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Is God really doing a “New Thing”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which begs the question…

What is wrong with us?

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

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

We would be living it every day!

Now that’s something to get excited about!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

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The renewal of Spring

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The first day of Spring brings to mind thoughts of Renewal.

While much of the Northeast and Midwest are bracing for yet another round of snow and ice, winter is about to loosen its grip. It has to at some point, just as it does every year.

Soon the ice will melt away, and the snow drifts will become smaller and smaller until we almost forget about those snowplow mountains.

It’s time for Spring. Time for the seasons to change. Time for the Crocus to pop through the cold ground.

spring crocus

Photo by Wilfried Santer on Unsplash

All of us look forward to the close of another long winter, and impatiently wait for the warm spring breezes that are surely on their way.

It’s time for renewal.

As a nation, as individuals, we all need to be renewed, to be cleansed.

We all need to wash off the cobwebs and dust that have collected over these past months. The time has come to snap out of these winter doldrums!

The prophet Jeremiah knew a thing or two about renewal when he prayed for Israel to be restored to their proper relationship with God. How his heart must have been breaking when he prayed these words!

Turn us back to You, O Lord, and we will be restored;
Renew our days as of old,   Lamentations 5:21

My hope is that all of us would pray this prayer:

Lord, we have wandered far from you, so far that we can scarcely remember how we once enjoyed your presence. But we know that you are faithful to forgive us, both as a nation and as one of your children. Father, we pray for renewal. We pray for the new growth of Spring, that it will restore in our hearts that which the locust has eaten and the worm has destroyed.

Revive us O God. We are desperate for Renewal.

Ron

And we wonder why….Part 1

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The recent massacre of 17 children on Valentine’s Day in Parkland Fl. has turned my thoughts once again to the plight of America’s children, and the ever increasing dangers they must contend with in a society rendered (seemingly) helpless to protect them.

Though this most recent mass shooting occurred about three weeks ago, I have purposely delayed writing this series of posts until now in order to clear my head and heart of the emotions I’ve been contending with as a result of this tragedy.

Parents and average citizens alike are outraged, as well they should be, that yet another mass shooting has taken place in one of our schools. The senseless, cowardly attack on our children has once again left our nation grief-stricken, searching for answers.

Searching for someone, or something to blame.

True to form, whenever a tragedy of this magnitude takes place, the inevitable call to do something about guns, particularly guns such as the AR-15 rifle, soon follows.

Of course, it is understandable that grieving parents would lash out at what they perceive to be the primary cause of why they must now bury their child.

Who wouldn’t?

Also true to form, the moments after such a tragedy find our elected representatives on both the Left and the Right politicizing the event, as if the murder of seventeen innocent children were some sort of sick, twisted, political football to be tossed back and forth.

How sick and perverted is it when the people we elect to represent us cannot lay aside their differences in the face of such a tragedy, and come together in the spirit of unity and compassion for the betterment of the nation?

No offense, but if this doesn’t cause you to feel outrage, you should have someone check your pulse.

Surely one would hope that the cries of anguish from a broken-hearted mother would be able to break through the self-imposed impasse that prohibits having a reasonable, rational discussion among the stakeholders.

You think?

Some say it’s the fault of the NRA, or the Congress. To others it’s the fault of the President. Depending on which side of the political pendulum you swing from, it’s either the fault of the Conservatives or the Liberals.

None of which is completely true. Rhetoric rarely contains more than a thumbnail of truth, after all.

You see, when we don’t know what to do, we look for a scapegoat. For those of you unfamiliar with the word scapegoat, it comes from the Old Testament book of Leviticus.

On the Day of Atonement, the sins of the people were ceremoniously placed upon a goat called the “scapegoat”, who was then released into the wilderness to wander.          Scripture reference Leviticus 16:5-10

When our children are mercilessly slaughtered, our righteous grief and anger demand that we affix blame; hence we look for our own version of the Levitical scapegoat.

And who could blame us? Sins of such magnitude stir within us the desire for revenge and justice. Someone must pay! Someone must be held accountable!

