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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…

 

So Thankful

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Feeling incredibly thankful and blessed this Sunday for all of the blessings in my life. Having just turned another year older this week, I’ve been reflecting upon how that it’s been nothing short of amazing what God has been able to do in my life.

God is good friends, God is good.

No one but God could have scripted such a life. Now,to a lot of people that would mean that I was referring to a life of ease and continuous blessing. That would not be my life however.

I have learned that when considering one’s life,you must consider all of it,not just the good,with the sum total of all of life’s experiences determining whether or not one considers themselves “blessed”. And I am certainly blessed!

Looking back, it’s easy to see that it’s been His hand that has guided me through great times as well as through the storms that tried to destroy me. Getting to experience the thrills of mountain top experiences is a thrill like no other,just as experiencing the lows of the lowest valley is an experience like no other. As I said,only God could author such things!

What a mighty God we serve!

God has been my Provider, my Healer, and a friend that sticks closer than a brother. I give Him praise for all the goodness and mercy that has been poured into my life. Each and every time I wanted to give up on myself,there was an Unseen Hand that guided me to calmer waters,allowing me opportunities to call upon Him to steady the ship.

My prayer for each of you today is that these words will resonate with you, and that they will be a source of encouragement in your life.

So Thankful!the_light_end_tunnel

Where is the Lord?

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That was the question Jeremiah heard from the Lord.

We don’t hear much about prophets today,unless it’s something about the fact that there are so many false prophets in the world.discernment

True prophets are not popular people. In fact,if you were called to be a prophet in Old Testament times you were virtually guaranteed a life of hardship. The prophets mantle was one of harsh words,condemnation,and “thus saith the Lord”.

Not exactly the ingredients necessary to make friends. Then again, God never sought out His prophets from a Charm School either.

Jeremiah was one such prophet. A prophet during the last 40 years of Judah’s existence,Jeremiah became known as the weeping prophet. He had been given a harsh message to deliver to Judah,which was made even more challenging because he possessed a sensitive and broken heart over the condition of his people.

Unfortunately for Jeremiah,this tender spirit made his anguish even more intense as his family,friends,kings,priests,basically the entire nation of Judah rejected his words.Called of God at a young age,rejection and loneliness were to become his two constant companions for the rest of his life.

As God began to speak into the life of His young prophet,it becomes apparent that he will have little time in which to “grow into the job”. Almost immediately, Jeremiah hears these words from the Lord:

The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.  Jer. 2:8

The fact that the priests weren’t even asking where the Lord was says volumes about the moral and spiritual condition of Judah. They had become so insensitive to the presence of God that they did not even recognize that He had departed from them.

Forsaking the Lord,Judah had installed a new religion,one that included the worship of nearly everything except God.In doing this,they had long ago stopped wondering why the Lord’s presence had departed from them,and why they no longer enjoyed His blessings. For them,it had become business as usual.

Herein lies a great danger that the church must guard against today. In our “we must have it now” culture the pressure is on to produce results. This has largely been brought about by the church departing from the biblical model of church growth in favor of a more corporate mentality.

It is my firm conviction that this pressure to perform has brought about a devastating change in our approach to a Holy God. Instead of waiting upon the Lord in our own “upper rooms”,we have instead invented a new church paradigm where results can be manufactured at will.

Church services are now planned down to the minute,much like a board meeting. From the opening greeting to the closing prayer,everything has been carefully scripted.Statistics are consulted as though they were inspired data points.Results are measured in percentages,not souls.Business plans,not God,are the driving force behind our actions.

There is an incredible and valuable lesson that we today can learn from the question “where is the Lord?”. That being that when we no longer see the manifestation of God’s presence in our midst,alarm bells should be going off.

When I speak of the manifestation of God’s presence,I am referring to the acts of love,kindness,mercy,and compassion that are the hallmarks of a transformed life.I am not referring to the foolishness that passes for God’s presence in many churches today.

Any pastor today who is shepherding a congregation where these traits are not outwardly and abundantly apparent for all to see,should be greatly concerned about the overall spiritual health of that congregation.

Think about the church you currently attend. Do you see the fruits of lives transformed by Christ,or is it business as usual in your church?

Perhaps most tragic of all is this: has God departed and we don’t even know it?

Something for us to think about this Lord’s day.

How to ensure mistakes don’t ruin your life

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“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Ps. 51:10

The words of the sweet Psalmist of Israel, King David, as he acknowledges his sin with another man’s wife,the murder of her husband,and his futile attempts to cover it up.If only David could have seen into the future,perhaps a vision of what was to come would have convinced him to keep his eyes from wandering.

Every time I read this verse I am reminded of how weak this earthly tabernacle

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is. In an instant we can go from the highest highs to the lowest lows,all because we decide to yield to a voice that calls us to do the unthinkable. It humbles me to think that if the King of Israel could do it,I know I could as well.

And so could you.

David’s entire being was affected by what he had done. His relationship with God was severed,the joy of the Lord had departed him, and he was left alone to reflect upon the magnitude of his error.I cannot imagine how his soul must have been tormented!

