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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

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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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Does your praise come with a price tag?

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A recent post from Mitch Teemly struck a nerve with me because it dealt with something that has been heavy on my heart for some time now, that being the subject of the cost of sacrificial praise.

In his post, Mitch uses a picture that contains the following scripture verse to illustrate his point that humility makes us real.

“Then the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.”    II Samuel 24:24

There are many such scriptures that call for God’s children to bring to Him a sacrifice of praise, but what exactly does this mean?

When we think about the word sacrifice, we might think of it in a way that means there is a cost involved, or we may look at it from the viewpoint of our having to expend ourselves physically.

When we think of the word praise however, our first thoughts are usually of the joy and happiness coming from our heart. When we combine the words sacrifice and praise together in a Spiritual sense, we find that it is hard to think of one without the other.

Sacrifice and Praise. Praise and Sacrifice. Sacrifice of Praise.

So how do these words apply to us in real life?

My wife and I were just talking about this very thing the other day. If you’re like me, there have probably been more than a few times when something you prayed for did not happen. I was telling her that if I were to create a balance sheet with answered prayers on one side, and unanswered prayers on the other, I’m afraid that the unanswered prayer side would tilt the balance sheet that way.

Let’s be honest here, there are many times when God does not come through for us the way we envision He should.

  • The arteries remain blocked
  • The cancer has spread
  • The promotion went to someone else
  • The divorce is going to happen
  • The bank wants the car

When life presents these things to us, the first question from most of us is where is God? When circumstances force us to make decisions that we would never otherwise make, it becomes easy to think that God has forgotten us.

In the midst of life altering events such as these, praise can be hard to come by. Agree?

Yet every child of God has been given the promise that “He will never leave us nor forsake us” (Heb. 13:5). The enemy, of course, tries to make us believe otherwise, yet God remains faithful to His children.

We are also taught to continually offer praise unto our God. Note the word continually.

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15

For us to praise God in times of despair requires personal sacrifice on our part. It’s not easy to praise God when your world is caving in all around you, and I’m sure many of you can attest to this. It also takes a great deal of trust.

It takes a purposeful act on our part to lay aside the hurt and pain that life sometimes throws at us. You have to want to do this. In order for us to lay ourselves upon the altar of sacrifice and give praise to God for outcomes we do not always understand, we have to want to do this.

Its called Sacrifice.

Yes, this kind of praise will cost you something. It is not cheap praise. It is not meaningless praise. It is not a recitation from a prayer book. This praise comes from the depths of our hearts. From the place that extracts the greatest cost from us.

You see, a real sacrifice of praise is not dependent upon God answering all of our prayers with a resounding YES! Real praise comes from a deep sense of knowing that no matter the answer, God is faithful and He can be trusted to know what is best for us.

When we choose to praise God even in the midst of the storm, God is glorified. I have learned through the years that the praise that is tried by fire is precious to God, and He will in no way reject such a sacrificial praise.

After David’s greatest sin had been uncovered, he humbled himself and acknowledged that what God demanded from him was not to be another animal sacrifice. God wanted nothing more from David that did not cost him personally.

No, God demanded something personal from David. He wanted his heart.

“For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.”    Psalms 51:16-17 

How amazing it is to find that this same David, who has previously told someone that he would not offer a sacrifice to God that did not cost him anything, is now being brought to the point of realizing that what God wanted wasn’t a burnt offering, or an animal sacrifice.

What God wanted from David was the same thing He wants from all of us. God wanted David’s broken heart, for from a broken and a contrite heart comes sacrificial praise. Praise that costs something.

Does your praise come with a price tag?

Be blessed!

Ron

 

Missing: Spiritual Leadership in the Home

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In these chaotic days in which we now live,the absence of leadership,particularly Godly leadership,is most definitely contributing to the moral demise of our homes, communities,and ultimately our society.

It is a natural human tendency to look for leadership, as we’re taught from our youth that there is a hierarchy,or leadership structure in our homes, schools, and government that we are to follow.   Leadership

When people lack leadership at any level, they tend to look elsewhere. For the Christian, we look to the Church, or more specifically to our Pastors and leaders in the local church.

Unfortunately, even that is no longer a given, as evidence by the plethora of wannabe leaders looking to make Church a “career”, rather than a lifetime commitment to servant hood.

So what’s a person or family to do who cannot find sound,Godly leadership? If you are a Christian, you look inward,to those in your own home. In other words…sometimes you have to step up and assume the leadership role of your family.

After all, that’s what God called you to do! Yes…you are called to be the servant leader of your home!

The Bible has established a very clear leadership path for our homes and families, which is that the husband is to be the spiritual head of the family. The Apostle Paul gave perhaps the most in-depth explanation of this in his epistle to the Ephesian church.

Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, …   Eph. 5: 21-33   ESV

Please note, I am fully aware that many will bristle at the word “submit”. Taken out of context, the word “submit” is a demeaning,humiliating term of subservient obedience. That is NOT however what the Apostle Paul is meaning when he used the word “submit”.

The term “submit” was used to describe relationships peculiar to Christian believers. By digging into the scriptures, we find that the true sense of the word describes the Christian grace of voluntarily yielding one’s preferences to another.

In other words, to “submit” in the Christian sense has nothing whatsoever to do with domination,or forcing one’s will upon another. NOTHING! And for you husbands that think this verse gives you a license to lord over your wives like some kind of ogre, think again. You are supposed to love your wife as much as Christ loved the church, even to the point of giving your own life for her!

love your wives

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Of course, even the Biblical example of spiritual leadership in the home can present it’s own share of unique problems today. For example,the family structure in America is undergoing a radical shift away from the two parent household. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2016 there were nearly 12 million single parent households, with a staggering 80% of those headed up by single mothers.

Additionally, 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 — a total of about 17.2 million — are being raised without a father! So much for men assuming the traditional spiritual leadership role of the home. How can they, when they aren’t even there?   source: https://singlemotherguide.com/single-mother-statistics/

Is it any wonder then that our children’s lives are being wrecked by gangs, drugs, violence and despair? There is no Biblical family structure in so many of these situations, and lacking that many of our children are left to fend for themselves, often becoming easy prey to the streets.

Single mothers are attempting to provide the family structure,income, and spiritual leadership that God intended for BOTH the husband and the wife to provide. This is a HUGE problem! This is NOT what the Lord intended for our families, that they be ripped apart in front of our eyes.   women-in-christian-leadership.jpg

So who’s going to provide this much needed spiritual leadership given that the home is under such an attack? One thing is for certain, and that is that if families are to survive the spiritual onslaught they are being subjected to, and it is indeed a spiritual attack, God has to become the focal point of the home!

Whether the home consists of a husband and wife or a single parent, someone must step up and assume the role of spiritual leader. There can be no other solution. There MUST be a spiritual head in our homes.

There must be that “go to person” that prays for their family. There has to be a clearly defined spiritual leader that can offer Biblical guidance and wisdom to their children. And lest I be misunderstood, whoever is the spiritual head of the home must seek advice,counsel, and wisdom from each member of the family.

This cannot be a one man or one woman show! Spiritual leadership in the home that fails to seek input from others is not true leadership, it is equivalent to being a taskmaster ordering their subjects to obey his or her commands.

OK, you’ve read this very lengthy post. Now what do I do? Here are three simple ways to provide spiritual leadership for your family:

  1. Learn to pray for your family! Every day, the spiritual leader of the home should be taking their families to the throne of God. Ask God to cover your family with His divine protection.
  2. Pray for wisdom. Just as King Solomon prayed and asked the Lord to give him wisdom to rule the people of Israel, so should we be asking the Lord for such wisdom. Parents, especially new parents don’t always know what is best for their families. After all, it’s not like or children come with an instruction manual!
  3. Lead by example! Be the man or woman of God that you have been called to be. Be strong and courageous in the Lord. As David encouraged himself in the Lord, we too should look to Him as our source of encouragement.
Dear Lord

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My prayer is that we will assume our rightful position as spiritual leaders in our homes, whether male or female.

It is our only chance to take back what the enemy has stolen from us. Indeed, it is our only hope for a future!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The truth about reading the Bible in one year.

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It’s a New Year,time for those one year Bible reading ads to pop up all over the web.

  • “Download your free Bible reading plan”.
  • “Read the entire Bible in just one year”.
  • “Walk through the Bible in one year!”
  • “Helping you read through the Bible in one year”.

These plans are very popular.I know many people who follow one of these plans and read through the Bible every year.I even did it once myself,just to see what all the fuss was about.

There is a plan for everyone,no matter your preferred reading style. Let’s see, there’s the Chronological plan,there’s the Old and New Testament each day plan, there’s the Old and New Testament plus Psalms each day plan.You get the picture,right?

These plans provide a guide to assist in keeping our reading on track. One glance will quickly tells us if we’re on target or if we’ve slipped a little and have some catching up to do.They are perfect for that.

I remember when these first showed up.Christians everywhere were quick to grab hold of this new method of Bible reading,and pastors soon began encouraging their members to find a plan they liked and stick with it.Can’t go wrong there.

By the time the end of December rolled around you had read the entire Bible through.WOW! That was quite an accomplishment!

