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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

 

Partnership or Ownership?

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Matter What…

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I will remember what you have done for me O God.

I have not forgotten how you spoke peace into my heart when I was at my lowest point so many years ago. Job 38:1,which I had read many times before, suddenly came alive in my heart that day when I realized that you are God even in the midst of the most violent storm. I knew at that moment you were going to rescue my soul from the waters that sought to drown me.

I have never forgotten that “encounter”.

It has sustained me and encouraged me more times than I can remember. It has left an indelible mark upon my heart,as if You knew all along that this would be a defining moment between us.A reference point that I could draw from again and again.

Like I am now.

Your word has been a constant in my life. Is it any wonder the Word of God has been described as “a lamp unto my feet”? Surely there can be no greater road map in this life than your word,a guide that directs us even in the darkest of nights. Like an old familiar friend, it always calls me back to its pages should I become slothful and inattentive to its beckoning voice.

the-unity-of-the-church-jesus-is-our-lord-thy-word-is-a-lamp-unto-my-feet-a-light-unto-my-path-1416064589nkg48

prayerpins.org

Through the years I have rejoiced at the transforming power of your word. I have been witness to seeing the hardest hearts melt when confronted with the message of hope and renewal found within its pages. I have seen grown men and women literally run to the alter under the convicting,yet loving wooing of the Holy Spirit.

I often marvel at what some men consider to be miraculous,or at the numbers of people seeking miracles, when by the simple act of a wayward soul repenting of their sins the angels of heaven begin to rejoice. What else can men do here on earth that causes celebration in heaven? Can anything be more miraculous than the Creator reclaiming one of His own?rejoicing-among


As much as I wish it were not so, I have also been witness to my own failures. I have faltered,fallen short on countless occasions,and no doubt disappointed many people. I find that even at this stage of my life there is still much I do not understand about this covenant relationship with our Lord. There are days when I still have more questions than answers. Is this how it is supposed to be? That this sense of wonderment about unanswered questions will serve as our own “thorn in the flesh” to keep us on our knees?

You know how hard I have tried to become one of “them”,to fit in with the crowd. I’ve joined their ranks. Several times. Sat through the classes. Studied their course materials.Taken and passed the exams. Have the sheepskin in the frame. Attended their conferences. Shook hands with the “right people”. Held titles and positions. Yet for all of that, I did not fit in. I could not bring myself to “go along to get along” when my conscious balked at the shallowness of it all. For this I am branded a “what might have been”. I’ve heard “I don’t know what to do with you” more than once.

Still,no matter what,I will remember what you have done for me O God.

I will praise you,for I remember your kindness to me these many years. Though men and denominations have long ago abandoned me,and many others like me by the side of the road,yet you remain faithful to me.Your mercy endures forever.

I confess that I struggle to understand why my phone never rings. Why my inbox remains empty. Why the invitations have all dried up. Why so many that I poured into over the years have forgotten that I exist. Could it be that since I am no longer in a position to help them ascend the ladder,I am of no value to them? The “amens”, the slaps on the back,the firm handshakes of approval,now there is nothing but silence.

if-you-live-for-peoples-acceptance-you-will-die-from-their-rejection

quotlr.com

Except from you O God.I hear your voice calling out to me daily.

Actually, I do understand. I am an embarrassment to the Laodicean church of this generation. There is no place for the likes of me in a church that has become so much like the world as to be nearly indistinguishable from it. I speak the truth in love,which means I refuse to soften the message for the sake of men; to do so would be to prostitute your Word.I am an anomaly,a throwback to a long forgotten age, an age before political correctness ensnared the church in its damning choke hold. I know no other way.

I will remember what you have done for me O God.

Where you are leading me I do not know,but time has proven that I can trust you to take me safely there.How I will get there remains a mystery,yet I know that you have it all worked out.

No Matter What.

I will praise You in this storm.

 

 

 

 

What will it take?

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Problems.

We’ve got big problems here in America.

Drug problems. Employment problems. Gun problems. Hate problems. Mass Murder problems. Rape problems. Criminal problems of every imaginable kind.

crime in America map 1

libinfo.uark.edu

These problems vex our society in ways that most of us don’t even think about,let alone understand the complexities of.

And what is most distressing about these issues is that they are getting worse instead of better.

In spite of billions trillions of dollars thrown at them in hopes that we will find solutions,our problems worsen.

Apparently money can’t buy everything after all.

We all know this because we see the evidence of it in our communities on a daily basis.What used to happen only in large cities has found it’s way to the family farm and every small town in America.I’m certain that if Mayberry existed today, Andy & Barney would be knee deep in drugs and violent crime.

But this list is by no means complete,because in addition to the Criminal problems we are facing, we are also dealing with Personal problems on an unprecedented level.

Unemployment. Inequalities of every sort. Brokenness. Hopelessness. Our children addicted to prescription medicines for emotional stress.

Depressing,isn’t it?

It seems that every politician has the answer,which I find interesting since these same politicians have continually said they have the answer.Yet the carnage continues.

yes no

opednews.com

Pass this bill.Pass that bill.Implement this initiative.

It’s the fault of the left.It’s the fault of the right.

Problems.

Big problems.


Yet as unbelievable as all of this sounds,we have a problem much larger and more serious than any that I have previously listed.

You see…we have a God problem in America.

As in… we have rejected the Lord and are now left to our own abilities.Like this…

And the LORD said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.   1Sa 8:7 NKJV

The children of Israel have just sealed their fate. They insisted on being ruled by a king,just like the nations all around them.They told the prophet Samuel that they wanted an earthly king,and rejected the God that had created them.

Saul

Slideplayer.com

You see, they made the same mistake that we have made.They looked all around them and saw that the other nations were doing just fine without the rules and laws that they themselves were bound to follow.Serving God had become burdensome to them.They had grown weary of the sacrifices and rituals that must be observed.They wanted an easier life.They wanted to be taken care of like the other nations they encountered.

And so God gave them exactly what they asked for.He even told Samuel to let the people know what kind of a king they were going to get,as well as the cost of his rule over them.Even though king Saul would take their children from them and cause servitude to be the order of the day,still they preferred him over God.

Thus began the downward spiral of what was once the chosen people of God Himself.To read the tragic history of a backslidden Israel is to read the story of modern day America.

And yet we also clamor for a king.Or a queen.is_it_2016_yet_square_sticker_3quot_x_3quot

But we do not ask for God.

Anyone,anything….but God

We do not ask for God because we do not know Him.We cannot inquire of Someone that we know nothing about.We have forgotten,rather thrown away, our heritage.

Shocking,but where are the shepherds crying aloud for this nation to humble itself and return to the Lord? If this were a different day the pastors and priests would repent in sackcloth and ashes.But not us.We have strayed too far.We are far too proud to admit our sins to a Holy God.

What we want, we have been given.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.   2nd Tim 4:3,4

As a nation…we are alone and left to our own devices.

While the nation cries for more gun control,precious few cry out for more God control.

While our leaders stagger under the burden of overwhelming defeat in the battle to control the drug problem in America,very few cry out to God for a mighty deliverance.

More intervention by our government is simply not the answer our society needs. Our government is corrupt and stinking to the core.They cannot help.

We need a God intervention.In the worse possible way.

What is needed is an acknowledgment by all that we do not have the answers in and of ourselves,and that turning back to God is our only hope.

repent-before-its-too-late

biblicalproof.wordpress.com

Perhaps,if only for a while,believers can call upon the name of the Lord to hold back the oncoming flood that is destined to engulf this once great nation.

Perhaps that is what it will take.

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