Think about this for a moment.This wasn’t just another King of Israel.This was David.The shepherd boy anointed to be King.A ma

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n after God’s own heart. Chosen of God,anointed King of Israel,feared by his enemies and adored by his subjects.Legendary giant killer and warrior without equal.

If ever the phrase”how the mighty have fallen”fit a man,it was David.Here was the man who literally “had it all”. This was God’s chosen one to replace a king that had forsaken the Lord.David was to “right the ship”in Israel.Yet for all of this,it wasn’t enough to keep his feet from wandering.

Surely David must have asked himself a thousand times if the momentary pleasure of sin was worth it.How could it have been,when his momentary lapse of judgement led to the rest of his life being one of sorrow and turmoil?

David’s sin led to lies and deception that culminated in Uriah’s death. And what of the child conceived from this rendezvous with the beautiful Bathsheba? Despite his fasting and praying before God night and day, the child born of his adulterous union became sick and died.Unfortunately for David,his sin also mightily impacted his other children as well.

David’s beautiful daughter Tamar was raped by her brother Amnon, who in a revengeful rage killed Absalom, who in turn was slain by Joab.Think of it,the King’s family destroyed by the sins of their father.And for what?

In his despair and brokenness,David came to the realization that the high price of sin was more than even he could bear.He soon learned that being King not only has it’s rewards,but also it’s share of heartache. All that was left for him to do was to throw himself upon the mercies of God.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

How gracious is our Father to forgive us when we come to Him with a broken spirit. David did not offer to God mere lip service, but rather a broken heart and a contrite spirit.David wasn’t just sorry because he was found out.No,David was truly sorrowful of heart and soul.This beloved,is true repentance.

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For certain,if we attempt to cover up and hide our sins,God will reveal them in His time.Fortunately for all of us,if we expose them to God He will cover them with His mercy.

As we come to the end of another year many of us will be spending time reflecting on the year’s past achievements and disappointments.Maybe there are some things you need to take to God? Maybe there are some things haunting you,just as they did David.

I want you to know that mistakes don’t have to ruin your life,nor should they define who you are.David could have used a friend to remind him of that,couldn’t he? Perhaps you could too?

May I encourage you to do as David did and simply turn to the Lord and ask His forgiveness for your sin? If you will do this, you will find as David did that our Lord is a restorer of the broken.He is the heart-mender after all.

I can’t think of a better way to start 2017,can you?

Ron

Are you satisfied with just one day of Christmas?

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Am I the only one that thinks we’re getting ripped off here?

December 25th. Christmas Day.Here for just 24 hours then gone until next year.

Right this moment the TV news is touting yet another heartwarming story about someone reaching out to someone else just in the nick of time to avert a disaster of some sort. I love that.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been hearing these kinds of stories regularly on the evening news. People from all walks of life start performing incredible deeds of kindness and generosity.

Some good news is indeed welcomed right now,especially given that we have just survived an incredibly cold,mean,and heartless national election. Yeah,we could use some good news for a change!

What I have never understood however is why these types of things only seem to happen at Christmas time? Maybe they do happen all the time,but you sure don’t hear about them like you do at Christmas.

Or at least it seems that way.

Some people call it the magic of Christmas. Others say that Christmas just makes them feel good. Then you have those that declare that its the spirit of Christmas.

Whatever you call it,what I want to know is where is it the rest of the year? Why can’t we have that Christmas feeling all the time? And just where does the spirit of Christmas go after December 25th?

Why don’t we give extraordinary tips at the restaurant every day to help out that single mom whose waiting on tables to help make ends meet? Surely they can use the help throughout the year.

Why is it that Christmas is the only time of the year when you hear about the “secret santa’s” paying off someone’s layaway at Walmart? Is Christmas the only time of the year when people use layaway?

Just yesterday I saw where hundreds of volunteers showed up to put together Christmas dinners for the homeless and needy in this area. What is it about Christmas that makes people do what they would not do in July?

Could it be that Christmas is the one time of the year when we actually open the door to our hearts so that we can then see the needs of others? If so…why? Why not every day?

Could it possibly be that at this one time of the year Jesus becomes real to us? To all of us?

Why do we wait all year to show a little kindness and compassion to others? Surely those wonderful traits are needed throughout the entire year,aren’t they?

In this cold,callous world showing acts of kindness and mercy are often viewed as a type of weakness.After all,only the strong survive,right? Is that why we refrain from doing them at other times?

Whatever the reason for the sudden outpouring of love and kindness,don’t you wonder why it can’t be this way all the time? Could it? Can it? Do we dare hope that it could be?

Here is what I think. I think it starts with one person. That could be you. Or it could be me. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that we open our eyes to the needs of others. That we allow ourselves to feel. To care.

What matters is that we recognize that we are so blessed to have so many good things,and that for the grace of God any one of us could be that person in need of some Christmas love.

Frankly,I’m not satisfied with one day of Christmas. Not when I know how easy it would be to keep the true meaning of Christmas going day after day.

Pipe dream you say? Pie in the sky? Maybe it is. But I’ve always heard that if you’re going to dream,dream big.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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.

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