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Putting in our order

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Who doesn’t like the occasional fast food take out vs. the work of preparing and cooking a big meal at home? Just the other night for example, my Princess decided she wanted Chinese take out, so Chinese it was.

And yes….it was very good!!

The convenience of fast food is pretty awesome if you ask me. Simply pick up the phone and call it in, or even better do it all online. Within a few minutes of placing our order, we’re sitting down to eat!

Of course, you know what they say about too much of a good thing. Simply putting in an order comes at a high cost if done frequently. Whether it’s spending extra money on top of the weeks grocery budget, or the ever expanding waist line, convenience isn’t cheap.

That being said, I think we’ve gotten quite comfortable with the ease and simplicity of putting in our order, and when you think about it, this mindset carries over into many parts of our lives.

We want maximum benefit while exerting minimum effort. Place a call, click a mouse, or speak into a device and things appear on our doorstep almost magically. Technology at its finest!

So it is sometimes in our walk with the Lord. Have you noticed that when we are facing difficult circumstances, our initial thoughts are often to try the “call, click a mouse, or speak into a device” approach when searching for a solution?

That’s called Human nature 101. Who doesn’t like easy?

Unfortunately, all too often the issues we are facing today seem to turn into giants before our very eyes. When that happens, ‘easy’ rarely works because it takes far more than simply putting in our order to send those same giants packing.

I have been guilty of this, and more times than not I didn’t even realize it until it was brought to my attention. That’s because I can get so caught up in the ‘what’s wrong’ that instead of immediately turning to the Lord, I search everywhere else, looking for that easy solution.

Do you ever do this?

The point I’m trying to make with this is that while we all have needs, and we’re all dealing with something, we also have to understand that more often than not, the solutions to today’s complex issues are not easy.

We can’t just “put in our order”, walk away, and be done with it while expecting that things will work out somehow or another. If we’re going to overcome and have the victory, we need to pray.

We might think of prayer as optional, or even a last resort thing to do when we’re out of options, but the reality of it is we are expected to pray. Jesus didn’t say ‘if you pray’, but rather when you pray.

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.   Matthew 6:6

Prayer cements our relationship with our Heavenly Father. It is an open line of communication that each of us has with Him, and provides the means in which we may cast our cares upon Him instead of carrying them ourselves.

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.   1st Peter 5:6,7

I can think of no greater need in the body of Christ today than the need for regular prayer. The kind of praying I’m talking about is not merely putting in our order, it is personally communicating with the Almighty. Not just when we are facing giants, but every single day!

Prayer is a critical component of our relationship with the Father.

One I need to desperately rekindle.

How about you?

If you’re tired of seeing no results from simply ‘placing your order’, I believe sincere prayer will be a game changer.

Be blessed everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

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Is there a mountain in your life that needs removed?

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Have you ever driven through the mountains? If you have, you have no doubt marveled at how the road was seemingly carved out of solid rock.

It’s interesting to see how the engineers overcame certain obstacles in the building of these roads. Some roads go right through the mountain in elaborately constructed tunnels, while others wind all the way around the outside of the mountain.

However the method, one thing is certain: it took a lot of very hard work to move that mountain in order to construct safe roadways in its place.

Much like those roadways, all of us have mountains in our lives that serve as giant obstacles to us. These mountains come in many shapes and sizes, and all of them have one thing in common: they are in our way, and we must find a way around them.

Fortunately for us, Jesus gave His disciples an important lesson in removing these mountains from their lives.

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.    Mark 11:22-24

Knowing that we are children of faith, all of us can say that we have been given a certain measure of faith. Understanding this, it should be easy enough to follow Jesus’ instructions, agree?

Except that when we look at our own circumstances in light of the verses above, we question just what kind of faith we actually have. After all, Jesus makes it sound pretty easy, doesn’t he? Just say the words and POOF!, it’s done!

Yet when we say to our own mountain “be removed”, it doesn’t budge. What gives?

