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What is faith,really?

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The bible tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.   Hebrews 11:1

I’ve quoted that verse at least a thousand times over the past forty years.

But lately I’m wondering if I understand faith at all. I’m talking about faith as it applies to everyday life. Real life.

For example, sitting in the Dr.’s office this morning I’m dealing with countless thoughts that want to challenge my belief in faith.

Is it still faith when “hoped for” didn’t happen?

Is it still faith when all you can think is “why”?

Is it still faith when the diagnosis you received isn’t the one you hoped for, prayed for?

Is it still faith when you’re told more tests are needed?

Is it still faith when God doesn’t respond?

Is there really such a thing as having faith as a “grain of mustard seed”?

What is faith anyway?

Is it for today?

Does faith keep believing even when things don’t turn out right? Is that the secret?

Here’s what I really think about faith. I think faith is much more than “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.

I think faith is the lifeline between God and his children. A lifeline that God tosses to us in the midst of the storm. A lifeline that has one end secured to the immovable God while we hold firmly to the other end.

All of us need a lifeline from time to time. Faith tells me that God will throw one my way just when I need it most. After all, the cry of a desperate heart to be rescued from the storms has been known to awaken the Master before.

Faith is believing that all I really need is to hear His gentle voice saying “peace be still”,and everything will be alright.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

 

What happened to my church?

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“Ron,what’s happened to my church? It seems they no longer want us older saints. They are shoving all of us aside and replacing us with younger people. Don’t we matter any more”?

A precious,dear saint of God named Sarah* said those words to me over twenty years ago.In her confusion,hurt, and grief she wanted to let me know that she was struggling with all of the change that had suddenly engulfed her world.

Change can do that to us,to all of us,can’t it?

You would have to know this dear sister to fully appreciate her sense of despair.A woman of very humble upbringing,married but never able to have children,her church became her whole life.

Though limited in education and resources, she long ago had committed herself to doing all that she could do for her church. Indeed,it sometimes seemed as though the church was the family she never had.

She was there when the doors were open.She prayed daily for her church,not once but several times each day.And let me tell you,when Sarah prayed she got down to business with God! She had a way of praying that made me think that this woman was in touch with Something not of this world.

To her,the church was the very epicenter of her existence and she was determined to do everything within her modest means to ensure it remained healthy.She gave faithfully.She loved everyone.She also believed in “telling in like it is”,if you know what that means.She dished out love and correction with equal fervor.

She read and studied constantly,and she had a way of presenting the gospel that made it seem to come alive.Though she never attended Bible college, she could hold her own and then some when someone wanted to show off their knowledge of the Bible. Listening to her one could almost sense the love of God embracing you as she spoke of her Savior.

Unbeknownst to Sarah however ,her world was about to be turned upside down.

A meeting had been called at the church.Something about needing approval for something or other.Comments were made during the meeting about the need to become more modern,to do things the way other,more progressive churches were doing them.

It didn’t seem to matter that the church was vibrant(oh my,you should have heard our choir!),attendance was growing weekly,or that we had an established ministry of feeding the homeless.

The community where the church was located enthusiastically embraced the church’s various ministries.The church was always mentioned as one of the denominations shining examples.

There was something very special about this church that you could feel the moment you walked into the sanctuary. Expectation.Enthusiasm.Loving people loving each other.New faces and kids everywhere. What could possibly be wrong with this?

Evidently,plenty.

We were told that we must change our focus. Time to shift our priorities they said. It’s a new day,a different time the leadership team declared.We needed to move away from “traditional ministry” and focus more on attracting a younger crowd.We needed programs and activities geared more toward them,we were told.

I never understood why we couldn’t do both.

Like good foot soldiers,everyone tried to follow this new ministry direction.After all,that’s what we’re supposed to do isn’t it? Bit by bit what was once a thriving faith community was reorganized into the church that leadership said the community needed. But it wasn’t the same any longer.

Tragically,it was not just the members who felt that way but the entire community noticed it as well.So much so that they stopped coming. Funny isn’t it,how those on the outside can tell there’s something wrong on the inside?

And here’s the real kicker: even the homeless stopped coming.They no longer felt welcomed in the church.You see,in the scramble to reorganize in order to make our church more attractive to the new audience they wanted,the homeless had been forgotten. Left out. Abandoned.

So they went elsewhere.Or nowhere.

As I said previously,this happened over twenty years ago. The church that I loved,the church that Sarah and so many just like her loved,closed it’s doors within a few years of that fateful meeting.What had once drew the multitudes from afar had ceased to exist.

