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When the object of our worship is US

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Assuming you attend church regularly, have you ever given much thought about what motivates you to do so? I know I have, and here lately I have been giving this a lot of thought.

Through the years I’ve heard a lot of different answers to that question. Some of them make perfect sense (to me), while others leave me scratching my head. Here is a sampling of what I’m talking about.

  • “It’s the right thing to do”…spoken by a man whose coarse language left me wondering if he really knew the Lord.
  • “It’s what ‘good people’ do”…I guess this means if you don’t go to church you are a ‘bad person’?
  • “To worship God”…hopefully this is one we can all agree with.
  • “I’ve always went to church”…so church has become a habit?
  • “I like the singing”…I can’t tell you how many people have said this one. I guess the opposite of this is if you don’t like the singing you stay home?
  • “I like the pastor”…similar to the preceding one.
  • “My wife’s family helped to start this church”…ah yes, the ‘my family’s roots run deep in this church’ statement. Tread carefully here!
  • “I’m being forced to attend by my parents”…otherwise known as ‘I’ve got a drug problem. My parents drug me to church all of the time’.

Like I said, a wide variety of answers from a wide variety of people. I’m sure the case can be made for what does it matter why I go to church, just as long as I go. I get it!

I wonder though, how many of us would admit that one of the primary reasons we attend church is for what we get out of it? In other words, we attend because we are made the primary beneficiary, or recipient, rather than God. Maybe I should explain this a bit more.

We go because we are made to feel happy. We go because we are made to feel important. We go because we are made to feel loved. We go because we are made to feel needed. And do you know what? All of those are wonderful things!

But here’s the thing, NONE of those things should be our primary motivator in attending church. All of those wonderful things are the outcomes, or the results of our worship and adoration of the King! The come only because we have first worshiped Him!

You see, isn’t a church service supposed to be about God’s children assembling together to worship Him in Spirit and Truth? According to Jesus it is, which means then that God is to be the sole object of our worship. [1]

As a matter of fact, you cannot find a single instance in the New Testament where we are taught that when we assemble together we are to do so with the expectancy that we will be made to feel a certain way or that we will receive anything.

Yet isn’t that the prevailing thought of many today? “Come to our church and you will receive a blessing”. “Sow your best seed and God will multiply it back to you”. “Give, give, give, and you will get, get, get”! In other words, it’s all about YOU!

Here is the inherent danger in adopting such a mindset. We risk prostituting the meaning of worship in the Church because we have replaced the object of our worship with ourselves.

Preaching styles, personality traits of the pastor, types of music and singing, formal or casual dress, coffee bars, pews or theatre seating, all of these reflect on our desire to please SELF.

They have absolutely nothing to do with the kind of worship that Jesus referred to in John 4:23. In that particular verse, Jesus makes it clear that the Father is seeking a specific type of worship because he said “for the Father is seeking such to worship him. (emphasis mine)

This emphasis on self worship also shows up in other ways in the church. For example, I had a lady come up to me and proceed to tell me that the message I had recently delivered on everlasting hope didn’t sit well with her. She said that she did not agree with my definition of hope. Since my ‘definition’ of hope was read verbatim from the Bible, her comments peaked my curiosity.

With that in mind, and knowing that this person tends to ‘disappear’ for long stretches of time (I am being very kind here), I simply asked her how her definition of hope was working out for her. She immediately went on the defensive and said that she knew the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior and that’s all she needed to know. How that statement proved that my definition of hope was wrong, well, I’ll just leave that to her to work out.

My point being is that if our flesh doesn’t like or agree with scripture, we simply disregard it. What matters is not whether my life is lived in accordance with God’s word, but that I believe what I want to believe. I reign over my life, not God. In assuming such an attitude, I make myself the object of my worship. I exist for no other purpose than to make myself happy.

