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You Have Not Returned to Me

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All of us stumble and fall.

Every one of us.

Saints.

Sinners.

All of us.

Where is God when we stumble and fall? Does He turn a deaf ear to us and say that “you’re on your own”?

As all of us who have stumbled can attest,God is faithful to restore us again and again should we come to Him with a repentant heart.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.   Psa 34:18 KJV

But have you ever wondered whether or not you were important enough to the Lord that He would seek you out? Have you ever thought to yourself “am I even worth it”?

I mean,it’s one thing for me to acknowledge my sin and turn to the Lord asking for mercy.As a Christian I know that I must do this if I am to be restored to a right relationship with my Creator.

But what happens if we choose to continue doing that thing that displeases Him? Does the God of the universe wash His hands of us as if to say “well,I guess you will reap the rewards of your actions so you’re on your own”?

All of this brings me to a tragic story in the Old Testament book of Amos that reminds me of how far the Lord will go to recapture our hearts.The story is one that reveals the very nature of God’s heart and His longing for a relationship with His people.

1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, Who oppress the poor, Who crush the needy, Who say to your husbands, “Bring wine, let us drink!”

2 The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness: “Behold, the days shall come upon you When He will take you away with fishhooks, And your posterity with fishhooks.

3 You will go out through broken walls, Each one straight ahead of her, And you will be cast into Harmon,” Says the LORD.

4 “Come to Bethel and transgress, At Gilgal multiply transgression; Bring your sacrifices every morning, Your tithes every three days.

5 Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, Proclaim and announce the freewill offerings; For this you love, You children of Israel!” Says the Lord GOD.

6 “Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities. And lack of bread in all your places; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

7 “I also withheld rain from you, When there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, And where it did not rain the part withered.

8 So two [or] three cities wandered to another city to drink water, But they were not satisfied; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

9 “I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, Your vineyards, Your fig trees, And your olive trees, The locust devoured them; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

10 “I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; Your young men I killed with a sword, Along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

11 “I overthrew some of you, As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

12 “Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; Because I will do this to you, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

13 For behold, He who forms mountains, And creates the wind, Who declares to man what his thought is, And makes the morning darkness, Who treads the high places of the earth–The LORD God of hosts is His name.   Amos 4:1-13 NKJV  (emphasis mine)

This passage of scripture reveals clearly that our Lord will not just let us go to do as we will,but rather He will continually plead with His children to “return to me”. In other words,it isn’t as easy as we might imagine to “get away from the Lord”because as you can see,God will do whatever He needs to do to get your attention.

Why is that? Is it not because of your worth?

I once heard it said that for any soul to enter into Hell they would have to first get past Jesus,and I believe this to be true. The God who in times past sent armies to oppress His people in order to get them to return unto Him now has sent His only Son Jesus to stand between you and I and eternal separation from Him.

The God who in times past withheld even the rain from heaven to try to get His people to return unto Him now pleads with every soul to accept the Supreme Sacrifice that is His only Son,Jesus Christ as the only Way,the Truth,and the Life.

If you have fallen…get up. If you fall tomorrow…get back up.

You will find One reaching out to you with an unseen hand to pick you up,for He will not leave you broken and desolate.It is not in Him to abandon you in your time of need.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.  Psa 34:19 NKJV

He delivers him out of them ALL!

You can return unto Him!

Be blessed,

Ron

Upon This Rock……

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Our family just returned from 10 days of sunshine and rest and we are very thankful to the Lord for His provision.I’ve had a lot of time to actually think without the pressures and demands of life interrupting me, and it was good to be able to spend quiet time alone with Him.

I spent quite a bit of time reflecting upon my own journey with Christ.I’ve been a Christian for almost forty years now, and there are times when it seems a lot longer than that. I guess life sometimes makes time seem to drag on longer than it actually does. Wouldn’t you agree?

And then there are times when it seems like only yesterday when I knelt in my kitchen and accepted the Lord into my heart.Serving the Lord,basking in the glory of it all,somehow seems to make the time fly by. Agree?

I should mention here that due to a family medical trait I really never dreamed I would live to be as old as I am.Even though I’m still 16 in heart and mind(just ask my wife!), my body however has a way of snapping me back to reality pretty quickly.

Which kind of has me thinking about endurance,and how we manage to hold to the Lord’s hand through the storms of life.My thoughts are that I could never had held on through some incredibly stormy seas unless I had a sure foundation.Which brings me to the title of this post: Upon This Rock…

In Matthew’s gospel we find Jesus is speaking to his disciples,and in particular Peter about this foundation.

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14 And they said, Some [say that thou art] John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.    Mat 16:13-20 KJV

Now,this is not a post about who/what Jesus was referring to when speaking about this “Rock”. I stand firmly in the corner of those who believe Jesus was referring to Himself as being the Rock,or Foundation of the church……and thus of me. You may think otherwise of course.

What I know for sure is this: there is no way humanly possible for anyone but Christ to have sustained me through the past forty years.No church,pastor,leader,denomination,etc…could do what He has done for me.

