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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Dream Stealer

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There have been a few occasions when I have shared with everyone how that my wife always seems to know exactly what to say and when to say it.This past Monday was no exception.

Monday was my birthday and I was feeling a little down about some things while I was at work.My wife and I had shared a few texts back and forth and she figured it out pretty quickly.Wives are like that,you know?At least the good ones are.

At some point during my lunch time I received yet another text from my wife,and I could tell by the length of it a mini sermon had filled the screen of my phone.I’d like to share what she said to me in hopes that it might speak to others,just as it has to me.

“Just heard a quote:if you don’t make peace with your reflection,you will always be at war with yourself”. She followed that with this:”we can’t change our past,but we can leave it at the cross and and move past it…and have peace and thrive.You have a future doing something for the Lord,but only if you stop living in your rear view mirror.Trust,believe….our future is only going to be as sweet as you expect and believe that it will be.Don’t allow the enemy to steal any more of your dreams”.

I think I’ve read this a dozen times since Monday and it’s still as powerful as the first time I read it.

Our reflection,or the man in the mirror can be a tremendous hindrance to our progress in the Lord,but only if we allow it to!Haven’t many of us commented that our greatest enemy is often ourselves?To overcome,or gain the victory over our own self doubts is necessary if we are to do anything for the Kingdom of God.

We all have a past.A past that many of us wish we could somehow wipe away never to be remembered again.But there is a powerful adversary who knows every minute detail f our past,and his job is to make sure that we don’t ever forget it.

It’s important that we understand this.As Christians we acknowledge the fact that the sins of our past are no more.As far as the East is from the West,that’s how far God has cast our sins away.

Yet Satan,the angel of light,our adversary,is determined that our past sins continue to have a stranglehold on every facet of our lives.This is the battle that everyone must fight.God has forgiven.Satan says “no He hasn’t”.

Our sins were nailed to the Cross beloved.Once and for all our sins were purchased by the blood of Christ.I think we would all do better if we reminded Satan of this from time to time.After all,our weapons are more powerful than his!

The weapons of our warfare are not carnal,but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.   2nd Cor 10:4

Because our sins were nailed to that Cross we are free to move beyond them,justified before a Holy God as though we had never sinned.That should be what we focus upon.That alone should be our battle cry.

My sins,your sins,all of them are in the rear view mirror.They are behind us.The only way you can see them is if you turn around and look for them.

How about you? Have any big dreams for God? Unfulfilled dreams? Dreams that you continue to hold on to?

As my precious wife reminded me,”don’t allow the enemy to steal any more of your dreams”.

Be blessed,

Ron

The Real Source of Strength

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We often hear people say things like “every answer to your problems is in the Word of God”. Or “your problems are not too big for God”. The truth is both statements are correct and normally we have no problems believing them,do we?

But how many of us live in the “normal” all of the time(whatever that is)? Not many that I know.

We live in a strange time.On one hand we have the TV life that isn’t real, but yet it does it’s best to convince us that it is.Actors and actresses all playing the part of a life that exists only in fantasy,where everything always works out for the best in the end.Always enough money.Perfect marriage.Perfect kids.The best schools and jobs.Politicians promising anything and everything to garner your support.The perfect life.

On the other hand we have real life where real people struggle daily with very real problems.Stories that all too often end in tragedy.Divorce ends over half of all marriages.Murders so frequent that we hardly take notice any more as the value of a human life plummets to an all time low.Here in the land of milk and honey,people are hungry and thirsty.We can’t feed them enough,and now we’re trucking water to them.Politicians promising anything and everything to garner your support,knowing full well that they cannot possibly honor such promises.

This is the real life.The life that never appears on the cover of the fashion magazines or even more sadly,is rarely talked about much in our churches any more.

Real people that are discouraged,lonely,desperate for attention,people who need Jesus to interrupt their lives and show up just in time.And all of this got me to thinking about all of this.

