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Translation or Demonstration: which do we need more of today?

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As of this post, there are approximately 100 versions of the English translation of the Bible. Amazingly enough, I am old enough to remember when you could count the number of Bible translations on one hand! My, how things have changed!

We now have versions that have eliminated all of the “impossibly difficult to pronounce words”. There are also versions that contain word for word translations of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek . We have Women’s,Men’s, Teens, Tweens, Children’s, Student’s, Leader’s, and New Believers Bibles.

Browsing online or through a Christian book store reveals a plethora of KJV,NKJV,ESV,NIV,NLT,NASB,HCSB,ISV, and about ninety other translations.

Confused yet? You should be.

Why do we have so many translations of the Bible when statistics show that only one in five Americans actually read the Bible? If we are to believe the data, it seems obvious that our attempts to make the Bible easier to read have largely been for naught.

Of course some will argue that if even one person is strengthened in their walk with Christ through reading one of the above mentioned Bibles it’s worth it, and I couldn’t agree more. I am thrilled that the Word of God is being presented in a manner so easily understood by the masses.

Yet somehow, the sheer volume of Bible translations hasn’t equated to stronger, faith filled Christians. How could they be, when the percentage of Bible reading is so low? Or as the Princess recently told me, just because man changes a lot of the words, man cannot change the heart.

Could it be that our focus is misdirected? Do you suppose that even with all of the available translations of the Bible we are still missing something?

I believe that we are. It’s a key component of our relationship with Christ, and it’s written on the very pages of the Bible we aren’t reading! Consider the following from  2nd Corinthians,chapter two:

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

In his 2nd letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul has just revealed to us the key component I was referring to. Let me explain.

It is not excellency of speech, for Paul said that he didn’t come spouting great sounding words, nor did he come declaring his vast wisdom. He could have, but that wasn’t his focus.

He did not come to them bragging about all of his past accomplishments, or of his powerful connections. Again, he certainly could have done so, as his resume was filled with them. What he did profess however was the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His resurrection.

Paul did not speak as to appeal to the wisdom of men, though he certainly could have held his own with the brightest minds of his day. Being a master of the Law, Paul was well versed in all aspects of communication, yet he made no effort to appease the conscience of men.

What Paul brought was nothing that would appeal to the carnal nature of man. What he brought to Corinth was a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God.

This is what I believe to be the missing, key component in our relationship with Christ: the demonstration of God’s power.

All of the things that Paul did NOT do or bring to Corinth, we have in abundance today. We have some of the most highly educated and knowledgeable men and women to be found anywhere in the world standing in our pulpits today.

We have men and women so eloquent of speech as to be capable of painting a thousand virtual masterpieces with their great swelling words, all designed to appeal to our carnal nature.

Yet what we desperately lack is a demonstration of the power of God. Please understand what Paul was referring to by the “demonstration of the Spirit and power”.

He was referring to the power of the Spirit to heal the sick, save the lost, and yes, even to raise the dead. Real power. God power. The kind of power that has become nearly extinct in our day.

While publishers continue to pump out more and more new Bible translations that go largely unread, the Church starves for a demonstration of the real power of God.

I must ask though, how can God reveal Himself in power when we don’t even know Him as the God of the Word?

Why is this so important? Paul gives us the answer in the last verse, where he says “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God”.

Our faith, that precious commodity that we are to cherish and nurture as a precious gift, must not be in any man. No preacher, no pastor, certainly not a “pay for your blessing” televangelist. Paul declares that our faith should stand in the power of God.

As many of you know, in the hardest times of your life faith that is rooted in God will stand. Likewise, faith that is rooted in man will last only as long as the good times last. God’s power is infinite, and His supply has not diminished with the passing of time.

My prayer is that all who read this will commit their being to God,not man. That instead of running to the next conference or the next hot off the press translation, we will run instead to the Word of God.

Regardless of the translation.

Ron

 

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He’s All I Need

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Have you ever struggled with something that was so much bigger than you that it seemed like a hopeless situation?  Perhaps the better question for many of us would be not if we have such a situation, but  how many of those types of situations are we struggling with!

Lets face it, in this world everybody is dealing with something. The size of the “something” might differ with us, but we all have our battles to fight.

But I love how the Word always seems to have just the right nugget for the particular situation we’re dealing with. Take the everyday battles we all endure, don’t they make you weary at times?  They sure do that to me.

That’s why I love the following:

Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.

My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalms 73:25-26

The Lord understands that we don’t have an endless supply of strength and energy. Our strength runs out,and to be honest we can get weary in our hearts and spirit as well. In fact, throwing in the towel might not seem like the worst option at times!

