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Old habits sure are hard to break

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I like to talk to people. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re young or old, male or female, or what nationality they may claim. I find people interesting, and I enjoy striking up a conversation with them.

I’m that guy who goes to Walmart with his wife and disappears for a few minutes, only to be found two aisles over talking to someone he’s never met before.

Yep, that guy.

If I see someone just moving in the neighborhood I’ll probably strike up a conversation with them the first chance I get. Just did that a few days ago as a matter of fact.

The ladies in my house think my talking to complete strangers is a bit odd.

They may be right.

What’s funny (to me) about this is that until I was in my early 20’s I was extremely shy and socially awkward. Even looking someone in the eyes was a major struggle for me. Maybe some of you can relate?

It wasn’t until I became a Christian and began to grown in my faith that I actually began to see myself as “good enough” and on equal footing as the rest of the world. Oh sure, I had plenty of people telling me that I would never be more than the shy, introverted country boy I’d always been, but I was determined to be more than that.

By the grace of God and the support of the best wife in the world I went farther than what anyone ever thought I would or could. Along the way I found my voice and God opened many, many doors for me to use it. Again, it was nothing I did. To God be the Glory for every good thing that has come my way!

So, as I said, I enjoy talking to people. I’m finding out however, that I’m not supposed to be doing that any longer, at least not without some restraints. Let me explain.

A few months ago I was out walking and the school bus dropped off a young lady and as the bus pulled away, I said hello to her. She didn’t respond, which I took to mean she didn’t hear me. So I said something to the effect of “I bet you’re glad to be out of school for the day, aren’t you”? This time she murmured something that I couldn’t understand. With that, she seemed to pick up the pace and hurried to get home.

Odd, I thought.

Just last night I was wandering around Target and I hear the familiar sounds of SuperMario coming from the electronics section of the store. I used to love playing Mario when it first came out, so I was naturally drawn to the sounds.

As I round the corner I see a young boy about 10 years of age intently focused on the game he was playing. He was pretty good at it and I complimented him on his skills. In response he barely glanced over his shoulder at me. I watched a few more seconds and told him that I too used to love to play Mario, and this time he didn’t even look at me. The silence felt very awkward, so I quickly left.

Recounting these events with my family I was told that I was probably thought of as an old creeper. In other words, I cannot strike up a conversation with children I don’t know, because I will be thought of as a potential predator.

As I listened to my daughter(who works with kids at a day care)tell me about how I should keep to myself when I’m around strange kids, it all started to make sense and I knew she was right. After all, no telling how many times these kids have been told about “Stranger Danger”. To them, I’m just another old guy that wants to harm them.

I get it.

Still, none of this sits well with me. I don’t like not being able to smile at a child or make over a baby in the store without it stepping over some line that society has deemed uncrossable. It’s just an automatic, natural thing to want to say “hi”.

Honestly, I get it.

Sadly, I get it.

Actually, tit’s kind of heartbreaking if you want to know the truth about it.

So I guess I’m left to wander around the store, hands in my pockets, eyes straight ahead, wearing blinders so I don’t notice the children. I’m to pretend there are nothing but grown ups within 100 yards of me. Which really stinks, because I seem to get along much better with kids than people my own age.

And that my friends, is the society we have descended into. Not much more to say about that I suppose.

Old habits sure are hard to break…I wonder how long it’ll be before I smile at some kid and ask “how ya doin”?

Be blessed on this Lord’s day,

Ron

Am I my brother’s keeper?

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Many of you will no doubt recognize that question, taken from the Genesis account of Cain and Abel.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Cain was angry with his brother Abel because his brother’s offering was acceptable to God, while his own was rejected. In a jealous rage, this is what happened:

Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:8-9

We know that Cain asked this question as a means of deflecting attention away from his guilt for having murdered his own brother. He basically told God “how should I know where he is, it’s not my job to watch him, is it?”

Ever since then, it’s a question that individuals have been asking themselves whenever needs arise, whether man-made or natural. It is a question that probes at the heart, and our answers reveal a lot about how we feel about our fellow man.

In a perfect world, there would be enough of everything to go around. There would be a job for every able-bodied person. The issues of hunger, sickness, and poverty that now plague the world’s society’s would vanish.