Nope. None but Christ. And I know that I know this to be true. Christ is my Rock.He alone is my foundation.

It is Christ alone that makes a way when there seems to be no way.

It is Christ alone who speaks to the storm and brings about a peace that passes all understanding.

It is in Christ alone that I place my hope for a future.A future without pain and disappointment.

There is none like Him. He is the One and Only Son of the Most High God.

The One that at the mention of His name “every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord,to the glory of God the Father.”

My Rock.

Your Rock.

THE ROCK that even the gates of Hell cannot defeat.

Think about this: what hasn’t Hell,or Satan,defeated in this world? Actually,no matter where you turn there is evidence that Satan is hard at work.Hard to think of much that the devil hasn’t impacted in a seriously negative way through the centuries,isn’t it?

Except Jesus Christ.And His Church.

That’s why I know without any doubt that He is the Rock of my salvation.

How about you?

Be blessed!

A World Gone Mad?

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Or are we reaping the effects of man’s efforts to replace God with himself? A world where God is largely ignored and man is in control.

When I was a kid I used to hear the older folks use the expression”this world’s gone to hell in a hand basket”. Back then I used to laugh at such a notion as if it were merely the musing of yet another old fogy whose time has come and gone.

You know what? I’m not laughing anymore.Turn on your TV to watch the aftermath of yet another school shooting and see if you don’t think that civility and order have spiraled out of control.Wars and rumors of more wars.Innocents being slaughtered by the thousands by marauding bands of extremists hell bent on the creation of an Anti-Christ nation where your only choices are submit or die.Lies being told so often by the highest office of governments and corporations that we scarcely even recognize the truth any longer.Right has become wrong and wrong is the new right.Chaos has become the new rule of the land.

And the church remains strangely silent.Oh,we have our “causes” to be sure.I see more participation from churches in the latest effort to raise money for “name the disease” than I do for those who are suffering all across the world.Our churches have become nothing more than social clubs where community organizers attempt to put their spin on the ills of society so they can implement yet another program,thus making the word of God of no effect whatsoever!

Satan has orchestrated his master plan to perfection-and the church remains silent!The early church leaders were accused of trying to turn the city upside down with the gospel of Jesus Christ.Contrast that with the church today that refuses to confront sin but rather has chosen to lie in the bed of adultery and fornication with the devil himself.The new religion of today has at it’s cornerstone the gospel of political correctness which has in turn silenced the church.

Call me delusional,crazy,or whatever else you want to call me but one thing’s for sure and that is we as a society are headed for the darkest period in our history. And for the most part the church is silent. Where is the outrage from the body of Christ? Where are the preachers taking a bold stand and declaring what thus saith the Lord? How is it even possible that the church has backslidden so far that it cannot feel for the lost and desperate? Is this the church that was started in a upper room 2000 years ago? Surely Satan must be celebrating the silence emanating from our pulpits!

The scriptures are very clear about this.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NKJV)
1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:
2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,
4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

Does this not perfectly describe the society in which we live today? On an even broader scale it perfectly describes the world as a whole! Wait…let’s take it up another notch and boldly declare that these verses of scripture might as well be referring to the church!

We have a form of godliness, and that’s about all we have. We have no power,for to receive power we must reject this world system but instead we have joined ranks with it! Indeed, the church has become no different than the world,for they have become inseparable.

It is unfathomable to me that anyone could read these scriptures and not be able to connect the dots.Every single trait mentioned in these few verses perfectly sum up the condition of man’s heart today! We cannot stick our heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t so…the Word of God does not lie.

The church has become one with the world that we are called out of! We have become so lukewarm as to be in danger of being cast away!

I don’t know about you,but I have made my choice.I will not follow the paths of the “religious” who seek to pacify the sinners heart with feel good stories and dreams of grandeur.I refuse to entertain the goats while the sheep die of neglect.I’m going to declare the Word of God while I am still able to do so for the days are not too far off when this privilege will be taken from us.

A World Gone Mad? Or a world reaping the effects of man’s efforts to replace God with himself?

You tell me!

This One Thing I Know

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There are a lot of very smart people in this world.

So smart that sometimes I wonder how in the world a person can accumulate so much knowledge in a lifetime.

You probably know people like this.People who seem to be on an entirely different plane than the rest of us.

Politically smart…Mathematically smart…Business smart…Theologically smart…

I’ve been thinking about who and what I am in the eyes of God,and one thing I am not is smart.

Oh,I’m smart enough to make a very good living.And I think I’m smart enough to know that the best thing I’ve got going for me besides my family is my relationship with the Lord.

Ah yes,there’s that word again…relationship.

I have been a Christian for over 35 years and in that time I have served in just about every capacity the church has to offer.

I’ve been a pastor,a church planter,an evangelist,a whole bunch of other titles,shoot I’ve even been a janitor!

For about 30 of my 35 years I have been behind a pulpit somewhere or another and that has defined who I am in Christ.

Not Ron the Christian man,but Ron the preacher man.

Or so I thought.

For the last couple of months I’ve been without a home church while I take a step back and regroup.This was a choice I made…..to be nothing except an anonymous Christian for a while.

