to say certain words?
  • Do we have to belong to a specific church or denomination?

Perhaps it is something we must think, instead of ‘do’.

  • Do we have to think certain thoughts?
  • Do we have to think like everyone else?
  • Do we have to think about our frame of mind?
  • Do we have to think at all?

Maybe none of that matters. Maybe what matters most is the environment.

  • Is the music too loud?
  • Is the music the ‘correct’ style?
  • Are the lights dimmed?
  • Are the seats comfortable enough?

Can I be honest with you for a moment? Every single one of the things I mentioned so far has at one time or another negatively impacted my worship.

Want to know something else? That was very difficult for me to admit.

If worship truly is “reverent honor and homage paid to God”, can I honestly say that I was reverently honoring and paying homage to God when I allowed anything to negatively impact my worship?

Honestly…no I was not.

You see, there are times when this flesh rises in me and wants to show me that it is still in control, and it usually happens shortly after I have experienced the goodness and grace of God in a tangible way.

The ability to hinder our worship is one of the most effective tools in Satan’s toolbox. Jesus referred to this in a manner of speaking when he said that “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” …[2]

The thief of course is Satan. He is a thief and a liar, and he comes to steal many things from us. If we permit him to do so, he will steal our joy, our love, our compassion for others, even the victory we enjoy in our souls.

What he is most wanting to steal however is our worship. That is because Satan knows that if he can steal our desire to worship God, he has gained a foothold in our lives. The devil knows all too well that if he can get us focused on external conditions and circumstances, he can negatively impact the internal, or our heart.

The Apostle Paul also understood how important it is for the Christian to not allow the devil to steal anything from us, and we find him telling the Ephesian church to “neither give place to the devil”. [3]

What Paul is telling us here is that we are not to give the enemy any access into our lives. Closing every door of opportunity so that the devil will find no entrance into your home or life means just that. Do whatever it takes to keep him out.

If you will remember, Paul was known in Hell [4] and was locked in a battle with Satan that lasted until he drew his last breath. He knew this adversary well, and understood the ramifications of ‘playing with fire’.

So determined was Paul that Satan would not steal his worship that we find him and Silas singing praises to God at midnight while both were in prison! There feet may have been bound in the stocks, but their worship could not be chained! [5]

Beloved, our worship is not dependent upon any external circumstance or situation. It doesn’t matter if the lights are too bright or the songs too fast. All that matters is that our hearts are engaged with our Creator.

When that happens, all external hindrances fade into obscurity. Those voices telling us not to worship because this or that is not to our liking are silenced.

This is when we fully understand what David meant when he said this prayer:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. [6]

All of us, especially me, need to approach the Lord with a clean heart and a right spirit, or attitude. This is what opens the door to our worship.

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

 

[1] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/worship

[2] John 10:10

[3] Ephesians 4:27

[4] Acts 19:15

[5] Acts 16:25

[6] Psalm 51:10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We now have life in His name!

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Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now am found

Was blind but now I see.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. To such a blind, miserable, wretched, and lost man as I once was, there is nothing so sweet as Amazing Grace.

Easter reminds me once again of the unfathomable grace that the Creator extended towards humanity when He put into motion His redemption plan. And what a plan it was! God sent His only son into this world to purchase our salvation by His own blood.

I just have to ask: who but God can do such things?

It was the beloved disciple John who recorded these eternal words of lasting hope when he said “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

Before you and I were ever born, God had already thought of us! I just can’t get over that! Oh, if only this world could see that there is no reason to live in hopelessness. There is no reason for us to live our lives in desperation.

Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly!

God so loved YOU, before you were ever born, that He gave His son as a ransom for your sins. By doing this He freed you from every chain and shackle that has you bound! No matter the burdens we bare, or the pains of past mistakes, Jesus died to set us free from all of it!

I am living proof of the power of the Resurrection. You name it, at one time I tried it, did it, and wanted more of it all in a vain attempt to silence the fear, anger, and loneliness that was destroying me.

I was destined for Hell just as sure as the sun is coming up in the morning.

