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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

 

 

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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.

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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

 

How to survive when your world falls apart

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You’ve been there,haven’t you? You’ve carefully planned things out down to the smallest detail. You’ve selected the career path that you believe will bring you security for theplan rest of your life. You have researched and chosen the best school to receive your education.

Looking even further ahead,you begin to envision the man or woman of your dreams. You see the two of you dancing through life,living in a comfortable home where your children can grow up safe and content.

A fairy tale existence;isn’t that what we all plan for,what we all dream about?

That is until the harsh realities of life begin to chip away at our hopes,our dreams,our best laid plans. Suddenly,what was once sunshine and rainbows gives way to the raging storms of divorce,sickness,abuse,or worse.shattered-dreams

Some of you have been there. Are there now.

Your world has fallen apart,and no amount of pleading,begging,or deal making can restore what was. Where do you turn when you’re out of options?

I’ve been there. I have survived abandonment.I’ve made it through the gut wrenching agony of a divorce I did not choose to be a part of. I know what it feels like to be left for dead on the side of the road,to be made to feel as though you have no worth. I understand completely how debilitating and life altering divorce can be to every person it touches.

I have been to the brink. To that place from which many never return,that place where death seems a welcome relief from the agonizing pain of losing everything you once held dear. Having lost family,home,and in the eyes of denominational Christianity my ministry,I am well acquainted with loss.

Beloved,when you have lost it all,when there are no options and no help to be found,life no longer seems worth living.Such is the reality of hopelessness. It is the embodiment of the scripture that says the enemy comes to steal,kill,and destroy(John 10:10).

Ah,but there is hope after all! I know because I’m living proof!hope

Those plans you made? The dreams you had? They might all be a distant memory by now. Many of MY plans have failed.A great many of MY hopes and dreams have been shattered. Those were MY plans and MY dreams.

The purpose of the Lord however,stands eternal.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. Proverbs 19:21   ESV

God has a plan for you. God has big plans for you. A purpose. Thoughts of good,to give you a great finish to this life you live.And his plan for your life supersedes everything else you have already endured or may be enduring at this moment.When you get right down to it,His plans,His purpose,trump all of your heartaches.

When your world crumbles all around you,as it surely will at some point in this life,what’s your survival plan? If you don’t have one,may I suggest one for you?

I would lay hold of the promises of God. Of the One whose purpose stands forever. Lets face it, nothing we can come up with on our own is better than the plans God has for our lives. Why not place our hopes and dreams in His hands?

I can tell you this,it works. When we make Him priority “A” in our lives instead of “plan B”,we may still go through seemingly insurmountable difficulties.The difference is that we are not walking through them alone.We are walking through them with the One whose purpose will stand.

Now that’s what I call a survival plan!

Where is the Lord God of Elijah Today?

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Thinking of the Old Testament prophets,their ministries,their successes and failures has me wondering why we don’t see God show up today like He did back then.In light of the fact that (a) God never changes(Malachi 3:6) and (b) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever(Heb 13:8),it seems reasonable to ponder these things.

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Blueletterbible.com

I have heard it preached and taught that God just doesn’t move like that today.That God has a new covenant with us through His Son Jesus.

While I agree with that,it still doesn’t explain why we don’t see God moving in the powerful ways like we read about in His Word.Here is just one example.

From the Old Testament book of II Kings,chapter two,we read where the successor to the prophet Elijah,in this case a man named Elisha, takes the mantle,or cloak that fell from Elijah and smacks it upon the Jordan River.
No doubt expecting something miraculous he utters the quote “where is the Lord God of Elijah“?(II Kings 2:14),at which time the waters of the Jordan dried up and Elisha was able to pass over on dry land.We thus see that the prophetic ministry of Elijah was passed on to Elisha.

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Bibleencyclopedia.com

Now,given what I’ve already stated about God never changing,suppose we turn Elisha’s question around to read like this:”Where Are God’s Elijah’s Today”? If in fact we serve a God that changes not, it stands to reason that His power has not diminished with the passing of time.

So we can assume that God is still God,and that as God He can still do what He did hundreds or thousands of years ago.The reason then that we don’t see God performing the miraculous must lie elsewhere.

Of course,if you are a cessationist you believe that all miracles stopped long ago.That those things only happened for our admonition and pertained to the apostolic,or early church era.I do not share that view but believe that God was performing the miraculous long before there was a church,and it is His desire to do so today.

It is my contention however that the “Elijah’s of God”in our time have been derelict in their duties,resulting in a famine of the miraculous.Tough words indeed,and they hit home with me as well.

For certain,the word “miracle” is thrown around a lot today.Nearly every gospel crusade or event proclaims the presence of miracles.Just last night I listened to a man telling of the

incredible miracles taking place in Africa.They weren’t shown mind you,just talked about.

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Slideplayer.com

My minister brethren cringe when I say this,but I’ll go out on a limb here and say that 99.9% of Christians alive today have never seen a complete,instantaneous physical healing.

This must be one of the great tragedies of our time!

Many will take this lack of physical evidence and use it to make their case for cessasionism,however this reasoning is a scapegoat for our own lack of faith and is indicative of a culture of unbelief in our churches.

Far from being finished with performing the miraculous,I am of the persuasion that God still desires to work through His Church to do those things that only He can do.Perhaps a stumbling block to this is that we want the credit? Just a thought.

Over 2100 years ago God used another prophet to speak to the nations,specifically to this generation.This prophet’s name was Daniel,whom you may remember as being thrown into a den of hungry lions for refusing to bow to an ungodly decree.

This same Daniel had a message for the Church of our day that should cause all of us to think about whether or not the miraculous has ceased.This message is found in the book of Daniel,chapter eleven.

Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.  Daniel 11:32 NKJV

Daniel looked into the future and saw the Antichrist deceiving the people of earth.More importantly,he also saw God’s people as strong and doing great exploits.In other words,if you believe as I do that we are living in the last days before the return of Christ,we are to expect God to show up through His people(the Church) and do the miraculous.

I must admit that I do not know when God’s Elijah’s will show up on the scene.I believe many of them are alive today,perhaps waiting for the clarion call from on High to go forth.One thing I do know is this:when they show up and begin to do exploits, we will not have to wonder if they are real.

Maybe YOU are one of God’s Elijah’s.Perhaps something is stirring deep within your soul that is calling you,drawing you to a closer walk with the Lord.If so,I pray that you heed His call and begin to prepare yourself.

God is still God.In the past He always did what He said He would do.

I am expecting Him to continue this pattern. After all,He hasn’t changed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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