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Can you handle it?

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Life, that is. Can you handle life with all its twists and turns, its ups and downs?

Sometimes it doesn’t seem that we can, does it? If you’ve ever been to the place where you thought that if one more thing happens you’re just going to lose it, then this post is for you.

All of us go through seasons of disappointment. As a matter of fact, one of the things that we all share in common is that just as sure the Lord makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust [1], we will all experience our share of trouble in this life.

It is in these seasons that we will hear the enemy begin to whisper to us that it’s OK to take a few steps back, that it’s OK to sit on the sidelines for a while. After all, everyone needs a break from the stress of life, don’t they?

Or maybe the voice you hear is telling you to leave the ministry you’re currently involved in, one where greener pastures await you. This same voice says that because of all the hardships you’re struggling with, God is finished with you here and has a new opportunity “over there” where the battle isn’t so hard.

If this is you, then take heart my friend. Instead of stepping back or stepping down, instead of searching for greener pastures, how about instead we take to heart what Paul said to the church at Ephesus.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Eph. 6:13

Sometimes God calls upon us to simply STAND. Stand still and wait upon the Lord to come to your aid. Stand firm upon the promise that greater is he that is in you, then he that is in the world. [2]

It can be tempting to want to take a timeout from life’s problems. I know because I’ve wanted to ‘check out’ many times myself. Those greener pastures look so inviting, don’t they? The enemy of our soul likes to paint an idyllic picture of rest and ease that is ours for the taking, if only we’ll step back just a little bit.

My prayer for all is that you will be strengthened and encouraged to stand firm in Him. Take up the whole armor of God so that you can answer the question “Can you handle it?” with a resounding YES! because greater is he that is in you, then he that is in the world.

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] Matt. 5:45

[2] 1 John 4:4

 

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Substitute Preacher…

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As I mentioned in my last post, this past week I have been filling in for my Pastor, who is taking a few days off for some much needed rest.

Since we have both Wednesday evening and Sunday morning services at our church, I needed to prepare two different messages, and when you add in hospital visitation it was a busy week.

Well, not that busy, but busier than what has become my new normal since retirement.; )

If you’ve never done something like this, it is both exhilarating and somewhat frightening, especially if you’ve been “out of the saddle” for awhile. It also helps a great deal to know that there are people praying for you, and I sincerely appreciate those of you who lift me up in prayer.

A lot of prayer and study time is necessary to deliver God’s word effectively, at least that’s how it is for me. I understand that many ministers preach from a sermon outline they’ve purchased online, and many simply purchase an entire sermon series which they then tweak to fit their needs.

I decided long ago however that I could not do it this way, preferring instead to spend time in the Word and in prayer in order to hear from the Lord as to what He would have me to deliver to the congregation.

This is not something I take lightly, and I approach it as if the Lord Himself were listening. Which, of course, He is.

As it turned out, it was well worth the effort, and I am happy to report that both messages were received with a lot of sincere enthusiasm, and many reported to be encouraged and strengthened.

I count it a privilege to be able to pray with people who have been broken by the cares of this life. Hearing them pour out their hearts to God, and to be able to pray and weep with them is an honor I do not take lightly.

It is humbling to be reminded that the Lord will still use a willing vessel, and I am thankful for the drive and passion for ministry He has instilled in me.

Sensing the presence of God was just icing on the cake, and that makes it all worthwhile for me.

Have a great Monday everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

What are YOU good at?

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The other day my wife handed me a piece of paper on which she had quickly written something she had heard somewhere. Here is her message:

“In the church we’ve gotten really good at worship, but not so good at service to the Lord.”

As I reflected on this it struck me in a profound way that what she said was very true. For so long our churches have focused so much of their resources on creating the perfect “worship environment”(whatever that is), that it’s come at the high cost of neglecting others, and more importantly, Him.

If we aren’t serving others, how are we Christlike?

If ministry is not our primary purpose, what exactly is our purpose?

If we aren’t being salt and light in this world, why does this world even need us?

If we aren’t anointed and equipped for service, then who is doing the work of the ministry?

Father, as David prayed, so do I.

Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Teach me that serving others is serving You. Take the blinders from my eyes that I might see the needs that are all around me. Help me to understand that my neighborhood is my mission field, that souls hang in the balance, and that yes, I am my brothers keeper. Instruct me in your ways Lord, and let me not fail to praise you for the untold blessings that have been given to me. Amen

Ron

 

 

Love doesn’t quit

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This past week my Pastor and I were privileged to visit a ministry to the homeless called “Jesus Loves You Ministry” which is located in Port Charlotte, Fl. For the better part of an hour we were given a tour of the facilities and learned about all of the services this great ministry provides.

I asked a lot of questions and our tour guide Ashley was very gracious and patient in answering them all. I have to say that this young lady has a heart for this ministry that is as big as all outdoors.

As we began our tour, I was struck by a sense that this place was different somehow. After a few minutes I think I started to figure it out because what I felt in that place was love. Nothing more, nothing less, just the unconditional love of Christ.

Listening to Ashley talk about the mission of Jesus Loves You Ministry left me humbled by her genuine love for the people she calls her family. No judgement, no “holier than thou” attitude, nothing but love.

And RESPECT.

Because this ministry is so well organized, I thought I would share just a few examples of the types of ministry that take place there:

  • Identification: Identity documents such as birth certificates, ID cards or Social Security cards are often lost and expensive to replace. They assist with the process of obtaining these documents and the ministry absorbs the costs involved to do this.
  • Benefits: They assist with the application for SSI, SSDI and Veteran’s pensions.
  • Medical Attention: Often a low priority, they encourage regular physicals, prescription and follow up visits as recommended by a health care provider.
  • Employment: they assist with job search and applications and provide transportation to interviews.
  • Wellness Services: Transportation is provided weekly for showers (200 a week), two locations of which provide haircuts, clothing and lunch (served Monday thru Friday). They encourage regular contact with relatives by providing access to a telephone. They provide clean clothes and hygiene packets as well.

This ministry also has it’s own thrift store, and proceeds go right back into the ministry. Here is a picture of their building, which was as clean as a whistle I might add!

Jesus loves you ministry

This visit really touched me, and served as a reminder that the homeless are really no different than you and I. In fact, while there I mentioned to my Pastor “but for the grace of God, go I”.

I’ll go back to Jesus Loves You Ministries, and hopefully will get the opportunity to chat with a few of the folks who are served there. Meanwhile, I am reminded of what the Bible teaches us about loving others who are in need.

 

17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 1 John 3:17-19

Let us not love with words only, but in doing. Love never quits!

If you would be so kind, please lift up Jesus Loves You Ministry in prayer. Their web site is currently being redesigned, but if you go to their current site you can still learn a great deal about them. I’m sure they would be very grateful.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

Why Are We Here: Part 2

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Recently, I happened upon an online discussion about abortion. A key hot button of the discussion was that several of the more conservative participants kept referring to abortion as murder, while those from a more liberal perspective felt that using such a strong word demonstrated a lack of wisdom and compassion.

It didn’t take long before the gloves came off and the participants seemed to forget that they were on a Christian site. In short order, it got ugly. Real ugly. Words were said that certainly did not reflect the love of Christ. Feelings were hurt, and in the end nothing changed except for the fact that yet another wedge was driven between brothers and sisters in Christ.

All of which left me wondering about something. Do we not understand that the enemy excels at getting us to focus more on the things that divide us, rather than the things that bind us together? It seems that we Christians are so naive and gullible that we take the bait and swallow it before we ever have the first inkling as to what Satan is up to!

Am I the only person who thinks this way? Are the differences between us so insurmountable that even Jesus cannot bridge the gap?

Abortion has been one of the tools that Satan uses to cause division in the Church ever since it became the law of the land. Of course, he has many other tools at his disposal, but because abortion is one of those topics that people on both sides of the fence are incredibly opinionated about, it’s easy for the enemy to use it to sow discord among the brethren.

Whether you agree with abortion or not isn’t really the issue any longer. I don’t agree with it, nor do I believe it is a “right”, but then again I (unapologetically) tend to look at life through the lens of Scripture. This puts me at odds with a great many things taking place in our world today, not just abortion.

Obviously, many people, and that includes Christians, would object to my rather simplistic approach to this subject, and I have no problem with that. I happen to believe that God’s family is much larger than some of us believe it to be, and as such there is plenty of room for Christians who believe differently than I do. Insert 😊

Therefore, knowing that abortion is here to stay, is our best course of action to berate and condemn those who have an abortion, or has God called us to a higher purpose? Are we to continue down the path of division, or should we be seeking God for wisdom in how best to minister to those affected by abortion?