Barring an unforeseen turn of events, the murderer of the 17 kids at Stoneman Douglas High School, confessed killer Nikolas Cruz, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

But does that bring any of those children back? Does a lifetime sentence for Mr. Cruz mean the end of school shootings in America? The answer I’m afraid is NO to both questions. Let me explain why I believe that.

Our nation is drowning in violence, hatred, and evil, and as a nation there is no longer a life preserver of righteousness or morality for us to grab hold of. This is the path that we have chosen, despite those who would say otherwise.

We have systematically removed the one Source from this nation that is capable of defeating the evil that is upon us. Indeed, our “Life Preserver” has been tossed overboard without us. Consider the following:

  • We have outlawed public prayer nearly everywhere. Heaven help you should you want to open a public meeting with a moment of prayer.
  • The ACLU has made sure that the Baby Jesus can’t show up at the town square at Christmas.
  • Football coaches are forbidden to pray with their students before game time.
  • The Ten Commandments have been removed from our courtrooms.
  • Christians who denounce SIN are now denigrated as haters.
  • The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States.
  • The names of God or Jesus cannot be used least someone become offended. Of course, if you want to use those names in a curse, then no harm, no foul.

And we wonder why we’re killing one another?

We’ve removed GOD from America, and what has He been replaced with?

In Part 2 of “And we wonder why”, I’ll share with you just one of the things that has replaced God in America. I’ll also show you some startling facts about the efforts taking place to steal our children’s innocence, and the devastating effects it is having upon them.

Until then…

Ron

Of course you can do it your way,but…

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Human nature being what it is, most of us are pretty sure we know what’s best for ourselves don’t we? Think back to when you were a teenager for example. Your parents no doubt tried to steer you the right way so that you would avoid making mistakes. Or perhaps a teacher tried to influence your choice of careers.

If you’re like most teenagers you probably let all of this sage advice go in one ear and out the other, because after all, you knew more than your parents or your teachers. Am I right?

God also wants what’s best for us, and He surrounds us with influences in the hope that we will pay attention, learn, and avoid making bad choices.

The Word of God, for example, is a powerful influence on our behavior. If we will heed its instructions, we can be assured of avoiding the negative consequences so often associated with making “less than intelligent decisions”.

Sometimes however, we deliberately choose to ignore God’s instructions. When we do this, we can be sure that there will be serious consequences to follow. For example, take the story of Israel and their desire to have a king reign over them.

In the book of 1st Samuel, chapter eight, we find the children of Israel telling Samuel that they wanted a king to rule them, just like all the nations round about them had. By this time, Samuel had grown old and had appointed his son’s judges over the people, but the people rejected them because they were only in it for the money and prestige.

Now, this demand for a king did not sit well with Samuel, and so he prayed to God about the situation. Here is the Lord’s response to Samuel’s prayer:

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”.             1st Samuel 8:7.  NKJV

God told Samuel to give the people what they wanted. In essence, they were going to be permitted to have it their way. Up until now Israel was a theocracy, meaning God Himself was their ruler.

So desirous were they of the nation’s surrounding them and their monarchical systems of government, Israel rejected God in favor of man.

And God said “OK”.

There is, however, more to this story. For certain, they would indeed have it their way by having a king rule over them. But listen to what they were getting for a king.

Samuel told the children of Israel that their new king would take their sons and daughters, their fields and vineyards, even their sheep and donkeys (verses 10-17).

Doesn’t sound like such a good deal after all, does it?

So harshly would their new king deal with them, that Samuel told them the day would come when they would cry out in despair over their new leader.

But the Lord would not hear them in that day (verse 18).

Scary stuff there, when God refuses to listen to their voices any longer. When I really think about it, there aren’t too many things that I can think of that are worse than God turning a deaf ear to me!

How many of us are familiar with the expression “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it”? I’d say Israel could identify with that particular saying.

The moral of this story of course is that we are free to choose who will lead us. We are free to choose this world’s leaders, or we can choose God. We can freely choose to be like everyone else, or we can choose to be identified with God.

It really does come down to choices.

Choices…and their consequences that is.

Have a blessed day, in Jesus name!

