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What do YOU see?

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It’s been said that God sees everything, and I have no doubt that He does.

He sees the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Whether we’re at our best or worst, God sees it all.

All of it.

What do YOU see when….

*You are forced to walk around a homeless person on the street?

*You see a young girl carrying a child she is not prepared to raise?

*Yet another drug addict has fallen into despair?

*The evening news tells one horrific story after another of abuse?

*You see the line of people that stretches around the block at the food pantry?

God sees all of this. He sees the suffering and the pain of every one of these people. People that His only Son suffered and died for. People we are commanded to love.

Do you see the suffering? Do you see the pain?

Or are your eyes focused only on the cause?

Do you see fault?

Do you see blame?

When Jesus reminded us that the poor would always be with us (Matt. 26:11) he was letting us know that the problems of humanity are perpetual. That is a sobering thought isn’t it?

Now,we can choose to look at this in one of two ways. We can throw our hands up in despair at the seeming hopelessness of the plight of the poor and suffering.

Or we can choose to take the words of Jesus as a challenge to understand that these issues are not going away,therefore we must plan accordingly to do our best to alleviate the plight of the unfortunate among us.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers as to how best to accomplish this. But I am firmly convinced that it must begin with the church. Not the government. The church. Alleviating the suffering of the poor and unfortunate has always been the responsibility of the church.

It all boils down to what we see when we observe the pain and suffering of the poor.

I believe God sees their hurting.

I wonder what we,the people under the steeple, see…

 

The Perspective of Time

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“What a difference a day can make”.I’ve heard that remark so many times through the years.

Imagine the difference then that a few years can make. That’s what I was thinking the other day as I read several chapters in the book of Job. As I began reading it dawned on me that I had neglected this Old Testament book for quite some time.

I always loved it’s beautiful descriptors of the battle of “good vs.evil”,Satan vs. God. It always seemed that no matter how hard Satan tried to discredit God,the faithfulness of God always prevailed.It was great to reconnect with this old,familiar book.

Now,for those of you who are not familiar with the book of Job,it is often regarded as one of the greatest studies of the human response to suffering.More importantly,it is a study of trust.If the reader will carefully study the book of Job,he or she will see the subject of trust come to the forefront as Job ultimately concludes that God is just and righteous.

Many people who read this book quickly form the opinion that God is not fair,that He was unjust in allowing an upright man such as Job to suffer. This is understandable, considering the Biblical description of Job is as a man that was “pure and upright,and one who feared God and turned away from evil”.

I believed that myself,long ago. Just like I believed that God was not fair because He refused to allow Moses to enter the promised land because of one mistake. Boy did I ever struggle with that one!

Just like I believed that God was not fair when tragedy struck my own life. Just like you may be thinking right now concerning a situation you are dealing with. We all want to shout aloud “how can a God of love allow this to happen” at times,don’t we?

Can I tell you something that time has taught me about the “fairness” of God?

Unlike God,we lack the ability to see the future. The hear and now is our dwelling place,and we are forced to deal with life as it comes. That includes those things we identify as unfair.

Just like Job,we cannot see the end of the trial while we are in the midst of it. But He can,which is why we must learn to be slower to question the “fairness” of God. Remember,God always has a plan where you are concerned. And that includes the trials you go through. Coincidence is not in His vocabulary.

2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 ESV)

The perspective of time has taught me the deeper meaning of this present life being a place of preparation for the eternal one that is to come. Time has taught me that God knew all along what he was doing when he permitted Job to be attacked by Satan,that he knew what he was doing when he refused to allow Moses to enter into the promised land.

That he knew all along what he was doing when he allowed me to walk through the fire,instead of quenching it first.

Nothing takes God by surprise. Nothing.

The perspective of time has taught me to trust God. To trust the refining process that all of us are going through. To trust that while I may not understand the things that have happened to me,or the things I am presently enduring,He does.

