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Is your focus inward or outward?

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Me!  Me!  Me!

Does that sound like someone you know?

I!     I!     I! All about me

Does this sound like someone you know?

Is it all about them?

Does the world revolve around them?

Do they have no time for anyone but themselves?

Of course, most of us know people like this. The world is a very selfish place, after all.

But what if we substituted them, they, and themselves for me, us, and ourselves?

That changes things a bit, doesn’t it? It sort of places us in the uncomfortable position of determining whether our focus is inward or outward.

As Christians we know that we cannot live our lives only for ourselves because the Bible is very clear that this life is not all about us, our wishes, our desires, or our needs.

It’s actually ALL about Him.

Because it’s ALL about Him, our focus then must be outward and not inward. As difficult and as challenging as that might be at times, we have no other choice. The fact is, we have been commanded to love others just as Christ loves us.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”   John 13: 34-35

Loving one another is one of the foundational truths of the Church. Our love and concern for one another tells the world that we have Christ abiding within us.

The world in which we live however, says that YOU are number one, that YOU are the most important person in the world. This concept is both unbiblical and self-defeating because it attempts to lift us up while denigrating God.

In Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia, he reminded them that through love they were to serve one another. To emphasize this, he also gave them a warning that if they did not do this, but rather turned on one another, they would eventually destroy each other.

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! Gal. 5:13-15

Helping handsOurs is a call to serve, to prefer others, to put another’s needs before our own. This is the litmus test of whether we are who we say we are, or if we are yet another in a long line of imposters.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.   1 John 3: 17-18

Do you and I care about others?

If so, do they know it because we tell them, or because we show them by our actions?

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.   Gal. 6:9-10

By focusing outward instead of inward, we are presented with innumerable opportunities to minister to others.

From where I set, I think the world could use a whole lot more of that.

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

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Is God really doing a “New Thing”?

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You hear preachers say it all the time: ‘God’s doing a New Thing today’. This implies that the hearer should be expecting God to do something great, something that has never been done before.

In preacher circles, this is what is known as a cheer-leading statement, one used to elicit an exciting response from the crowd. After all, most people like to be in on a new thing coming down the road. And what could be bigger and more exciting than God Himself doing something new?

If you were to Google “God is doing a new thing”, it would bring up about 170 million results. You can take your pick from memes, rap songs, sermons, and videos. In other words, there’s something for everybody!

See, I told you people really want to be in on a new thing!

I have heard this repeated so many times in church from so many different preachers that I’ve lost track. Where does this statement come from, and what does it really mean? And who is it speaking to anyway?

Well, the phrase is part of a verse of scripture found in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. In context, this verse belongs with verses 43:16-28 in which God reminds Israel that it was He who delivered them from bondage, and it would be He who would bring them back from exile.

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. Isa. 43:19

This verse speaks specifically to the Jews. It does not speak to the church, nor does it speak to individual Christians. There is nothing prophetic about it apart from their soon return from Babylon. It was spoken to the nation of ancient Israel. Period.

It’s incredible how we Christians will take a verse here and there and somehow invent a new doctrine, as is the case with the above verse. Then again, we are living in the time when Paul said that men would turn their ears from the truth.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.  II Tim. 4:3, 4

Yet this does bring up an interesting question, at least in my mind. Why are God’s people always looking for the ‘next big thing’?

Why do we constantly need to be told that God is up to something? It seems that some believe that unless we are fed a steady diet of ‘new things’ we will lose interest and begin to drift away.

Which begs the question…

What is wrong with us?

Here’s what I think. I think if we were to humble our hearts, commit to seek His face on a daily basis, spend quality time alone with him in prayer, and study to show ourselves approved unto God, we would find that we would never need to look for the ‘next big thing’.

Our lives would be so full of excitement and enthusiasm coming directly from the Holy Spirit that we would no longer need to hear about ‘a new thing’.

We would be living it every day!

Now that’s something to get excited about!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

A Tale of two Paths

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The Path you have chosen.

The Path that has been chosen for you.

path

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

I’ve always been somewhat envious of those who carve out their own career path in life. Of course, I suppose all of us do this to a certain extent, whether intentional or not.