Ron

 

 

When “works” replace Jesus…

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Recently I came across an article that talked about pastors filling in their church calendars for the new year. The gist of this article dealt with whether or not the items that made their calendars was real ministry or simply “busy work”.

It made for interesting reading, especially when one of the pastors posted a link to his calendar for everyone to see. Imagine my surprise when lo and behold nearly every day of the week was filled from early morning till late in the evening.

Everything from early morning Bible studies and Zumba classes, afternoon staff and business meetings, to evening choir practice and healthy cooking classes filled this church’s calendar.

Frankly, it was the busiest church calendar I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them. At first glance one would be inclined to say that this church was very busy, and they certainly were. I couldn’t imagine them squeezing anything else into an already stuffed daily agenda.

There was something odd however about this church calendar. I couldn’t figure it out at first, but I couldn’t shake the notion that in spite of so many agenda items something was missing.

Then it hit me. There was something missing! In fact, I noticed two missing items. The first was that there was no time built into the calendar for corporate prayer. The second thing that I noticed missing was there was not one single event or activity geared toward anyone outside the four walls of the church!

As I studied this I was reminded of something that Jesus said to the church at Ephesus, one of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation.

2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 “and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.    Revelation 2:2-4(NKJV).    Emphasis mine

Lets look at these verses in detail because I think we might see ourselves in them.

Jesus recognized the works that the church had been doing. He called attention to their labor and patience, and how many of us can relate when it comes to having patience when doing the Lords work?

Jesus also mentioned the church’s disdain for those who practiced evil. All of us understand this don’t we? We are trying to live a Godly life in the midst of a perverse and increasingly evil society, and it’s only going to become more challenging.

He goes on to list several more very positive attributes of the church at Ephesus, leaving no doubt that He knew this church intimately. Hmmm…do you suppose Jesus knows the church you attend in such intimate detail?

At first glance this church could be the model for all other churches in the area. Things were going good, and I imagine there was quite a buzz about all the wonderful things the church at Ephesus was doing.

But, and there’s always a but, right? There was a problem in the church, a problem so important that Jesus couldn’t let it slide without calling their attention to it.

It all began with the word “nevertheless”. Just hearing the word sends thoughts of “uh oh, here it comes” to our minds. Even after all of the praise Jesus gave the church, there was a “nevertheless” that cast a dark shadow on what was an otherwise glowing report.

Nevertheless, he said, this church had lost their first love.

Ouch!

What does this mean, to have lost your first love? It means that the church at Ephesus no longer loved the Lord with the same level of intensity they once had. Their passionate love for Jesus had been replaced by something else.

They had lost their zeal for Christ. Typically when this happens, we just go through the motions of serving God. Our heart is no longer motivated by the love of Jesus, we become content to do as many good works as we can, placing our trust in the deeds themselves rather than Jesus.

Ask me how I know this!

Do you know what this is called? It’s called RELIGION, and it ceases to be about a relationship with Christ. The church at Ephesus abandoned their first love in exchange for cold, formal, impersonal RELIGION.

This is the same poison that has infected the Church today. The poison of RELIGION has suffocated the once fervent relationship she had with Christ. This is why there is such apathy in the pew today. We have supplanted relationship with form, with rules, with do’s and dont’s.

But it doesn’t have to be like this! There’s more to the story! In the next verse, Jesus gave the church at Ephesus an “out”. He told them to REPENT. That’s right, simply REPENT.

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”   Rev. 2:5   KJV

I believe that this is the message for the Church today. Remember where we came from, acknowledge we have strayed, repent and get going again.

Return to the love of Jesus, then watch how much impact our works will have on the world around us!

Maybe we should put THAT in our church calendars!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

Why are we here?

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Christians, a.k.a. the Church. Why are we here? What is our purpose?

One would think the answer would be obvious, but is it? In Acts 2 we read “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

According to this verse, the purposes of the church are 1) doctrinal,biblical teaching, 2) creating an opportunity for the fellowship of believers, 3) observing the Lord’s supper, and 4) praying.

While all of this is true, it barely scratches the surface because the Church is so much more than that!