To a child of God,this is enough. If we’re faithful,the perspective of time will teach us this principle.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

How to have faith in God’s timeless process

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Face it.As much as we’d like to believe that hidden somewhere in the pages of God’s Word there exists a little known formula for living a charmed life,life’s journey has taught us that there is no quick fix,no potion,no enchantment that will deliver the kind of success being touted by the proponents of the prosperity gospel.

No glitzy TV programs,no Sunday snake oil salesman,no faith/power of positive confession/self help/sow your best seed now types of conferences,no slick self promoting “get in on this special offer now” spiel,will ever supplant God’s timeless process of faithful maturation.

You can’t buy it. You can’t steal it. For certain you can’t con your way to get it.

You have to earn it.Like a badge or a medal that is awarded to only a select few,growing in the faith and grace of our Lord is a process that will literally take the rest of your life.Indeed,our faith is continually growing, and that is as it should be lest we become stagnant and die.

In his 2nd letter to the church at Thessalonica,Paul was encouraged by their demonstrations of faith and love toward one another. “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;” II Thess 1:3    KJV

Paul draws us to the fact that their faith was “growing exceedingly”. For him to note this he would have had to have seen some outward,physical proof of this growth,which of course he recognized in their infectious love for one another.

These early Christians serve as wonderful examples to us today of the kind of growing faith and love that comes from God as we walk with Him daily. Did you notice the absence of so much of what we think of as church today? Are we missing something?

Could it be that these early Christians had already discovered the “formula” that so many seek today? I suggest that they had indeed found the secret to living the successful Christian life that the church today is searching for. In all the wrong places I might add.

The fact that this early church loved one another abundantly is ample evidence of their growing faith in God.Consider if you will that these Christians had no internet,no phone,no TV,no church buildings,and no programs for every member of the family.What they did have however… was each other!

Given the current church’s appetite for a “one stop shopping”brand of Christianity where an attempt is made to provide something for everyone,we are left to wonder how these poor,unfortunate,backward men and women ever survived.

They not only survived,but they also prospered because they trusted the Lord to see them through every situation.In other words,they trusted the process. James also,in speaking of the process said that “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”   James 1:12   KJV

All too often this flesh does not want to endure much of anything, but will instead look for the closest exit or way of escape.In doing so we fail to see the hand of God guiding us through the process,thus stunting the growth of our own faith.

So how do we get to the place where we can have faith in God’s process? I think the writer of Hebrews said it best.”For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”  Heb. 10:36

Patience in the process.Patience and endurance to see the race ran to completion.If we can learn patience,we will see a faith that grows exceedingly,a love for one another that abounds,and an enduring spirit that understands the process.

If Ever There Was a Time…

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Did you ever meet someone that came across as just plain mean spirited? Or so arrogant that they couldn’t think of anything or anyone but themselves?

Many of us know people who display these traits. The TV is certainly filled with them.They aren’t pleasant to be around,are they? And what’s even worse is that they seem to enjoy being despicable to others.

They blame the economy. Blame the negative political climate in America. Blame racial inequality.Blame it on heredity. Gotta blame something or someone.

Funny isn’t it? The excuses we come up with to try and explain away our selfish attitudes. Everyone has their struggles, and I mean everyone. But excuses are like noses. Everybody got one.

I don’t enjoy being around negative people,do you? Someone said life is too short to have to put up with things like this and I’m inclined to agree.

Showing my overly simplistic view of things,I often wonder what is so difficult about just being thankful. Just being grateful for the good things we do have. And we do have a lot of good things don’t we?

Now don’t get me wrong. There are times when I have to check my own attitude. And like it or not,the Lord has kindly provided a “helper” to lovingly point out such occasional deficiencies in her husband.

But seriously,have we forgotten the “be nice”rule? Or how far a simple smile goes?

I’m so tired of negative talk and frowning faces. It’s discouraging to listen to people complain about their job when they make six figure wages,especially since so many are forced to make due with so much less. Or try listening to someone complain about the high cost of dining out these days,knowing that there are hungry people who would love to have enough of anything to eat.

