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Playing With Fire

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It seems that everywhere you turn today people are mocking God with a greater intensity and frequency. Surely the fear of God has disappeared from the hearts and minds of untold millions of people who curse His name as easily as they curse at a dog.

This is not surprising however. After all, the Apostle Peter clearly warns us that in the last days will come “scoffers, walking after their own lusts”.  [1]

The Apostle Paul also goes to great lengths to warn the church of impending disaster, when in the last days the world would fall headlong into apostasy. In his 2nd Epistle to Timothy, he lists a multitude of dangerous and ungodly character traits that would be manifested in the hearts of unbelievers at that time.

When you see people described as “lovers of their own selves, blasphemers, fierce, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness” etc…, you can be assured that these people are playing with fire.   [2]

As we see these days closing in on us, I am so very thankful that in His mercy God saw me in my wretched condition and pulled me out of the miry clay. How many of us can identify with this beloved Psalm?

He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.   Psalm 40:2

Contrast these words of hope and restoration with the solemn warning from Hebrews about those who live their lives in outright rejection of God.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  [3]

To fall into the hands of the living God speaks to another part of God’s nature that unregenerate men choose to ignore. They would rather live their lives in any manner they wish, believing that in the end everyone gets in to heaven.

But that is not what is going to happen when we come to the end of our days. If we have not received Christ as our Lord and Savior, it will be a fearful thing because once we take our final breath, we are immediately confronted with this living God.

And that, dear readers, is playing with fire.

Ron

[1] 2nd Peter 3:3

[2] 2nd Timothy 3:1-5

[3] Hebrews 10:31

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When Religion Takes Priority Over Ministry

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Unless you live in a bubble, a cave, or in a penthouse surrounded by opulence, you cannot help but see the misery of suffering humanity all around.  On the TV, on the sidewalks of your city, standing in line at a food bank, dialing the crisis hotline, misery and suffering are things this world has an abundance of.

But what if you don’t live in a bubble, a cave, or a penthouse and yet see nothing of the sufferings of humanity that are all around you? What then?

There is an old saying that goes something like this: “there is none so blind, as he who will not see”. The meaning of this is that there are people who willingly choose not to see by closing their minds and their hearts to their surroundings. [1]

Such are those in our day who are ‘religious’ in name only. They have the title but not the heart. They want the appearance of godliness but not the costs associated with it. To maintain appearances within the community they open their checkbooks, but never their hearts.

Jesus had a name for religious people like this. He called them hypocrites. Not a very flattering term, is it? And while it is easy to look at them with disdain, in all honesty, most of us would have to plead “guilty” to some degree of hypocrisy as well. Pretending to be something we’re not comes rather easily for us, does it not?

Jesus had an encounter one day with just such a person while teaching in the synagogue. Follow along with me as we find Him confronting the high priest on a certain Sabbath day.

Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.
And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up.
But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.”
And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”
The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?
“So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”
And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.   Luke 13:10-17

This story perfectly illustrates how religion separated from a relationship with Christ can become more important than ministry. The religious leader was concerned only with the letter of the Law, rather than the spirit of the Law. His strict interpretation was that no one should lift a finger to perform any type of work on the Sabbath Day, and in his view what Jesus did in healing the woman was work. Thus he was condemning Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.

Isn’t it amazing how ‘hard’ and uncaring religion can be? When it’s more important to follow your creed than it is to follow your heart, something is terribly wrong. When rigidly enforcing “the rules” takes precedence over serving others, we are out of step with our Savior.

For eighteen long years this woman had not been able to stand upright. Have you seen someone like this? I have seen several people in this condition, where their body was permanently affixed in a jackknife position. Some are so bad that their life has been condemned to staring at the floor because they can no longer look up. It is truly a horrible affliction. [2]

This is the situation that Jesus was confronted with that day in the synagogue, and I doubt He hesitated even for a moment to reach out to this woman. While everyone else came that day to hear the Law taught, Jesus had a divine appointment with someone in need of much more than words!

Did you notice how the high priest told Jesus that there were six other days in which to work? I guess he would have preferred that Jesus tell the woman to “come back tomorrow’ than for Him to heal her right then.

That’s another difference between religion and ministry. Religion doesn’t feel the pain of its adherents, rather it is more concerned that everyone fall in line and follow the established protocol. Real ministry feels the infirmities and sufferings of people, and does not wait around for prior approval to meet the need.

