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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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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Translation or Demonstration: which do we need more of today?

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As of this post, there are approximately 100 versions of the English translation of the Bible. Amazingly enough, I am old enough to remember when you could count the number of Bible translations on one hand! My, how things have changed!

We now have versions that have eliminated all of the “impossibly difficult to pronounce words”. There are also versions that contain word for word translations of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek . We have Women’s,Men’s, Teens, Tweens, Children’s, Student’s, Leader’s, and New Believers Bibles.

Browsing online or through a Christian book store reveals a plethora of KJV,NKJV,ESV,NIV,NLT,NASB,HCSB,ISV, and about ninety other translations.

Confused yet? You should be.

Why do we have so many translations of the Bible when statistics show that only one in five Americans actually read the Bible? If we are to believe the data, it seems obvious that our attempts to make the Bible easier to read have largely been for naught.

Of course some will argue that if even one person is strengthened in their walk with Christ through reading one of the above mentioned Bibles it’s worth it, and I couldn’t agree more. I am thrilled that the Word of God is being presented in a manner so easily understood by the masses.

Yet somehow, the sheer volume of Bible translations hasn’t equated to stronger, faith filled Christians. How could they be, when the percentage of Bible reading is so low? Or as the Princess recently told me, just because man changes a lot of the words, man cannot change the heart.

Could it be that our focus is misdirected? Do you suppose that even with all of the available translations of the Bible we are still missing something?

I believe that we are. It’s a key component of our relationship with Christ, and it’s written on the very pages of the Bible we aren’t reading! Consider the following from  2nd Corinthians,chapter two:

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

In his 2nd letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul has just revealed to us the key component I was referring to. Let me explain.

It is not excellency of speech, for Paul said that he didn’t come spouting great sounding words, nor did he come declaring his vast wisdom. He could have, but that wasn’t his focus.

He did not come to them bragging about all of his past accomplishments, or of his powerful connections. Again, he certainly could have done so, as his resume was filled with them. What he did profess however was the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

Paul did not speak as to appeal to the wisdom of men, though he certainly could have held his own with the brightest minds of his day. Being a master of the Law, Paul was well versed in all aspects of communication, yet he made no effort to appease the conscience of men.

What Paul brought was nothing that would appeal to the carnal nature of man. What he brought to Corinth was a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God.

This is what I believe to be the missing, key component in our relationship with Christ: the demonstration of God’s power.

All of the things that Paul did NOT do or bring to Corinth, we have in abundance today. We have some of the most highly educated and knowledgeable men and women to be found anywhere in the world standing in our pulpits today.

We have men and women so eloquent of speech as to be capable of painting a thousand virtual masterpieces with their great swelling words, all designed to appeal to our carnal nature.

Yet what we desperately lack is a demonstration of the power of God. Please understand what Paul was referring to by the “demonstration of the Spirit and power”.

He was referring to the power of the Spirit to heal the sick, save the lost, and yes, even to raise the dead. Real power. God power. The kind of power that has become nearly extinct in our day.

While publishers continue to pump out more and more new Bible translations that go largely unread, the Church starves for a demonstration of the real power of God.

I must ask though, how can God reveal Himself in power when we don’t even know Him as the God of the Word?

Why is this so important? Paul gives us the answer in the last verse, where he says “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God”.

Our faith, that precious commodity that we are to cherish and nurture as a precious gift, must not be in any man. No preacher, no pastor, certainly not a “pay for your blessing” televangelist. Paul declares that our faith should stand in the power of God.

As many of you know, in the hardest times of your life faith that is rooted in God will stand. Likewise, faith that is rooted in man will last only as long as the good times last. God’s power is infinite, and His supply has not diminished with the passing of time.

My prayer is that all who read this will commit their being to God,not man. That instead of running to the next conference or the next hot off the press translation, we will run instead to the Word of God.

Regardless of the translation.

Ron

 

A Watchman…A Warning

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Long before the advent of modern electronic technology such as telegraphs, telephones, and most recently the Internet, cities used to depend upon the town crier, or watchman, to alert them of impending danger.