It sure would be nice if for just a day or two we could all remember this simple truth from God’s word:

“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?”
‭‭Micah‬ ‭6:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Does this really seem to be that difficult?

If ever there was a time when we could use a little civility,a little decency,a little tact,it’s today.

A little mercy would go so far in helping to dispel some of the negative. A small acknowledgement that there is Someone far greater than we are would be a wonderful thing. Treating someone kindly just because it’s the right thing to do would do wonders for so many.

Who knows, it might start with you.

Or me.

Be blessed!

He Remains Faithful

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Have you ever doubted your faith? Have you ever dared to question the existence of God? Have you ever felt like you’re in this thing all alone?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions congratulations!,you are in the company of untold millions of other Christians who have doubted,questioned,and felt abandoned along the journey.Who,thanks to Jesus, just happen to be standing stronger today than at any other time.

But for many of us, the doubts and the questions won’t go away.

Think about this: the enemy speaks to us in countless ways through a variety of circumstances all carefully designed to plant the tiniest seed of doubt in our minds. In no time at all it seems we’re asking how or why.

Those two little words,each containing but three letters,have the potential to grow into a raging firestorm that left unchecked,will shipwreck our faith.

It’s during these times that we must draw upon our armor and prepare to defend ourselves against the onslaught of the devil.

The apostle Paul authored the majority of the New Testament,and the following text is,in my opinion,one of the clearest assurances that God is faithful to those who are faithful to Him.

“Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel,

This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”
‭‭II Timothy‬ ‭2:8, 11-13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Beloved, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.

He has promised us that if we endure,if we hold on,if we faint not away but hold to His promises,we shall reign with Him.

Doubts will always come. Questions will arise in our hearts and minds for which there are no answers. Loneliness will sometimes feel like abandonment.

But I have good news! It’s not over until He says it’s over!

He remains faithful.

Have a blessed week!

 

I Don’t Deserve This!

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How many times have you heard someone use this expression in describing a situation they find themselves in?

Abandoned wives or husbands use this expression.And no wonder as the average duration of a marriage in the U.S.is now down to 8.8 years.That’s not hard to believe when you factor in the divorce rate being between 40% to 50%,and subsequent marriages failing at an even greater percentage.These appalling numbers don’t even take into account the immeasurable suffering of the children of divorce.Surely they don’t deserve this.

Victims of abuse use this expression.According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States has been raped in their lifetime.
  • 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.

All of these maddening statistics suggest a people gone mad with brutality, and represent untold suffering inflicted upon the innocent and those unable to defend themselves.Surely they don’t deserve this.

Those enslaved by poverty use this expression.Poverty is perhaps one of the most cruel,inhumane tragedies of our time.It’s effects are far reaching and in many corners of the world Poverty is accepted as the norm.

I must admit that it took me quite a long time to fully understand Poverty and it’s devastating effects on society.You see,I was taught as a young boy the value of hard work and it’s subsequent rewards.To me it was very simple:work hard and you would be rewarded with money to be able to have things that you wanted.If you didn’t have, it was because you were too lazy to work. Simple!

Unfortunately,the reality is that there are tens of millions of people who have no opportunity for work.Go to work where? What job? Their life,if you can call what they do “living”consists of receiving handouts or public assistance, begging,stealing,or worse committing violent crimes in order to survive.

Just last evening I was watching a ministry program on TV that showed a small army of children descending upon a garbage dump.Not too many things more heart wrenching than that,unless it was the ministry “host” telling a dejected,hungry,no hope in her eyes  little girl to “think upon Jesus”. Huh? Surely they don’t deserve this.

So what’s the point of all of this? Well, I’ve been thinking about something that was dealt to me that I surely did not deserve. I didn’t ask for it. It was thrust upon me out of nowhere.I never saw it coming.

God’s Grace.