To offset our weaknesses, God takes over and gives us the necessary strength to keep going. You know how we know when God takes over? It’s when we sense His peace in the midst of the storm. That’s right,God doesn’t always remove the problem,but he is faithful to walk beside of us in the midst of it all.

Many of us have prayed for certain things such as healing, restoration, peace of mind, etc.,only to see the situation either not resolved or perhaps grow more serious. This leads us to ask one of those “questions of the ages”…

“Lord, why aren’t you answering my prayers. Are you not even hearing me?”

This can be one of the most disheartening things to deal with as a child of God, these unanswered prayers. What are we to do when we’ve done all we can do, when we’ve followed the script and still get no answer?

Well, I can tell you what one of the greatest men of the bible did when he was facing a similar situation. The Apostle Paul had a physical issue, exactly what it was remains a mystery, but the fact is he had a physical issue and he had prayed three times for healing.

And got nothing in return. No healing. Nothing.

Has that ever happened to you? I’ve lived it myself, and I’m pretty sure most of you have as well. We pray and pray, we do our best to believe and not waver in our faith, and boom! Nothing happens.

So what about the great Apostle Paul? This man prayed for many others and saw them healed. Why on earth did God not heal him?

Lets see what Paul himself had to say about this.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.”

“And He said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  II Cor. 12: 7-9

Paul prayed three times for healing. Perhaps you’ve prayed hundreds of times more than that without an answer?  The truth is, Paul did receive an answer, it just wasn’t the one he was expecting.

Jesus told Paul that His grace was sufficient for his situation, and that His strength was made perfect in our weakness. Please don’t brush this off with a “well, some consolation that is”!

If we will learn to trust Him in all things, His grace will be enough to see us through. No one can adequately express why God doesn’t answer our prayers in the manner we ask Him to. Countless theologians have tried and failed. The truth is we want what we ask for.

Aren’t we like that in all things? We want it our way, and we want it now.

God however, doesn’t operate on our schedules. Well, at least He doesn’t on mine. He is not tied to a calendar or a clock, and it is for certain that His ways are higher than our ways. Meaning, it is futile to try and understand the why’s and how’s of God’s doings.

The one thing we can do however is accept that His grace is sufficient for our every need. Accept that when I’m weak, His strength takes over.

Acknowledge that He is all you need.

Be blessed,

Ron

Man shall live by what?

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Most of us have a code, or creed that we live by. A set of principles, they guide us each day through this life. They can come from family, church, the military, even the streets.

What may come as a surprise to many is that God also has a set of principles. It’s called the Bible. For example:

But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ”.  Matthew 4:4

The verse above comes from a very hungry and tired Jesus, who, after being tempted for 40 days, is responding to Satan’s temptation to turn stones into bread.

He is repeating something stated in the distant past of Israel’s history by Moses, who was reminding Israel of God’s providence during their trek through the wilderness.

So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.”     Deuteronomy 8:3

I find it interesting that the interpretation of both Jesus and Moses is the phrase” every word”. What’s so interesting about that? Well for starters, the phrase “every word” disallows the selective application of God’s Word to our lives.

In other words, every word means none may be excluded!

Lots of things today are thought of as being selective. Husbands may have been told that they have selective hearing, for example. Or those of us who tend to be forgetful at times may have been told that we have a selective memory.

For the child of God however, there can be no selective application of the Word if we are going to walk in obedience to it. In other words, we cannot selectively pick and choose those verses we wish to live by. It doesn’t work that way.

If Jesus stated that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God, are we to argue that we don’t like or accept certain parts of it?

I first became aware of this selective application of the Word many years ago when having a discussion with a neighbor about the Millennial Reign mentioned in the book of Revelation.

This neighbor, who was also a deacon in his church, told me that he didn’t believe in the thousand year reign of Christ. When I asked him how he could not believe in something that was obviously written in the Word, he simply said “I just don’t believe in that”. Not knowing how to respond to that, I just walked away.

Really? You can read it for yourself. You know it’s there. Yet you arbitrarily reject it just because? Like I said, that was my first exposure to the selective Word mindset. Unfortunately, it’s far from an isolated incident.

There is a very simple, logical reason as to why God says we are to live by every Word that comes from him. The Word of God offers us instructions for living according to His plan, not our own.

And therein lies the problem, doesn’t it?

His plan vs. our plan. His Words vs. our words. His way vs. our way. The age old battle of the human will vs. the will of God.

Paul reminds us that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”   II Tim. 3:16    emphasis mine

Could it be that part of the problem is that we think we “have arrived” and are above being taught?