I love how Jesus turned the tables on the religious ruler by telling him if he had an animal that was thirsty, he would untie it and lead it to water on the Sabbath Day. By all accounts that too was ‘work’, so we see that the real issue here was not that Jesus was breaking the Law, but that this man’s religion was more important to him than ministering to the needy. In other words, this man had a ‘heart condition’ that would not permit him to offer comfort to the needy at the expense of his doctrine.

As Christians, this is not what we are to be. Knowing that Jesus came not for those who were whole, but for those that needed a physician, it stands to reason that such a mindset should be ours as well. [3]

As we gaze upon humanity with open hearts and minds, it is plain for all to see that people are imprisoned by sin, sickness, addictions of every sort, and are in distress and great need.

Our world is quickly losing its capacity to exhibit mercy and compassion, and is becoming insensitive to the plight of others. Additionally, we seem to have an insatiable appetite for gore, violence, and immorality. Such is the cost of a society that has rejected God.

May it not be said of us that we looked, but did not see. Rather, may it be said of us that we looked upon suffering humanity with the same eyes and heart that Jesus did.

After all, that is why we are here. Isn’t it?

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] This saying has been traced back to 1546, and has its origins in Jeremiah 5:21

[2] The affliction this woman had is known medically as Camptocormia, and is typically associated with another disease

[3] Scripture reference Mark 2:17

A plea for revival

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I enjoy reading about the lives of some of the great preachers of the past, and often find great encouragement and inspiration in their sermons. Men such as Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd, C.H. Spurgeon, A.W.Tozer, and Leonard Ravenhill spoke with an impassioned, fiery boldness rarely seen in our day.

I guess that passion resonates with me, because through the years I’ve been told several times that I remind people of some of those mentioned above. I can only hope they mean that in a positive manner! Either that, or I need to start hanging out with a younger crowd.

Another preacher that I should mention is a Welsh preacher named David Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones lived from 1899-1981, and preached his first sermon in 1925. In 1943, he became pastor of the famous Westminster Chapel in London, following the retirement of G. Campbell Morgan, another giant of the faith who had spent years mentoring him.

Like so many great preachers of the past, D. Lloyd-Jones had the unique gift of not only ministering to the needs of his own congregation, but also spoke with a prophetic vision.

So it was with his first sermon on the subject of “The Problem of Modern Wales”. What is so interesting to me about this particular sermon is the following passage:

“What Wales needs above everything today is…a revival,…a great spiritual awakening such as took place in the eighteenth century under the influence and guidance of the Methodist Fathers.”

“A revival,….a great spiritual awakening.”

Unfortunately, the hoped for revival that Lloyd-Jones spoke of never occurred, at least not to the extent he had wished. As of the last census in Wales, some 86 years after his message on revival, only 57% of the people claimed to be Christian, while 32% claimed no religious affiliation at all.

Is it fair to say that the more things change, the more they stay the same? I cannot think of a single thing more needed in the land today than a God-sent revival that would awaken us to our dire need for Jesus Christ.

Sadly, however, there doesn’t seem to be much support from within the Church for a genuine move of God like that spoken of by Lloyd-Jones.

Whether in the United Kingdom or the United States, instead of revival what we are witnessing is a falling away rather than a rush to repentance.

One could argue, of course, that the opportunity for large scale revival has passed as we edge ever closer to the end time apostasy prophesied by the Apostle Paul.

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,   2nd Thess. 2:3

Knowing this, one cannot help but cry out to God that He would once again visit his people in a manner that would result in large scale revival. We can only imagine the positive impact such a move of God would have on all facets of our society, a society so broken that it is beyond the scope of human intellect to repair itself.

We desperately need an intervention of the Divine! That is my heart’s cry today, that God’s children would cry aloud to the only Source capable of turning our hearts back to Him.

As a final note about D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, his final days were spent struggling with poor health. Dying of cancer, he had lost the ability to speak. On Thursday evening, February 26, he wrote a note for his wife Bethan and their family: “Do not pray for healing. Do not hold me back from the glory.”

Amazing!

Be blessed,

Ron

Therefore the land will mourn

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It’s a dangerous thing for a nation to decide that God is no longer relevant. 

