Friday, March 31, 2017

Spiritual Growth

Spiritual Growth                                                     03-31-17

This will be my last post for a while.My schedule is going to be such as I will not be able to maintain a consistent day to write. It is temporary and should not last long. At any rate.

I listened intently this week past to a couple of folks on my bus. They are regular riders and we know each other to speak. Their conversation this day,revolved around growth,spiritual growth to be exact. They rode my whole route that day,about a 45 minute round trip.The whole time was taken with what was required or needed for spiritual growth,both as individuals and corporately in their church. They spoke of different individual studies they had and were doing. They talked about various programs in the church and whatnot. All in all,it was good and very informative.As I listened while driving,I could not come up with a single criticism or argument in my mind.Not that my criticism,argument,or opinion means anything! Have a look see here.

Mark 4:26-27 (ESV) 26  And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.
27  He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.

How does a seed turn into a tomato plant? Can you tell me? Yes,
you can give me the scientific knowledge of cell growth and multiplication and what not, I understand that. But, HOW does that seed do it? I don't think anyone knows do they? It is a MYSTERY. One of God's MIRACLES called LIFE. We just don't know how it happens. To this day I cannot tell you HOW I got saved. Didn't really need God at the time so I thought.Twenty something,healthy,good government job and was not actively or passively trying to find God. I won't bore you with the details that morning of October 8th,1975 but trust me,it was a MIRACLE that I got saved.The old cliche is and was never more true in my circumstance. I didn't find God,He found me! Amen?!

John 15:16 (ESV) 16  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Growth is similar to salvation don't you think? How so Ronnie? Well,it's all a work of God. His Holy Spirit inside of you produces in you that metamorphosis we call spiritual growth.We can't really say how it happens.We just look back at some point in the future and we discover where God in His mercy and grace has brought us from. You hearin' me?We many times try to point to our own effort and our own righteousness to explain it. Where we get into trouble is when we begin to believe that WE had something to do with it. As God blesses us we begin to believe our own PR.That's a mouthful right there,but not to get off point. You see brothers and sisters,growth occurs naturally doesn't it? And herein lieth the lesson.(I got that line from a movie I saw a long time ago lol)

Growth is a natural process.Just like that seed. That seed doesn't "do" anything to grow into a tomato plant or a rose bush.No,it just let's the ground and the water take it's course.It abides where it is planted and NATURALLY grows into whatever kind of seed it is.

It doesn't have to read about what it has to do to become a rose.It needs no other seeds to tell it how to act or behave in order to be fruitful. It doesn't have to be taught what steps to take to become a tomato. As a matter of fact it CAN"T be taught.It's growth is supernatural. It's life is a miracle from God.It lives in the ground taking nourishment and letting nature do what it will and voila one day it sprouts and bursts through the ground, no longer a lowly seed. Ya feelin me here?

Jesus said our growth is much the same way. Look at this.

John 15:4-5 (ESV) 4  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
5  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Let me give you a personal example. I love to study God's Word.I love to study about God's Word. I read books. My personal preference is not the great inspirational books written by great men of God.The John Bevere's, T.D. Jakes, and Jentzen Franklin's just are not my cup of tea.They are great men of God and write powerfully about their testimonies. But my deal is commentaries.You know, the dry,textbook approach that attempts to "exegete" the Word of God. What was the original intent of the author?Who was his audience.And of course what does it mean in the "original Greek and Hebrew?" (smile) You with me here? O.K. here's my point.

I can read about what some Ph.D or Ph.D's in theology have to say about what God's Word says from now until the cows come home,or Jesus comes back, whichever comes first. You can read about how T.D.Jakes walks in he power of God and marvel at all God does in his and other's lives....that in and of itself will do NOTHING to cause you or me to grow in the grace and favor of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

I read an article this week past by a VERY prominent pastor about the concerns with the American Church. In his perspective, the myriad of problems within the church is due to the church's concern with the empty seats instead of the filled ones. It has designed itself around programs,bells and whistles to attract folk to the empty seats.Church growth instead of Kingdom growth if you will. In this process,it(the church) has neglected to direct those who are already sitting in the pews towards God.All the focus centers around teachings and programs, instead of personally developing a relationship with God Almighty. Until the filled seats "get filled" the empty seats will remain empty.