An alert watchman would see an approaching army, for example, and would begin to warn the city’s residents to take the necessary actions to defend themselves.

Conversely, should the watchman fall asleep on duty, destruction was almost certain to be the end result because by the time people realized what was happening, any attacking army would be upon them.

There are many examples of Biblical watchmen, most of whom were faithful to their task, yet the position of watchman was considered to be so important that the Lord issued a warning should they be derelict in their duties.

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’”     Ezekiel 33:6 NKJV

Obviously, to understand that trouble is coming and to do nothing would be something akin to high treason. In the New Testament,we know that Paul understood this when he said “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!”                       I Corinthians 9:16 NKJV.  Emphasis mine

An appointment, or calling to be a watchman is a grave responsibility, which Paul acknowledged by saying that out of necessity he MUST preach the gospel. In other words, Paul was called of God to a task he could not deny, for if he did the souls of untold millions would be required at his hands.

Throughout the Old Testament we find example after example of warnings that were sent from God to His people Israel. These messages were delivered by prophets, or watchmen, that God had called for this specific purpose.

Unfortunately, these messages more often than not fell upon deaf ears, such as in this example: 

“Thus says the LORD: “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’”      Jeremiah 6:16-17

In this example, we find that God has sent his watchman Jeremiah to deliver a warning to the people to turn around and walk in the old paths, where the good way was, and to listen to the sound of the trumpet, that is to listen to what the watchman had to say.

In both of these instances we find the response from God’s children to be “we will not”. Having historical knowledge as our reference, we understand that there was severe punishment inflicted upon God’s children for their stubborn rebellion, which led to the eventual scattering of an entire nation to the four corners of the earth.

Today, God still uses watchmen to cry out to the people of the world to repent and turn their hearts to God. There are also watchmen crying aloud to the Church for her to repent, and return unto the Lord that redeemed her.

Alas, I am afraid that the response from both the world and the Church are nearly identical: “we will not”!

I believe, as many of you do, that we are living in what the Bible refers to as “the last days”. It doesn’t take a scholar to understand that we are seeing the fulfillment of many of the scriptures that foretold of His coming.

I will spare you the list of evils being perpetrated on a daily basis. After all, what’s the point? We are neither blind nor deaf. We all see and hear with our own eyes and ears what is happening all around us.

Or do we? Do we really see the depth of sin that has enveloped our world? Do we really hear the cry of anti-Christ rhetoric emanating from every corner of the earth?

I am afraid that we have ignored the watchman’s cry and said “we will not” one too many times, thus deadening our spiritual senses to what “thus saith the Lord”.

In His Revelation message to the seven churches in Asia Minor, Jesus said “he who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”. He repeated this no less than seven times, once for each of the seven churches.

I wonder, do we have “ears to hear”, or have we become so hardened that we scarcely give God’s word a second thought?

As I write this post, hurricane Irma is bearing down on the area I live in, taking aim to inflict a direct hit upon us as a Cat 4 or Cat 5 storm. For a solid week or more the warnings have been going out to prepare, prepare, and prepare some more for an unprecedented storm that threatens this entire area.

Storm surges of up to fifteen feet of water are predicted just south of where I am. That’s right: a solid wall of water fifteen feet tall is about to engulf much of SW Florida. Millions are now under mandatory evacuations.

Yet would you believe that with less than 24 hours until the expected landfall, people are still trying to find plywood, bolts, screws, bottled water, gasoline, etc.? To this relative newcomer, I can hardly believe this!

Complacency is rampant among the citizens here. Far too many are saying “that’s what they said about the last one and nothing that bad happened”.

Wait, isn’t that what the world and the Church are saying about the watchman’s warnings to “turn around and walk in the old paths, where the good way was”?

A Watchman.   A Warning.

When will we learn?

NOTE: this post is being published at 5:00 AM Sunday. The hurricane is expected to hit here in approximately 12 hours. All of us here covet your prayers.

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

5 immutable facts about our Christian walk…

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There are many “non negotiables” concerning our covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. Here are five of them that should be required reading for us all.