It’s members scattered here and there,some finding a new church home while others never fully settled in someplace else. Some gave up searching altogether.As for Sarah,she found a new church home and immediately went to work for the Lord there.

You may ask why I am telling you this sad story of something that happened so long ago,and what could it possibly have to do with us today.Well,let me try to explain.

In this life we are privileged if we find something that so touches our hearts that it becomes a part of us.Like that one true love,the man or woman of our dreams.That one who will be your forever soulmate.They come around once in a lifetime and we treasure them dearly.

I feel the same way about God’s church.Even though I may say things about the church that many wished I didn’t,I love the church.I say the things I do because I have a very keen sense of what the church can and should be,and it is painful to sit and watch what has happened to the family of God.

I cannot,I will not remain silent.

Most of the readers of this blog are aware that I recently moved to another part of the country.Without a doubt,this has been a life changing event,one that has caused me to spend time in reflection,both past and future.

One part of this reflection is that I’m reminded how precious my memories of church are,especially as we attempt to find a new place of worship in what to me is a new and very different world.

You see,from my perspective church today isn’t what church used to be. Of course,there are many, many voices out there proclaiming that it can never be what it once was. Just as life can never be what it was.I get it.

Things change constantly,culture is ever evolving and morphing into the next new phase. I certainly get that. And I am not,as my sweet Princess loves to remind me,living in the past. This time.

I think of church as community,or family. My fondest memories of church seem to center around togetherness and gathering together to worship in unity and love. Perhaps it’s because growing up my own life was so void of those things that I cling to these precious memories.

And I’m struggling to find that right now.

Visiting a new church for the third time where the only two people that greet you are the pastor and his worship leader is not my idea of community. Can someone explain to me how 100 people can stare at you and never smile or offer a handshake? Hey…I even showered!

It begs the question to be asked “what,or who are you if your character more closely resembles a zombie than one of God’s children”? Ummm…where is this abundant life Jesus spoke about(John 10:10)?

Someone whose opinions I value greatly told me recently that “I should forget everything I knew about church. That church is dead and will never come back”they said.

“The best you can hope for is to just find a place to attend,sit through their programs,and realize that you have nothing to offer them by way of engagement or involvement.Just sit there,sing along,nod at the appropriate time,and go home”.

Talk about painful to hear!   My God!

I confess that this does not sit well with me. This is not the model that the Disciples gave us concerning the church. In fact,the Disciples would not recognize the church of today.

They were a part of something that was alive and powerful. The churches they established shook up the known world. Indeed,it was said that their message was capable of turning the cities upside down(Acts 17:6).

I don’t know about you,but I’m not seeing any communities being turned upside down for Jesus today. I’m not seeing the lasting effects of a life changing encounter with Jesus Christ.What I am seeing is a church that has embraced the world while forsaking its roots.

In our zeal to be more culturally attractive we have forsaken the old paths(Jer 6:16). In their place we now have a politically correct, counterfeit church that wouldn’t dare rail against sin for fear that what is hidden in its own tents might be exposed for the world to see.

See,I told you I wasn’t going to remain silent.

Please understand me. I am not against necessary change,especially if it means winning the lost and ministering to the needy. I’m all in. Matter of fact,I’m getting desperate to find a place where I can get involved! Refusing to change when it is necessary can be fatal!

What I don’t understand is why we can’t do all of that,and still be the church. A powerful church emboldened by the Holy Ghost to be the hands and feet of Jesus…to all people. Isn’t that our assignment? I mean…where’s the love?

I guess I’ve now lived long enough to fully understand what sister Sarah said all those years ago:”what’s happened to my church?”.

  • Sarah is not her real name.Out of love and respect for her I have chosen not to reveal her real name.

Prayer Request

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I would like to ask those of you who read this blog to please pray for my wife,Debbie. She is in need of healing in her body. If you would also ask your church to pray I would be so grateful.

Thank you, and may the Lord bless you.

Ron

What will it take?

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Problems.

We’ve got big problems here in America.

Drug problems. Employment problems. Gun problems. Hate problems. Mass Murder problems. Rape problems. Criminal problems of every imaginable kind.

crime in America map 1

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These problems vex our society in ways that most of us don’t even think about,let alone understand the complexities of.

And what is most distressing about these issues is that they are getting worse instead of better.

In spite of billions trillions of dollars thrown at them in hopes that we will find solutions,our problems worsen.

Apparently money can’t buy everything after all.

We all know this because we see the evidence of it in our communities on a daily basis.What used to happen only in large cities has found it’s way to the family farm and every small town in America.I’m certain that if Mayberry existed today, Andy & Barney would be knee deep in drugs and violent crime.