How would Jesus respond to the divisive issue of abortion? And of even greater importance, what would be His response to those who have had an abortion? I believe we can get a glimpse into how He would approach the subject by recalling His interaction with the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. Scripture reference John 8:3-11

As the story goes, a group of men brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in the very act of adultery. According to the Law, she was to be stoned to death. They were hoping however that Jesus would do something contrary to the Law so that they might have an accusation against him, thus giving the religious rulers just cause to eradicate him.

The story takes a very unexpected turn however when Jesus looks at the woman’s accusers and says to them “he that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone”. Their arrogant hearts condemned, as none of them were without sin; one by one they walk away. Can’t you just hear the stones dropping to the ground?

Jesus then looks to the woman and asks where her accusers are, to which she responds that there are none. Jesus then uttered what had to be the most gracious words this woman had ever heard. Deserving of death for her sins, Jesus tells her that neither does he condemn her, and to go and sin no more. Emphasis mine

This is how I see Jesus responding to the abortion issue. Notice that Jesus did not excuse the adulterous woman’s sins, but rather he acknowledged them for what they were, yet offered forgiveness instead of condemnation.

Jesus was much more concerned with forgiveness than punishment. Do you know why that was? It was because Jesus came to reconcile people to God. He could have delivered this woman to be stoned, but instead He offered her reconciliation! How amazing is that?

All of us have done things worthy of punishment, or worse. Some of us, like the adulterous woman, have committed sins worthy of death. Yet God, through His Son Jesus Christ, has chosen instead to forgive our sins and offer to us the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Does this give us a “free pass” so that we can do whatever we want to do without consequence? Of course not. No one gets a free pass. We must repent of our sin and turn to Jesus.

‘‘He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation”.   2 Corinthians 5:17-19.  ESV

The Church has been entrusted with this message of reconciliation. We were not entrusted with a hammer of condemnation. Neither were we entrusted with the gavel of judgement.

Our ministry, our very purpose, is to extend mercy and reconciliation to a lost world that gropes in darkness. We can serve no higher purpose here on earth than to represent Jesus Christ in meekness and love to those left devastated and wounded by the poor choices they have made.

That we have made.

This world doesn’t need another argument for or against abortion. It needs the people of God to stand in the gap and offer comfort and hope to those who are struggling with issues that are bigger than they are. The world needs to see Jesus.

In all of us.

In every situation.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

Coming to grips with God’s plan for your life.

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You’ve heard it said that if you’re going to dream, then dream BIG. Most people, I believe, have dreams of a bright future. What kind of husband or wife they will marry, how many children they’ll have, what type of work they will do. All of these are things that the average person dreams about.

Dream-Big.jpg

successtreasurebox.com

These dreams for our future, carefully planned and mapped to the tiniest detail are what we build our lives upon.

For many, these carefully constructed dreams and plans come to fruition, and the “happily ever after’s” of life resemble a movie being played out on the big screen. The happy couple grows old together and ultimately rides off into the sunset, content in a life well lived.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone lived a life like that? In a perfect world, maybe, but we live in a fallen world, not a perfect world. Plans change, and dreams are interrupted. People change, or worse, we find out they weren’t who we thought they were.

And sometimes, believe it or not, God Himself interrupts our lives.

That’s right; there are those among us who have been sailing along in life, content in discovering our own destinies, only to have God literally turn our lives upside down when He reveals HIS plan for our lives.

Whatever your profession, your calling in life, when you throw yourself into it, it becomes your life’s work. It becomes your identity, it defines you. Like it or not.

After spending what may well be the best years of our lives perfecting our craft, or calling, God begins to deal with us about going in a different direction.

Make no mistake; we will know when this happens to us. Jobs and positions disappear. Careers turn into a dead end. A sense of keen dissatisfaction sets in. Nothing brings excitement to our lives. We start to wonder what in the world is going on.

A host of emotions begin to pull at us. Bewilderment, confusion, a sense of loss, disappointment, even grief torments us as we try to figure it all out.

I have experienced all of these emotions, and many more, as one at a time my hopes and dreams of a life in ministry were stripped away.

I felt that my life’s work had been chartered for me, and all that was needed on my part was to simply do what others more experienced than I told me to do. Follow the formula, execute the plan, and voila, success!

