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Too stubborn for God

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If you had to name the one attribute of YOU that you wish you could change, it’s likely that stubbornness would be at or near the top of your list. Seriously, read the definition below, and for a real eye-opener read the synonyms as well. Do you see yourself in any of these words?

Having or showing dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something, especially in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so.
synonyms: obstinateheadstrongwillfulstrong-willedpigheadedobduratedifficultcontraryperverserecalcitrantinflexibleiron-willeduncompromisingunbending.

See what I mean? Not a very flattering picture, is it? Yet I must confess that my name should be written right alongside the definition of ‘stubborn’. Might I find yours there as well?

There was a man in the Bible that also wore the moniker of stubborn. His name was Saul, the very 1st king of Israel.

King Saul was given a very specific assignment to attack the armies of the Amalekites, a people who had dealt treacherously with Israel by ambushing them when Israel came out of Egypt. Per the word of the Lord, it was now payback time.

The problem was that king Saul only partially obeyed God. Instructed to utterly destroy every trace of the Amalekites, Saul and his men instead kept for themselves the best of the spoil.

But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed1st Samuel 15:9

There is a key word here that you don’t want to miss: unwilling. Saul and his men were unwilling to fully obey the command of God. Do you know that when someone is unwilling to do something, that the decision not to do it is a choice?

Think about it this way; if you are willing to do a thing, you don’t think twice about it. You just do it. Being unwilling however means you had to make a conscious choice not to do it. See the difference?

That’s what Saul did on that fateful day. He knew what he was told to do, what he was supposed to do. He was simply unwilling to obey once he saw all of the good things that were his for the taking. Only they weren’t his for the taking!

All of this incurred the wrath of God. So angry was the Lord over this, that he sent the prophet Samuel to go and confront king Saul and tell him that because of his disobedience, God would take the throne from him and give it to someone better than he.

Here are the words that Samuel spoke to Saul.

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king.”  1st Samuel 15:22,23

What Samuel was telling Saul here was that God placed a much higher value on obedience to His word than any burnt offering or sacrifice. He then calls out two traits of Saul that God hates: rebellion and stubbornness, equating the sins of witchcraft and idolatry to them. In case you’re wondering, those two sins were about as bad is it could get. In fact, either of them could cause you to be put to death.

Saul was too stubborn to be used of God. All the Lord wanted him to do was simply complete the assignment he had been given. Saul, however, thought he had a better plan. Isn’t that the hallmark of stubborn people? They (we) always have a better way of doing things, or so it would seem.

How many of us can look in the rear-view mirror and say ‘if only I had listened to the word of God’….? This should cause all of us to take a look inward and see if stubbornness has taken root in us.

Stubbornness is actually an outward expression of an inward rebellion that is at work in our hearts, and it must be defeated if we are going to move forward in our walk with God. Prayer, the study of God’s word, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit are the weapons God has given us to defeat this enemy called stubbornness.

Let’s use them, in Jesus name!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Becoming deaf to Satan

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Voices…

Noise…

As a lover of solitude, I find this world to be a very noisy, intrusive place. Being raised as I was, meaning as a full-fledged country boy, I learned to love the quiet and peace of near silence.

I can still remember hours and hours where the only sounds I heard were that of the wind blowing, or the birds chirping. Imagine not seeing a single car go past your house for several hours! That was my world as a child.

Things certainly change as you grow into adulthood though, don’t they? Somewhere along the way, you realize that it’s time to leave behind the only life you’ve known and join the masses who are making a living and doing all the other things that adults are expected to do.

That’s when you start to hear them. Voices, coming at you from every conceivable direction, all clamoring for your attention, all wanting to be heard. Happy voices. Angry voices.

Your Boss.

Your spouse

Your kids

Your friends

Then there are two other, very distinctive voices, voices that sound like none of the others. Voices that seem to almost be in competition with one another as they vie for your undivided attention.

Gods voice.

Satan’s voice.

As a child of God, we hear His voice in many ways. We hear it in the Word of God. We hear it when we spend time with Him in prayer. We hear it in the laughter of little children. And yes, we hear it in that “still, small voice”. [1]

The voice of God is unmistakable to His children that have inclined their ears towards Him, as Jesus told us in John 10:27 that “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”.

Satan’s voice, however, is a deceptive voice. That is because Satan is a liar and never tells the truth. To mask his lies and gain our trust so that we will let down our guard, he must appeal to our fleshly desires.

One of the ways in which he accomplishes this is to mix a little bit of biblical truth in with the lie. For example, a common false teaching that has crept into the church today is that all of us are “little gods”.