It doesn’t take a sociologist(or a theologian)to look around and determine that we are not living in a perfect world. That world existed for a very short time in a place called Eden, a place where the only two humans on the planet existed.

In our modern world however, things are quite a bit different. In this less than perfect world, there are a lot of people that are in dire need of help. The notion of a perfect world to them is the stuff of fairy tales.

It may be the hungry child down the street, or the immigrant family trying to cross the threshold into what they perceive as paradise, or a thousand other desperate situations.

Regardless, the numbers of people who have reached the point of helplessness in their quest for survival is nothing short of staggering. So much so that one could make the case for not even trying to find a viable solution to this seemingly impossible situation.

But how do you tell the desperate, the hungry, and the hopeless that their plight is too big to bother with? How do we look them in the eye and say they are not worth the effort?

Sadly, there are an ever increasing number of people who believe just that, that the problems are too large and complex, and besides, it’s not us but “them”. But is that how loving, civilized society’s are to function?

Poverty in the U.S. alone affects over 40 million people. An additional 95 million are living at ‘near poverty’ levels. How can this be ignored? And what of the rest of the world, all of which is far worse off than the United States? [1]

My contention is that we as a society, particularly a society founded upon Christian principles, do indeed have an obligation to help those who cannot help themselves.

Otherwise, ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘only the strong survive’ become the new laws of the jungle and it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves.

Is that what any of us really want?

All of us, irregardless of political, religious, or sociological backgrounds are inextricably linked together by a common bond: the need to have enough food to eat, clothing to wear, and a roof over our heads.

When you really think about it, the question of “Am I my brother’s keeper” is actually more relevant today than it was in the days of Cain and Abel.

In the world that Cain and Abel lived in, there were only four humans upon the earth. Four, as in Adam,Eve,Cain, and Abel. Four souls.

In our world, we have a far greater challenge before us.  At last count, there were over seven billion people living on earth. While some will contend that the numbers are too great for anyone to have any kind of positive impact upon, I say that God is equal to the challenge.

He just needs a few willing vessel’s to step up and say that “yes, I am my brother’s keeper”.

Something to ponder, I trust.

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] For a detailed look into the poverty crisis in America, please go to povertyusa.org.      Here you will find an enormous amount of data, broken down into many different categories that will help you better understand how severe the problem is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Therefore the land will mourn

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It’s a dangerous thing for a nation to decide that God is no longer relevant. 

Whenever society enacts policies and laws that are void of any regard for God and his word, you can be sure that trouble will soon follow.

Any time that man becomes convinced of his superiority in matters of humanity and proceeds to embark on a path that takes him away from God, the remembrance of nations who long ago became extinct will remind him of the folly of such endeavors.

When mercy and truth are relegated to the furthest recesses of the mind and no place can be found for them in the halls of rulers, kings, or presidents, Satan is given free reign to pour out his wrath upon a society blinded by ignorance.

A people who have chosen not to retain the knowledge of God among them is by all accounts a people awash in sin and degradation, hopelessly entangled in their own filth, unable to know the cleansing freedom that can only be found in Christ.

1 Hear the word of the Lord,
You children of Israel,
For the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land:

“There is no truth or mercy
Or knowledge of God in the land.
By swearing and lying,
Killing and stealing and committing adultery,
They break all restraint,
With bloodshed upon bloodshed.
Therefore the land will mourn; …  Hosea 4

 

Our land is in a perpetual state of mourning, and as a result many have lost hope. Not just for today, but hope for a brighter future. Hope for a better tomorrow.

The most amazing thing about all of this is that God’s children do have hope. We, like faithful Abraham, are looking for a city ‘whose builder and maker is God‘ (Heb. 11:10).

Like the story found within the pages of the book of Hosea, we long for the day of reconciliation, when God gathers his elect from the four quarters of the earth.

We are living examples of a hope that is not of this world, but of a world to come where love rules and evil has been forever banished.

To many that sounds like a fairy tale, but to the Christian who is exhausted from years of unceasing spiritual warfare, it offers the promise of rest.  

I thank God that while I may be a resident of this earth, I am looking for the day when I become a citizen of heaven.

A place where mourning of any kind will never be heard again. Until then, may the Lord  somehow call us back to ‘the old paths, where the good way is…’   Jeremiah 6:16

Ron

The very real dangers of entanglement

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Are you one of those people who frequently says, “where did the time go”?

