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“Many are the afflictions of the righteous”…

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No doubt many of you recognize those words as part of the 34th Psalm. The entire text reads as follows:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all”. [1]

This particular Psalm has been a great encouragement to me through the years, especially during those difficult seasons that we all go through from time to time.

I find it very comforting to know that the God of the Bible would have such a vested interest in us, and my personal observations through these many years of serving the Lord reveal that He is indeed still a Deliverer of His people.

This Psalm speaks to me in many ways. In it, David states that the righteous are afflicted not once, twice, or even three times, but he says that our afflictions are many.

In other words, David seems to be suggesting that afflictions and trials are to be expected. This aligns perfectly with what the Apostle Peter meant when he said “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you”; [2]

I can almost hear many of you say “Amen” to that!

The issues, or afflictions we deal with are as diverse and complex as we ourselves are. What may be an obstacle or hinderance to one may scarcely get another’s attention, while others of us may feel as though we are being made to pass through the fire, so great is the affliction.

I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping things in their proper perspective, which is why Peter said that we shouldn’t think it strange when we are afflicted, as if perhaps there were something wrong with us or with our relationship with the Lord.

The key issue here is that we not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the afflictions and issues of this life. Easy for me to say, right? You may be thinking that I have no idea what you have been through or are currently going through.

And you would be 100% correct.

What I do know however is that God will deliver you. The Bible declares that God will deliver His children out of all afflictions. Notice that there is no provision made for the severity or frequency of the affliction. “All” in this case simply means all.

I recently had the opportunity to address this subject when I was invited to preach at a local church. On this particular Sunday, I felt strongly that I should speak on the topic of “Overcoming Through Faith and Hope”. In this message, I shared some of these very same thoughts about how that God will deliver us if we will call upon Him.

I also pointed out that the trials and afflictions we endure actually serve a Divine purpose. As Christians, we must understand that while there are times when things happen in a seemingly random fashion, usually when we are in a difficult trial there is a greater purpose.

You see, God uses these as a means of increasing our dependence upon Him. He uses them to mold us and to shape us into the person he has destined we become. Much like the blacksmith uses a forge and a heavy hammer to bend, twist, and shape a raw piece of steel into something useable, so it is with the Lord.

Of course, none of us are likely to say how much we enjoy this process, are we? I know I don’t! After all, I don’t like being pulled out of my comfort zone any more than you do!

Being tested, tried, afflicted, or whatever you wish to call it is all a part of the process of dying to SELF. It is a necessary, albeit sometimes painful road that all of God’s children must walk.

There is great joy in this journey however, because the Lord will deliver you out of all of the afflictions and trials that come your way.

Be blessed and encouraged, because Jesus is Lord!

Ron

 

[1] Psalm 34:19 NKJV

[2] 1 Peter 4:12  NKJV

This demon named “Regret”

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Is there one among us who has lived their life in such a manner that they can look back upon it and say “I have no regrets”?

I can state categorically that I am disqualified from being able to make such a claim. When we think of regrets we see images of things we wish we had not done, or at the least done them differently. I stand guilty as charged.

We remember conversations we’ve had with family and friends that did not turn out well, and we wish we had spoken with more kindness. Perhaps what we remember most is that conversation we meant to have, but never got around to having.

The voice of my wife on the night that her father passed away serves as a reminder to me about how it should be when we do things in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. As we drove away from her fathers home that night she looked at me and said this: “I have no regrets. There is nothing left unsaid between us. He knew how I felt about him and I knew how he felt about me because we often told each other”.

There it is…no regrets. Nothing left undone or unsaid. For the rest of her days on this earth my sweet wife can live peacefully knowing that there is no reason to look back and wonder ‘what if?’

The pain of regret for the rest of us is very real though isn’t it? That is why I refer to it as a demon. It brings with it pain and suffering over what might have been…what should have been.

Regret is relentless in its goal of keeping our eyes fixed on our rear view mirror. The enemy knows that as long as he can keep us looking back, we will never be able to look ahead. Up ahead awaits victory, while behind us lies a minefield of defeat.

Past mistake and failures of every sort are hurled at our minds at warp speed, rarely giving us a moments respite from the battle. Oh, and the enemy doesn’t care a bit that a past regret wasn’t your fault. You see, even if it wasn’t your fault he wants to transfer ownership of it to you because once you own it, he will use it against you at every opportunity.

Do you see how diabolical Satan is?

The enemy doesn’t even care that when you became a Christian that you were made a new creation. It doesn’t matter to him that the Bible teaches us that ‘old things are passed way’. He has no regard for the fact that as followers of Jesus Christ we now have ‘the mind of Christ’.  [1]   [2]

None of that matters to Satan. All that matters to him is that you keep looking backwards and not forwards, back to the path of destruction carved by an endless array of regrets.

So what is the child of God to do about this demon named “Regret”?

One of the first things we must do is acknowledge that we cannot undo the past. We get no ‘do-overs’. The best we can do is try to make amends where necessary, but the fact remains that what’s done is done.  [3]

Another thing we must do is to turn the situation over to the Lord in prayer. Peter explains it best here:

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you”. [4]

When we give it to God we are to leave it with Him. Of course, this is easier said than done because the enemy will never accept this as the final word on the matter. As I said earlier, he will bring this up to you time and time again in an effort to turn your attention to the past and not the future.

The Apostle Paul went so far as to suggest that we forget those things that are in our past. Paul knew of course that if he was to ever fulfill his destiny in Christ, it would be because he steadfastly looked ahead and not behind him. [5]

Forgetting our past sins and mistakes is not easy. It never is. I’m sure many of us have forgotten our past sins and mistakes many times. No doubt, we will forget them many more times before we leave this life.

When Paul says to forget those things which are behind us, he wasn’t trying to say that they are zapped from our memories never to be drudged up again. What he meant was that we should be so forward-focused that the past stays in the past.

That is how we get the victory over this demon called ‘Regret’. We leave it in the past and focus on running the race that is before us. Regret is a crippling, joy stealing invention of the devil that has no power over us unless we give it power.

As for me and my house, we choose to look ahead to the future that God has ordained we should have. We are free, having been set free by the blood of the Lamb.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”. [6]

Keep looking straight ahead,

Ron

 

[1] 2nd Corinthians 5:17

[2] 1 Corinthians 2:16

[3] Matthew 5:24

[4] 1st Peter 5:6,7

[5] Philippians 3:13

[6] John 8:36

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

At the end of it all, the only thing that will matter…

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Won’t be if you are popular or not,an introvert or extrovert. Whether rich or poor, conservative or liberal, none of these will be an issue. If you are Baptist or Catholic, Quaker or Pentecostal, religious affiliations won’t be the deciding factor in where we spend eternity.

None of these things that we place so much importance on will matter when the trump of God sounds.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.                       I Thess. 4:16

No, the only thing that will matter will be our relationship with this One who will descend from heaven with a shout. And He will not be interested in our family tree or whether or not we threw a dollar into the red kettle at Christmas.

The church has been proclaiming for nearly two thousand years that Jesus Christ is coming to earth again. And just as Peter prophesied would happen, there are fewer and fewer who believe this is true.

Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”   II Peter 3:3-4

When that day finally does come, He will be coming to gather His children from the four corners of the earth. He’s not coming back for Republican or Democratic Christians. He’s not even coming back for Liberal or Conservative Christians.

He is coming back for those who have repented of their sins. Period.

At the end of it all, that’s all that matters.