I’ve seen too much of the ugly side of church.All the things that make people cringe when I write about them on this blog.The things that people don’t want to believe happen in church.

For a while I felt lost,as though my life had no meaning.After all,how could God use me unless I was busy doing church work?

It has suddenly occurred to me that I am much more than a Christian with a title.Much more.I am first and foremost a forgiven sinner now called a child of God.I am a witness of the power of His resurrection for He is alive in the hearts of His children.I am part of this big family of God.I belong to Him.

I am nothing without Christ.But with Him I am a complete man.

I am not “smart” in the way the world measures intelligence,but I agree with the Apostle Paul when he said this:

2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
1 Co 2:1-2

To know Jesus and Him crucified.

Now,that is a smart man!

Be blessed,

Ron

There is But One Savior

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Your way. My way. Their way. All roads lead to the same place. It doesn’t really matter what you believe, as long as you believe something. There are good people in all churches, all religions.All you can do is your best and hope in the end it was good enough to get you “in”.

No doubt you’ve heard these words from well meaning people,both within and outside the church.Church folk especially seem to have developed their own unique brand of salvation based upon a mixture of theology,tradition,culture,values,etc…Internet forums and blogs are filled with posts and comments extolling the virtues of a common,or one world religion.And I suppose that if all that mattered was what man thought then the idea of your own plan of salvation is likely all that’s needed.After all, one man’s idea is as good as the next right?

But here’s the problem: it isn’t up to us.We are not in charge.We don’t make the rules.In spite of so many voices clamoring to be heard that we are in control of our own destinies,we are not..We are all flawed. and yes, we are all weak. Truth is, we are not “little gods” and we are certainly not God.

We need a Savior.There it is.We cannot save ourselves.When we come to the end of our days and when it matters most…we are helpless to save ourselves.We need a Savior.Enter Jesus.

In John 14:6 we read “I am the way,the truth, and the life.No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus is not someone who merely points to the way; He is the Way.No church,ceremony or tradition can be that way. He is the Way.

Hosea recorded it this way:“Yet I am the Lord your God.Ever since the land of Egypt,and you shall know no God but Me;for there is no savior besides Me.      Hosea 13:4

Jesus is the Savior. He alone is the Way to salvation. Look to Him who is the Author and Finisher of our faith.
 
Be blessed,
Ron

 

 

 

The Missing Piece of The Puzzle

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Salvation. Isn’t that our end goal, to spend eternity with the Lord and all the saints who have gone before us? Well of course it is you say, why on earth do you think I call myself a Christian if I didn’t believe that there is a heavenly home awaiting me?

I have observed something very odd, or curious, in the church today. Something that has probably always been there yet I hadn’t thought much about it until lately. It’s the phenomenon of salvation without repentance. Think about this for a few moments. There are a great number of well intentioned folks out there knocking on doors, greeting people on the sidewalk, grocery store, and yes the church, whose purpose is to win sinners to the kingdom of God. That is awesome my friend.

It goes something like this: “Hi there. My name is Ron and I’d like to ask you a question. Are you a sinner? You are? Well, did you know that Jesus died on the cross for your sins? You do? Great, now will you receive Him into your heart as Lord and Savior? You will? Fantastic! You are saved! You are a Christian! The word of God declares that you are saved!

Of course this is a very simplified account and I use it here to prove a point. Do you see anything missing from the above encounter? Was there any mention of repentance? Where is the work of the Holy Spirit in my little evangelistic outreach? Do you suppose that one reason why we see so many start out for Christ but fade away is because there has never been a repentant heart?

What I’m trying to say is this: except the Lord draw us how can we be saved? It is one thing to say that I am a sinner, it is quite another thing to experience the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. The result of all this is that we have people believing something (without knowing what they believe). They have never experienced the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration.

That’s the missing piece of the puzzle. That’s what I’ve been observing.

How about you?

Ron

 

Jesus Will Keep Us

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Another cold, cloudy and rainy Saturday in March. Like millions of others who have endured this very long winter, I am so ready for the warmth of spring. Thankfully nearly all of the snow is gone from the yard and the ice on the pond is mostly slush. The geese are making more noise as they begin their annual scrimmage for the rights to the pond out back. Surely the arrival of spring cannot be far off!

Tomorrow is my Mother in law’s birthday and we are going to church with her in the morning and then lunch after that. This will be her first birthday since her husband of 56 years passed last June so it will be quite emotional for all of us. I intend to publish a tribute to my Father in law one day so anyone who reads this blog will know that there truly are real men of God among us.

I’ve been reading John’s gospel this week and have been stuck on the 17th chapter for several days now, in particular the 12th verse which reads as follows:

“While I was with them in the world,I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition,that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”

What an astounding statement… “I kept them in Your name”. More to the point, this promise has also been given to us. I am fully persuaded that if Jesus could keep the eleven, He can keep you and I through every storm we go through. We never have to fear being left alone because He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us, but will go with us even to the end of the world.

Be comforted in knowing this…

Ron

 

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