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If my choices are between happy or sad…

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I choose Happy!

Of course, we don’t always get to choose, do we?

Life, in its continuous ebb and flow of emotions, will sometimes throw difficult challenges our way, leaving us to deal with them as they come. When this happens, and it happens to all of us, “Happy” seems a long way off doesn’t it?

For example, I’ve been dealing with a seemingly endless array of car troubles lately, troubles that are not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. Just today, I had to call a tow truck to take the car back to the garage (it was just there last Friday!).

Of course this unnerved me a bit, as I have already sunk considerable money into this vehicle and the prospect of spending who knows how much more seemed to set my head to spinning.

The more I thought of it however, the more I realized it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I mean it could have died earlier today while my daughter was driving it on the interstate. If that would have happened the outcome could have been disastrous.

So while I am not pleased at having to have more unplanned work done on this car, I am extremely thankful that my daughter is safe and no harm was done.

All of us have these kinds of issues to deal with, what some would call “1st world problems”. In the big picture, it really isn’t that big of a deal.

Unless something drastic happens, the sun is still going to rise tomorrow, the birds will sing their beautiful songs, and I have family that loves me, including a wife who is a constant source of encouragement to me.

The Apostle James had something to say about the trials and difficult situation we might find ourselves in from time to time. See if you agree with me that his perspective is a little different than most.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  James 1:2-3  ESV

Did you catch that? When life throws you a curve ball, he said we should rejoice! That seems strange to our carnal minds, doesn’t it? Can any of us truthfully say that when we’re up against a struggle that our first inclination is to rejoice?

It’s when we read the second part of the scriptures that it begins to make sense. James says that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. The King James renders this as “worketh patience“.

That’s what these challenges do to us; they cause us to learn to be steadfast, or patient in the midst of the trial. When we fully grasp this truth, we begin to better understand that God can use even our trials as part of the refining process all of us are going through.

And that my friends, puts a smile on my face, and dare I say it….

 

Happy bird french fry

Be blessed!

Ron

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When “works” replace Jesus…

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Recently I came across an article that talked about pastors filling in their church calendars for the new year. The gist of this article dealt with whether or not the items that made their calendars was real ministry or simply “busy work”.

It made for interesting reading, especially when one of the pastors posted a link to his calendar for everyone to see. Imagine my surprise when lo and behold nearly every day of the week was filled from early morning till late in the evening.

Everything from early morning Bible studies and Zumba classes, afternoon staff and business meetings, to evening choir practice and healthy cooking classes filled this church’s calendar.

Frankly, it was the busiest church calendar I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them. At first glance one would be inclined to say that this church was very busy, and they certainly were. I couldn’t imagine them squeezing anything else into an already stuffed daily agenda.

There was something odd however about this church calendar. I couldn’t figure it out at first, but I couldn’t shake the notion that in spite of so many agenda items something was missing.

Then it hit me. There was something missing! In fact, I noticed two missing items. The first was that there was no time built into the calendar for corporate prayer. The second thing that I noticed missing was there was not one single event or activity geared toward anyone outside the four walls of the church!

As I studied this I was reminded of something that Jesus said to the church at Ephesus, one of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation.

2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 “and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.    Revelation 2:2-4(NKJV).    Emphasis mine

Lets look at these verses in detail because I think we might see ourselves in them.

Jesus recognized the works that the church had been doing. He called attention to their labor and patience, and how many of us can relate when it comes to having patience when doing the Lords work?

Jesus also mentioned the church’s disdain for those who practiced evil. All of us understand this don’t we? We are trying to live a Godly life in the midst of a perverse and increasingly evil society, and it’s only going to become more challenging.

He goes on to list several more very positive attributes of the church at Ephesus, leaving no doubt that He knew this church intimately. Hmmm…do you suppose Jesus knows the church you attend in such intimate detail?

At first glance this church could be the model for all other churches in the area. Things were going good, and I imagine there was quite a buzz about all the wonderful things the church at Ephesus was doing.

But, and there’s always a but, right? There was a problem in the church, a problem so important that Jesus couldn’t let it slide without calling their attention to it.

It all began with the word “nevertheless”. Just hearing the word sends thoughts of “uh oh, here it comes” to our minds. Even after all of the praise Jesus gave the church, there was a “nevertheless” that cast a dark shadow on what was an otherwise glowing report.

Nevertheless, he said, this church had lost their first love.

Ouch!

What does this mean, to have lost your first love? It means that the church at Ephesus no longer loved the Lord with the same level of intensity they once had. Their passionate love for Jesus had been replaced by something else.

They had lost their zeal for Christ. Typically when this happens, we just go through the motions of serving God. Our heart is no longer motivated by the love of Jesus, we become content to do as many good works as we can, placing our trust in the deeds themselves rather than Jesus.

Ask me how I know this!

Do you know what this is called? It’s called RELIGION, and it ceases to be about a relationship with Christ. The church at Ephesus abandoned their first love in exchange for cold, formal, impersonal RELIGION.

This is the same poison that has infected the Church today. The poison of RELIGION has suffocated the once fervent relationship she had with Christ. This is why there is such apathy in the pew today. We have supplanted relationship with form, with rules, with do’s and dont’s.

But it doesn’t have to be like this! There’s more to the story! In the next verse, Jesus gave the church at Ephesus an “out”. He told them to REPENT. That’s right, simply REPENT.

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”   Rev. 2:5   KJV

I believe that this is the message for the Church today. Remember where we came from, acknowledge we have strayed, repent and get going again.

Return to the love of Jesus, then watch how much impact our works will have on the world around us!

Maybe we should put THAT in our church calendars!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

Keurig Christianity?