But one day, one glorious day, Jesus tugged at my heart and slowly but surely I began to have my eyes and my heart opened to a love I never knew existed. God’s love, eternal love, the kind of love that will get you from here to Glory enveloped my very soul and I’ve never been the same since!

I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, but in every instance there was that amazing grace to gently guide me back to the straight and narrow way. Thank God He’s still guiding me along every step of this journey.

I once was lost but now I’m found!

I love how John concludes his gospel by telling us that the things that Jesus did were done to help us to believe in Him, and in doing so we can have eternal life in His name.

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.  John 20:30,31

May this Resurrection Day be so precious to you that you will never forget it, and I pray that the Lord will reveal Himself to all of you in a special way.

He is alive forevermore! Amen!

Ron

God’s Perfect Order

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I’ve often heard it said that God is a God of order. For example, He set the planets in perfect alignment with the rest of the solar system. In doing so, we find that Earth is positioned exactly where it has to be in relation to the Sun and Moon in order to sustain life.

So precise is God’s perfect natural order that scientists have learned that the Earth’s axis is tilted at exactly 23.4 degrees relative to the plane of its orbit around the Sun. It is because of this precise angle of tilt that we have our yearly cycle of four seasons. [1]

If the Earth’s axis were to somehow tilt even a 10th of a degree more or less either way, life as we know it would cease. Seasons would change dramatically, plant life could not adapt in time before dying, and the Sun would leave much of the Earth in darkness for months at a time. [2]

Only God has the capability to prevent such such a catastrophic event from happening. Were He not a God of perfect natural order, our very survival would be jeopardized.

So it is with God in the spiritual realm. God is a God of perfect spiritual order. He is the Creator, we are the created. He is high and lifted up, and his thoughts and ways are higher than ours.

Just as the Earth cannot survive without God maintaining it on its perfect axis of 23.4 degrees, neither can we live the life that the Lord intends for us to have when our relationship with Him is out of order spiritually.

We need look no further than our own daily walk with Him to see this in action. We know that there is only One who’s judgments are true and righteous, yet how many of us are guilty of judging others based upon the outward appearance? When we see someone for example who is of a different color skin than we are, does prejudice or bias kick in immediately? Are we instantly suspicious of them?

Or what about the person we see on the street that is obviously homeless? Do we look the other way when they look at us? Do we find their smell repulsive? Do we think to ourselves that they should get a job like the rest of us and stop being a bum?

Let’s be completely honest here. There are very, very few of us that can truthfully say that we never think such thoughts about others. As holy and pious as we want to believe we are, the fact is we are still 100% human, with our sin nature still intact. Fight it though we may, it is still very much alive in all of us.

If we are not careful, we can find ourselves living our lives in a manner we were never equipped to do. What I mean by that is we will find that we have positioned ourselves as judge, jury, and executioner over those we deem as “not like us”.

This is an attitude that affects the church as much if not more than the rest of society. We take it upon ourselves to determine who is ‘worthy’ of our love. We decide who gets ministered to based upon our own very flawed criteria.

When these things happen it is because things are out of God’s perfect spiritual order. It is when we override our conscious and walk contrary to God Word that we set ourselves up in positions we were never created to assume.

The late Rev. Billy Graham was often quoted as saying that “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love”. [3]

Think about that for a moment. Our job is to love. That doesn’t mean that we have to agree with everything someone says, especially if we know it violates God’s Word. It also doesn’t mean that we are required to condone the immoral lifestyle that a person chooses to live.

What it does mean is that we are not God. We lack the capacity to see past the veil of this flesh in order to know the heart. It means that as a flawed child of God, I am not qualified to act as judge.

Our job is to love, which is why Jesus said that the two greatest commandments centered around Love.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.   Luke 10:25-28

When God’s perfect spiritual order is established in the church, the end result is a community built upon Love.

Now that’s a community I want to belong to!

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] https://www.solarsystemscope.com/spacepedia/earth/orbital-and-rotational-characteristics-of-earth

[2] https://image.gsfc.nasa.gov/poetry/ask/q278.html

[3] https://relevantmagazine.com/god/14-billy-graham-quotes-helped-shape-american-christianity-update-new

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