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A recipe for disaster

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The Princess and I have been talking a lot lately about prayer. Specifically, how that prayer is a key ingredient in the life of a Christian, and how that if we leave the Lord out of our daily lives it’s like making a cake without all of the necessary ingredients.

Now, I like cake. Not all kinds of cake mind you, especially if it’s loaded with rich, too sweet, gooey icing a half inch thick. I know, I know, that’s what everybody loves, right?

Not me, I like enough icing to add some flavor, but I don’t want to eat it by the forkful.

pineapple upside downMy favorite kind of cake is pineapple upside down cake, if you’re interested. My second favorite would probably be German chocolate, even with its sweet coconut icing. I know what you’re thinking; he wants his cake and he wants to eat it too. Yep.

No matter the kind of cake we like, one thing is for certain and that is if you leave out a key ingredient, you will end up with a less than perfect cake. In which case, why bother?

Isn’t this how our lives are with Christ? There are many “ingredients” that come together and are intertwined with one another in the development of our faith. Things such as worship, study, and fellowship are hallmarks of a committed relationship with Christ.

Yet there remains one more, major ingredient in this ever developing relationship, one I personally feel is the most important.

Prayer

One of the most important aspects of any relationship is a little something called communication. Lack of communication is one of the greatest hindrances in any relationship. Just ask any married couple about this!

In the life of a Christian, communicating with God in prayer is absolutely essential, yet it is one of the most overlooked, neglected parts of our spiritual lives. How do we know that we have neglected our prayer life?

It will show up in many ways. It will show up in our attitude. When we don’t pray, we easily become distracted by the negativity around us, and that same negativity attaches itself to our attitudes.

Bad-Attitude-Quotations-012

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Christians who don’t pray are moody and temperamental. They are no fun to be around. They tend to see the bad more than they see the good. They are judgmental and unforgiving. Mercy and compassion are traits that are rarely seen in them.

If you want a reality check, try this little exercise: go back over the past month and add up all the time you have spent alone with God in prayer. Now, take that same time frame and add up all the time you have spent on social media or watching TV.

Would you say the results are sobering?

As you know, Jesus spent time training his disciples how to pray. Yet before he actually gets to the part about “Our Father, who art in heaven”, he says this:

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 

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. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.”         Matthew 6:5-7

Do you see the command to pray in these verses? In these two verses of scripture, Jesus said “when you pray” three times. He did not say “if you want to pray”, nor did he say “if you feel like praying”. No, he said “when you pray”.

We know, of course, that Jesus was our example when it comes to praying. After all, there were many times when he would go off to be by himself so that he could pray (Mark 6:46, 1:35, Matt. 26:36).

The expectation therefore is that as children of God we will pray. We will talk to God. We will enhance our bond with Him by communicating with Him through prayer.

praying man

pastorlyons.org

Beloved, if there is any one reason as to why the Church is so anemic today; it is because we don’t pray enough. We are not in contact with the Source of our strength!

Someone has said that the church of today has grown to the point that she is 10 miles wide, yet only ¼” deep.  Ouch.

The Lord Himself told Israel that if they would humble themselves,and PRAY,and seek my face,and turn from their wicked ways, then He would hear from heaven….(II Chro. 7:14).  Sounds pretty important, doesn’t it?

How then can our faith grow without prayer?  Prayer is the engine, or power behind our faith. How can we pray a prayer of faith if we never spend time with Him in prayer?

Can we ignore God until a need arises and then expect Him to come to our rescue when we rub our “prayer lamp” like the proverbial Genie? Is that how we think this works?

Talk about a recipe for disaster!

The apostle Paul said that we were to “pray without ceasing” (1st Thess. 5:17). A Christian that doesn’t pray is like the baker who sets out to make a cake without flour. The end result might resemble the real thing, but the proof is on the inside!

I encourage everyone to begin to pray a little more each day. Talk to God; tell Him all about it, just like the chorus to the old gospel song “Just a little talk with Jesus” says.

“Now let us have a little talk with Jesus
Let us tell Him all about our troubles
He will hear our faintest cry
He will answer by and by
Now when you feel a little prayer wheel turning
And you know a little fire is burning
You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right”.

For sure,we need all of the key ingredients to produce the desired results. Leaving out just one of them is a recipe for disaster.