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I’m pretty sure most of us have one of those Keurig coffee makers setting around on the counter. The convenience of being able to make just one cup at a time of our favorite coffee is hard to beat in my opinion. A bit expensive, but nice just the same.

Keurig

Keurig.com

But what happens if you want to drink 2 or 3 cups of coffee? Or what happens if you have 4 or 5 people over for coffee and all you have is the Keurig?

The answer is you still get one cup of coffee at a time. Interestingly enough, this “one at a time” concept of the Keurig is not unlike the mindset of many of us in the church today.

I’ve taken to calling it the “Keurig mentality”. We say that we desire more of God, that we want a closer walk with Him. The problem is we want our one cup filled just one time, and we want it filled up instantaneously. Isn’t that how many of us approach God?

I’m here Lord. Give me everything I need right now so I don’t have to keep coming back to have my one cup refilled. Lets get this over with. One stop shopping at the corner church!

As though that were somehow enough.

Unfortunately, that’s not how this works. Or as the Facebook TV commercial used to say, “that’s not how any of this works”!

Desiring God is a noble endeavor, one that all of us should strive to pursue. But growing and maturing in Christ is the result of a lifetime commitment. Getting out of the starting gate as a new Christian and growing into the mature,strong believer that God wants us to become requires patience, experience, and faith(Romans 5:4).

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”      I Corinthians 9:24-25

Running a marathon requires training, discipline, the correct diet, and a resolve to make it to the finish line.

marathon runners

NPR.org

Oh, and many, many refills. You see, one cup just won’t do!

Be blessed!

Ron

Weathering The Storms

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According to the calendar it is Springtime.I said “according to the calendar” because around here you wouldn’t know it was spring by looking at the thermometer.Or my rain gauge,which had an inch of ice in it this morning!

Just a week ago we had 55 mph winds and lot’s of rain.This morning I awoke to the yard covered in snow.I would have taken a picture of that but the wind chill was a balmy 19 degrees,so I decided you would have to use your own imagination for that one.

So,yes it is supposed to be Springtime,but the weather doesn’t want to cooperate.In fact,as I look out my patio door right now it’s snowing again!

From watching the evening news I understand that millions of you are dealing with weather extremes all across the country,so I guess that means it’s just one of those years.

We’re all weathering the storms this spring.

Even the animals, for example.Right behind my back yard is a small pond that has an island in the middle of it.Like clockwork,every year about this time several Canadian geese fly in to do battle for this small pond in order to use it as their nesting sight.This year was no different as we watched several pairs of geese battle it out for this prime piece of real estate.Eventually,one couple reigned supreme and claimed the rights to the pond and the island,driving all other competitors away.

Within days the female was sitting on the island,just like every other year for the past 10 years or so that we’ve witnessed this annual ritual.She’s hard to see in this photo,but if you look closely to the left of the center of the island you can just make out her black head through the brush.

2016-04-09 14.17.48

This goose has weathered the strong winds,pounding rains,ice and snow,and the rising water that threatens the nest,and who knows what type of predators,all without ever leaving her nest.

She does this because nature has taught her that before she gets to experience the new life that will soon start pecking it’s way out of the shell,there are things to endure.

Freezing nights

Hunger

Loneliness

Storms that must be weathered

We’ve all heard the term “silly as a goose”or “they don’t have the sense that God gave a goose”,whatever that means.Yet I’m convinced that there is much we Christians can learn from these “silly geese”.

Things like Endurance

The female goose will not leave her unborn for any reason,and once the goslings are born she becomes even more protective.She stays right there through the fiercest of storms because she somehow knows that if she were to abandon the nest her unborn have zero chance of survival.So she patiently endures whatever nature throws at her,because a happy day is just around the corner.Branta_canadensis_-Calgary,_Alberta,_Canada-8

Maybe we should remember this: For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.   Psa 30:5 NKJV

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.   Heb 12:2 NKJV   (emphasis mine)

All of us either have,or will have things which must be endured.Not because we don’t love God,or because we’ve done something wrong,or heaven forbid not because of what some false teacher may say, that it’s your own lack of faith that has caused your misfortune.If we endure with patience, victory WILL come.

Things like Commitment

The nesting goose is in it for the long haul.Over these past years of observing their actions I have learned that the time varies from when they start nesting till the goslings appear.No doubt there are a great many struggles,with weather being just one of those.Still,it doesn’t matter because none of those things will move the goose off her nest.

Reminds me of something Paul said here: But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.   Act 20:24 NLT

The King James version of that particular verse says it this way: But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

That should be our battle cry,that nothing will move me from my appointed destiny in Christ.

Things like Patience

There is something in nature that tells the goose that it’s going to take a lot of patience to bring forth her young. I watch the nesting goose on the pond and I see how she reacts to things that invade her space.Like the muskrat that swims around her island,and even occasionally takes a few steps up on the island.

Or the ducks that fly in to spend time on the pond.The nesting goose just takes it all in stride,annoying as it might be.Funny thing about these ducks.The male goose guarding the pond has no problem with them,but just let another goose act like it’s going to land and the baby ducklingfight is on!

If we’re to weather the storms that come our way,we need a great deal of patience too,as the writer of Hebrews reminds us:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,   Heb 12:1 KJV

Life has a way of testing our patience doesn’t it? At least,that’s been my experience so far!And this life really is a race isn’t it?

A race that has to be ran

A race that has to be endured

A race that has to be taken one day at a time

Just like the geese on the pond out back,we’re in this race for the long haul.

Weathering the storms is never easy,in fact the process can be painful at times because life’s storms come in all varieties;physical,mental,financial,illness,even death.But please remember this one thing the next time you find yourself battling the forces that are coming against you:

After the storm has passed,the sunshine is brighter than ever before.

Ron