Beloved, we would do well to remember that the Lord is a jealous God. [2] Worship belongs to Him and Him alone. Creature comforts and the felt needs of you and I are not a part of true worship. They may draw a crowd on Sunday morning, but they have nothing to do with true worship.

That is reserved for God alone.

Have a blessed Lord’s day,

Ron

 

[1] John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.

[2] Exodus 20:5, 34:14, Deut. 4:24, Joshua 24:19,

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Sizzling For Jesus?

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About a month ago, my wife and I were discussing some different areas of ministry, and in particular the area of preparedness. In other words, how we might approach the different ways in which we minister to people.

Now, as regular readers may know, my wife is extremely adept at getting to the crux of the matter. In other words, she doesn’t mince words but gets right to the point.

So it was on this occasion as we were discussing the study time necessary in order to prepare and deliver a sermon. Her exact quote is as follows:

”If the only time we push the pan close to the fire is when we are scheduled to preach (teach, sing, pray, etc), then we are not being faithful. We should be as close to the fire as possible at all times!” Of course, she was correct in her assessment.

To use her as an example, she is a gifted soloist and is often asked to sing at our church. To many, she’s just a pretty face standing up there singing her beautiful songs. And I’m just as certain that there are a few who see her as merely the “entertainment”.

I, on the other hand, know differently. When she is scheduled to sing, the first thing she does is to pray about what song to sing. This isn’t a quick thought like “well Lord, what’s it going to be this time?” Not at all!

She will pray until she believes she has heard from the Lord about the song He wants her to sing. Do you know why she does that? It’s because her song is her ministry gift from the Lord, and she takes that very seriously.

So seriously that she wouldn’t think of not being prepared to deliver her gift. That includes much prayer as well as a lot of practice time in her “studio”( it’s actually our garage, but she refers to it as her studio). Her gifting is in worship, and when she sings she is singing as if Jesus was sitting on the front row.

She does not “perform”, rather what she does is worship the King of Kings.

It’s no different then when I am asked to speak in one of the services. I have to know that I’ve heard from the Lord before I will ever step behind the pulpit. To do so knowing that I was unprepared would be an insult to the Lord, and you can believe me when I say that isn’t going to happen.

This takes many hours of study and prayer, because just like my wife, my calling is very serious to me. I understand that many do not take this approach, in fact, I have had my share of people tell me I am far too serious about this. Imagine that!

For me, however, there is no other way.

I’m that serious because it’s very personal to me. It’s like a covenant between the Lord and me, and I don’t ever want to break that covenant. So I endeavor to be as prepared as I possibly can be when I’m called upon.

Whatever area the Lord has gifted you in, I trust that you also take it seriously. Whatever gifts and callings we may have, use them to your fullest capability. They were given to you for a purpose, and that purpose is to use them to bring glory and honor to God.

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.   Romans 11:29

That’s how important and serious this is.

My Princess had one final thought on the matter of preparedness, and I will leave you with that.

You can’t sizzle for Jesus unless your pan is on the fire!

That’s right my love, and we’re going to keep right on sizzling together for Him!

Be blessed on this wonderful Lord’s day!

Ron

Why can’t we just love on Jesus?

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That was the question my sweet wife asked me the other day.

So, we were having yet another discussion about spiritual things (notice I didn’t say ‘a spiritual discussion’!), which is a common topic at our house. The combination of me being in ministry and her being a pastor’s kid tends to tilt the conversations in that direction a lot of the time.

What I didn’t realize however was how critical I was sounding. That is until my wife stopped my ranting and said this to me:

“Instead of focusing on things that you think are so negative, why can’t we just spend an hour or so loving on Jesus? Why isn’t He our sole focus”?

Now just in case I haven’t mentioned this in a while on this blog, I am forever thankful that God brought my wife and I together. She has been a loving, steady, and positive influence on my life, and without her I would have never known that such a deep love could exist. If ever a woman was heaven sent, it is her, and she alone has my undying love and devotion.