The key to understanding this is when Jesus says if we do not doubt in our hearts, we shall have what we ask.

Talk about a mountain! DOUBT is the biggest mountain in all of our lives. Well, at least it is in my life. If we are to have the faith to remove these mountains from our lives, DOUBT has to go.

How do we accomplish this?

The answer my friends is found in our hearts. The only way to remove the mountains from our lives is to assume a fighting position, and for a Christian that means to humble our heart before God and pray.

You see, it is only when we pray that we bring God into the battle. Merely reciting a repeat after me prayer that someone else prayed is not believing in your heart.

This must be personal!

I have found that having ‘mountain moving faith’ is a process. A very long and arduous process. It’s a process built upon one small victory after another until eventually you have the faith to say to those mountains in your life “be removed”, and they will obey you.

If you have a mountain in your life that needs to be removed, I suggest the starting point is simply humbling our heart before the Lord.

Self needs to disappear into the background, while the Lord needs to come to the forefront. When we are diminished, He is exalted. Less of us…more of Him.

That is the foundation of ‘mountain moving faith’. When we build upon it daily, we will begin to see those impassable mountains begin to crumble before our eyes.

Have a blessed day!

Ron

 

 

 

Sizzling For Jesus?

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About a month ago, my wife and I were discussing some different areas of ministry, and in particular the area of preparedness. In other words, how we might approach the different ways in which we minister to people.

Now, as regular readers may know, my wife is extremely adept at getting to the crux of the matter. In other words, she doesn’t mince words but gets right to the point.

So it was on this occasion as we were discussing the study time necessary in order to prepare and deliver a sermon. Her exact quote is as follows:

”If the only time we push the pan close to the fire is when we are scheduled to preach (teach, sing, pray, etc), then we are not being faithful. We should be as close to the fire as possible at all times!” Of course, she was correct in her assessment.

To use her as an example, she is a gifted soloist and is often asked to sing at our church. To many, she’s just a pretty face standing up there singing her beautiful songs. And I’m just as certain that there are a few who see her as merely the “entertainment”.

I, on the other hand, know differently. When she is scheduled to sing, the first thing she does is to pray about what song to sing. This isn’t a quick thought like “well Lord, what’s it going to be this time?” Not at all!

She will pray until she believes she has heard from the Lord about the song He wants her to sing. Do you know why she does that? It’s because her song is her ministry gift from the Lord, and she takes that very seriously.

So seriously that she wouldn’t think of not being prepared to deliver her gift. That includes much prayer as well as a lot of practice time in her “studio”( it’s actually our garage, but she refers to it as her studio). Her gifting is in worship, and when she sings she is singing as if Jesus was sitting on the front row.

She does not “perform”, rather what she does is worship the King of Kings.

It’s no different then when I am asked to speak in one of the services. I have to know that I’ve heard from the Lord before I will ever step behind the pulpit. To do so knowing that I was unprepared would be an insult to the Lord, and you can believe me when I say that isn’t going to happen.

This takes many hours of study and prayer, because just like my wife, my calling is very serious to me. I understand that many do not take this approach, in fact, I have had my share of people tell me I am far too serious about this. Imagine that!

For me, however, there is no other way.

I’m that serious because it’s very personal to me. It’s like a covenant between the Lord and me, and I don’t ever want to break that covenant. So I endeavor to be as prepared as I possibly can be when I’m called upon.

Whatever area the Lord has gifted you in, I trust that you also take it seriously. Whatever gifts and callings we may have, use them to your fullest capability. They were given to you for a purpose, and that purpose is to use them to bring glory and honor to God.

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.   Romans 11:29

That’s how important and serious this is.

My Princess had one final thought on the matter of preparedness, and I will leave you with that.

You can’t sizzle for Jesus unless your pan is on the fire!

That’s right my love, and we’re going to keep right on sizzling together for Him!

Be blessed on this wonderful Lord’s day!

Ron

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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