This happens to a lot of us, especially when we get too busy. Like when you’re burning the candle at both ends busy.

“Busy” probably describes most people but being ‘too busy’ is what I want to focus on with this post. In particular, I want to talk about how easy it is even on our best days for God to occasionally get left out, while on those ‘too busy’ days He likely isn’t even thought of at all.

I’m one of those who believe that the Lord is at work in our lives each day. Because of this, I recognize that His presence is also a daily occurrence in my life.

My point being that I never have to wonder if God is with me. I know that He is.

Now, does that mean I don’t have times when I question “Lord, where are you”? Of course not! Like all of you, I am sometimes slow to adjust to God’s timing, thinking that He should react immediately to my petitions.

We all know that the Lord just doesn’t work like that.

Well, at least He doesn’t in my life.

None of this however changes the fact that God is always with us. He is the faithful one in our relationship, and fortunately for all of us he is never ‘too busy’ for us, nor does he forget about us. I don’t know how He does it, but somehow, He always makes time for us.

We, on the other hand, can get so busy with this thing we call ‘life’ that God gets shoved aside. Just stop for a moment and think of all the things you’ve done today and add those to tomorrow’s ‘to do list’, and you get a picture of how busy your life really is.

Seriously, some of us could apply for the position of a circus juggler because we are constantly having to juggle our time and schedules.

What’s amazing about this is that we don’t even realize it. In fact, it’s our everyday, normal life isn’t it? It’s like a saying we used to use at work that “the abnormal has become normal”.

Herein is the danger of becoming too busy with life. We don’t realize how much of ourselves we are constantly pouring into other things, people, or causes.

All at the expense of allowing God to pour into us, which He cannot do because we are too busy with everything else but Him!

The apostle Paul recognized the danger of allowing ourselves to become entangled in a multitude of things, things that eventually entrap us much like a bird in a snare. In his 2nd letter to Timothy, Paul wrote the following:

No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”  2 Tim. 2:4

As in all of his writings, Paul sees the relationship we have with Christ as one where we are in a battle. We have been enlisted as soldiers in God’s army, with a duty to carry out His orders.

Paul understands that if we are to please the One who is giving us our marching orders, we cannot become entangled with the affairs of this life. To do so would cause our attention to be diverted away from the task He has assigned to us.

Many of you can no doubt relate to being pulled a hundred different directions at one time, and this is what Paul is warning us against. Simply put, if we have become ‘too busy’ to be able to respond to our Leader, we have ceased to be a soldier that is pleasing to Him.

All of us have causes and projects that we support or have any number of family obligations that must be attended to. Paul is not telling us to abandon those things, but rather to make sure they do not become a snare to us.

The key here is to strike a balance between life’s obligations and giving time and attention to the One who makes our lives possible.

By doing this, we don’t have to worry about becoming ensnared by the everyday affairs of this life. We can be productive, positive members of society and also good soldiers of the One who has called us.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

 

 

 

 

Who Then is a Faithful and Wise Servant?

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In today’s society, we don’t hear the words servant or master very often. In fact, just hearing the words conjures up images in our minds that we would just as soon not think about.

America is a relatively young nation, and it was not all that long ago that the words servant (or slave) and master were a part of an everyday life that nearly destroyed this nation. So, it is easy to understand why we have an aversion to these words.

In the Bible however, the words servant shows up 885 times in the KJV Bible (741 OT/144 NT), while the word master appears 184 times (100 OT/84 NT).

Obviously, it was common practice in those days for there to exist several different classes, or levels of people in society, and the lines between servant and master were clearly drawn.

In his Matthew 24 discourse, Jesus used this class distinction between servant and master when explaining to his disciples the conditions that would exist just prior to his second coming. He knew, of course, that his audience at the time would clearly understand his references.

45 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?

46 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.

47 Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.

 48 But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’

49 and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,

50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,

51 and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.        Matthew 24:45-51

Jesus is warning all to be on guard and not to become like the servant who lost sight of the fact that his master was indeed going to come again. Jesus refers to this type of servant as “evil” because he has become like the world around him, mistreating others and partaking of things that drove him even further away from his master.

On the other hand, Jesus refers to the “faithful” servant as one who is busy doing the will of his master. This servant has not forgotten that his master is coming again and is working diligently to faithfully fulfill his charge.