Peter addressed this attitude in his first epistle. He tells us that our hearts need to be pure so that we can desire the word that will encourage growth.

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby.”   1 Peter 2: 1,2      emphasis mine

It is obvious then that we are to live not just by the Word, but by every Word that comes from God if we are to be nurtured and strengthened in our faith.

None of us “have arrived” to the point of no longer needing to learn of Him. To think that we have is to be in deception.

My prayer is that every one of us will take heed to the words of Jesus, who when rebuking Satan said that we must live by every Word from God.

After all, He’s still working on each of us.

Ron

Relinquishing Your Freedom in Christ is an Expensive Proposition

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Freedom

Just saying the word evokes thoughts of sacrifice and struggle, oppression and conflict. It also calls to remembrance our sincere appreciation and gratitude for those who have sacrificed to ensure freedom for people’s everywhere.

As children of God we know that in Christ we have been made free. Those who know the Lord as Savior know a freedom unlike any other, as “free indeed” is unlike any other freedom……”whom the Son sets free, is free indeed”. (John 8:36).

Other verses inform us of the fact that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, and while we are now free from sin, we have become slaves to righteous living.            (II Cor.3:17 & Romans 6:18)

All this to say that as Christians, we willingly, lovingly embrace the liberty we have in Christ. Nonetheless, this liberty is fraught with potential dangers should we be tempted to dangle our toes in unfamiliar waters.

All of us, and I do mean all of us, face temptations that appeal to our flesh. Whether we are tempted by power, drugs, alcohol, sex, or money, the fact is that any of these can quickly become our master, overpowering our senses and bringing us again into bondage.

We must remain ever vigilant to counter such temptations if we are to live in victory. Prayer and the reading of the Word are key weapons in this never ending struggle.

These points have been driven home to me again this week while reading the story of how Israel came to have a king reign over them. What started as a nation fully dependent upon and loyal to God, soon turned into full blown rejection of His leadership.

Without launching into a long, detailed history lesson, Samuel was the prophet who had the unenviable task of anointing the first king of Israel. While crowning a new king would normally be cause for great celebration, Samuel’s task was heartbreaking because he knew that in anointing an earthly king, it signaled a severing of the cord between Israel and their God.

As most of you know, throughout Israel’s history they demonstrated a propensity to wander from God. This tendency to stray eventually culminated in their demanding a king to rule over them, just like all the nations around them. In other words, they wanted to be just like everyone else.

Have you ever been told, or have you ever told someone “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it”? This is about to happen to Israel.

Even though they had received an advanced warning as to the quality of leader they would be getting, Israel was determined to proceed with having things their way regardless of the cost. And oh what a price they would pay!

If you will read 1st Samuel 8:10-18 you will see the details of what was to come upon Israel. Take note especially of how many times the word “his” or “take” appears in the description of their new king.

The takeaway I want to leave with you is just how much this new king was going to take from them. Whereas we look to new leadership with an eye for what they can do for us, Israel’s new king would be a taker, not a giver.

What’s the lesson for the New Testament Christian in all of this? The lesson is that we are called out of sin to be the Church. We are not called to be like everyone else.

We also have a Leader who is unlike any other. We are different because our King is the difference maker!

Once God has delivered us from sin, we are not to go back. Not even to look back! We have a freedom known only by the redeemed, and that freedom was purchased by the highest cost imaginable.

Relinquishing your freedom in Christ is an expensive proposition, a proposition I have no desire to entertain.

How about you?

When your questions outweigh answers…

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What do you do?

I have so been there, haven’t you? Left to wonder how-why-what-where-when, or who. Instead of answers, all that come are even more questions.eight-teen-questions

Life is like that isn’t it? At times, answers can be hard to come by. Sometimes they never come at all. Unrelenting streams of questions, however, never seem to be in short supply.

And guess who never fails to seize upon the situation in order to cast doubt in our minds?

Yep, you guessed it. Our adversary loves these situations where we are seemingly overwhelmed with questions and doubt.

doubtSo he can sow even more doubt, of course.

I’ve been in the place where my questions have outweighed the answers so many times that I’ve lost count. I’ve felt the sting of defeat so many times that a “normal” person would have thrown in the towel.

Like a lot of you, I’ve been abandoned, neglected, abused, rejected, and disowned. And each of these “life events”( I refuse to call them tragedies) has raised more questions than I could ever find answers for. As I said, a “normal” person would have thrown in the towel.

The one question that always comes to the forefront when struggling with life’s deepest struggles is simply this: God, where are you? In the midst of despair, isn’t that really all we want to know?