Brothers and sisters,like the seed,we must ABIDE in the vine,the Lord Jesus Christ. Like the seed, we must allow Him through the Holy Spirit to nourish and change us. WE CAN'T DO IT. I DON'T CARE HOW "GOOD"OR "HOLY" WE ARE! Like the seed we have to dwell and remain in His presence and yield to Him. If we will do that,then the growth will be a natural by product.The more we abide in Him the more we will grow. It's just natural.We abide in Him,we allow His nature to take it's course in our lives,we grow and bear fruit. 

It can't be found in a book. It can't be found in a commentary.It can't be found in a church service.  It can only be found in our yielding and abiding and lodging in the presence of Almighty God,WHEREVER AND WHENEVER He chooses to make Himself known to us. 

Psalm 118:2-4 (ESV) 2  Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
3  Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”
4  Let those who fear the LORD say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”

God Bless 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Applied Christianity

Applied Christianity                                                 03-24-17         

Hebrews 4:2 (ESV) 2  For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.

I read and heard this week,messages that centered on application. Application? Where is that in the Bible Ronnie? Well,it's not per se....let me see if I can explain what I am trying to say.

That word applied.I have a kid,who along with his wife, teach mathematics at a major university in the midwest. I don't know what they teach,maybe Algebra at the college level,that isn't important.But, as I thought about this message that term Applied Mathematics came into my head. Here's the dictionary definition for that discipline.

Applied Mathematics-Applied mathematics is a branch of mathematics that deals with mathematical methods that find use in science,engineering,computer science,and industry. Thus,applied mathematics is a combination of mathematical science and specialized knowledge. O.K.............that help any? No,me neither.(smile) But,hold on let's look a little more closely at ".......mathematical methods that find use........" There it is.

You see there is a field of math known as pure mathematics,then there is APPLIED mathematics.Pure mathematics being mathematics for it's own sake.Without getting bogged down here let's jump to the Scripture. The contrast between pure and applied is never more evident than in this passage of Scripture is it? And herein lieth the lesson.

The writer of Hebrews is recounting the trek of the children of Israel in the wilderness.It is a textbook example of what NOT to do isn't it? You know the story.God promised Israel the promised land. A land flowing with milk and honey. In our modern day Christian vernacular,He was offering them the ABUNDANT LIFE. He had guaranteed their victory over the inhabitants of the land. He would go before them and drive their enemies out of the land.The battle was His and if they would follow His lead,they would enter into rest and blessing. Sounds like we have that same promise today doesn't it?

All they need do was believe and conquer.You feelin' me here.
God even went so far as to give them some"pure knowledge" of His intentions. He sent plague after plague on Egypt to show them His power. He led them out of Egypt with the spoils of the land to give them abundance. Led them with a cloud by day and protected them at night with a pillar of fire. He parted the Red Sea,let them pass through on dry land,then utterly destroyed their enemies who were in close pursuit. You gettin' the picture aren't you? God did this for free. He wanted I suppose, to show them what He was all about.To give them confidence. To establish in them FAITH. So after all that,(and much much more,go read about it))here they are getting ready to enter into His promise and their land. And what do they do? They want to spy out the land. That wasn't part of the agreement was it? I don't think it was. In spite of that,it was O.K. Even Moses thought it good.But here is where it all unravels. They snuck in the land and saw GIANTS. It struck fear in their hearts and they spent the next forty years wandering around for a three day journey. They had seen the power and providence of God Almighty in many,many miracles. They had the "pure" knowledge of His might. But,BUT they did not APPLY that knowledge to their own circumstances when the time came.

Fast forward to 2017 and here we are again,living between the Red Sea and Canaan Land. We have the knowledge don't we? We can turn on the radio or television 24 hours a day,seven days a week,365 days a year and hear the PURE Gospel being preached. We have churches on every street corner begging for folks to enter their doors and learn about God. On top of that,we can click on a computer that is chock full of ministries and ministers teaching and preaching God's pure Word.And yet this nation and the world in general is going to hell in a hand basket. Not only that,many of us, children of the Almighty God and brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ, are living in defeat and despair.I did not say living without difficulty and opposition no,no. I said living in defeat and despair with no hope whatsoever in this life. The reason we,you and I so often struggle? We fail to APPLY what we hear every day. We fail to APPLY what we read in God's Word and what we hear God speaking to us in our hearts. You struggle with applying Ronnie? Oh absolutely. If you struggle,trust me you are not alone!!(smile again)

Brothers and sisters, listen to this.