By the way, you’d be shocked to learn how many people who are long time church members have never read the entire Bible through.More on that in a bit.

If there is a shortcoming with the one year method,I think it’s that they don’t go far enough.Once you’ve read through the Bible in a year,what’s next? You did it,you read the entire Bible in a year,and that’s it? I earned the Bible reading badge,so now what?

In my opinion where these plans fall short is that they fail to teach you how to take that next step,to actually study the Bible,which is very different from simply reading the Bible. What they do really well however, is introduce you to the discipline required to read a very lengthy and occasionally dry (keeping it real here,remember all those “begats?”) account of God’s Word.

Following a daily reading plan is great. If you actually do follow the plan! It will acquaint the reader with the books of the Bible and introduce some of the core foundational truths of God’s Word.Again,you have to actually follow the plan though!

They are not designed however, to take you to a deeper level where we begin to grow and mature in our walk with Him.

That takes time. A lot of time.I mentioned at the beginning that I followed one of these plans once just to see what it was like.I read the Bible through in a year by following the plan.An accomplishment,to be sure.

Since that initial complete reading of the Bible,I have read it through several more times as well.But none of those were accomplished in one year.In my Bible study, I have spent weeks on a single chapter! There is no plan for that,other than to keep faithfully plugging along.

I guess what I’m really saying here is that it’s great to use one of these Bible reading plans as a starting point to reading the Bible. Just don’t get caught up in the idea that “I did it,I’m done”,because the statistics are not very encouraging concerning Bible reading in America.

According to a survey that the Barna Group conducted for the American Bible Society, over 50% of Americans think the Bible is not influencing our society as much as it should be.Yet this same survey revealed that only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis.

Let’s see..too little influence caused by too little reading…Well DUH!!

Interestingly,we Americans think very highly of the Bible.Per this same survey,88 percent of those surveyed said they own a Bible, 80 percent think the Bible is sacred, 61 percent wish they read the Bible more, and the average household has 4.4 Bibles.

This raises an interesting question,does it not? If we in America believe that the Bible is so important to us, why isn’t it having more of an impact against the unrestrained moral and social decline we are witnessing? If you’re paying attention,I already gave you the answer!

We have all these Bible,but we’re not reading them! Plan or no plan!

Doug Birdsall, president of American Bible Society, said he sees a reason for why the Bible isn’t connecting with people.“I see the problem as analogous to obesity in America. We have an awful lot of people who realize they’re overweight, but they don’t follow a diet,” Birdsall said. “People realize the Bible has values that would help us in our spiritual health, but they just don’t read it.”

If they do read it, the majority (57 percent) only read their Bibles four times a year or less. Only 26 percent of Americans said they read their Bible on a regular basis (four or more times a week). Am I the only one shocked by these statistics?

But is that the result of a faulty reading plan? Uh, no, it isn’t. What good is the best plan in the world if we don’t follow it? The fault dear reader,is with us. You. Me.

We aren’t staying with the plan! Any plan!

I encourage everyone to find a plan that will help you to develop good reading habits.Just do me a favor will you? Please stick with it!

And once you’ve accomplished your goal of reading through the Bible in a year,commit yourself to a serious study of the Word.It will take you farther and deeper in your journey than you could imagine.

Be blessed!

What is it exactly,that we’re searching for?

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Why are we Christians not content with where we are in life? In our relationships? In our walk with God? If you really think about that question for a while,it says an awful lot about us doesn’t it?

discontentment

gracefromhim4.blogspot.com

 

The Apostle Paul said he had learned to be content in whatever state he found himself to be in (Philip. 4:11). Do you know anyone like this? Are you like this? I must admit that I have not yet arrived at this place in my life.

Paul learned to be content,meaning it was not an instantaneous event, but rather a process he went through. A refining process. Being beaten, shipwrecked, starved, abandoned, stoned and left for dead will definitely refine a person to the point that things no longer matter.

Perhaps that explains our mindset today when it seems that we expect instant gratification in almost every situation. We just don’t want to endure the process required to get from point A to point B. The process can indeed become uncomfortable,and we try to avoid uncomfortable, don’t we?

You’ve no doubt heard the expression that a person has to pay their dues. Older  people understand that to mean you have to put in the time and effort to get the promotion,or the job,or the honors.

So it is with serving the Lord. Growing in the knowledge and grace of our Lord is a lifetime commitment.To be really honest, it’s also hard work. It requires discipline and much sacrifice on our part.The rewards however,are incomparable to anything we could ever hope to gain from this world.

That’s why we must be very careful when searching for contentment in places we have no business being in. Let me share a personal example with you.

