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Being separate from the world does not mean ignoring the world

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In such a time as this, when the lines of distinction between the church and the world are growing ever more indiscernible, we must exercise caution in order not to fall prey to deception and false teaching.

While there are a great many beliefs today that are outright heresies, there are also beliefs that contain a modicum of truth yet miss the mark entirely when applied incorrectly.

Such is the case with the teaching that Christians are to separate themselves from the world. Certainly, no true follower of Christ should argue that we are not to emulate the world and its behavior. Nor are we to align ourselves with its un-Christ-like ideologies. Scripture makes this very clear; I believe.

We must be careful however in our application of this teaching because God has called us to be salt and light to this world. Or to put it another way, if we are to be effective witnesses for Christ we must interact with this world. We cannot hide our light under a bushel. [1]

To sequester ourselves apart from the world is to destroy both our witness and our credibility. The world today is in desperate need of a Savior, and you and I have been assigned the awesome responsibility of taking the Savior to the world, not hiding Him from the world.

It’s true that God has called us to be a people set apart unto himself. Sadly, due to a misapplication of this concept, many people use this as justification in setting themselves up as morally superior to everyone that doesn’t subscribe to their erroneous doctrine.

We see this attitude on display among pseudo Christian cults, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as certain “fringe” Christian groups like Oneness Pentecostals. Both groups consider themselves to be the “elect of God” and anyone not in agreement with their doctrines as apostates, thus condemning any “outsiders” to be lost. [2]

Obviously, we need to examine the scriptures in order to determine the truth about the whole notion of separation from the world. Here is what Paul said about this in his teaching to the church at Corinth.

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.”

 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”

“I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty.”
   2nd Corinthians 6:16-18

So, is Paul teaching that Christians are to have nothing to do with those outside the church of God? Of course not! That is the hallmark of a Pharisee, to see oneself as superior to others because of religious position or tradition. [3]

Paul is saying here that once we have been born again, God’s Spirit takes up residence within us and we then become His dwelling place, or temple. As such, God both lives in us and walks with us, all of which means we are on intimate terms with the Creator.

This special, intimate relationship requires that we abstain from those things, or idols, that defile our hearts and corrupt our intimacy with the Father. We may be in the world, but not of the world.  [4]

What are these idols Paul speaks of, the ones we are to come out from and separate ourselves from? Some are obvious, such as having no other gods in our lives, but some are not so obvious. And dare I say they can be different for all of us?

An idol is essentially anything that comes between you and your Creator. Whatever consumes the bulk of your time, or so much of it that you have little time left to worship God, is an idol.

For some of us it is sports. Maybe TV takes all your time. Or a job that demands most of your waking hours. It could even be your boat, golf clubs, or fishing rods. For some of us it’s our electronic devices, such as cell phones and iPads.

What Paul is NOT saying in these verses is that we are to cut off all contact with anyone who isn’t part of our tribe (church). True enough, we should not hang around with people who are obviously negative influences. None of us should desire to become best friends with the neighborhood drug pusher, for example.

The fact remains however that even the worst among us needs a Savior, just as you and I did at one time. We may not have been the neighborhood drug pusher, but we were just as lost as they now are before coming to Christ. Our hearts were just as sin-laden as any other lost person. [5]

After all, sin is sin, and lost is lost. Race, ethnicity, income, ancestry, or any other factors notwithstanding, everyone needs the Savior. That’s why Jesus came: to seek and save that which was lost. [6]

Paul tells us that because God now dwells within us, we are the sons and daughters of God. As such, our light should shine before all men that they might come to know Jesus Christ as Lord. [7]

Come out from among idols? Absolutely! Separate ourselves from those things which turn our hearts away from the Lord? Without question!

Please don’t however, turn away from anyone in need of a Savior just because they aren’t like you. Don’t distance yourself so far from them that you can no longer have compassion on their plight.

Remember: that was you and I at one time.

Be blessed, in Jesus name.