God says give and you will receive.We have to apply that knowledge.We have to give to appropriate the promise.

Luke 6:38 (ESV) 38  give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

God says we can have perfect peace. PERFECT PEACE! IF..........................

Isaiah 26:3 (ESV) 3  You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

If we keep our mind stayed on Him. As Amanda says "I'm being honest here" A lot of times my mind is on everything EXCEPT God. Problems here.Problems there.Problems everywhere.I have to APPLY His promise to my situation and STAY my mind on Him IF I want that PERFECT peace. Amen?

We can read about Him. We can hear about Him. But unless we by faith, APPLY His promises in our every day lives,we will live beneath what He desires for us. The knowledge of God and His promises,both spiritual and material,in His Word, will lay fruitless and unfulfilled until we FIND USE for them in our everyday living.

Amen and Amen. Let us,YOU AND ME, read this lengthy ending passage and APPLY it to our lives.

Psalm 18:29-36 (ESV) 29  For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30  This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
31  For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?—
32  the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.
33  He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.
34  He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35  You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.
36  You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.

God Bless


Friday, March 17, 2017

Among You

Among You                                                 03-17-17

1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 (ESV) 4  For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,
5  because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

No, I don't have any green on and Chloe has already pinched me. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Pay close attention to the last sentence in that passage.Particularly to the words "..
we proved to be among you..." I am reminded by this verse of the oft used explanation of the difference between a pastor and an evangelist. If you have not heard,here it is. A pastor is the poor soul that has to clean up the mess in the church that the evangelist made after he left. (smile) Being that I am neither a pastor nor an evangelist, the explanation is second hand at best.(smile again)However,there is a kernel of truth to that statement isn't there? Here's how that works. A fiery evangelist is invited to the church. He comes in with a powerful,anointed word for the church.Doesn't matter what kind of word. It could be a word of encouragement,a word of knowledge or revelation, a word of warning or correction,you hearin' me here? Usually though,at least in my experience it is a great word of encouragement. The preacher stirs the congregation up and by the time he leaves,the flock is ten feet tall and bulletproof. And that is great. Lord knows that we ALL need encouragement these days. Amen? But, BUT after a few days or a couple of weeks,reality sets in.We,you and me,the flock are confronted with a sobering truth. All those victories and the truly great accomplishments that the evangelist told us were ours for the taking,.... COME WITH A PRICE.Yes,there certainly are victories and accomplishments to be won and done.BUT,THEY COME WITH A COST. Some more costly than others. But,to our(the sheep) chagrin,the evangelist is no where to be found. He has moved on to the next breeding ground for the work of the Lord. Enter the Pastor. This poor soul now has the job of caring for the folk,whose dreams and high flying aspirations have taken a hit when faced with the spiritual opposition that is certain to come, when they try and do something for the Lord Jesus. This is the Man of God tasked with the long term care of the sheep.(you and me) This is the man that must prove himself FOR OUR SAKE. And herein lieth the lesson.

That was some background for what is on my heart today. This is directed at those of us who sit in the pews. I am of the firm belief that true ministry is one on one. The most effective ministry takes place in our living rooms,at the water cooler or break room. It is personal;and,it is one on one in our daily environment.Just as a pastor must "prove himself" amongst us,so we must also prove ourselves amongst those whom God chooses to place in our lives.The ones that look to us for encouragement and help in time of need.Shepherds protect sheep,they do not produce sheep.SHEEP produce SHEEP.

I heard this once. There is an old African proverb that says you help someone "all the way out." You see to be truly effectual,we must prove ourselves over time to those that need us. All too often we become evangelists don't we? We speak great words of encouragement but we sometimes fade away when the task requires a little more than encouraging words. Yes, that personal touch,that one on one ministry can be frustrating and taxing at times. Praying for someone time after time with no apparent results, bailing someone out(sometimes literally!) of a predicament that they continue to put themselves into, loving and nurturing someone when no thanks or appreciation is given,these are the things that true ministry is made of don't you think? No,it won't attract great crowds.Probably won't finance a larger wing on the sanctuary. It may even draw some criticism, you know something like"why do you keep on doing it,they don't care,they are just using and making a fool out of you." But,when that ne'er do well finally comes around. When the Lord Jesus finally get's a hold on 'em and changes their life and they FINALLY SEE THE LIGHT.......what is it the commercial says....................PRICELESS!!