All of this points to us today who are living in the hour where we are witnessing the beginnings of the “falling away”, spoken of by the Apostle Paul in 2 Thess. 2:3.

The hearts of many are becoming cold, just as Jesus said they would in Matt. 24:12. We hardly need to be reminded of this fact by scripture, but it was prophesied nonetheless.

From where I sit on the front row, it would seem that we are fast approaching the time when we will once and for all have to make the decision to either be counted as faithful, or to join the ranks of those already fallen away into unbelief.

One thing is for certain, the day is at hand where straddling the fence between the two will no longer be an option.

My prayer is that all who will read this will take the attitude of Joshua, who said “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”.   Joshua 24:15

Be blessed,

Ron

From a child’s perspective

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I recently had an enlightening conversation with a friend of mine, and as we were talking he told me about something interesting that occurred in his church’s Sunday school class.

Being one of the teachers of 1st thru 5th grade students, he frequently tells me about some of the things the kids say and do, and I must concur that “Kids Say the Darndest Things”.

On this particular Sunday morning, it seems the lesson was on “Worry”. The gist of the lesson was that each child was given a piece of paper with 15 words listed on it. All of the words involved things you might worry about as a child.

The kids were instructed to circle the five things they would be most worried about from the list that included:

  • the death of a friend or loved one
  • forgetting your homework
  • getting lost
  • fear of the dark
  • being hungry

As each student turned in their paper the teacher tallied the scores, and the results were somewhat surprising. The #1 selection was the death of a friend or loved one. This is understandable, considering the trauma of such an event.

What was very surprising however was that the 2nd most popular selection was being hungry. Especially intriguing is the fact that none of the kids in his class know what being hungry feels like!

How sad is it that little kids who have never missed a meal worry so much about going hungry? What exactly does this say about our society? What does this say about our priorities as a nation? Better yet…

What Would Jesus Do?

Then the little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them; and the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of heaven” belongs to such as these. And after He had placed His hands on them, He went on from there.…   Matthew 19:13-15

Children are precious in the eyes of the Lord. Is it because our adult eyes no longer acknowledge the Lord that we are blind to this fact?

As a nation, we have rejected God and His plan for right living. In its place we have chosen instead to be inundated with 24/7 images of adultery, drugs, murder, prostitution, greed, abuse, divorce, and every conceivable type of debauchery imaginable.

And our children are growing up in these same homes, listening, wondering, and worrying if one day they too will feel the pangs of hunger, if they haven’t already.

If I’m being honest here, I sometimes wonder about the seeds we adults have planted in the minds of our children. The horrible things that we have exposed them to must surely be an affront to God.

Little kids are smart, much smarter than we like to give them credit for, and they instinctively know when things aren’t right. Given the opportunity, how long do you think it would take our children to prioritize the hunger problem in America?

It’s a crying shame that we as adults don’t have the same heart as they do.

Ron

 

And we wonder why…Part 4

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As I conclude this series I want to begin by focusing on a key point of contention being tossed around today, that being that our school systems are somehow to blame for all of the recent school shootings.

What has brought us to this point in our nation’s history, a point where we find ourselves burying innocent children who have been murdered at school, is not an inept educational system.

Dysfunctional at times…absolutely. However, the current media fixation on all that is wrong with our schools being one of the leading causes of the repeated carnage taking place is just plain wrong.

Interestingly enough, if you were to look closely at the past six decades of education in America, you would see that our schools have always been used as a “battleground” of sorts.

For example:

  • In 1954 Segregation was finally outlawed.
  • In 1962 prayer was banned from public schools. The following year reading the Bible was also banned.
  • In 1972 Title IX became law, prohibiting discrimination based upon sex.
  • In 1983 President Reagan issued the report “A Nation at Risk”, detailing the ways in which America’s schools were underperforming.
  • In 2001 President G.W. Bush signed into law “No Child Left Behind” ,increasing funding while ushering in standards based reforms.
  • In 2010 President Obama’s “Race to The Top” program brought with it many additional education reforms.

It is obvious that the education of America’s children has long been a priority. For certain, mistakes have been made, but there have also been tremendous successes.