With that, I’ll end this post. I need to go pray!

Be blessed!

Ron

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A personal God. A personal Father.

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The word “Father” is an important one in nearly every society. To some, Father denotes the elder, or leader of the family. Others use the word Father when referring to someone who originated something, like the Father of a particular industry.

In today’s post however, I want us to look at how God was first revealed as our Father.

In the prelude leading up to Jesus teaching his disciples about how they should pray, on no less than five occasions do we find Jesus referring to God as “your Father”.         Scripture reference Matt. 6:1-9

Why is this important? It is important because with the words “your Father” Jesus did something that had never been done before.

He personalized Almighty God by attributing to Him an intimate nature.

Think about that statement. I cannot find one instance in the Old Testament where the Jews ever referred to God as their Father in the first person. When I first realized this I was stunned!

To think that the God who revealed Himself to mankind, first in the garden and then throughout the Old Testament history of the Jews, was never thought of in a personal way as Father was almost unbelievable.

In fact, studies have been done (by real scholars) of every book of the Old Testament, as well as every known Jewish writing up until about the tenth century, and there is not one single reference of a Jewish person addressing God personally as their Father.

This makes Jesus referring to God as “your Father” all the more remarkable!

As a matter of fact, the very first Jewish rabbi known to have called God “Father” was Jesus of Nazareth!  In Judaism, this was such a radical departure from tradition that it cannot be overstated in its importance.

So great was the Jews anger against Jesus for suggesting that God could have an intimate relationship with man, that He was somehow approachable by mere mortals, that it incited the Jews to want to destroy Jesus.

To refer to the One True God as “Father” was unthinkable to the Jews, who would have deemed such a name as disrespectful. Of course, they used many distinct names for God; in fact in the Old Testament they used as many as sixteen different names that were deemed appropriate when addressing God. Perhaps you have heard most of these?
* El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)
* El Elyon (The Most High God)
* Adonai (Lord, Master)
* Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah)
* Jehovah Nissi (The Lord My Banner)
* Jehovah-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd)
* Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals)
* Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There)
* Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness)
* Jehovah Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You)
* El Olam (The Everlasting God)
* Elohim (God)
* Qanna (Jealous)
* Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide)
* Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace)
* Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts)

None of these names, however, refer to Him as “Father”. They are all names that reflect Holiness, Worship, and respect. They reflect upon his many incredible attributes.

In revealing the intimate nature of God by referring to Him as “our Father”, Jesus introduced to mankind the concept that God Almighty was also approachable.

Jesus revealed to the world for the first time that God was not some cold, unfeeling entity in a galaxy far, far away. No, Jesus pulled back the curtain of religious mystique and revealed God as Father, a title that suggests intimacy and personal relationship.

Because scripture teaches us that God has adopted us into his family and made us joint heirs with his only Son, we have been granted the right and the privilege to come into the presence of God and call him Father.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”           Romans 8:14-17

A personal God, a personal Father, has adopted us into His family. We belong to Him, and as such we can call Him our Father.

I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t get any better than this for me.

Be blessed, and have a wonderful day,

Ron

 

 

The risk of telling the truth

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Have you ever been faced with the dilemma of either telling someone the truth and risking a relationship, or not addressing a particular situation and allowing that same person to continue living what is tantamount to a lie?

This can be a difficult, stressful situation to find yourself in. On the one hand you don’t want to lose a friendship, yet on the other hand to say nothing is even worse. It’s the “silence is consent” conundrum.

As a Christian, I believe we are to speak the truth in love. Always.

In fact, we are commanded to address sin for the purpose of restoring the one who has sinned.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”           Galatians 6:1

Confronting the sins, or faults, or transgressions of another is never easy because all of us are just as guilty of our own shortcomings. It is important then that when we approach someone who is struggling in a particular area of their lives, that we do so lovingly and with grace.

After all, our purpose in doing so must not be to judge or condemn, but to restore that person to a right standing relationship with God. That is God’s plan for all of us, isn’t it? To be reconciled to God is the sole purpose for Jesus Christ offering Himself on the cross.

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,” II Corinthians 5:18

When we get right down to it, when we come to the end of our days, all that will matter is whether or not our hearts are cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. And when you consider that we are dealing with eternal things, it really does matter!