“The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”
‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭2:11-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Determine in your heart to be faithful to the end….

Ron

He’s All I Need

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Have you ever struggled with something that was so much bigger than you that it seemed like a hopeless situation?  Perhaps the better question for many of us would be not if we have such a situation, but  how many of those types of situations are we struggling with!

Lets face it, in this world everybody is dealing with something. The size of the “something” might differ with us, but we all have our battles to fight.

But I love how the Word always seems to have just the right nugget for the particular situation we’re dealing with. Take the everyday battles we all endure, don’t they make you weary at times?  They sure do that to me.

That’s why I love the following:

Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.

My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalms 73:25-26

The Lord understands that we don’t have an endless supply of strength and energy. Our strength runs out,and to be honest we can get weary in our hearts and spirit as well. In fact, throwing in the towel might not seem like the worst option at times!

To offset our weaknesses, God takes over and gives us the necessary strength to keep going. You know how we know when God takes over? It’s when we sense His peace in the midst of the storm. That’s right,God doesn’t always remove the problem,but he is faithful to walk beside of us in the midst of it all.

Many of us have prayed for certain things such as healing, restoration, peace of mind, etc.,only to see the situation either not resolved or perhaps grow more serious. This leads us to ask one of those “questions of the ages”…

“Lord, why aren’t you answering my prayers. Are you not even hearing me?”

This can be one of the most disheartening things to deal with as a child of God, these unanswered prayers. What are we to do when we’ve done all we can do, when we’ve followed the script and still get no answer?

Well, I can tell you what one of the greatest men of the bible did when he was facing a similar situation. The Apostle Paul had a physical issue, exactly what it was remains a mystery, but the fact is he had a physical issue and he had prayed three times for healing.

And got nothing in return. No healing. Nothing.

Has that ever happened to you? I’ve lived it myself, and I’m pretty sure most of you have as well. We pray and pray, we do our best to believe and not waver in our faith, and boom! Nothing happens.

So what about the great Apostle Paul? This man prayed for many others and saw them healed. Why on earth did God not heal him?

Lets see what Paul himself had to say about this.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.”

“And He said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  II Cor. 12: 7-9

Paul prayed three times for healing. Perhaps you’ve prayed hundreds of times more than that without an answer?  The truth is, Paul did receive an answer, it just wasn’t the one he was expecting.

Jesus told Paul that His grace was sufficient for his situation, and that His strength was made perfect in our weakness. Please don’t brush this off with a “well, some consolation that is”!

If we will learn to trust Him in all things, His grace will be enough to see us through. No one can adequately express why God doesn’t answer our prayers in the manner we ask Him to. Countless theologians have tried and failed. The truth is we want what we ask for.

Aren’t we like that in all things? We want it our way, and we want it now.

God however, doesn’t operate on our schedules. Well, at least He doesn’t on mine. He is not tied to a calendar or a clock, and it is for certain that His ways are higher than our ways. Meaning, it is futile to try and understand the why’s and how’s of God’s doings.

The one thing we can do however is accept that His grace is sufficient for our every need. Accept that when I’m weak, His strength takes over.

Acknowledge that He is all you need.

Be blessed,

Ron

4 Reasons Why Finishing Strong Is So Important

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What an incredible journey we’re on with Jesus!  Just thinking about the years spent with Him as my Lord brings back so many memories, memories of happy, joyful times of serving Him with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

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When I reflect upon the seemingly impossible situations I’ve seen God’s children come through, I just want to shout out a hearty “Praise The Lord Somebody”!

Alas, none of us can stay in that happy place where the sweet memories of our past reside forever. Sooner or later, we have to pick up where we left off and press forward.

Unfortunately, mixed in with those happy memories are those of not so happy times, when my new faith was challenged by family and friends who did not approve of “the new me”.

But one’s life is made up of the sum total of both good and bad, positive and negative,which is why I think it’s been the experience of a lifetime, and as the old gospel song says ” I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey now”!

And that brings me to the subject of this post: Finishing Strong.