On the surface, I would hope that none of us would consider ourselves to be a “god”, yet that is exactly what some teach today. They quote John 10:34 as their proof text:

Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are ‘gods””

This is classic Word of Faith teaching, and it is nothing short of blasphemy. Yes, Jesus did in fact quote that particular verse from Psalm 82, but He was stating that HE was above judges as the Son of God. In no way, shape, or form was Jesus telling any man that they were a “god”.

This type of false teaching appeals to the flesh, and the desire for power that the flesh lusts after. It is deceptive in that the devil takes scripture and twists it to appeal to the flesh. He mixes a truth with a lie to deceive us.

There are a lot of false teachers out there today that espouse this particular brand of false “theology”. The late Paul Crouch of TBN fame was one of it’s biggest proponents, and it has been passed down to the likes of Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Crefflo Dollar, Fred Price, Marylin Hickey, and Jesse Duplantis, to name a few.

This is but one example of how the enemy will take something that God has said and twist it into something entirely different. From the moment in the Garden when Satan twisted God’s commands, thus enslaving man to sin, to this present day, he has never stopped in his attempts to undermine God’s plan for your life, all while lying to you.

How many of you, like myself, hear the non-stop voice of the enemy as he tries to steal, kill, and destroy? [2]

It’s very real, is it not?

So how are we to drown out the relentless voice of Satan so we may overcome his deceptive tactics?

  1. For one, we must stay in the Word. Nothing brings clarity to the believers’ mind like Gods Word. It is the standard by which all Truth must be measured. Every sermon or teaching that we expose ourselves to must be measured against this standard. And that includes your pastor or your favorite TV preacher or author. If what they are teaching differs in any way from the written Word of God, you must reject it.
  2. We must continue to cultivate our relationship with Christ through prayer. It is shocking to hear how little time the average Christian spends in prayer. Prayer is a line of communication between God and man that must remain open at all costs. If you are too busy to pray, you are too busy.
  3. We must be a people who worship. Worship comes in many forms, and not all of them involve singing a song! For example; purpose in your heart to be a thankful Christian. Give Him thanks for all the many blessings you have received from Him. Learn to be a sacrificial Christian. Prefer others before yourself. Become a doer of the Word, and not just a hearer.

I believe that it is possible to become deaf to the voice of Satan, but it can only be accomplished by redirecting our attention and focus on the things of God.

If we will do this, our lives will be enriched far beyond what we can imagine!

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

 

[1] 1st Kings 19:12

[2] John 10:10

How secure is your lifeline?

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It’s been said that prayer is the Christian’s lifeline to God, and in this day of rebellion and licentious behavior that lifeline has become more important than ever.

So many vile, reprehensible events are taking place in our midst that one hardly has time to sort them out before the next one occurs. Mass shootings in churches, schools, and synagogues have become horrifyingly common place.

A reduction in violent crime by a mere 0.2% is somehow thought to be a success. Tell that to the 1,247,321 victims (or their families) who in 2017 were raped, murdered, robbed, assaulted, or violated in any number of violent ways. [1]

We live in a time when a new kind of slavery is stealing our children from us. According to the International Labour Organization, more than 1 million children are exploited each year in the commercial sex trade. [2]

Sin, no matter how you choose to define it, has taken control of our government, our schools, our workplaces, and yes even our churches. Just as the scriptures foretold:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:  2nd Tim. 3:1

The foremost writer on the subject of prayer, E.M Bounds, said that “prayer is the most appropriate thing for a soul to do in the ‘time of trouble’. Prayer recognizes God in the day of trouble”.

We are living in a largely prayer-less society. The days when churches would meet regularly for prayer are a thing of the past, an abandoned relic from a time when the fire of God burned in the hearts of His people.

How shocking is this when you consider that the church was birthed in a prayer meeting! [3]

Which brings me to the crux of this particular post. As a child of God, do we actually pray anymore? I’m not speaking of praying over our meals, or ‘now I lay me down to sleep’ prayers.

Prayer is, of course, an intensely personal thing. Everyone does it differently, just as most churches approach prayer differently.

I’m referring to the kind of praying however that the people of God have done in the past when confronted by situations and circumstances beyond their control. In other words, the deep, heartfelt, one on one communication with God that we read about in the Bible.

Again, E.M. Bounds understood this well when he said that “A lack of fervency in prayer is the sure sign of a lack of depth and of intensity of desire; and the absence of intense desire is a sure sign of God’s absence from the heart”!

Take the prophet Daniel for instance. As a teenager, Daniel was part of the captivity of Israel when it was led into slavery by the Babylonians. So determined was he to not forsake the Lord and adopt the ways of the heathen, that he continued to earnestly seek the face of God even unto his 80’s when he returned to Israel.

