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What is your church known for?

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I read an interesting article from Thom Rainer about Three Ways Churches Think They Are Known in Their Communities.

The gist of it centered around the question of “What is your church known for in its community?” Thom collected the responses to the question and found three patterns emerged. Below are the results, and I urge you to read the entire article along with the readers comments at the end.

  1. “About one-half of the churches are known for ministries that require the community to come to the church itself. Great preaching. Incredible worship services. A friendly church. Great events at the church. How our members care for one another. You get the picture.
  2. About one-fourth of the churches cited great ministries in and to the community. Partnering with schools in the community. Serving the community with food and clothes. Medical and dental ministries. Ministries to families, parents, and children in the community. The list goes on and on.
  3. About one-fourth of the churches said they were known for negative reasons. Preacher-eater churches. Congregational fights and splits. Legalism. Unfriendliness.”

All of this got me to thinking about my own church, so much so that I’m going to take my own unscientific poll to find out what my fellow congregants think our church is known for in our community.

What would you learn about your church should you ask the question “What is your church known for in its community?”

Do you think you already know their answers, or do you think you might be surprised at what you would learn?

Be blessed!

Ron

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The Hostile Act of Prayer?

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I have written before of the severe persecution of Christians in North Korea and other nations that are closed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sadly, that trend continues unabated as nearly every day a new story surfaces detailing the imprisonment, torture, and killing of believers.

When U.S. citizen Kim Hak Song was arrested in North Korea on May 6, 2017, he was told that his crime was the hostile act of prayer. Officials there had records of an email he had sent to his church asking them to pray for the people of North Korea, and they also knew that he had led morning prayers for a worship group.

Amazingly, after just a year in prison, Kim Hak Song was released from prison a few weeks ago in a “goodwill” gesture prior to the upcoming meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

While this news was received with gladness, there are still an estimated 50,000 Christians imprisoned in North Korea’s brutal prison system. Their “crimes” of being faithful to Jesus Christ have earned them unimaginable treatment including starvation, torture, forced abortion, and separation from their families.

For reasons I fail to understand, Christians here in the West remain willingly ignorant of the plight of their brothers and sisters in North Korea and other countries. It is almost like a game is being played out where if it doesn’t impact me, it’s not my problem.

What we fail to realize however is that this does impact us. Whether we like it or not, we are all one body, united in the Spirit. Christians suffering in remote prisons are no less a part of the Body of Christ than you or I.

You see, in the Kingdom of God we are all seen as equals, for the ground is level at Calvary.

While we here in the West argue over carpet colors, styles of music, the brand of coffee being served in the church cafe, pews or theater seats, or a hundred other insignificant items, thousands of our fellow believers are wondering if today will be their last day on this earth.

If you remain unconvinced as to our responsibility to care for those such as Kim Hak Song and the hundreds of thousands worldwide who are currently suffering for the cause of Christ, I offer these words of Jesus:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the,holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.

32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.

33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;

36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?

38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?

39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’    Matthew 25:31-40

I am not suggesting that anyone fly to North Korea to try and win the release of Christian prisoners. That would be incredibly foolish and you would no doubt find yourself in the same situation as thousands of others there.

What I am suggesting however is that you take just a few moments each day to pray for those I consider to be our generation’s true heroes of the faith.

They would willingly do the same for you and I, even at the risk of imprisonment.

Hostile Acts of Prayer? The only thing remotely hostile would be our continued indifference to the plight of those now suffering for Christ.

Be blessed in Jesus name,

Ron

For a detailed account of the scope and magnitude of Christian persecution in the world today, I invite you to go to https://www.opendoorsusa.org/  where you will find an amazing amount of information related to this matter.

What are YOU good at?

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The other day my wife handed me a piece of paper on which she had quickly written something she had heard somewhere. Here is her message:

“In the church we’ve gotten really good at worship, but not so good at service to the Lord.”

As I reflected on this it struck me in a profound way that what she said was very true. For so long our churches have focused so much of their resources on creating the perfect “worship environment”(whatever that is), that it’s come at the high cost of neglecting others, and more importantly, Him.

If we aren’t serving others, how are we Christlike?

If ministry is not our primary purpose, what exactly is our purpose?

If we aren’t being salt and light in this world, why does this world even need us?

If we aren’t anointed and equipped for service, then who is doing the work of the ministry?