We know however that not everyone receives correction, or restoration, because the heart becomes hardened to the effects of sin. It’s not that a person doesn’t know or understand that their choices are sinful, but rather that they willingly choose to do so.

“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17

To these individuals, speaking the truth in love can often seem futile. It can also be costly because the hearer may not reject just the correction, but you as well. And this is very difficult for us to accept because we do not understand why someone would not receive what we are offering to them in love.

“Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” Galatians 4:16

Many Christians are being falsely labeled today as “hate groups” because they do not subscribe to the worlds standards for living. Taking a biblical stand for example against homosexuality will get you labeled as a “hater”. The same goes for supporting only Biblical marriage between a man and a woman, along with everything else the world is trying to peddle as acceptable.

This is important, because the foundation has been laid by groups such as the SPLC to categorize all Bible believing Christians as intolerant bigots who must be silenced. While the Church has slumbered (yet again), the process to do just that has made great strides.

Telling the truth, especially the Biblical truth to a person is not hate at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. To say nothing to someone living a lifestyle that Scripture condemns is the opposite of love, for in doing so you have assisted them in continuing down the path to certain destruction.

To lovingly confront someone with Biblical truth however is love, for you are demonstrating to that person that you love them enough to risk a friendship or the relationship for the sake of restoring them to a right relationship with Christ.

How big of a risk taker are you?

Be blessed!

Ron

 

5 immutable facts about our Christian walk…

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There are many “non negotiables” concerning our covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. Here are five of them that should be required reading for us all.

“The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”
‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭2:11-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Determine in your heart to be faithful to the end….

Ron

How to know what God really expects of us.

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One of things I struggle with in writing this blog is how to condense topics that I could speak about for hours into a few hundred words,all while maintaining the integrity of the subject matter. I suppose everyone who has a blog struggles with this.

Such is the topic I want to tackle today:how to know what God really expects of us.Of course,I’m aware that a great many people,even some who attend church regularly,do not believe God expects anything of them.

Sad as it is,for many people God is seen as a type of cosmic genie who is supposed to be at their beck and call should a need arise.

The Bible however,paints a very different picture.You see,scripture points us to the fact that God desires to have a relationship with us.

As with any relationship that you might be involved in,it is a two way street.There are expectations,are there not? And if those expectations are not met on a frequent basis,the relationship suffers.

So it is with our relationship with God.He expects certain things from us and when we don’t deliver on our end,this relationship suffers.Think of it this way: God will not bless a relationship He is not involved in. Let that sink in for a minute.

So lets look at a few of those expectations,beginning with a question that the Lord posed to Israel:

He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?   Micah 6:8

act-justly

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At the time of Micah’s tenure as a prophet in Israel,God had a problem on his hands with this people.

They had developed a malady not unlike us today in that they suffered from a serious case of ingratitude.

So deeply embedded was this ingratitude that the Lord even asked them “what have I done to you”?(v.3).

In telling them that He has showed them what is good,God is reminding them that for centuries they have had the Law and the Prophets to instruct them in how they should live.In other words,don’t even act like you don’t know what is expected of you.

He then gets to the heart of the matter by telling them three things He requires of them.

  1. to do justly,or to exercise Godly,righteous judgement in their dealings with one another
  2. to love mercy,to willfully and joyfully extend love and compassion to others
  3. to walk humbly with your God,meaning to acknowledge Him in all your ways

Notice something missing here? God did not require them to offer a ram,or a goat,or a calf.No,what He required of them was a different kind of sacrifice.One that came from within their hearts.

What He required of them necessitated a renewed heart.He wanted relationship.The same relationship that He desired when He delivered them from Egyptian bondage,and when He delivered to them His Law.

God has always yearned to have a covenant relationship with His people. Now lets take a look at this question as it was asked in Jesus’ day.

There was a certain lawyer who in trying to tempt Jesus,asked him what the requirements were for him to inherit eternal life.

And he answering said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.   Luke 10:27

Once again we see the answer to the age old question of “what does God require” to be something other than rules,sacrifices,or tradition.Jesus made it as clear as it could be that what the Lord requires must come from the heart.

Loving God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself is only possible when the heart has been transformed.It cannot be done from the mind,or because it’s the morally right thing to do.