As a Christian, all I want to know, all I need to know, is that God is still there. Just don’t leave me Father.

where-is-god

brucegerencser.net

I know some of you reading this have walked these dark places in your lifetime. And you have asked the question of the ages just as I have: God, where are you? If this is you, I want to share a brief story with you.

In just a few weeks it will have been 17 years since I suffered a major heart attack, the one that the Dr.’s call a “widow maker”. Mowing the lawn one spring day I suddenly ended up laying in the grass after feeling like I had been struck by lightning.

Managing to crawl to the house, my wife called 911 and I was soon on my way to the hospital. Some of the events surrounding this have been forgotten or blurred by time, but I distinctly remember calling upon the Lord to save me, to help me.

To make a very long story short, the next several months involved tests, stents that failed within two months, and heart catheterizations, all of which ended in open heart bypass surgery. Little did I know at that time that the physical part of this ordeal was about to be overshadowed by an even greater battle.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times the enemy would come to me with false accusations. He would tell me I was no longer a child of God, or that I was finished, or that God would never use me again. Suffice it to say that the attacks were relentless.

Now, I would love to be able to report to you that I was a Super Christian, my cape blowing in the wind, the fiery darts of Satan bouncing off of me like they were marshmallows. I would love to be able to tell you this.

But since I am a Christian, I have an aversion to lying.

The truth is, I struggled with these attacks. I never discussed it with anyone except my wife, but I struggled. I never doubted that I would be OK physically, but I certainly doubted my standing with the Lord.

spiritual-warfare

Capebaptist.org

It wasn’t because God didn’t heal me that I started to embrace this doubt, but because I began to question if it was somehow all my fault. Hearing my surgeon telling me that my condition was 80% hereditary did little to comfort my nagging thoughts.

It took some time for me to work through this, but with His grace and the encouragement of the Word, I did get the victory over my doubts. Just a few months after surgery I was back in the pulpit, and I’ve been going ever since.

So to close this blog, I want to leave you with something from Psalms 119 that speaks to the power of God’s Word. My prayer is that these simple verses will encourage you to draw deeply from the treasure that is the Word of God.

Princes persecute me without a cause,

But my heart stands in awe of your word.

I rejoice at your word,

As one who finds great treasure.

I hate and abhor lying,

But I love your law.

Seven times a day I praise you,

Because of Your righteous judgments.

Psalm 119:161-164

I have learned that through Christ which strengthens me, I can handle just about anything just as long as I know He’s still there. I may not like the fact that I have to face certain things, but there is comfort in knowing He is there.

When your questions outweigh answers, there’s only one place to turn.

To the One who already knows what the answers are,before you even ask the question.

Continue in the things we have learned

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Unlike so many of you,I had little in the way of church,or religious training while growing up. I could count on both hands the number of times I went to church during those years,so to say I got a late start would be an understatement! Quite the contrast to my wife,the pastor’s daughter, whose earliest memories are of being in church!

During those early years I could never have imagined that one day God’s Word would become the bedrock of my life. Indeed,had God never drawn me to Him and instilled in me a deep hunger to know His Word,my life would have been unimaginably different.

As I gaze upon the events unfolding in the world I can’t help but pause to give God thanks that I am no longer the person I used to be,or the person I could have easily become. At this stage of my life,I now know more assuredly than I ever have before,that He and He alone has kept me from reverting back to that person I once was.

He has a plan for my life. And He has one for you too.

Listening to current events can be disturbing to even the most well grounded among us. For those not familiar with God’s Word,some of these events are actually frightening when you realize their potential implications.To those people,it must seem overwhelming watching the evening news.

The Apostle Paul knew something about this as well and even prophesied about it. In 2nd Timothy 3:2 he described the condition of the world in the latter days as a time when men would be lovers of themselves,boastful,proud,and a whole host of other not too pleasant things,most of which we are seeing unfold right before our eyes.

Yet this great Apostle knew something else about this,which was that irregardless of what was going on around us,we were to continue walking with Christ as though nothing was happening. He explained it this way:

10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance,
11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.
12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.    II Tim 3:10-15   NKJV   (emphasis mine)

Paul tells us we must continue in the things we have learned,which brings me to the central point of this post. All of us must remind ourselves from time to time that our hope is sealed in Jesus Christ. The things we have learned through our studies of the scriptures have made us wise for salvation,meaning the Word of God will instruct us in all things necessary for our salvation.

Events taking place now in the world,and events to come in the future all have the ability to divert our attention away from the “things we have learned”. Our responsibility is to make certain that does not happen,which we can accomplish by following Paul’s advice to Timothy.