But this list is by no means complete,because in addition to the Criminal problems we are facing, we are also dealing with Personal problems on an unprecedented level.

Unemployment. Inequalities of every sort. Brokenness. Hopelessness. Our children addicted to prescription medicines for emotional stress.

Depressing,isn’t it?

It seems that every politician has the answer,which I find interesting since these same politicians have continually said they have the answer.Yet the carnage continues.

yes no

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Pass this bill.Pass that bill.Implement this initiative.

It’s the fault of the left.It’s the fault of the right.

Problems.

Big problems.


Yet as unbelievable as all of this sounds,we have a problem much larger and more serious than any that I have previously listed.

You see…we have a God problem in America.

As in… we have rejected the Lord and are now left to our own abilities.Like this…

And the LORD said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.   1Sa 8:7 NKJV

The children of Israel have just sealed their fate. They insisted on being ruled by a king,just like the nations all around them.They told the prophet Samuel that they wanted an earthly king,and rejected the God that had created them.

Saul

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You see, they made the same mistake that we have made.They looked all around them and saw that the other nations were doing just fine without the rules and laws that they themselves were bound to follow.Serving God had become burdensome to them.They had grown weary of the sacrifices and rituals that must be observed.They wanted an easier life.They wanted to be taken care of like the other nations they encountered.

And so God gave them exactly what they asked for.He even told Samuel to let the people know what kind of a king they were going to get,as well as the cost of his rule over them.Even though king Saul would take their children from them and cause servitude to be the order of the day,still they preferred him over God.

Thus began the downward spiral of what was once the chosen people of God Himself.To read the tragic history of a backslidden Israel is to read the story of modern day America.

And yet we also clamor for a king.Or a queen.is_it_2016_yet_square_sticker_3quot_x_3quot

But we do not ask for God.

Anyone,anything….but God

We do not ask for God because we do not know Him.We cannot inquire of Someone that we know nothing about.We have forgotten,rather thrown away, our heritage.

Shocking,but where are the shepherds crying aloud for this nation to humble itself and return to the Lord? If this were a different day the pastors and priests would repent in sackcloth and ashes.But not us.We have strayed too far.We are far too proud to admit our sins to a Holy God.

What we want, we have been given.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.   2nd Tim 4:3,4

As a nation…we are alone and left to our own devices.

While the nation cries for more gun control,precious few cry out for more God control.

While our leaders stagger under the burden of overwhelming defeat in the battle to control the drug problem in America,very few cry out to God for a mighty deliverance.

More intervention by our government is simply not the answer our society needs. Our government is corrupt and stinking to the core.They cannot help.

We need a God intervention.In the worse possible way.

What is needed is an acknowledgment by all that we do not have the answers in and of ourselves,and that turning back to God is our only hope.

repent-before-its-too-late

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Perhaps,if only for a while,believers can call upon the name of the Lord to hold back the oncoming flood that is destined to engulf this once great nation.

Perhaps that is what it will take.

If Only I Could…

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Go back to a time when the church really did love the lost.When the church actually was a real part of the community and lived and thrived in the midst of the people.Where churches were located where the needs were the greatest and building committees were not focused on property values,but rather the value of a person’s eternal soul.

Back to a time and place when the prayer meeting was the focus of the church,and men and women cried out to God to heal their cities and save the lost.To a time when on any given Sunday morning all the attention was upon Jesus,not on the trendy pastor or how many varieties of coffee are served in the cafe’.

If only I could sit with the saints of just a few generations past and observe their walk with Christ.To see them living the gospel in a way that brought no special attention to themselves,but rather to Jesus alone. To hear their testimonies of how they overcame one obstacle after another through their faith in God,and to know that kind of rock steady faith that is in such short supply today.

Faith that brought them through.Faith that healed their sick children and supplied food from only God knows where.The kind of faith from a made up mind that knew that the Christ life was the best life,the only life.

 

I’m reminded from time to time that I have a tendency to spend too much time looking back,and not enough time looking forward.I suppose that comes from reading the scriptures for so long now and comparing the words of Jesus and the writings of the disciples to the world in which we now live.

I want the church to be the church that Jesus died for.

I can’t help it,I really can’t.For you see,everything in me longs for the church to fulfill it’s divine mandate,it’s purpose,to love.

Unconditionally…unashamedly…without reservation…without hope of gaining anything in return…freely.