Ron

 

[1] Matt. 5:14,15…You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

[2] Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult because they deny the deity of Christ, which makes them anti-Christ even though they claim to be ‘Christian’. John 1:1 states “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. In their New World Translation, Jehovah’s Witnesses translate John 1:1 as “the Word was a god”, thus denying Christ His divinity.   Emphasis mine

[3] Matt. 23:1-7…Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.

[4] John 17:14…I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

[5] Colossians 1:21,22…And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight

[6] Luke 19:10…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

[7] Matt. 5:16…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

 

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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

Why do we complicate things?

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I don’t know about you, but I like easy. Doesn’t matter if we’re talking work, home, church, or any other aspect of our lives, I prefer the simplest approach. The less complex the better, I say.

To be honest however, it can be challenging to live a simpler life, especially in light of the fact that all of us are immersed in a world of technology that grows more complex by the day.

I love technology. I love seeing new ideas that increase productivity and efficiency. I like technology that allows us to work smarter instead of harder. If you really think about it though, the improvements that have come about because of technological advances are a two-edged sword.

Having the power of the computer in a small handheld device is great, that is until that same device becomes master of your life and you cannot function without it.

            the journal.com

While Google, Siri, and Alexa may seem like a modern version of Aladdin’s Lamp, able to grant our wishes on command, the price these devices extract from us leaves us in the precarious position of trying to protect what little privacy we have left. The massive amounts of data they are collecting could easily leave us “exposed” should it fall into the wrong hands.

All around me are grocery stores that provide internet ordering from the comfort of my home. Were I to use this service, never again would I have to contend with screaming kids, little old ladies who park their cart in the middle of the aisle, or old men who have to call their wives because they either forgot what they were sent to buy or because “they’re out of that”.

The cost of this convenience? Not much, unless you consider yet another database collecting information on your eating and shopping habits ‘not much’.

All of this begs the question: is this what Jesus was referring to when he spoke of the Abundant Life? Does having an endless array of conveniences at our fingertips mean we’re living “our best life now”?

If it is, whatever happened to “and having food and clothing be content”(1 Ti. 6:8)? Or the Apostle Paul informing us that he had learned that in whatever state he found himself to be in, he was content?

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see a whole lot of “being content” these days. From where I sit what I see is a constant clamor for more and more, with people not realizing until it’s too late that “more” brings with it it’s own set of complications.

Peace and quiet are a welcome relief from the maddening pace of the world today. Of course, the world has its own versions of those as well, but I think I’ll stay with Jesus’ version, thank you.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  John 14:27

Like all of you, my home is filled with gadgets of every sort. Computers, cell phones, iPads, TV’s, and some I’ve long forgotten about.

For all of that however, when I come home and walk through the door I am immediately greeted by a sense of peace and calm. There is only one reason for that, and it is because the peace of God envelops our home.

In the midst of a complex society where technology seems to have won the upper hand over our lives, the peace that Jesus brings restores order out of the chaos.

And that, my friends, is about as uncomplicated as it gets!

Be blessed

Ron

 

Either 100% of God’s word is true, or none of it is!

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Think about that statement for a moment. Christians believe that the Bible is God’s inerrant Word given unto man. It is a collection of sixty six books, written and compiled by various authors over the span of nearly 1500 years, from 1400 BC to A.D. 90 (approximately).

While there are many detractors who maintain that the Bible is a made up fictional tale and thus not inspired of God, the truth is that there are many Biblical facts that have been proven beyond all doubt.

Perhaps more importantly, especially to the sceptics and non-believers, is that the Bible has never been proven factually wrong. Ever. It is a book of truth, divinely revealed by God to all men.

Paul the Apostle declared that God cannot lie, and if this statement is true, then God’s word is 100% accurate. [1]

Likewise, as we search through the Scriptures we are confronted time and again with the statement that God cannot or will not lie. [2]

All of which brings me to the subject of why American Christians have such a hard time believing that every word in the Scriptures is 100% true. This is never more apparent than when confronted with truths that somehow conflict with their vision of “how things are supposed to be”.