Because the Lord had given Daniel great favor in the eyes of king Darius, many of the governors became consumed with jealously and plotted his demise. From this the famous story of Daniel and the lions den ensued. [4]

As the story unfolds, we find Daniel refusing to bow to the decree that there could be no worship of any type for 30 days, except it be the worship of the king. Daniel’s response to this was to continue to pray three times a day at his open window, a window that faced Jerusalem.

The prophet knew that his lifeline to God was prayer. In a strange land, surrounded by people and customs he was unfamiliar with, Daniel maintained his integrity by seeking God in prayer three times each day.

He clung to his lifeline.

The story of Danial and the lions den is remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is that it mirrors our own circumstances today.

In just a few days, we here in America will be voting for our chosen candidates, a vote that many believe is one of the most critical this nation has ever faced. For weeks now we have been inundated with viscous attack ads that say nothing about what the candidate plans to do, but rather are all about how evil their opponent is.

The nation is on edge, uncertainty reigns in the hearts of the populace. “Blood in the streets” has been promised if the Democrats don’t take back control of the House. Funny how that inciting comment has gone largely ignored, isn’t it?

Christians, I’m sad to say, are just as anxious as the heathen over the upcoming election. One has to ask if Heaven is our home, and we’re merely pilgrims passing through, then why the fear over all of this?

It is because we have lost sight of whose we are. We say that Jesus is Lord of our life, but we live and act like everyone else who has no hope. This is a testament to how well Satan has done his job in dividing our heart’s loyalty.

It is because we do not truly believe that God reigns in the affairs of men. Christians are no different than the heathen who believe that man is in charge of his own destiny. If we truly believed that God was God and that He reigned in the affairs of men, we would not have one ounce of anxiety over the upcoming election.

But we have allowed Satan to garner a toehold in our minds, and he is exploiting this for all he is worth. The enemy of our soul is confounding us with doubt, fear, and disillusionment.

We are not looking to God as we should for hope, strength, and peace. Instead, we are looking for a candidate that we can throw our support behind who will lead us to the worlds version of the “Promised Land”.

Where are the modern day “Daniels” who will point out to us that we are not to cower in the face of societal unrest and uncertainty? Where are the seasoned Christians who have lived through tumultuous times by clinging to their lifeline to God? Have they too been silenced by the decrees of the unrighteous?

It was Joshua who uttered the famous words…

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”   Joshua 24:15

And it was the Lord himself who said…

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   Matt. 6:21

I know where my hope is. I know where my treasure is. I also know that I cannot let go of my lifeline to God. It is my only real security in these days of uncertainty.

Ron

[1] source: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/topic-pages/violent-crime

[2] source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/nation-now/2018/01/30/sex-trafficking-column/1073459001/

[3] Acts chapters 1 & 2 reference

[4] Daniel chapter 6 reference

 

Substitute Preacher…

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As I mentioned in my last post, this past week I have been filling in for my Pastor, who is taking a few days off for some much needed rest.

Since we have both Wednesday evening and Sunday morning services at our church, I needed to prepare two different messages, and when you add in hospital visitation it was a busy week.

Well, not that busy, but busier than what has become my new normal since retirement.; )

If you’ve never done something like this, it is both exhilarating and somewhat frightening, especially if you’ve been “out of the saddle” for awhile. It also helps a great deal to know that there are people praying for you, and I sincerely appreciate those of you who lift me up in prayer.

A lot of prayer and study time is necessary to deliver God’s word effectively, at least that’s how it is for me. I understand that many ministers preach from a sermon outline they’ve purchased online, and many simply purchase an entire sermon series which they then tweak to fit their needs.

I decided long ago however that I could not do it this way, preferring instead to spend time in the Word and in prayer in order to hear from the Lord as to what He would have me to deliver to the congregation.

This is not something I take lightly, and I approach it as if the Lord Himself were listening. Which, of course, He is.

As it turned out, it was well worth the effort, and I am happy to report that both messages were received with a lot of sincere enthusiasm, and many reported to be encouraged and strengthened.

I count it a privilege to be able to pray with people who have been broken by the cares of this life. Hearing them pour out their hearts to God, and to be able to pray and weep with them is an honor I do not take lightly.

It is humbling to be reminded that the Lord will still use a willing vessel, and I am thankful for the drive and passion for ministry He has instilled in me.

Sensing the presence of God was just icing on the cake, and that makes it all worthwhile for me.

Have a great Monday everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

The Hostile Act of Prayer?

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I have written before of the severe persecution of Christians in North Korea and other nations that are closed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sadly, that trend continues unabated as nearly every day a new story surfaces detailing the imprisonment, torture, and killing of believers.