Well, her comments stopped me in my tracks. I’m not sure if my mouth flew open, but it should have. In an instant, my heart was crushed over my negative attitude and critical spirit.

How does this happen to us so quickly?

My mind began to race as I thought of so many scriptures that tell us where our focus should be directed. In Micah 6:8 for example, we are given clear instructions in what is expected of a child of God.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

Nothing there speaks of being critical or negative. What it does tell me is to walk humbly with the Lord. If I do that, He will take care of all the petty details that seem to overwhelm us at times.

If you take a moment to think about it, it’s amazing how different our perspectives can be when we humble our heart before God. Just as amazing I suppose is how we can allow our hearts to become so callous.

In Matthew 22:37 we hear Jesus telling people to ‘love God with all their hearts, minds, and souls’. I don’t see a lot of room for criticism there either, do you?

If we love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, that doesn’t leave any room for doubt, criticism, or complaining does it? Seriously, if we love God in such a manner why would we want to be critical?

How could we be?

 In chapter five of Revelation we find Jesus as the center of adoration and worship from the 24 elders as well as millions of angels. Do you know why there is worship of Jesus in heaven?

Because He is worthy.

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, 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!”   Rev. 5:11,12

This Lamb who was slain is Jesus Christ, and the host of heaven declares Him to be worthy of adoration, worship, honor, and praise.

If heaven declares Him worthy of all of that, who am, or who are we to say even one word to the contrary, or one word that might be construed as being critical?

As my wife asked me…” why can’t we just love on Jesus”?

So, knowing what I know, I must do what I always must do…pray for His forgiveness.

Heavenly Father forgive me for my critical spirit and lack of love for your Son Jesus. You alone are worthy to be praised. Your word teaches me not to allow any corrupt communication to come from my lips, and I have stumbled in doing so. Anything less than my highest praise and worship of You O Lord is corrupt, and I offer up the prayer that David did: “create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me”. Amen.

Be blessed on this Lord’s day,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is your worship dependent upon?

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Worship: reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred. [1]

I asked the question ‘what is your worship dependent upon’ because I wonder if we believe that our worship is dependent on something we do or think.

For example, if our worship is dependent upon something we ‘do’, what is it that we must ‘do’ before we worship the Lord?

  • Do we have to dress a certain way?
  • Do we have to act a certain way?
  • Do we have to say certain words?
  • Do we have to belong to a specific church or denomination?

Perhaps it is something we must think, instead of ‘do’.

  • Do we have to think certain thoughts?
  • Do we have to think like everyone else?
  • Do we have to think about our frame of mind?
  • Do we have to think at all?

Maybe none of that matters. Maybe what matters most is the environment.

  • Is the music too loud?
  • Is the music the ‘correct’ style?
  • Are the lights dimmed?
  • Are the seats comfortable enough?

Can I be honest with you for a moment? Every single one of the things I mentioned so far has at one time or another negatively impacted my worship.

Want to know something else? That was very difficult for me to admit.

If worship truly is “reverent honor and homage paid to God”, can I honestly say that I was reverently honoring and paying homage to God when I allowed anything to negatively impact my worship?

Honestly…no I was not.

You see, there are times when this flesh rises in me and wants to show me that it is still in control, and it usually happens shortly after I have experienced the goodness and grace of God in a tangible way.

The ability to hinder our worship is one of the most effective tools in Satan’s toolbox. Jesus referred to this in a manner of speaking when he said that “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” …[2]

The thief of course is Satan. He is a thief and a liar, and he comes to steal many things from us. If we permit him to do so, he will steal our joy, our love, our compassion for others, even the victory we enjoy in our souls.

What he is most wanting to steal however is our worship. That is because Satan knows that if he can steal our desire to worship God, he has gained a foothold in our lives. The devil knows all too well that if he can get us focused on external conditions and circumstances, he can negatively impact the internal, or our heart.