Have a blessed Wednesday,

Ron

A Lifetime of “What if’s “

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What would our lives be like if only we would have…?

Haven’t we all asked ourselves this question? Has there been that “if only I would have…”  moment in your life?

If only I would have taken that job. If only I would have married him instead. If only I had taken more interest in my family. If only I would have acknowledged God sooner.

Or to phrase it differently…

What if I would have…? What if I would have turned left instead of right? What if would have stayed in school…?

These questions used to consume my every waking moment. Let me explain.

A few evenings ago my wife and I were listening to a well known minister delivering his weekly TV message,and while it was interesting it really wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Until he said these words:

“If you were to hold a postmortem over the greatest defeats of your life,you will find in the debris a broken down alter,a closed Bible, and cut off communication with God. Every time. No longer praying,no longer opening the Book or communicating with God is a set up for tremendous failure”.

As I heard these words I immediately looked to my wife at the same time she looked at me. And we both knew that he was talking about a part of my life.

So with that I’d like to share a very personal part of my journey with you that relates to the above quote. It is my hope that it will help you to understand how easy it is to find yourself in the same condition.

I became a Christian over 38 years ago.When I accepted the Lord into my heart He changed the person I was. I no longer cursed,drank,thought wrong thoughts,or ran with the wrong crowd. I left behind nearly every relationship in my life because they were all negative influences on me. I made that decision then and I have never regretted it.

I went “all in” with Jesus and I paid a great price to do so. Family rejected me,and that includes my own mother.I was considered a black sheep,an oddball that no longer fit in.No one wanted anything to do with me any longer.

All I had was Jesus,and to my great surprise I learned that He was all I needed. Oh to be sure I was often lonely and discouraged,but He sustained me in the darkest times.

And those were precious days to me. Days when it was as if I could sense the very presence of the Lord by my side.Days when his word would seem to jump off the page as it entered my heart.

In my personal life I began to prosper in many ways.I began to be financially successful. I found a new job. I made a lot of money. I started collecting a lot of possessions.I began to receive the accolades of the church for the knowledge and abilities I had. People started complimenting me on my status and my success.

And I loved it all.

But after a few years things began to change.Slowly,subtlety at first so that I didn’t know it was happening to me.Until everything fell apart.

I lost the job and the fantastic salary that went with it. The things I had collected were sold or pawned off to pay the bills.The church looked the other way as though I had become an embarrassment to them.The praise of men completely disappeared. There were no compliments to be found.

Oh to be sure I tried to turn the situation around. I tried mightily to reverse my fortunes. But it seemed that at every corner was one roadblock after another.One more mountain to climb.

For a long time in my stubbornness I fought this crazy fight,sure that at some point I would prevail.After all,isn’t that what determined,successful people do? Just fight harder and eventually you’ll come out on top,right?

Yet I eventually had to admit that my life had been completely dismantled and torn apart.

I had asked myself a thousand times “why the struggles? Why the defeats? Why the taking two steps forward and one one step backward? Why are things that should be so easy now so difficult”?

The answer was simple: there was a communication problem between myself and God.

But if the answer is that simple then why didn’t I do something about it?

PRIDE

Pride that says “I can do this on my own”. Pride that says “it’ll be alright”. Pride that says “I will”,but we never do. Pride that says “God understands”.

“If you were to hold a postmortem over the greatest defeats of your life,you will find in the debris a broken down alter,a closed Bible, and cut off communication with God. Every time. No longer praying,no longer opening the Book or communicating with God is a set up for tremendous failure”.

Beloved, I have now lived long enough to fully understand the simplicity of following Christ and allowing Him to direct my steps and take control of my life.

The keys to a victorious life in Christ are an open Bible and prayer. That’s it.

You can read every book out there that touts the latest formula for successful Christian living,and you will come away unfulfilled.

You can “sow a seed” with every ministry on TV and still not be victorious.

You can quote scripture from memory from morning to evening and still come away empty.

However, a few moments completely alone with Christ and His word will keep open those avenues of communication,and victory shall be yours.

I praise God that I no longer live in a world of “what if’s” or “if only’s”. I am eternally thankful that God loves me enough to bring about correction,even when it hurt.And I am especially grateful that I have seen God restore that which the locust has destroyed.

My prayer is that all of us take to heart the depths of Christ’s love for us. It is unreachable and unsearchable in it’s vastness.

Let us go forward in Him in such a way that when we reach the end of our days no one will gaze upon us and say “if only”,but rather they will be able to say they loved the Lord with all their heart.

Ron

 

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