No,the expectations set forth by Jesus bespeak intimacy with God,and that can only come with spending time with Him in prayer and in the Word.Which brings me to the title question of this post:”how to know what God really expects of us”.

The answer is found within the pages of God’s Word.The two examples I shared with you are representative of the content found within the sixty six books of the Bible,nearly all of which contain an abundance of instruction and admonition for our spiritual development.

My hope,my earnest prayer is that we first understand that God does indeed expect something of us.He expects US. Not our things,not our money,not our deeds or even our sacrifices,but rather our hearts.

Secondly,that we regularly read His Word,because the Word of God is alive and more relevant for today than most can imagine it to be.It will keep and sustain you in the darkest hours you may face.It will compel you onward as you draw near unto Him.

since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God“.   1 Peter 1:23   ESV

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!

Ron

 

 

Partnership or Ownership?

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If you listen to many of the more popular speakers in the church today there seems to be a consensus that God needs us in order to accomplish His will on earth.

Often,this reasoning is a result of misapplication of the word “Covenant”found scattered throughout both Old and New Testaments. For example:

Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;   Deut. 7:9

They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers who refused to hear My words, and they have gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers.”   Jer. 11:10

 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ,that it should make the promise of no effect.   Gal 3:17

that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.   Eph 2:12
These verses,and dozens like them point to the fact that when scripture refers to covenant,it is speaking about a solemn promise,or relational agreement that God makes with his people.
The prevailing thought today however is that covenant means that we are in a partnership with God,meaning that this is a relationship mutually dependent upon one another.
This thought process is a an outcome of the word faith cult that elevates man to god-like status. To understand the status that word faith teachers give to man is a topic I will delve into in a later post in great detail.For now,suffice it to say that word faith believers say that when a man is born again,he has regained his divine nature that they believe he had before the Fall. Because of this he is now able to (once again) use his divine powers of creation and domination. Sad though it may be,this heresy is creeping into mainline protestant denominations at a rapid pace and shows no sign of slowing down.
So the big question is this: is God really needing us to “partner” with Him in order to accomplish his will on the earth? Does the God of heaven need us in order to accomplish anything on earth?
Well, yes and no.
I believe God does wish to establish His covenant with everyone and scripture backs this up in many instances. We know that since the beginning God has desired a people with which to forge a relationship with,and to that end He has established his promise,or covenant with us, through His Son Jesus Christ.
For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Matt. 26:28
 Jesus described a New Covenant that was brought about by the shedding of His own blood. This speaks to a relationship so intense as to be created,purchased,and sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ. He did not need a “ministry partner” to do this.He did this because of His divinity,and no one else ever had or ever will do such a thing again.
This is where those who believe that God needs us in order to accomplish His will on earth are in error. Does God desire that we position ourselves with Him so as to be available to be used by Him? Of course He does! If we fail to position ourselves in such a manner does the work of God come to a halt? Of course not!
God’s work cannot be stopped.If it could then He would not be God.
He desires for us to enter into a covenant relationship with Him,of this there can be no argument.But I would argue that rather than partner with us He desires to own us!
What do you mean, and how can this be?
Simply this.If we submit ourselves unto the Lord,and by that I mean complete submission to the point where my needs no longer matter,only then can the Lord actually use us to do the great work that needs to be done before His return.
Until and unless we are willing to submit to Him in such a manner,we can never know Him in the deep covenant relational manner He so earnestly desires.We will only go so far with Him before the flesh wins out and we begin to pull back into our comfort zone.
Those claiming that God needs us to partner with Him are attempting to either elevate man to a god like status or bring God down to their level in order that they would be considered as equals.And that my friends,is the crux of the issue isn’t it?
To be thought of as being so spiritual as to be equal with God.
The late Paul Crouch,owner of The Blasphemy Network (aka TBN) used to claim that “we are little gods”. Seems that he and millions of others who subscribe to such drivel forgot that there was another well known character who believed that.You might know his name as Satan,or Lucifer.
No, God does not need us. It is us who are completely dependent upon Him for everything. The very air that we breathe is supplied by Him.The water that sustains life on this earth is supplied by Him in the form of rain.
Not much we can do to partner in that,is there?
Be blessed!
Ron