The Apostle Paul also understood how important it is for the Christian to not allow the devil to steal anything from us, and we find him telling the Ephesian church to “neither give place to the devil”. [3]

What Paul is telling us here is that we are not to give the enemy any access into our lives. Closing every door of opportunity so that the devil will find no entrance into your home or life means just that. Do whatever it takes to keep him out.

If you will remember, Paul was known in Hell [4] and was locked in a battle with Satan that lasted until he drew his last breath. He knew this adversary well, and understood the ramifications of ‘playing with fire’.

So determined was Paul that Satan would not steal his worship that we find him and Silas singing praises to God at midnight while both were in prison! There feet may have been bound in the stocks, but their worship could not be chained! [5]

Beloved, our worship is not dependent upon any external circumstance or situation. It doesn’t matter if the lights are too bright or the songs too fast. All that matters is that our hearts are engaged with our Creator.

When that happens, all external hindrances fade into obscurity. Those voices telling us not to worship because this or that is not to our liking are silenced.

This is when we fully understand what David meant when he said this prayer:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. [6]

All of us, especially me, need to approach the Lord with a clean heart and a right spirit, or attitude. This is what opens the door to our worship.

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

 

[1] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/worship

[2] John 10:10

[3] Ephesians 4:27

[4] Acts 19:15

[5] Acts 16:25

[6] Psalm 51:10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beast has been unleashed

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On December 31st, 2018, the Rev. Justin Hoke, pastor of Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church in Weed, California, posted the following on the church’s outdoor sign. [1]

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Unfortunately for Rev. Hoke, LGBT activists descended upon the church last Sunday, claiming the sign was “hateful.” Later, these activists vandalized the church sign. Far worse than that however was the shameful lack of support this pastor received from his congregation. Persecution is to be expected whenever one takes a stand for Godly principles, being abandoned by one’s congregation,however, is not. [2]

In light of that sad state of affairs, the Rev. Hoke was forced to write the following on his Facebook page a few days ago:

“As of today, I am no longer the pastor of Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church.

After much prayer and counsel, I have decided that it is best to briefly communicate what has taken place.

1. I was informed by our other elder that he felt he could no longer follow my lead as Pastor of TBPC.
2. I was informed that essentially all but one couple in membership would leave the church if I continued as pastor of TBPC.
3. Our other elder and the couple felt that those who left would likely return if I would leave.
4. Our other elder was agreeable to stay and assume the pastoral responsibilities.

Therefore it was determined that it would be in the best interest of the local body for us (TBPC and the Hoke family) to part ways.”

So what we have here is a minister of the Gospel who stated three irrefutable,Biblical truths on his church sign.

  1. Bruce Jenner is still a man
  2. Homosexuality is still sin
  3. God’s Word does not change,even if the culture does

Incredibly, his entire congregation (save one family) decided that it was better to side with the LGBT activists than their own pastor,and left the church. Rather than standing firm upon the truths of God’s word, this congregation bowed their knees to Baal, soundly rejecting God, His word, and their pastor. Instead of supporting their pastor and his family by upholding these truths, they took the cowards way out by throwing him under the bus.

The fact that this could even happen is evidence that the spirit of antiChrist, which has always been present (though largely kept under wraps), has been unleashed upon America and is no longer being restrained. This should serve as a warning to all Christian leaders that the freedom to declare the whole counsel of God is now a part of America’s past. [3]

Indeed, the Beast has been unleashed!

This is only the beginning of course. Don’t want to support an unholy agenda by baking a cake for a homosexual couple? Then you will be shut down so you can’t bake a cake for anyone. Soon, these events will become commonplace, hardly raising an eyebrow.

It isn’t too far on the horizon when the Devil’s advocates will sit in the sanctuary, secretly recording a gospel message, carefully listening for anything they can remotely twist into “hate speech” so they can call in their ‘activists’ and destroy more pastors and their congregations.