Many years ago there was a time when I actually was content in just about every way possible.While I didn’t make a lot of money,I made enough to get by and I was OK with that.My spiritual life was soaring and I felt like I had it all.It was liberating to be in such a state!

At about this same time I started hearing about a new job,one that paid more than I thought I would ever earn. The more I thought about that job and what the extra income could afford me,the more I began to want it.Soon,it was all I could think about.

I began to look away from my life of contentment,searching elsewhere for what I did not know, somehow convinced that this new job would be a blessing from Him and that I would continue merrily on my way.After all,what difference could it make where I worked?

So I applied for the job and got it. Much to my great surprise I soon began to hjob-is-crushingate everything about it. The job itself,the people,the red tape,the long hours,the stress. You name it,and I came to loath every part of it. This was shocking to me as I had never hated a job before.

To say I was no longer content would be a huge understatement.Every part of my life suffered,especially the spiritual part of me.I was left with little time for prayer and study,and in short order realized I was in trouble.The grass was definitely NOT greener on the other side!

I spent four and a half years at that job,and when I was laid off I was probably the only person there who shouted for joy at the news! Those were the worst four and a half years of my life,and I say that with no exaggeration.I had suffered terribly for my mistakes,and prayed that God would forgive me and help me find the job He wanted me to have.

Which He did, on both accounts!

So I’m wondering,where are you with this whole contentment thing? Only you can answer that,but if you’re like me those closest to you probably have a pretty good idea.

Careers,titles,authority,money,all these are fleeting things that will disappear and may cost you more than you bargained for.

So what is it exactly,that we’re searching for? It’s taken a long time, but I now know the answer to that question.We’re searching for the very things that God is offering to us. All we have to do is accept them. It really is that simple!

I’ve learned (the hard way) that contentment can only come from a life grounded in Christ.I’m hoping you realize that as well.

Be blessed!

Ron

Wanna Wrestle?

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Wrestling is still a huge attraction for those that favor the “made for TV”variety of wrestling. It doesn’t seem to matter that the matches are well rehearsed,scripted events pitting the good guy against the bad guy and nearly everyone knows who the “winner”will be before the sound of the bell. This stuff is still raking in hundreds of millions every year!

wrestlers

clipartcow.com

Too bad life isn’t like that. Wouldn’t it be great to know ahead of time when disaster would strike? To be able to “script”our lives to a certain degree? To know when the bad guys were going to “clothesline”us? To be able to see in advance when the opponent was sneaking up on us from behind?To be able to fix the match?

Of course there are others who say that they wouldn’t want to know any of these things ahead of the time. “Might ruin the journey”they say. Hmmm..

If only there was a way to know ahead of time who the winners and losers will be in real life.To know our opponent so well that we could foresee his every move and plan accordingly.

Well, if you’re a Christian,you already know who the winners and losers will be! The old,old story was written a long time ago and God wins!

That doesn’t mean however that there aren’t some battles to fight.

As a child of God we understand all too well who our opponent is.We know him by many names including Satan,the devil,Lucifer,deceiver,and a host of others.

Not only do we know who he is,but we also know how he operates.His forte is wrestling.

He lies,he cheats,he steals,he kills,he destroys.He wrestles.

Good-vs-Evil

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In the age old battle of good vs.evil Satan is the ultimate bad guy.He is the opponent no one wants to face and there is no quit in him.His chief purpose is to destroy everything that is good,and that includes everyone who claims Christ as their Savior.

Yet as “bad” as he might be,he proved to be no match for Jesus Christ! Matter of fact,even though Satan orchestrated the “match of eternity”at an arena called Calvary,a place where he thought he had every advantage,it was a simple wooden cross that proved to be his undoing.

A simple Jewish carpenter who never raised a hand against him,but who instead simply used the word of God to rebuke him,had defeated this enemy once and for all.

For all of us.

The scriptures make it very clear who our enemy is.The world,in it’s twisted way of distorting the truth,would have us to believe that as divided as the church may appear to be we are defeated.The enemy has won.Uh…no

Not so fast.Let us consult the authority of God’s word for a closer look at this.

No less an authority than the Apostle Paul had this to say about this great wrestling match called life:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Eph. 6:12  NKJV

Our enemy is not one another.My battle is not against Baptists,Lutherans,or Methodists,and neither is yours.We are not told to battle any denomination or it’s creed or doctrine.Our fight is against the powers and spiritual forces of the devil that have enslaved this world in darkness and confusion.

The next time you feel you’re being challenged by the “ultimate bad guy”,just remember that Jesus has taken the fight out of the devil for you.So if you get the sense that the devil is challenging you to a wrestling match,you can rest assured that he cannot win.

He’s already been counted out.