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Whom Shall I Fear?

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This morning I was asked to deliver the message in both the 8:45 and 10:45 services because our pastor was ill. Thankfully, he is not suffering from the current virus that has afflicted so many, nonetheless he will be requiring medical attention as soon as possible. Please keep him in your prayers.

It just so happens that I was recently reading the 27th Psalm, and I thought it was appropriate to speak on the subject of “Whom shall I fear”, taken from the first verse of this particular Psalm.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

I think these are legitimate questions considering the current state of near-panic being exhibited by so many in our communities. Fear is a natural reaction to adverse situations beyond our control, and it takes a great deal of faith to remain calm in times like these.

I mentioned this morning how that Paul told Timothy that “in the last days, perilous times shall come“, and that whether or not one agrees that we are in the “last days” one thing was for certain and that was that we are living in dangerous times. [1]

When you really think about it, none of this should take any of God’s children by surprise. Yes, it is a shock to our system to see how that life as we have known it is changing by the day. Yet throughout the Scriptures God has warned us of a time when we would be inundated with wars, famines, pestilences, lawlessness, and a myriad of other unsettling events. [2]

My message this morning centered around the fact that while many things are out of our control, God remains in full control. Because He is in control, we have nothing to fear. How, you may ask, can I say this?

I can say this with 100% confidence because I am persuaded that there is “nothing that can separate us from the love of God“. [3]

I am not naive. I fully understand that this latest health pandemic has the potential to reach a level beyond anyone’s expectation. I also know that this will not be the last major crisis we have to deal with.

I do not say this lightly, but I say it in earnest consideration of the days we now live in, and the days that lie ahead of us.

The adversary will attempt to use this crisis to divide the church and to isolate us. This is already taking place as more and more churches are cancelling services. Because of this I strongly urge all of us to guard our hearts. Read your Bible daily, for in it you will find strength and encouragement for the journey. I also think it would be wise if we were to watch less TV news and read more of the Good News instead.

I also urge all of us to find time each day to pray. Stay in communication with the Father. I cannot begin to tell you how important this is, especially if you cannot attend church services. As I mentioned, the enemy desires to isolate us so that his voice alone is the one that garners our attention. Please do not allow that to happen in your life and in your family!

As to the questions from Psalm 27, we have no one to fear or to be afraid of. May God give you a peace that passes all understanding as you remember that the Lord has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind. [4]

I trust the Lord to watch over each of you,

Ron

[1] 2nd Timothy 3:1

[2] Matthew 24:5-7

[3] Romans 8:35-39

[4] 2 Timothy 1:7

 

 

When God is your only option

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This past Sunday morning in my home church, I delivered a message about the undefiled and incorruptible inheritance that awaits us. I made several points about how short this life really is, and how that if our only hope was in what we can amass in this life, then our hope was not only misplaced, but also futile.

I tried very hard to drive home the point that in this life, while there will be seasons of hurt and disappointment that will severely test our faith, such testing is much more precious than gold which is purified in the fire. [1]

At the close of the message, as is the custom in our church, I invited anyone in need of special prayer to come forward. Our church makes this time of prayer a priority, and every week there are usually several people that come forward.

On this particular Sunday, a young lady who had only recently started attending our church came forward. Having met and spoken with her on her first visit, I was aware of some serious physical challenges she had been facing, so it was no great surprise to see her ask for prayer.

I listened as she shared with me that the disease that was supposed to be in remission had now spread to another part of her body. If that wasn’t horrific enough, she told me how fearful she was of what might become of her small children should the unthinkable happen to her.

As I prayed for her, she collapsed into my chest, sobbing uncontrollably and unashamedly. In short, she was broken. Broken in spirit and broken in body. And who wouldn’t be?

I have no doubt that some of you understand this level of desperation. You too have had to face death head on, with no guarantee of the outcome. Can life get any more real than this?

As I continued praying with her, she held on to me, unable or unwilling to let go. All I could think about was how this is what real ministry is supposed to be: bearing one another’s burdens in our most desperate moments.