What these so called ‘activists’ are willingly ignorant of however is that these same tactics have long been employed by ruthless regimes of every type in order to weed out the “subversives” who seek to overthrow the government by their “heinous deeds” of worshiping God. The only difference between them and groups such as LGBT and others like them is that the latter have managed to garner the support of the liberal elite in both Hollywood and Washington D.C.

Thus, they wield an unprecedented level of power to destroy the family and as much as possible whatever is Godly by ascribing the words “hateful” and hate speech” to all who dare oppose them.

But let’s be honest here, shall we? Was it the sign itself that caused such an explosion of anger and hate from the LGBT activists, or is something else the cause of their outburst? Was seeing words that refute their lifestyle and their agenda really what triggered this explosion of hate from them?

Of course not! What so enraged these people was the fact that someone would dare condemn their chosen lifestyle.  What really happened here was these LGBT activists were making a statement. And that statement was that no one, not even God Almighty himself can tell them how to live their lives. This was all about spiritual rebellion against the authority of God to govern our lives according to His divine mandate.

This outburst is just the latest in what has become a predictable pattern by those who oppose God. Oh, to be sure the methods have changed, as have the players in the game. New strategies are being developed almost daily in order to destroy the family as God created it. Rest assured however, that the chief engineer behind these activities is Satan himself.

There really is nothing new about all of this. As a matter of fact, it’s been going on since Satan first appeared to Eve in the garden when he coerced her and Adam into disobeying the command of their Creator. It’s the same mindset today, only instead of cunning, stealth, and deception, Satan now uses an “in your face” attack designed to intimidate God’s people into surrendering without a fight. [4]

Those who are wise understand where all of this is headed. The ‘children of light’ understand that these are the beginning days of the time when the adversary would unleash his power against all that is called Godly, thus causing many to lose their faith. [5]

Rather than cower in fear at those who oppose God and all that is Godly, our assignment is to pray for those who persecute and seek to harm us. Jesus teaches us that our weapon of choice must be love. We are not to return hate for hate, but must rise above the hate from those who oppose God. [6]

Be blessed, and pray without ceasing!

Ron

 

[1] https://www.sacbee.com/news/state/california/article224506495.html

[2] 2 Timothy, 3:12

[3] 1 John 4:3

[4] Genesis 3

[5] 1 Timothy 4:1

[6] Matthew 5:43-45

When a baby enters the room

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You’ve seen this a thousand times. A beaming couple can’t wait to show off their newborn. Plans are made, family and friends are invited, and the long awaited day finally arrives.

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Photo by Carlo Navarro on Unsplash

As the guests arrive, the beaming parents can hardly contain their excitement as they eagerly walk around the room, proudly showing their guests how perfect their little cherub is.

The point out it’s weight, any special features, how the baby is already showing signs of having his mother’s nose or her fathers eyes. And then you notice it…

For some odd reason, the entire room has taken on a different atmosphere. Grown adults, parents, grandparents, great grandparents, even children all are swept up in the moment.

The moment a newborn enters the room time stands still. Nothing else matters as all eyes are diverted towards the baby. A hush settles over the once noisy room, replaced by the wonder of this new creation.

I have to believe that this was the scene when the wise men, or Magi, who had been following the heavenly star first laid eyes upon the Christ child.

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Photo by Batang Latagaw on Unsplash

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.    Matt. 2:10-11

During this Christmas season, may each of us reflect once more upon the birth of Jesus Christ. May we be in awe, just as the Magi and the shepherds in the fields were. May the wonder of it all astound us as we ponder the magnitude of God’s love for man.

And most of all, may we worship Him who was born in the most meager of circumstances, this son of a carpenter, the Gift that was given to all mankind, destined to become the payment for our sins, who is now seated at the right hand of God.

Merry Christmas,

Ron

Becoming deaf to Satan

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Voices…

Noise…

As a lover of solitude, I find this world to be a very noisy, intrusive place. Being raised as I was, meaning as a full-fledged country boy, I learned to love the quiet and peace of near silence.