Father, as David prayed, so do I.

Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Teach me that serving others is serving You. Take the blinders from my eyes that I might see the needs that are all around me. Help me to understand that my neighborhood is my mission field, that souls hang in the balance, and that yes, I am my brothers keeper. Instruct me in your ways Lord, and let me not fail to praise you for the untold blessings that have been given to me. Amen

Ron

 

 

Worthy is the Lamb

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I guess it’s just a fact of life that some people think way too highly of themselves. Preachers, politicians, athletes, entertainers all seek the praise and adulation of others. Some people never learn the difference between being confident and egotistical, unfortunately.

Who is worthy to receive worship, praise, adoration, and honor from the saints of God? There is no man or woman past, present, or future who is so deserving. That right is reserved for Jesus Christ alone, the perfect Lamb that was slain for our transgressions.

8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

9 And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,

12 saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever. Revelation 5:8-14  NKJV

The day is coming saints of God, indeed our turn is coming, when we too will gather around the throne and cry “Worthy is the Lamb!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

Is this how God feels?

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As my wife and I were taking a walk through the neighborhood this morning, I felt like asking her a question. It was one of those questions that I’m pretty sure most men would steer clear of, but I felt strongly about asking it.

The question?

“Do you know that I love you?”

Now, you may be saying to yourself ‘man, I wouldn’t ever go there’. Or perhaps you’re thinking of a response more like ‘are you crazy’?

You have to understand that a day doesn’t go by that we don’t tell each other that we love one another multiple times. So when I asked her the question “do you know that I love you?” I was already certain of her answer.

Except that she didn’t give me the answer I was anticipating. Her answer was short and to the point: sometimes.

SOMETIMES? WHAT KIND OF RESPONSE IS SOMETIMES?

Like any loving husband whose mind is now instantly filled with all kinds of wild (and insecure) thoughts, for a moment I didn’t know what to think or how to respond to her answer.

After mumbling something or other about how she must be kidding me, she began to explain her answer. Fortunately for me, she did in fact assure me that she knew that I loved her.

But…..

There’s always a but, isn’t there?

After telling me that yes, she did in fact know that I loved her; she went on to say that there are times when it doesn’t seem like I do.

By now all of my senses are on high alert, shields are up, and I’m steadying myself for “The Talk”. You know the talk I’m referring to, don’t you? If not, just ask any husband!

I guess I should explain something here before I proceed. You see, my wife is the kindest, sweetest, and most gentle person I’ve ever known. For all of that, she is also as honest as the day is long. She can be brutally honest, but with a dash of mercy included, if that makes any sense.

Oh, and lest anyone should mistake her gentleness for weakness, you would be making a huge mistake in doing so!!

So she proceeded to explain why she said the word sometimes, and I felt both my jaw and my heart drop. It seems that she used the word sometimes because of my propensity to withdraw into myself.

By my withdrawing into my own little world, she saw it as me withdrawing from her. Now of course, that was never my intention, but I can clearly see why she would think it was.

Lesson learned, and I have something (else) to work on.

This life lesson has caused me to think about our relationship with our Heavenly Father. I wonder if our actions send Him mixed messages as well.

Is this how God feels, that He’s unsure of how we truly feel about Him?

We go to church to worship Him. Or do we? Are we giving Him our all, our undivided attention? Or are we absentmindedly going through the motions while all along our thoughts are a million miles away?

If we aren’t careful our worship becomes stagnant. It becomes nothing more than rote. It becomes a mechanical routine, void of any spontaneity or enthusiasm. It becomes like the old joke where the man tells his wife “I told you I loved you when I married you, isn’t that enough?”

Well, no, it isn’t enough. Any more than it’s enough to let our Savior know that we love him only at Easter and Christmas.

Love is a verb. It requires action and effort on our part. If it isn’t displayed on the outside, it’s not happening on the inside either.

Hey, that’s good stuff right there!

If we withdraw from Him, how is He to know how we feel about Him? Some will say of course that ‘God knows everything and that includes how I feel about Him, so why do I need to do anything else’?

Ask yourself, is that good enough for your wife or husband? Don’t all of us like to hear those words “I Love You”, and to see them backed up by unselfish actions?

I don’t think our Heavenly Father is all that different from us in that regard. After all, we are made in His image.