For example; the Scripture is very clear that at some point in the future (whether near or far away is not the pont), the entire world will be under the sole authority of one ruler, who is called the antichrist. This is confirmed by Daniel, Paul, and even Jesus in the Revelation. [3]

Yet in spite of overwhelming and irrefutable Scriptural evidence of this future one world dictatorial government, many American Christians emphatically believe that America will never capitulate.

In other words, they believe that good ol’ American Nationalism will prevail, and that Old Glory will continue to wave irregardless of the rest of the nations coming under the authoritarian rule of the antichrist.

American Nationalism, as most of you know, is the widely held belief that we are better than everyone else, and that our goals, principles, and ideals are superior to everyone else’s. [4]

As a Christian, I believe the Bible is clear in its teaching that all of us are to live according to God’s word. Jesus even said as much when he told Satan that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from God”. [5]

What that means is if we are going to call ourselves Christians, then we must live ‘by and according to’ the word of God. This means 100% of God’s word.

We cannot pluck out the sections that do not align themselves with our political ideology or cause. We’re either all in or we’re not, in which case we’re out.

Whether we like a particular subject of the Bible or not is irrelevant. Whether or not we think certain scriptures apply to us or not is also irrelevant.

The fact of the matter is that the Bible was not written by holy men of God under the guise of each of us getting to pick out only those parts we agree with. If we are Christians, we come under the authority of every word. One hundred percent of the time.

The entire world is running headlong toward a one world government and ruler, a fact confirmed by none other than the United Nations, who recently issued a document entitled “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

This document serves as an outline for how to achieve a one world government, and I highly recommend that students of the Bible take a close look at it.

Wishing and hoping it were not so does not change this fact. This is the direction the world is rapidly moving towards. The course has been chartered, and it is inevitable that some form of it will come to fruition simply because the Bible declares it to be so.

No amount of wishing for a return to the “good old days” will make that come to pass. Those of us who love to relish those carefree days of long ago must do so with the understanding that those days will never return.

Those well-meaning Christians who staunchly maintain that America is God’s chosen nation and thus deserving of advantages and blessings no other nation has, are, quite honestly, deceived.

I believe it’s high time that all of God’s children come to a level of maturity in Him where we accept His word and His will for our lives without reservation. No more wavering, no more doubting, no more wishing we can go back.

Let’s acknowledge instead that His direction is best for us.

Nationalistic pride aside, either 100% of God’s word is true, or none of it is. I’m staking my life on the former. How about you?

Be blessed on this Lord’s day!

Ron

 

[1] Titus 1:2

[2] Numbers 23:19,   1 Samuel 15:29,   Psalm 89:35,

[3] Daniel 7:232 Thessalonians 2: 1-12Revelation 13:1-5 

[4] Lest anyone think otherwise, I am proud to be an American. I consider myself to be among the most blessed of all people in that God in His mercy permitted me to be born in this country. For over six decades I have enjoyed the incredible wealth and prosperity this country has provided, and I am humbled by what God has given this nation.

Yet for all of that, I do not consider myself or my country to be any better than any individual or any other country. In spite of the political rhetoric that says otherwise, we are no better or no more worthy of God’s favor than any other nation.

[5] Scripture reference Luke 4:4

 

Where do we go from here?

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Many of my older readers are no doubt familiar with the name Paul Harvey. For those too young to remember his radio and TV newscasts, Paul Harvey was a very familiar voice in America from the early 1950’s to 2008.

He is most famous for his “The Rest of the Story” segments where he would talk about a particular subject, and later in the newscast would reminder his listeners that there was more to this story than meets the eye. Hence “The Rest of the Story”.

Throughout his long career he made many special broadcasts such as So God Made a Farmer, Freedom to Chains, and one of my personal favorites If I Were the Devil.