I cannot remember the last time I saw or heard a minister of the gospel weeping over the condition of the church at large.And I wonder…where are the shepherds? Have they not gone the way of the world?Are our pulpits filled with hirelings and not shepherds? The way of the shepherd has been cast aside and in it’s place are cookie cutter impostors in skinny jeans developing 3-5 year business plans instead of developing the flock.Instead of preparing the flock for what is to come.

And we wonder: where are the miracles of days gone by? Where is the next generation of warriors? Where are those who have been to the mountain and heard from on high?Indeed…where is God?

Where are those who love their sheep with the burning fire of the love of God?

If only I could…how about you?

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

The Trappings of Modern Evangelism

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Watching “church”on TV,online,etc…I find myself wondering if people (you know,the one’s in the pew) even read the Bible any more.It’s shocking to see and hear so many “amen’s” to things that are contrary to the teachings of the Bible.When did God’s people become so gullible as to believe that if the preacher said it,well it has to be true?If it wasn’t so tragic,it would be funny to watch people hurriedly writing down the latest kitschy or hip saying from the preacher.All to get you in the proper mood for giving, you understand.

If we are students of the Word then why does it seem that we do not apply the lessons of the Word to our lives?

Does anyone still believe that the Lord has given us His divine plan for how we are to live our lives? How is it then that we can read the Word of God and not be changed? How is it that we can attend church services and leave exactly the same way we came?How in the world is it possible that I can blindly agree with what is said from the platform,yet stumble at the teachings of Jesus?

How is it that our hearts have become numb to what “thus saith the Lord”?

Is it because the church today has made it so easy for one to join it’s ranks by simply repeating a prayer, signing a card, and attending a class? Is this all it takes? Then what do we do with this…?

“Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”  Joel 2:12   NKJV

If I am to believe this Word, then God Almighty is telling me that I am to forsake my own will,my own desires,my own dreams and turn myself completely over to Him! But wait!! Even that’s not enough! God demands that I turn to him with fasting,weeping,and mourning as well!

In other words He is demanding that we acknowledge and repent of our sins with a heavy heart! Contrast that with the evangelism model of the church today that says “repeat after me”! WHAT?!

God demands,let me repeat that word again…God demands that we turn to Him with a repentant heart,not that we come forward in a meeting to repeat some simple words as if we’ve suddenly discovered a magic salvation formula.

The Lord said of Israel that “Everyone turned to his own course”,and we have followed in their footsteps.Instead of repenting we have chosen our own path, and in our arrogance we still expect God to bless and prosper us.Imagine that! Are we to honestly believe that we can have God and our sins at the same time?

“I listened and heard, But they do not speak aright. No man repented of his wickedness, Saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turned to his own course, As the horse rushes into the battle.”  Jer. 8:6  NKJV

Jesus said that “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:24   NKJV

Beloved we are required to make a choice! God demands we make a choice. We cannot have it both ways!

If you are attending church where there is no standard,where you never hear the word “sin”,where your pastor or priest never tells you that a Holy God demands that we forsake all and turn to Him, my advice to you is to run as fast as you can out of there!

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations.   Ezekiel 14:6   NKJV

I believe with all that is within me that there is coming a day when every preacher and priest is going to be held accountable for not declaring the whole counsel of God.For not declaring and upholding the standards contained within the pages of God’s Word, the blood of many will be upon our hands.

Modern evangelism is a mockery in comparison to the efforts of the early church,and the church of today is trapped in it’s clutches. In spite of the most beautiful churches and impressive technology on the planet that mankind has ever known,the world is headed to Hell uninhibited! And the church is powerless to stop this mad long rush into eternity apart from God.

Imagine just for a moment what Paul could have accomplished with this incredible tool we call the internet.No longer would he have been constrained by the long dusty miles between towns,or the distance he could cross by ship.The whole world would have been opened unto him and he would have taken full advantage of it! Why aren’t we doing the same?

Do we not yet understand that as the church goes,so goes the world? We have to face the awful truth that the church is not doing so good,and we are accountable to God for it’s inability to stem the tide of sin that is ravaging our cities.

I read just the other day where someone was stating that what the world needs is revival,and I wondered if that person knew the difference between revival and evangelism? Evangelism today is little more than a series of meetings where the preacher preaches and the people listen and go home the same way they came. Today’s evangelism is easy and cheap,and it’s fruit is nearly non existent.

Revival on the other hand is life altering.It is wrought from the anguish of countless hours of crying out to God.It comes from a sincere prayer for God to “create in me a clean heart,and renew a right spirit within me”. Revival is hard work.It is not easy or cheap,but will exact a huge price from us.

And we,like Israel,have “turned to our own course”.We have chosen the trappings of modern evangelism over true revival because it’s easy.And we want everything easy,don’t we?We have counted the cost of revival and decided that to stay the course is much easier.