Paul gave an excellent illustration of this to the believers at Corinth. He taught them that the Church is to be the visible, living, hands, mouth, and feet of God in this world. In other words…the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). We are to be doing the very things that Jesus Christ would do if He were here physically on the earth.

We are to be replicating the work He already did. This is one of the greatest travesties of our day, that the Church is constantly trying to reinvent itself in order to become more relevant. The die has already been cast friends, we simply need to do what Jesus did.

The Church consists of ordinary people held together by an extraordinary God for the extraordinary purpose of revealing His heart to a lost world. Why is the church here? The answer is so that we can be Jesus to the world!

As individual members of the Church, we are tasked with asking ourselves “does this world know by our actions that we are the hands,mouth, and feet of God”?

Something to ponder on this warm, sunny December day!

Ron

Thanksgiving Memories

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Thanksgiving Day has always been my favorite holiday of the year. When I think back to my early childhood, Thanksgiving Day was always the holiday I looked forward to the most. Aside from getting out of school for a few days, the expectation of seeing Aunts and Uncles, and cousins my own age to play with was something I looked forward to with great anticipation.

Well, that and knowing there was going to be a mountain of great food to eat! Even today, my wife believes the food is the real reason I love Thanksgiving. Me, I’m not saying one way or another.

Those happy times are forever etched in my mind, and as another Thanksgiving approaches, I enjoy remembering the laughter and non-stop chatter around our crowded kitchen table. I remember how that all of us kids who had to sit at the “kids table longed for the day when we could set at the grown-up’s table and join in.

For days and days my parents would be preparing special things that were only served on Thanksgiving Day, and I know that they always brought home the largest turkey the store had. We could also count on any visiting relatives to bring along even more goodies, and could my Aunts ever cook! I think I could write an entire blog just about my mom’s turkey and dressing, and my Aunt Marlene’s chocolate pie made me wish I had eaten nothing else but that!

The men in my family always went hunting on Thanksgiving morning, and being a young boy I wasn’t allowed to tag along because I would either slow them down, get hurt, or some other made up reason to keep me home. I was forced to stay behind and endure the heavenly smells coming from the kitchen, which, I can finally admit, wasn’t so bad after all.

At long last the dinner hour had come, and everyone gathered in the kitchen. I honestly don’t remember if anyone said Grace before the meal, as none of my family was particularly religious. If they did, I’m sure it fell on deaf ears with me as I stared at a turkey leg, or a large ham, knowing that very soon I would be enjoying a heaping plate of delicious food.

After dinner, the family would all find a place to sit in the living room, where we would spend hours reliving the important things that had happened in our lives over the past year.

Back then, we might have been able to get a football game on one of the three TV channels our old black and white TV pulled in, but no one ever thought of turning it on. Why spoil such wonderful family time by inviting a football game into our home? Our family was the main attraction after all!

Late at night, when everyone was tired and had to leave to return to their own homes, we knew that for at least one more year our family was, well, still a family. It’s funny how that even after all these years, I can still remember the feeling of security I had just in knowing that we were family.

Today, my own small family celebrates Thanksgiving in much the same way as I did as a child. Sure, there aren’t nearly as many people around the table, and the amount of food is a lot less than what is needed for a huge family. My wife cooks a pretty awesome turkey, and her baked beans are legendary around our house, so we have plenty and then some.

The most important things are there however. A deep, abiding love for one another, a home built upon the sure foundation of Christ, and the knowledge that no matter what comes our way in this life, we are family.

As my family gathers around the table this Thanksgiving, we have much to be thankful for. God blessed us to make it to retirement, He brought me through a very serious health issue, and my family is healthy and prospering. To say we are blessed just doesn’t seem adequate.

My prayer is that all of you will have a memorable Thanksgiving Day, surrounded by those you love and care about. I hope everyone slows down a bit and takes the time to create some memories and new traditions that can be passed down to the next generation. Talk to one another. Enjoy one another. Make time for one another.

The Bible describes this life as but a vapor. It’s gone before you know it, so live each day to the fullest.

Most of all, be thankful. Be thankful for one another, and thankful that you can enjoy this time together as a family.

Be thankful to God for His many blessings.

Ron

We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.   Psalms 75:1

Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!   Psalms 107:8

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