Whenever society enacts policies and laws that are void of any regard for God and his word, you can be sure that trouble will soon follow.

Any time that man becomes convinced of his superiority in matters of humanity and proceeds to embark on a path that takes him away from God, the remembrance of nations who long ago became extinct will remind him of the folly of such endeavors.

When mercy and truth are relegated to the furthest recesses of the mind and no place can be found for them in the halls of rulers, kings, or presidents, Satan is given free reign to pour out his wrath upon a society blinded by ignorance.

A people who have chosen not to retain the knowledge of God among them is by all accounts a people awash in sin and degradation, hopelessly entangled in their own filth, unable to know the cleansing freedom that can only be found in Christ.

1 Hear the word of the Lord,
You children of Israel,
For the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land:

“There is no truth or mercy
Or knowledge of God in the land.
By swearing and lying,
Killing and stealing and committing adultery,
They break all restraint,
With bloodshed upon bloodshed.
Therefore the land will mourn; …  Hosea 4

 

Our land is in a perpetual state of mourning, and as a result many have lost hope. Not just for today, but hope for a brighter future. Hope for a better tomorrow.

The most amazing thing about all of this is that God’s children do have hope. We, like faithful Abraham, are looking for a city ‘whose builder and maker is God‘ (Heb. 11:10).

Like the story found within the pages of the book of Hosea, we long for the day of reconciliation, when God gathers his elect from the four quarters of the earth.

We are living examples of a hope that is not of this world, but of a world to come where love rules and evil has been forever banished.

To many that sounds like a fairy tale, but to the Christian who is exhausted from years of unceasing spiritual warfare, it offers the promise of rest.  

I thank God that while I may be a resident of this earth, I am looking for the day when I become a citizen of heaven.

A place where mourning of any kind will never be heard again. Until then, may the Lord  somehow call us back to ‘the old paths, where the good way is…’   Jeremiah 6:16

Ron

“The evil of many is the consolation of fools”, says Catholic Cardinal

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Deflection

[dih-flek-shuh n]
noun
  1. the act or state of deflecting or the state of being deflected.
  2. amount of deviation.
  3. the deviation of the indicator of an instrument from the position taken as zero.

When the news first broke concerning the latest sexual abuse scandal involving six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, like most people (I hope), I was both shocked and outraged.

For many days this has weighed heavily on my mind and heart, and I’ve wanted to express my outrage at this abuse, yet knowing that if I did many would consider it nothing more than “Catholic bashing”.

Since the story initially broke, new information has come to light, and my conscious will not permit me to remain silent any longer. If what you are about to read upsets or offends you, that is not my intent. I am only seeking to call attention to the horrors being perpetrated by those who claim to be Christ’s representatives upon the earth.

So widespread is this scandal (it began as far back as 1947), that it has encompassed 54 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. For 71 years, nearly three quarters of a century, the Catholic Church has willingly and knowingly participated in the coverup of the most horrific sexual abuse of children in our time.

The grand jury * responsible for investigating internal church documents from these six dioceses revealed that more than 300 “predator priests” were ‘credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims since 1947’.

Do NOT miss this key point: the incriminating document were from the Church’s own internal records!

More than 1000 child victims!

Upon learning of the unfathomable atrocities committed by these imposters of Christ, one has to ask: where is the outrage from America and the rest of the world?

Are we simply numb with disbelief? Are we so apathetic as to have nothing to say? Are we so gutless as to have no fight left in us, even for our own children?

Americans will riot in the streets over a decision made by a President they say they hate, yet the fact that over 1000 children have been raped, abused, impregnated, and threatened garners hardly a whimper from these same impassioned, hate spewing ‘pretenders of the American Way’.

Where are the organizers who are so quick to make a few well-placed phone calls to their millionaire backers and political lobbyists? Why don’t we see them marching on Washington demanding justice for these 1000+ victims of the most sinister cover up of child abuse ever documented?

I say again, where’s the outrage?

Perhaps if we had a separate #MeToo Movement for these sexual abuse victims more people would join in the protest!

Our precious children were sexually assaulted for over 71 years, and there is no collective outrage? Are we so brain washed that we willingly turn a blind eye to this because it was done by supposed members of the Clergy?