Folks,one of these days it's all going to be set right.The Lord Jesus is going to bring everything to light. All those prayers spoken in the loneliness and dark of night,all those dollars given to promote God's Kingdom,all the help and ministry,both material and spiritual given to those in need,most times NEVER seen,most times NEVER appreciated,it's all going to be brought out into the light of day. Look at this verse and get it on the inside of you.

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV) 7  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
8  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

It's not a cruise ship we are on,it's a battleship. it's not light sparring session,IT'S A FIGHT. As my buddy says,it's not a hundred yard dash,but a marathon race. 

Keep on keeping on saint of God. He's coming back for His own and He knows who you are.

2 Timothy 2:19 (ESV) 19  But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

Prove yourself for their sake.

Psalm 119:37 (ESV) 37  Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.

God Bless 

Friday, March 10, 2017

God's Mystery

God's Mystery                                                  03-10-17

Colossians 2:4 (ESV) 4  I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.
Maybe someone needs to hear this today. I once heard it called "The Dividing Line."

What is that Ronnie? What dividing line? Hold on just a sec. A little background first. I was sitting at work this week minding my own business. We have what's called the extra board at work. It's where we get to sit around all day and get paid for it. I'm not kidding.I went in at 630 yesterday morning and sat around,talked,read and whatnot until 230 in the afternoon and got paid for it.It's a part of the process at work for now. At any rate,about 800 I was in the back room by myself reading a small New Testament that I keep for the days that I get for "shining." (A work term for the extra board) Anyway,by myself,minding my own business and a man I know walks in. We exchange pleasantries and out of the blue he asks me what is that "book" that I am reading.Without any fanfare I say "it's the Bible." He grabs a chair and without prompting offers to share with me his knowledge of the Scriptures. Not arrogantly,it was a sincere offer. I responded in he affirmative and for the next fifteen minutes or so he informed me of his theology.He focused in on the 49th chapter of Genesis and some other O.T. scripture. He also gave me a verse in Romans.

At any rate I listened and he made a decent argument supporting his views.As we went on in the conversation I noticed something that I thought was lacking in his presentation. I stopped him momentarily and said that I had a question to ask him. He politely responded "what." And herein lieth the lesson.

As this man went on with his views and theology it seemed to me that one important facet wasn't being mentioned. I asked him where Jesus fit into what he was telling me. I asked him who he thought Jesus Christ was and if He was his savior.Did he believe that Jesus had died on the cross for his sins.Well, he paused and then asked me if I knew what really happened on the cross. Not his exact words but you get my drift.  Something came over me and I simply told him that even though I disagreed with his doctrine,I would discuss it with him. But,I would not debate whether Jesus was the true savior.I would not make that a talking point.Maybe I should have.But it seemed to me a futile and fruitless endeavor that would probably end poorly.You feelin' me here? We agreed to disagree and spent most of the day hanging out in the extra board room.However at the very end of our discussion he commented that God would show me the truth some day.And that is what sparked this message.

As I read,this verse jumped out at me today.Look again.

Colossians 2:4 (ESV) 4  I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 
You see brothers and sisters there are plenty of plausible arguments out there. My friend at the job had a very plausible,persuasive argument yesterday. Had some historical data to back up his views and even referenced The Holy Bible.But...BUT... You see it was God's mystery that this man had issues with.It was the dividing line. Look. 

Colossians 2:1-3 (ESV) 1  For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face,
2  that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,
3  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Understand that Paul wanted us all to know about the knowledge of God's mystery,which is Christ in whom are hidden..........

Not only is it Christ the mystery but it is Christ IN us the HOPE of glory. 

Colossians 1:27 (ESV) 27  To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 
This is a powerful,heavy revy verse.God chose to make this mystery known.You see that mystery can't be taught,it can't be bought,IT MUST BE CAUGHT.It's supernatural.What is a mystery to the world,God has made known to those who name the name of Jesus as their only savior.

Brothers and sisters, there are a lot of "plausible arguments" out there that will attempt to confuse us. These arguments can be dressed up in fact or fancy. They can  surely make themselves very persuasive.This is why the Apostle Paul warned of them. In order that we would not be deluded by them.

Greek Strong's Number: 3884
Greek Word: παραλογίζομαι
Transliteration: paralogizomai
Phonetic Pronunciation:par-al-og-id'-zom-ahee
Root: from <G3844> and <G3049>
Cross Reference:
Part of Speech: v

Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.