That’s why we’re here, to express the love of Christ to all who need it. You and I are the hands and feet of the Master, and I believe with all that’s within me that no one is too hurt, too sick, too lost, or too desperate that God cannot get to them. He can reach anyone in any situation. He is our helper in the time of trouble. [2]

It may seem like God is this young lady’s only option at this point, but really…

Sometimes I wonder…is that so bad?

Please join with me in praying for Mary, and if you would, please share this with someone else that believes in the power of prayer.

Ron

 

[1] 1st Peter 1:3-9

[2[ Psalm 46:1

It’s ok to love from a distance!

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Do you struggle with making steady progress in your walk with the Lord because of certain people in your life that keep pulling you away from Him?

Do you ever feel like ‘taking two steps forward and one step backward’ sums up your life?

Do the failures, hurts, and disappointments from your past continually haunt you to the point of nearly paralyzing you, thus rendering you unable to effectively live for Christ?

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If any of this sounds like I’m reading your mind, it’s because almost all of us are in these same predicaments. Let’s face it, the struggle is real, and we are locked in a very real battle with a very real enemy.

I have lived long enough to understand that all of us struggle at times, but not all of us struggle for the same reasons. In addition, we may also find ourselves struggling with situations not of our own choosing, and therefore out of our control.

With that in mind, I want to focus on a particular area of struggle that we can control, which is who we allow into our lives.

This can be a difficult subject to deal with for a Christian, first of all because God is love, and as his children we are taught to love people. The idea of keeping anyone at arms length is not easy for some because they equate that with a lack of love.

It was Jesus after all who said that “no greater love has a man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends”.  From this verse we find the heart of God, and it is only natural for us to desire to emulate that very same love.  [1]

So, again, we who are followers of Jesus Christ must love people because that is the commandment of our Savior.

No doubt you have heard it said that Christians are to “love the sinner but hate the sin”, or some variant of that. That means that we are to look past the sin in a person’s life and see their need for a Savior.

Personally, I believe this to be sound advice. We must be careful however to understand that while we should love without regard to lifestyle choices, habits, etc, we must be very careful as to how much influence we allow these same people to exert over us.

And yes, that includes those who profess Christ but live as though they know nothing about Him. This is made perfectly clear to us in Paul’s second letter to Timothy where he said we were to turn away from such people.   [2]

It is (hopefully) obvious to us as Christians that we cannot permit the enemy to gain a foothold in our homes and in the lives of our family members. We must remain vigilant against the methodology of the adversary, because he routinely transforms himself into something that we would be attracted to.   [3]

In other words, our enemy isn’t likely to appear on your doorstep wearing a red cape, horns, and carrying a pitchfork. He will however appear in such a manner as to put you at ease long enough to deceive you!

This is where loving from a distance comes into play. Instead of opening our hearts to things that might harm us, we should proceed with caution. And yes, it is perfectly alright to say NO to someone!

As a matter of fact, scripture teaches us to keep the world at an arms length from us. Paul actually used a stronger word when he said we should come out from among them and separate ourselves.

And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 2nd Corinthians 6:16,17

If we are to live victoriously in Christ, it will be because through Christ we have conquered our past failures and disappointments. Through Him we will have buried the demons that used to haunt us.

“You can’t defeat the demons you keep playing with” is a popular internet meme quoted frequently all over the web today by many preachers and Christian entertainers.

It is a very powerful truth as well.

To continue “playing with” them is to invite certain destruction into our lives because having fellowship with darkness is diametrically opposite of what scripture teaches us in Ephesians 5:11.  [4]

As children of the King, we are to love all people simply because everyone, saint and sinner alike, has been created in the image of God. Never forget that while we were yet sinners ,Christ died for us.

Wisdom, however, dictates that loving from a distance until you really get to know a person is not only prudent, it may just save you much heartache.

Have a blessed day everyone,

Ron

[1] John 15:13

[2] 2nd Timothy 3:5

[3] 2nd Corinthians 11:14

[4] Ephesians 5:11

 

 

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.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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