Something to think about, isn’t it?

Be blessed everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

God uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary

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Several weeks have passed since the devastating hurricanes in Houston, SW Florida, and Puerto Rico. The news trucks have long ago departed for their next assignment, the local newspapers have pushed any stories related to hurricanes to the 3rd page, and those not seriously impacted by the storms have returned to their normal lives.

hurricane Maria

NASA satellite photo of hurricane Maria

For the tens of thousands whose lives were devastated however, normal will never be “normal” again.

Living all but the last year of my life in the Midwest, I had never encountered a hurricane until Irma came rushing through SW Florida. Like most Midwesterner’s, I never thought much about hurricanes, as tornadoes and the occasional blizzard were the worst type of storms we had to deal with.

Believe me, my thinking has been altered after witnessing the devastation all around me, and I’ll never think of these storms the same way for the rest of my life.

To gain a better understanding of the situation, I was privileged this past week to attend a meeting of SW Florida pastors and their associates where we were to receive an update on the various rebuilding projects in the aftermath of hurricane Irma. After a wonderful fellowship meal, we were ushered into the sanctuary for a time of worship, which I have to say was much needed and appreciated.

MWOA worship

Broadway Community Church, Ft. Myers FL.

There were two local pastors there who spoke of the devastation their churches received at the hands of hurricane Irma.

To see the videos and pictures, plus hearing their first hand accounts, was a bit overwhelming to this previously “sheltered” country boy.

It was immediately apparent that it’s altogether different seeing the news on TV vs. hearing it from someone who lost everything. Listening to the anguish of a now homeless mother, seeing the tears of those rendered helpless, these are very powerful and very moving things.

Of course, many churches and businesses in the area suffered catastrophic damage, just as thousands of homes did. Trying to grasp the level of devastation to families who have lost everything is not easy to do. No wonder such a feeling of helplessness hangs over the affected areas. Can anyone blame those who ask “God where are you”?

 

The main speaker of the evening was the denominational leader for Men and Women of Action for the Church of God, who gave a riveting,”boots on the ground” account of their work in Houston, SW Florida, and Puerto Rico.

Hurricane’s Harvey, Irma, and Maria have kept them going nearly non stop, and to say this team has been busy would be quite the understatement!

His message centered around the theme of how God will take ordinary men and women and use them to do extraordinary things for the kingdom. MWOA 1

I heard powerful stories of God’s provision and care to those in need, and it was a blessing to see first hand how ordinary men and women are transformed into the hands and feet of Jesus.

This is real ministry. 

The main takeaway for me was that even though during a major disaster we sometimes feel as if God is a million miles away, or question why He didn’t stop it from happening in the first place, the truth is God is never far from us.

In this life it is very likely that we will never understand why we must endure the catastrophic events that are a part of our lives. In reality, we can drive ourselves nearly crazy trying to figure these things out.

What I have found to be most important is not the “why”, but rather knowing that in spite of the storms of life, God is there to help us pick up the pieces and rebuild. Hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, etc. are just as much a part of life as the personal tragedies we endure. Yet in spite of it all, God is still God!

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;    Isaiah 59:1

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.   Psalms 46:1

Be blessed!

Ron

How Great is Your God?

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Taking a walk this beautiful October morning, the breeze in my face, the sounds of dozens of different species of birds filling the air, I sense the presence of One who is mightier than I.

Surrounded by His creation in all of its glory, is nothing short of amazing. Sunlight breaking through the trees for example, is something no human produced laser light show could ever replicate. Billions of tiny droplets of dew reflect the morning sun in a kaleidoscope of color as it climbs higher in the Eastern sky. 

Sunrise

Photo by Simon Wilkes on Unsplash

 

Even the normally distracting sounds of speeding cars and trucks rushing by on their way to work seem to be pushed into the background on this incredible day.

This is how it was meant to be. It’s as if He has chosen this very day, these precious moments, to reveal Himself in a new and powerful way.

I am awestruck by what I am experiencing. More than that, I am humbled as I sense His presence surround me.

This day has reminded me of the beautiful worship song “How Great is our God”. One of the most powerful lyrics in that song declares that his is the “Name above all names, Worthy of our praise”. Name above all names

How incredible would it be if all of God’s children would take just a few moments each day to praise that name that is above all names?

How great is YOUR God?

 

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