Meanwhile,our nation is dying in it’s own filth and stench,the flesh of a once proud nation is rotting and putrid.Unable to save ourselves, yet we blindly trudge on following the same path that brought us to this point.For you see,for us to break free requires us to acknowledge,repent,and make the choice to serve God with our whole heart.

Something to think about…

Ron

Why So Much Killing?

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Like most of America I was deeply saddened by the latest school shooting in Oregon this week.If I’m being honest I must admit that I wasn’t shocked,and that in itself is is a testament to how violent our society has become.Violence in America has become the norm,and whether we like to admit it or not,it is.

Let’s face it,violence has become so common place that it has lost it’s shock value.We shake our heads and bemoan the senseless loss of life,and then go about our business wondering quietly when and where the next attack will occur.In fact,only a day later and the topic around the water cooler is the football game.

Are you surprised by the level of violence in America? If not surprised,what are you? What emotions are you dealing with in light of the Oregon school killings? Are you angry? Are you hurt? Are you sickened by it all?

And what is the underlying reason behind all of this? Well,as a Christian I know that the driving force behind all of this is evil.It is the force of darkness being unleashed upon a society that has by and large rejected God.You see,we live in a society where men’s heart are cold and hardened by the deceitfulness of sin,and from what I read in the scripture it is only going to get worse.

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”   Matthew 24:12

Of course,in America we don’t teach such things any longer,and even if we did most parents are not reinforcing it at home.I read recently of someone who stated that he simply did not believe in evil,that the word evil was just an excuse.Try telling that to the parents of one of the victims of this weeks murder spree.

I believe we in America,and especially the church, are in denial about what is taking place right before our eyes.For the past couple of hundred years the church has been only too willing to accept a new premise that there was no need to be concerned about the dangers of a last day rebellion against God, for after all one day the Lord himself is going to snatch us all away and spare us any suffering.Well guess what? We are living in the last days in the midst of a great falling away.

And you’re still here!

Easy believeism that says repeat this prayer and you are a Christian.Easy believeism that says suffering is for those “left behind”. Easy believeism does not require a change of heart,only that we fall in line with the millions of others who are pretenders for the faith instead of contenders.

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”   Jude 1:3

Do these words hurt you? Do they offend you? That is not my intention.I seek only to call attention to the fact that we are fast asleep to the evil all around us.

Millions of words have been spoken already regarding this latest tragedy.Some,like our President, are angry and want to impose strict controls on who can possess a firearm.Others see the solution as one of arming everyone so that we at least have a chance to defend ourselves.Many are also speaking out about the lack of available mental health resources.Still others are taking the position that it’s the parent’s fault.

What I have yet to hear is someone willing to step out into the spotlight and state publicly that we are reaping the consequences of our own past decisions.That’s right…we have brought this evil upon ourselves!The society we now have is the society that has been created by a populous consumed with the ideology that God is dead,if indeed He ever existed.

We,by our insistence on creating a society where every man is responsible only to himself,have created a culture of death.We act as though we cannot understand why there is so much killing,yet think nothing of killing tens of millions in the womb because we pretty up the massacre by calling it “choice” instead of what it really is.We are delusional,we are willingly ignorant of the facts in the hope that “it won’t happen to me”.

How in God’s name could we ever think that we could end up any different when our hands are stained red with the blood of the innocent?We in America glorify death,we celebrate it and the forces behind it.We continually reelect politicians who will carry out our wishes for more carnage,lest by some miracle someone would actually be given an opportunity try and stem the (RED) tide.We have opened up a Pandora’s box of unprecedented evil,and yet still we refuse to humble ourselves before the only One that can save us.Yes…we have what we have because we have paid a great price to have it so!

In the verse from Matthew quoted above,Jesus stated that the love of many shall wax cold.We are witnessing just such a thing right before our eyes.The sinner who has continually rejected Christ continues to grow angrier by the day.His heart knows nothing but rage for he is angry at what he does not know.

But there is also this:the love of many Christians is waxing cold as well.Oh,we may not read about them shooting up defenseless citizens,but they are turning cold nonetheless. The lack of genuine Christian love is appalling today and it grows continually worse.You see,in the church there is a different “culture of death”. It is a culture of complacency,a culture of lack,and a culture of “you are not important enough for me to care”.

The day of the Oregon shootings I asked my wife when all of this would stop.Her answer? “When we get to Heaven”. She was 100% correct, I’m afraid.

Why so much killing?

It’s because we have supplanted the love of God for the love of self.

Ron

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