Today, our educational system is one of the best in the world. More importantly, our children continue to receive a quality education. While some countries may boast of better test scores, considering the sheer magnitude of our educational system I believe we do a great job.

I think we can also safely say that a lack of funding is generally not a problem (yes, I know, tell that to a teacher!). After all, the trillions of dollars spent on providing a good education testify of our commitment to continue doing so.

The problem of school shootings therefore does not lie with either the school or the government. Both of these entities continue to do what they’ve always done. Why anyone would think that either is to blame for the tragedies in our schools is beyond me.

Of course, there is that issue of finding a Scapegoat…

If not the schools system itself or the government, what then is the problem?

Here’s a thought for you: if you are 50 years of age and upward, how many school shootings happened while you attended school? In my case, there were exactly ZERO school shootings during all of my years of education. How about you?

Likewise, when I was in school we had exactly ZERO school psychologists. The closest thing we had to a psychologist was a guidance counselor, and I realize what a stretch that is.

Did you know that the position of school psychologist is currently one of the most in-demand and highest paid positions in the state of Florida? Not an educator of students mind you, but a psychologist. Think about that for a moment and let it sink in.

How have we gone from a nation where our children’s education was of such primary importance that generation after generation approved one tax levy after another in order to support our schools, to a nation where career educators today have less value than a school psychologist?

How have we gone from a nation where we would send our children off to school each day, confident that they would be taught the necessary skills needed to succeed in this world, to a nation where each day we say goodbye to them causes a nagging fear to surface that this might be the last time I see my child alive?

The hard question that no one wants to ask is this: WHAT HAS CHANGED?

What has changed is the heart and consciousness of America is now on life support. Our society has gone from a vibrant, thriving, God loving one to a society known more for its capacity for evil than its good works.

Our collective soul as a nation is on a death watch.

To put it in the simplest terms: as a nation we are sick. We have been infected with an incurable (by man’s standards) disease. And we need to accept the fact that this disease has infected every facet of our society, including our schools.

And we wonder why the killings?

Judging by the frequency of attacks upon our children, one could make the case that we would rather argue and cast blame than admit we have been inflicted with this disease so that we can then be able to ingest the antidote.

Which by the way, is NOT a school psychologist.

As long as we can argue and blame one another, we can avoid having to confront the real issue here. You see, it’s difficult to admit that we have a disease called SIN, because not only is God not welcome in our schools, neither is He welcome in our government.

And He is becoming less welcome in our homes each and every day.

Get rid of God; get rid of the sin issue. Get rid of the sin issue, we have cleared our consciousness of any guilt in the matter. It’s as old as the original sin in the garden! Isn’t that what we have done?

We can talk all day long about policy changes and new/more gun regulations in the hope that they will put an end to the murder of our children. Let me be the first to say that there must be changes made to prevent access to weapons of any kind by anyone. To continue allowing things to continue as they are is madness.

But let’s be perfectly clear about something: no policy or regulation has ever been implemented that will change a person’s heart, any more than a simple STOP sign will cause everyone to stop at the intersection.

The biggest obstacle to changing the status quo is the fact that our society has yet to hit rock bottom, thus we do not yet want to change. As perverted as this may sound, apparently we have not yet suffered enough, or else we would take the necessary actions to right this sinking ship.

Until we acknowledge that we are incapable of piloting this ship apart from Almighty God, we will continue to flounder in the cesspool of sin and violence.

And our innocent children will continue to be killed.

I won’t bore you with one story after another from the Bible, because history itself is filled with examples of nations and society’s who have chosen the slippery slope of independence from God. And like the proverbial blind leading the blind, we too will fall into a ditch from which there is no escape unless we repent, humble ourselves, and seek His face.

As horrific as it is now, how loudly will this nation cry when these evil, sadistic murderers turn their guns on the nursing homes or the hospitals? How long will it be before someone bursts into a public library and commits the unthinkable?

Lest we forget, it’s happening in our churches right now!

Whereas this nation was once grateful, humble, and thankful for God’s mercy, compassion, blessings, and divine protection, we have in this generation decided that there is no place for God in America.

Accordingly, the innocent among us are now paying the price for the sins of the fathers.

This is our choice.

This is what we wanted.

This is what we received.

Let no one ever say again that God doesn’t give us what we ask.

May God help us is my heart felt prayer.

Ron

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