Is this because the evil was perpetrated and subsequently covered up by the Catholic Church? Is that why the story dropped off the evening news almost as soon as it appeared? Does our society live in fear of retribution from the Catholic Church, therefor we remain mute? Do we have a subconscious fear that if we speak up it will bring about another Inquisition?

You who cannot resist the opportunity to continually rail against the President, have you nothing to say about the documented facts of the Catholic Church sexually exploiting our children?

Oddly, when we hear that some sadistic monster is found to have been torturing and sexually abusing his victims, it is all the talk around water coolers, the evening news, and the internet.

Web sites, blogs, and forums are on fire with comments for weeks on end. Yet we remain strangely silent about one of the most evil, diabolical, systematic patterns of sexual abuse ever devised by humans.

Tragically, for a variety of reasons many of these cases will never be prosecuted. Whether the statute of limitations has run out, or the victim or the accuser has died, criminal justice will never come for many who thought the one place they would be safe was in the Church.

Of course, this recent discovery of abuse is just one of many.

That we know about.

Few realize that the Catholic Church has even stooped so low as to spend millions of dollars on lobbyists in an effort to block child sex abuse reforms.

These lobbyists were retained, in part, to work on issues associated with “statute of limitations” and “timelines for commencing certain civil actions related to sex offenses.” In layman’s terms what this really means is that when it comes to protecting predator priests, money is no object.

What has been the official response from the Catholic Church? In his speech to the Irish Republic this weekend, the Pope said ‘he is ashamed of the Catholic Church’s failure to adequately address the “repellent crimes” of sex abuse by clergy.’

Nice sounding words that we’ve heard many times before. What he did not say however is perhaps more important than anything he did say. What he failed to do was offer a solution to this plague of abuse. He failed every single one of the abused.

In essence, the official response has been NOT MUCH.

Unless of course you consider deflecting the attention away from their own guilt by reminding their accusers that they too have a few skeletons in their closets, that is.

Apparently, deflection is the name of the game for Mexican Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera, who recently spoke to journalists saying “I’m here happy to talk about nice things, not about problematic things.”

Cardinal Rivera

Credit: CNS photo/Paul Haring

 

 

Attempting to deflect attention away from the unimaginable evil committed by predatory priests against more than 1000 children over seven decades, Cardinal Rivera sent a warning to those who would dare accuse “men of the church”.

To his credit, the good Cardinal did acknowledge that the accusations “make us feel bad and we want to improve.”

Wow. The sexual abuse, rape, and destruction of lives committed by supposed “men of the church” against innocent children makes them ‘feel bad’. They don’t want to talk about “problematic things” however.

Let me see if I understand this correctly. Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera acknowledges that some of the accusations are true, but wants to draw attention to the skeletons in the accusers closets instead, telling them they “should be ashamed”.

No true remorse. No indication of a need for repentance. No clear acknowledgement of guilt.

Just deflection.

The only thing I can think of more disgusting than this man’s reprehensible comments is that the faithful continue to support a diabolical system in which innocent children are fair game for an untold number of sexual predators dressed in priestly garb.

This, dear reader, is NOT the Church whose head is the Lord Jesus Christ.

And what of the Protestant,or Evangelical Church, where are the ‘protests’ from within the various denominations that make up this Church of between 400 million and one billion members?

Could it be that the deafening silence emanating from within the Protestant, Evangelical camp is because it is just as guilty as the Catholic church when it comes to its own patterns of sexual abuse? Or worse?

May God in His mercy open the eyes of the blind, and give them the courage to flee before another child has to endure years of unspeakable torment at the hands of these “men of the church”.

Ron

*I urge you to read as much as you can stomach of the 1300+ pages of the grand jury’s report linked above.

 

 

 

 

Sometimes all it takes is a hug!

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My daughter,who teaches at a local Day Care, told me about an incident where a little boy got extremely upset over a game he was playing with another child. It seems that the little boy was having a hard time convincing his friend that “winners go first!” when it came time to start a new game.

All of this resulted in a major melt down, and my daughter told the upset child to go sit in the thinking chair until he calmed down, and then they would talk about it. After a few minutes in the thinking chair the little boy was still very upset, so my daughter asked him if there was anything she could do to make him feel better.

His response? “Yes, a hug”!

So he got his hug and amazingly all was right with his world. For now.

Sometimes all it takes is a hug, and it doesn’t matter if you’re six or sixty six!

Have a great evening!

Ron

 

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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