In a world engulfed by poverty,in a nation where abuse has been relegated to the 2nd or 3rd page of the paper,in a society where divorce is just as common as marriage,the Grace of God still shows up in a hungry heart.

Surely I don’t deserve this.

Why Prayer Meetings Fail

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Many Christians,especially newer ones,do not know that one of the primary strengths of the church used to be the prayer meeting.This should come as no surprise considering that the church was birthed in an Upper Room prayer meeting.

For so many generations churches of nearly every denomination practiced regular,routine corporate prayer because they understood the dynamics of regular communication with God. For the church to do the work of the church,prayer,especially corporate prayer was a necessity that could not be overlooked.

Through the centuries the practice of corporate prayer has dwindled until in most churches it’s not even practiced any longer,and if it is it’s so sparsely attended as to be of little effect. I suppose the case could easily be made that the demise of the corporate prayer meeting coincides with the general attitude of the Laodicean church today,which is that the church of today is in need of nothing.

Especially God.

This mindset that we are in control,that we are capable of sustaining our own evangelical empires apart from God is something that the church of the book of Acts would reject outright. As would countless millions of Christians through centuries past who routinely cultivated their personal relationship with God through prayer.

Today’s prayer meeting,what little there is of it,has drastically changed in many ways from what our predecessors new,especially considering this major point: what we pray about,or for,is different now. Let me explain.

It used to be that churches had a burning desire to have a positive impact on their community for the sole purpose of winning their community for Christ. They lived the Christian life outside of the church and were examples of God’s love and grace,which served to draw the lost to the church. The primary method at their disposal to accomplish all of this was prayer!

In return,communities recognized that the church genuinely cared for them,and were concerned for their well being. What they saw was Christ extended to them in a way that they were receptive to. Such is the love of God. Like moths drawn to a flame,the love of God will draw lost men and women when nothing else will.

Churches,pastors,lay members alike were all united in the shared goal of reaching the lost,and they knew that prayer was the only way to make that happen.Think about it…what else did the church have at their disposal?

Before the days of the internet,conferences of every conceivable type, car shows,and bouncy houses God’s people relied on the sovereign moving of the Spirit,wrought by prayer,to bring the lost in.

Oh,to be able to go back in time!

Today we have every means of the newest,latest technology at our instant disposal,ready to use to market our latest strategy to bring them in.A very small percentage of this works,the vast majority does not.

Church advertising budgets(disguised as evangelism) are expanding every year,yet the results are the same:pitifully few new converts are being added despite the staggering amount of dollars spent. Growth,what there is of it is mostly from other churches,drawn to the latest gimmickry or cult of personality preacher. History has shown that this is not sustainable growth,as true discipleship has given way to strategies and methods not designed to develop the believer,but to entertain.

In short, prayer has been supplanted in today’s church by every means available. God Himself has been replaced by the inventions of man. The Holy Spirit is no longer welcomed or needed in our churches as the principal agent to draw the lost.

And I think I understand why.

Because we don’t know the One we claim to know.

We use His name.

We use His building.

We sing songs supposedly written in His honor.

We preach sermons using His words.

But we do not know Him like we claim.

If we knew Him like we claim that we do,we would be different. We would be changed.Our hearts would be pure,as would our motives. We would not be this sickly,anemic,weak institution that the world mocks in derision. If we knew Him like we say we do,we would demonstrate His attributes in all that we do.

Perhaps most importantly of all,we do not know Him like we claim we do because we ask Him to do everything except what we desperately need the most:

To change us from within.

We ask Him for things. For stuff. For favor. For anything that will please the flesh.

But we do not ask Him to change us. 

Prayer meetings are no longer in vogue. They are considered old fashioned,relics from a by-gone age. At least that’s what the church of today is being taught.

Could it be however that the real reason that prayer meetings fail,have gone out of style,are no longer considered essential,is because we do not know Him after all?

Something I pray that causes us to stop and think about on this rainy Monday…

 

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