“If I Were the Devil,” was originally broadcast in 1964, but he updated it several times over the years. The version I am sharing with you today aired in 1996. Here, In Paul Harvey’s own words, is what he said he would do, if he “were the devil.”

“If I were the prince of darkness, I would want to engulf the whole world in darkness. I’d have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree — thee. So, I would set about however necessary to take over the United States.

“I’d subvert the churches first, and I would begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please.’

“To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince the children that man created God instead of the other way around. I’d confide that what’s bad is good and what’s good is square. And the old, I would teach to pray after me, ‘Our Father, which art in Washington …’

“Then, I’d get organized, I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

“If I were the devil, I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves and nations at war with themselves until each, in its turn, was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.

“If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellect but neglect to discipline emotions. I’d tell teachers to let those students run wild. And before you knew it, you’d have drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door. With a decade, I’d have prisons overflowing and judges promoting pornography. Soon, I would evict God from the courthouse and the schoolhouse and then from the houses of Congress. In his own churches, I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I’d lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money.

“If I were the devil, I’d take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. What’ll you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich?

“I’d convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun and that what you see on television is the way to be. And thus, I could undress you in public and lure you into bed with diseases for which there are no cures.

“In other words, if I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.”

Now, I do not pretend to make Paul Harvey out to be a saint or a Prophet. I do know that he attended various churches in his lifetime, but beyond that who can say exactly what his relationship was with God?

What do know is that what Mr. Harvey wrote in 1964 has mostly come to fruition. How anyone could argue otherwise is beyond my limited capabilities to understand the human thought process.

Whether he was ‘inspired’ to write the things that he did, or whether he may have somehow seen into the future, no one can truthfully say. In my own opinion, it doesn’t matter how he knew, but what matters is that he was able to ascertain that the societal trends that were evolving in the 1960’s were planting the seeds for the destructive trends you and I are now left to contend with.

For all of our modern sociologists attempts to portray society as an ever evolving one, replete with technological advances the likes of which our forefathers could not have dreamed of, we are actually devolving. We are simply following the well-established pattern of the great cultures of history that long ago found themselves adrift on the ocean of Godlessness.

We are living in strange and difficult times, of that we can all agree. It almost seems as though the ‘powers that be’ are fully aware that they are in over their heads yet dare not admit it to the populace. To do so would be an open admission of their own fallibility.

As Christians, we are often guilty of living in the manner of our choosing, believing Grace and its accompanying freedom will cover the multitude of our sins. It’s as if we have either forgotten or have willingly discarded Paul’s admonition of Romans 6:1,2.

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

We know, of course, that to continue in sin and disobedience is a recipe for the worst kind of disaster. This applies to individuals as well as nations.

To quote historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, “What was once stigmatized as deviant behavior is now tolerated and even sanctioned; what was once regarded as abnormal has been normalized. As deviancy is normalized, so what was once normal becomes deviant. The kind of family that has been regarded for centuries as natural and moral – the ‘bourgeois’ family as it is invidiously called – is now seen as pathological.”

Indeed, it would seem that what was once considered shocking and unbelievable is now par for the course. Just as Mr. Harvey said in his “If I were the Devil” broadcast.

All of this reminds me of an event from the Old Testament book of Judges where God was once again contending with the Israelite’s on again, off again relationship with Him.

Also the Sidonians and Amalekites and Maonites oppressed you; and you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hand. Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods. Therefore I will deliver you no more. “Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress. Judges 10:12-14

The million-dollar question is now ‘Where Do We Go from Here’?

Do we continue sliding even further from the one Source of hope and security, the one Source of help who can pull us from the mire?

Or do we come to our collective senses and acknowledge our back sliding, and turn our hearts once again to the God who stands ready to make straight our paths once again?

Not unlike Paul Harvey, the answers to these questions will be found in “The Rest of the Story”.

Be blessed,

Ron

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

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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