For all of us, there is a real danger in becoming complacent in our walk with Christ. So easy is it to fall into our own comfort zones, that often we don’t even realize we’re there until something happens to awaken us out of the slumber.

The Apostle Paul recognized this danger and encouraged us to stay ever vigilant, continuing to move forward in our walk with God.

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14   KJV   emphasis mine

With this in mind, here are 4 reasons why I believe finishing strong is so important.

  1. We have an obligation to those who have gone on before us to finish well. Christian history is resplendent with countless examples of those who have preceded us and were faithful until the end. The Bible speaks of “a great cloud of witnesses” who have paved the way. Our faithfulness in turn serves as inspiration and hope to those coming up behind us.

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  1. This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation’s lost souls. Think about that one for a while. This means that we have a solemn obligation to win the lost of our generation. We cannot stop evangelizing our world, but in fact we should be increasing our efforts in this area, especially as we see the day approaching. Paul said that he “pressed toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus“.

Pressing equals tremendous effort!  All of us have been given just one life in which to accomplish everything we’ll ever do. We should live like we believe that!

  1. At the end of the day, when our journey has ended, only those things which we have done for Christ will really matter. To the Corinthian church Paul said: “Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad

It is important that we finish strong because there is coming a judgment that all of us will be required to attend. Whether we have done good or bad, all must be accounted for in that day. Is this not sobering?       Scripture reference 2 Cor. 5:9-10  

  1. Finally, we must finish strong because we have been given a promise that if we endure till the end, we shall be saved (Matt. 10:22). Finishing our race as strongly as we can simply means that we cannot coast to the finish line.

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“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. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”   I Cor. 9:24-27

I trust that this post has been an encouragement to you to finish as strongly as you can. While it is true that there are many obstacles in our path, and for certain there will be more to come, I am confident that Jesus will walk alongside us as we finish this race.

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

Ashamed of the Gospel?

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We hear a lot of talk today about shaming. Whether it’s body shaming, food shaming,gender shaming or whatever else comes to mind, it’s all a form of ridicule. Taken to the extreme,which is of course how we think in our society today, any type of criticism or critique can be labeled as shaming.

I have found another type of shaming however that garners very little attention,if any, in the media. It’s called Spiritual Shaming. It happens when a Christian chooses to be led by God’s Word rather than the prevailing opinions of the age.

A Christian today is labeled insensitive, intolerant, a bigot, unloving, uncaring, and on and on it goes. Interestingly enough, all of these labels can more easily be attributed to the very ones using them than to Christians. But I digress.

As I said, no one seems to want to mention this type of shaming, do they?

Ridicule can be a very effective tool in Satan’s toolbox. It is used to damage, hinder,or even destroy ones Christian testimony. It is certainly not a new phenomenon, in fact here is an example from nearly two thousand years ago:

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”    ‭‭II Timothy‬ ‭1:8-12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬.  emphasis mine

One can only wonder how much of the New Testament would not have been written had Paul been as thin skinned as many of us appear to be today. Ridiculed, or shamed continuously, he marched on, confident that his Lord would see him through every situation. He remained unashamed.

Where is that mindset among believers today?

I know that some Christians become offended at the Word of God. It convicts us of our sinful life styles and reveals the dark places of our hearts, and we don’t like that one bit. The Word demands that we do something about US!

That’s right, the Word will never deflect our own shortcomings elsewhere, it demands that we own them and do something about them!

It doesn’t change with every new fad, nor does it change with popular opinion. It remains unchanged,true, and steadfast. It doesn’t even ask if we like it! It does however require us to conform to it, not the other way around.

Ashamed of the Gospel? There was a time when I was new in the faith, and the case could be made that I was indeed ashamed of the Gospel. I didn’t like the shaming, the ridicule that came with my new faith,because it hurt. My lack of spiritual maturity caused me to take it personally.

That was a long time ago, and my once new faith has matured to the point that I now fully understand that it’s not about me, it’s all about Him. Shaming, ridicule, all of that is actually directed at the Christ in me, not me personally.

Because of that truth, I have nothing to be ashamed of.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”   Romans 1:16

Have a great day!

Ron

 

 

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