Also,"to IMPOSE (CAPS MINE) a misleading belief on someone.To fool them.

Brothers and sisters, there are many gods in this world that men choose to worship.There are many deluded teachings out there,some very sincere,some not so much. But,we must be ever vigilant don't you think? There is only one standard by which we should judge what we hear,see,and read.If we are not directed and pointed to the one true and living God,the Lord Jesus Christ, if He is not our dividing line,then we must reject the argument, no matter how plausible,persuasive,or sincere it might appear.

Remember this simple chorus.

Jesus is the answer for the world today.
Above Him there's no other, Jesus is the way. 

Psalm 86:11 (ESV) 11  Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.

God Bless


Friday, March 3, 2017

With All Your Might

With All Your Might                                              03-03-17

Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NASB) 10  Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.

Just some reflections this week. I was reminded of this verse this week past. A short story to tell. Bear with me,I have a point.I worked for a local convenience store a few years back. While in their employ,I was robbed more than once. One time I was alone in the store,the second time, the teenaged stock boy and yours truly were there. It is this incident,the second time that I want to tell you about. Three young men walked in at closing(midnight) one with a gun(more on that in a minute) and proceeded behind the counter,told me to open the register and put my hands in the air.All of which I complied with without a moments hesitation. It was all over in a matter of six or seven minutes and the individuals walked out with less than 200 dollars. They were caught shortly thereafter at the red light in front of the very store I worked at. Pulled over because of a missing taillight with the UNLOADED gun and money still in their possession. A few months later,as I and the stock boy sat outside the courtroom,we heard that two of the three were sentenced to eight years in prison because they were adults.The young man with the UNLOADED gun was a minor and I do not know where he ended up.I have another very relevant story to tell about the unloaded gun. But not today,maybe next week if the Lord wills.At any rate I think it was the max penalty for their type of crime with a first offense.I said all that to ask this one simple question.Why rob the convenience store? Huh? What's that you say Ronnie? Why rob the convenience store??Why not rob a bank or a Brinks truck? Ya feelin me here? I'm not saying that it was the right or even smart thing to do;but....BUT....... if they had already made their minds up to rob something why not go all the way? Why not do it with all their might? Two hundred dollars or two million dollars....... IF CAUGHT THEY WERE GOING TO THE SAME PRISON!As I have heard said in the past,if you're going to sin,then SIN!! You might as well make it a whopper.The wages are the same.(smile) Now for the flip side. And herein lieth the lesson.

The words of the Preacher ring true in all of our endeavors in this life don't they? If we are going to do something,if we have the desire to put our hand to something,then the Bible instructs us to do it with ALL, not some,not a little bit,not a lot,but ALL our might.And the words of the Preacher also ring true for us in our spiritual lives. The Preacher,the author of Ecclesiastes also wrote the preceding book. Let's take a look there for a minute o.k.?

Proverbs 2:3-5 (ESV) 3  yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
4  if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5  then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.

Do you need a little direction in your life. Do you have a problem or an obstacle hindering you? Do you have a decision to make and not sure of what to do?

Then take a little time and seek God with ALL your might. Look above. ".....if you call out.......raise your voice......."  You have to holler(as the folk up thar in those hills would say) You have to seek God and His wisdom as if you were looking for that treasure chest. Listen brothers and sisters, hidden treasure,silver and gold are PRECIOUS.You just don't go out in the backyard and pick up ten or twenty ounces laying on the ground. No,no. You have to dig. You have to seek.It's hard many times. It requires all of your might.You,me,we all must follow that road map.If what we seek in our physical or spiritual lives requires us to put our hand to it.If we're looking for something of real value,if it is PRECIOUS to us,then we must pursue it with everything that is in us.Look at this long passage of Scripture.

Job 28:12-19 (ESV) 12  “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?
13  Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living.
14  The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’ and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
15  It cannot be bought for gold, and silver cannot be weighed as its price.
16  It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire.
17  Gold and glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold.
18  No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal; the price of wisdom is above pearls.
19  The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, nor can it be valued in pure gold.

Job 28:23 (ESV) 23  “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place.

Rest assured if what you are seeking is of real value,the enemy will be around every corner looking to blindside you. Don't go into that fight with an unloaded gun.WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT! If we will do that,then we will find the knowledge of God. Amen.And Amen.

Psalm 119:139-140 (ESV) 139  My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words.
140  Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it.

God Bless.