The pulpit was my refuge, the only place where I felt like I was in control. It seemed to be the only place where what I said mattered. It became my identity, my safe haven, an inanimate security blanket that shielded me from the world.

But God had another plan for me. It was a plan that would take me to the back side of the desert, where no pulpit existed, where all of my plans would be systematically stripped away.

You see, I realized early on that I was incapable of being a follower “just because”. I could never be another “cookie cutter” minister. There was always too much of man and too little of God in the prescribed formula, and I soon found myself on the outside looking in so far as man was concerned.

Moses went through this sifting process, spending forty years in the desert as God prepared him for what lay ahead. Being raised in opulence, Moses was humbled to the point of needing God for his very breath.    (Exodus 3:1)

The Apostle Paul was also a companion in this process. His three years in Arabia were spent tearing away every vestige of his former life. Indeed, he said of his past that he counted it all as loss, that he might win Christ.  (Galatians 1:7, Philippians 3:7)

God’s plan all along was that I relinquish control of my life, a plan that I resisted for far too long. Even when I ventured into the world of business and enjoyed a measure of success, I never felt as though I was where I belonged. I never felt as though “this” is what I’m destined to do.

Looking back, I know that God had been calling me, preparing me for a long, long time for that which I still am not 100% certain about. I just know that He is.

We humans are a funny lot at times. We say we recognize God as Sovereign that he is in complete control. Yet in actuality, it is we who want control, we who want to plot our course. In short, we lock horns with the Almighty over who will reign supreme over our life.

All of us are meant to become vessels that our Father can use in His great kingdom. Vessel’s that can be filled with His Spirit and poured into those who need a Savior.

You are called of God, your destiny is secured in Him. Find your place in the kingdom and let God peel back the layers of Self, that you might be used of Him for His Glory.

Coming to grips with God’s plan for your life doesn’t have to be a lifetime process. You can do it today if you will humble your heart before Him and simply say Lord, I want your will to be done in my life.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which is better,being perfect or being anointed?

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A week or so ago my wife and I were asked to sing a song at the new church we’ve been attending for the past few weeks. Being thrilled for the opportunity, we gladly accepted the Pastor’s invitation. We chose an older song that was both familiar to us and one that my wife thought would bless those in attendance.

After practicing the song a few times at home we were ready by the time the mid-week service rolled around on Wednesday. The only music was me on the guitar, and due to some issues with my guitar’s pickup I wasn’t able to amplify it but had to play through a microphone. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but in this case I was not able to hear it clearly while we were singing.guitar sunset

To make a long story short, I stumbled a few times both while singing and playing. The worst was when I tried to play and sing a particular note but because I couldn’t hear it well enough, my fingers went one way and my voice another. Huge embarrassment right there!

Anyway, we got through it and took our seats. Much to my great surprise a lady whom we didn’t know came to us and shared that that particular song was exactly what she needed to hear. Soon, others also expressed their appreciation for our heartfelt song.

Meanwhile, in musicministry-v3spite of all the wonderful comments, yours truly was none too happy over his poor performance. Which brings me to the thought behind this post.

I beat myself up for several days because I was embarrassed at not hitting the right notes, so much so that the resident Princess reminded me that being perfect seemed to be more important to me than ministering to someone’s need.

Ummm…OUCH!

I knew exactly what she was getting at. Rather than permitting the Lord to work through us to minister to a hurting heart, imperfect as our song was, I wanted instead to display perfection in our capabilities. Did you get that…OUR capabilities?

Now, don’t get me wrong,  I believe we should do our best no matter what avenue of ministry we’re working in. To be sure, our version of the song that night would not win any contests, but what it lacked in perfection, it made up for that in that it touched someone’s heart.

When you get right down to it, isn’t that what ministry does? It reaches the heart and does the work of the Holy Spirit, a work that we ourselves cannot do. It is only when we yield ourselves to the Spirit that He is able to accomplish what needs to be done.The-Ministry-of-the-Holy-Spirit

All of us have been called to minister in one way or another. In fact, Peter tells us that “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God“.   1 Peter 4:10

My prayer is that I will get out of His way and permit Him to do what He knows needs to be done. If that involves a sour note or two, what does it matter so long as the end result is someone being strengthened in their walk with the Lord?

Have a blessed day!

Ron

 

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