The Bible was given to us for just such a time as this.It is a collection of the most encouraging and faithful promises ever delivered unto mankind.Research every prophecy concerning Jesus and you will see that they were 100% accurate.So it is with all of God’s word.

Hopeful

Encouraging

Life sustaining

I recently came upon a favorite passage of mine,one that has helped me and sustained me through the darkest of times.This passage was written by a man named Asaph, who was going through a rough time of his own.

Asaph was one of David’s chief musicians and is mentioned several times in the Psalms. In addition to being a musician,he was also considered to be a seer,or prophet.Today, we would likely consider Asaph to be a “worship leader” because he conducted the music in the tent when the ark was taken to Jerusalem.

It was Asaph who penned these stirring words of hope for all that may be going through a difficult time:

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.   Psalm 73:25,26  NKJV

When I’m lonely beyond the point of believing anyone cares,I have Him.That’s what Asaph was saying here.No one on earth,no man can do for me what my God can.Why would I want for more,for something that at best is not enough?

While I may be weak in body and soul,there is a God who is my strength and my helper forever.What I cannot do on my own because of my own weakness,my own frailty,I have an Advocate to take up my case.It is His strength that I rest in,His peace that comforts me when all others have turned away from me.

My incredible wife told me last night that she was impressed to share with me this song.I’m sure you know the chorus,but please read the verses as well for in them is a message for us all.

Hel­en H. Lem­mel, in 1922.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Refrain

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

Refrain

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Refrain

Be blessed…

Ron

Lonely Yes,but Never Alone

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Holidays have a tendency to bring out a myriad of emotions in all of us. When you really think about it, Christmas seems to tug at our emotions more than any other holiday.

Emotions run the gamut don’t they? From sheer joy and excitement as anticipation of the big day grows more intense every day, to the lowest of lows as the realization sinks in that another Christmas must be endured without a precious loved one there to share in the day.

Watching the news at this time of year brings to the forefront a different kind of emotion: DESPERATION. Desperation because once again there isn’t money enough to buy even one gift for the children. Desperation because once again excuses must be invented in order to sooth the broken hearts of the disappointed. Desperation that escalates into despair, so much so that parents will stop at nothing in order to avoid having to look into the eyes of their children who will not be receiving a present at Christmas. Stealing, and much worse, are all part and parcel as seemingly anything goes in order to avoid the inevitable.

As horrible as desperation and despair can be at Christmas, I have found that there is another emotion even more horrific, even more gut wrenching to have to endure, and that is LONELINESS.

What a powerful emotion loneliness is. At times it can reach the point of complete debilitation, rendering a person to the point where they feel worthless, unlovable, even forgotten by God Himself.

As a Christian we have a promise that we will never be alone. The writer of Hebrews made this very clear when he said:

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Heb 13:5 NKJV

But not everyone has this promise, because not everyone knows the Promise Giver.

And if I’m to be completely honest, many who do know the Promise Giver suffer the pain of Loneliness. Many of God’s children struggle with abandonment, betrayal, and a broken heart. Some would say how can this be? I thought God took away all of the negative things!

Living in this world we are not immune to these emotions. We are not exempt from hurt and pain. Sometimes I wonder if we don’t struggle with them as much as those who do not know Christ!

Again, when we turn to scripture we find that we are not alone in our struggles:

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 2Co 4:8-9 NKJV

In the midst of it all, when the weight of loneliness and despair is crushing us, God’s word declares with the sound of a trumpet: we are not alone! We have not been forsaken! We will not be destroyed! Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world!

This Christmas, if you find yourself struggling to keep your head above water, I urge you to look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. The all time, undefeated Champion of love and mercy will make a way where there seems to be no way. He will be your oasis in the midst of your dry, barren desert of loneliness and despair.

Beloved, it isn’t a pretty package that will strengthen you for the journey. It is the peace that passes all understanding. It is Jesus. The Christmas Gift for the ages.

Remember, we are often lonely. The holidays can bring those emotions to the surface.

But we are never alone.

Be blessed!

Ron

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