I’m referring however to those individuals who are driven to the point of mapping out their lives, setting specific goals, and then working their tails off to achieve those goals.

I’m sure you’ve heard someone talk about how all they ever wanted to do was to accomplish this or that, and years later they finally realized their dreams.

There’s something very special about a person who can maintain such discipline, especially from the perspective of a lot of us who don’t seem to have that specific gene in our DNA.

goals

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

When I was much younger, I too thought I had my life mapped out. I dreamed of making a career in the outdoors as a professional bass fisherman. If that didn’t work out my back up plan was to be a writer, a dream I still wish to pursue.

As is often the case however, things didn’t turn out the way I had envisioned. A little thing called LIFE got in the way, and I said goodbye to fishing and hello to a real job and real responsibilities.

In spite of the twists and turns, the ups and downs, and a few “falling off the cliffs” thrown in for good measure, one day God came knocking on the door of my heart.

And I’ve never been the same since.

It was obvious right from the start that God had another plan for my life. If you’ve ever sensed that God has called you to a higher purpose, then you understand what I’m saying.

When you sense that call, your perspective on life changes because you come to the realization that you are part of something much bigger than anything your own plans could ever accomplish.

When you yield to the call, you are relinquishing control of your destiny and placing it firmly in His hands. And when you take that final step of submission, that’s when it hits you: Someone much higher and much greater than you has had a plan for your life all along.

heavenly sky

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

This is not to say that allowing God to call the shots is always an easy thing to do, because it is not. There is a lot of fear in letting go of the reigns, and I have observed (and learned) that this is actually a work in progress.

Yet there is also a great calmness that comes over us when we allow the Master to take control. A peace that passes all understanding is how Paul referred to it when preaching to the Philippian church.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Philippians. 4:7

Perhaps you’re in a place where your life plans are just not working out the way you thought they would. Who knows, maybe you’re at the point where you’re ready to start over with a brand new plan.

If you are, I pray that you will give God an opportunity to show you the plan that He has for your life. Give Him the chance to show you the difference between you charting your own course, or carving your own path, and Him choosing the best path for your life.

I guarantee you that you will not be disappointed!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

What does it mean to be Heavenly minded?

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Everyone is seeking something. That’s how God made us. We’re inquisitive by nature; always searching, looking, wondering.

Life would be pretty boring if we just sat around and became a lump of nothingness, don’t you think?

As Christians however, we must learn to temper our searching, looking, and wandering by prioritizing and aligning the things we deem so important against God’s Word. Paul explains it here in Colossians 3:1-3.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”.‬‬

Does this now mean that because I’m a Christian that I can no longer be passionate about my favorite cause? Of course not! If God’s children don’t participate in this earthly life, if we’re too Holy to get our hands dirty while ministering to others, of what value are we?

You no doubt have heard the expression that we can become “too Heavenly minded to be of any earthly good”. Speaking only for myself, I have yet to meet the person who accurately meets this description! Seriously, if any person becomes as Heavenly minded as Paul describes above, they would do more earthly good than they could ever imagine!

What Paul is saying to us is that as Christ’s representatives on earth we should be involved in what’s going on around us. We should care deeply about the plight of others. If not us, then who will?

But our first priority must be Him. If we will make Him our first priority, if He becomes the focus of our passions, our care and concern for others will be greatly enhanced.

You see, it’s only by seeking those things that are above, that we are then able to effectively reach out to those around us. Or to put it another way, before we can pour into others, we must first be filled ourselves. And we get filled by seeking those things which are above.

I think all of us would agree that we need more of Him at work in our lives. I know I certainly have enough rough edges to keep Him busy for a while! As we endeavor to seek those things that are above, we begin to die to self a bit more each day. Those rough edges become smoother, even our attitudes are improved.

Seeking those things that are above transforms our wants and desires into His wants and desires. When we seek to become more Heavenly minded we become more like Jesus. We love like Jesus. We have compassion like Jesus. The world can then see Jesus through us.

Isn’t that what this Christian life is supposed to be about anyway?

Be blessed,

Ron

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

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

Dream-Big.jpg

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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