When U.S. citizen Kim Hak Song was arrested in North Korea on May 6, 2017, he was told that his crime was the hostile act of prayer. Officials there had records of an email he had sent to his church asking them to pray for the people of North Korea, and they also knew that he had led morning prayers for a worship group.

Amazingly, after just a year in prison, Kim Hak Song was released from prison a few weeks ago in a “goodwill” gesture prior to the upcoming meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

While this news was received with gladness, there are still an estimated 50,000 Christians imprisoned in North Korea’s brutal prison system. Their “crimes” of being faithful to Jesus Christ have earned them unimaginable treatment including starvation, torture, forced abortion, and separation from their families.

For reasons I fail to understand, Christians here in the West remain willingly ignorant of the plight of their brothers and sisters in North Korea and other countries. It is almost like a game is being played out where if it doesn’t impact me, it’s not my problem.

What we fail to realize however is that this does impact us. Whether we like it or not, we are all one body, united in the Spirit. Christians suffering in remote prisons are no less a part of the Body of Christ than you or I.

You see, in the Kingdom of God we are all seen as equals, for the ground is level at Calvary.

While we here in the West argue over carpet colors, styles of music, the brand of coffee being served in the church cafe, pews or theater seats, or a hundred other insignificant items, thousands of our fellow believers are wondering if today will be their last day on this earth.

If you remain unconvinced as to our responsibility to care for those such as Kim Hak Song and the hundreds of thousands worldwide who are currently suffering for the cause of Christ, I offer these words of Jesus:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the,holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.

32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.

33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;

36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?

38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?

39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’    Matthew 25:31-40

I am not suggesting that anyone fly to North Korea to try and win the release of Christian prisoners. That would be incredibly foolish and you would no doubt find yourself in the same situation as thousands of others there.

What I am suggesting however is that you take just a few moments each day to pray for those I consider to be our generation’s true heroes of the faith.

They would willingly do the same for you and I, even at the risk of imprisonment.

Hostile Acts of Prayer? The only thing remotely hostile would be our continued indifference to the plight of those now suffering for Christ.

Be blessed in Jesus name,

Ron

For a detailed account of the scope and magnitude of Christian persecution in the world today, I invite you to go to https://www.opendoorsusa.org/  where you will find an amazing amount of information related to this matter.

I’ll take the prayer of faith any day…

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I was recently made aware of someone that has been dealing with some on-going health issues. It was nothing catastrophic, but serious enough nonetheless.

I made inquiries about their present condition and was told “They’re hanging in there”. Not sounding very convincing, I asked again and was told “They’ll be alright”. Still not convinced, I decided to probe a bit deeper as to how they were really doing.

The person proceeded to say “well, they don’t like to profess anything negative”. Of course, I immediately recognized this as classic word of faith (WOF) teaching because one of their beliefs is that your words have creative power, and you can bring negative things into your life just by speaking them.

My response? I told them that I believed in professing the TRUTH, in telling it like it is. If I feel great I’ll say so. If I feel sick I will say so. Saying “I don’t like to profess anything negative” doesn’t do one thing to mask the pain and discomfort when that’s what I’m feeling.

If you want to drill down to it, it’s actually dishonest to do this!

I’m paraphrasing here, but WOF adherents believe that if you speak positive things like blessings and prosperity, blessings will be coming your way shortly. However, speak anything they interpret as being negative such as pain, disease, or sickness, and bad things are coming upon you.

Now, the purpose of this post is not to do a comparative analysis of all that’s wrong with WOF theology. I simply want to point out that the scriptures do not teach what the WOF adherents believe as it pertains to sickness or disease. For example:

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.   James 5:14-16

James is recognizing that there are sick people among the congregation. Why didn’t he launch into the benefits of positive confession if indeed that is all that is required? Or why didn’t he scold the people for confessing negative things like sickness, or for their apparent lack of faith?

Instead, James says to call for the elders of the church to pray for the sick. He did NOT say to call for the elders to speak a positive confession over them. He told them to pray a prayer of faith.

Could it be that James knew what he was talking about? Well, I’d like to believe he did! While James apparently did not become a believer until after the resurrection1, he had no doubt seen the power of prayer up close and personal.

What he did NOT see was a Sermon on the Mount about the benefits of a positive confession. Nor did he ever see Jesus admonish a grief stricken parent for their lack of faith, or for speaking negative words.

What he DID see however was the power of prayer in action.

And that my friends, trumps a positive confession any day of the week!

Be blessed!

Ron

1 John 7:5, Acts 1:14, 1 Corinthians 15:7, Galatians 1:19

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

 

 

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