I can still remember hours and hours where the only sounds I heard were that of the wind blowing, or the birds chirping. Imagine not seeing a single car go past your house for several hours! That was my world as a child.

Things certainly change as you grow into adulthood though, don’t they? Somewhere along the way, you realize that it’s time to leave behind the only life you’ve known and join the masses who are making a living and doing all the other things that adults are expected to do.

That’s when you start to hear them. Voices, coming at you from every conceivable direction, all clamoring for your attention, all wanting to be heard. Happy voices. Angry voices.

Your Boss.

Your spouse

Your kids

Your friends

Then there are two other, very distinctive voices, voices that sound like none of the others. Voices that seem to almost be in competition with one another as they vie for your undivided attention.

Gods voice.

Satan’s voice.

As a child of God, we hear His voice in many ways. We hear it in the Word of God. We hear it when we spend time with Him in prayer. We hear it in the laughter of little children. And yes, we hear it in that “still, small voice”. [1]

The voice of God is unmistakable to His children that have inclined their ears towards Him, as Jesus told us in John 10:27 that “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”.

Satan’s voice, however, is a deceptive voice. That is because Satan is a liar and never tells the truth. To mask his lies and gain our trust so that we will let down our guard, he must appeal to our fleshly desires.

One of the ways in which he accomplishes this is to mix a little bit of biblical truth in with the lie. For example, a common false teaching that has crept into the church today is that all of us are “little gods”.

On the surface, I would hope that none of us would consider ourselves to be a “god”, yet that is exactly what some teach today. They quote John 10:34 as their proof text:

Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are ‘gods””

This is classic Word of Faith teaching, and it is nothing short of blasphemy. Yes, Jesus did in fact quote that particular verse from Psalm 82, but He was stating that HE was above judges as the Son of God. In no way, shape, or form was Jesus telling any man that they were a “god”.

This type of false teaching appeals to the flesh, and the desire for power that the flesh lusts after. It is deceptive in that the devil takes scripture and twists it to appeal to the flesh. He mixes a truth with a lie to deceive us.

There are a lot of false teachers out there today that espouse this particular brand of false “theology”. The late Paul Crouch of TBN fame was one of it’s biggest proponents, and it has been passed down to the likes of Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Crefflo Dollar, Fred Price, Marylin Hickey, and Jesse Duplantis, to name a few.

This is but one example of how the enemy will take something that God has said and twist it into something entirely different. From the moment in the Garden when Satan twisted God’s commands, thus enslaving man to sin, to this present day, he has never stopped in his attempts to undermine God’s plan for your life, all while lying to you.

How many of you, like myself, hear the non-stop voice of the enemy as he tries to steal, kill, and destroy? [2]

It’s very real, is it not?

So how are we to drown out the relentless voice of Satan so we may overcome his deceptive tactics?

  1. For one, we must stay in the Word. Nothing brings clarity to the believers’ mind like Gods Word. It is the standard by which all Truth must be measured. Every sermon or teaching that we expose ourselves to must be measured against this standard. And that includes your pastor or your favorite TV preacher or author. If what they are teaching differs in any way from the written Word of God, you must reject it.
  2. We must continue to cultivate our relationship with Christ through prayer. It is shocking to hear how little time the average Christian spends in prayer. Prayer is a line of communication between God and man that must remain open at all costs. If you are too busy to pray, you are too busy.
  3. We must be a people who worship. Worship comes in many forms, and not all of them involve singing a song! For example; purpose in your heart to be a thankful Christian. Give Him thanks for all the many blessings you have received from Him. Learn to be a sacrificial Christian. Prefer others before yourself. Become a doer of the Word, and not just a hearer.

I believe that it is possible to become deaf to the voice of Satan, but it can only be accomplished by redirecting our attention and focus on the things of God.

If we will do this, our lives will be enriched far beyond what we can imagine!

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

 

[1] 1st Kings 19:12

[2] John 10:10

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