Drenched in Unity.

… like standing under a waterfall on a hot summer day!

How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along! It’s like costly anointing oil flowing down head and beard, flowing down Aaron’s beard, flowing down the collar of his priestly robes. It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing, ordains eternal life.
Psalm 133:1-3 MSG

The psalmist paints such a beautiful picture here. One time I was anointed with oil like that. It wasn’t just a dab. No, the anointing oil was poured on my head and it flowed down all over my face. It was one of the most stunningly weird and amazing experiences of my spiritual journey! The fragrance, the fluidity, the beautiful mess. It dripped into my hands; I rubbed it all over my face.

I felt very loved and completely absorbed and surrounded by God at that moment. It was like standing under a waterfall on a hot day! Thirst quenching. Spirit filling. Life giving.

It’s that same feeling that God seeks for His children when they walk together in unity and in peace. That’s because, with believers, the unity is not just for this month or this year, it’s for all eternity!

I’m sure He weeps for us and with us when there is discord between two people, or two groups. Especially in a marriage or a family or a community or even a church body. Sadly, I think busted relationships is what the devil specializes in. If he can break up a father and a son, or a pastor and a church, or one part of the community and the other part, the enemy’s on his way to completely destroying all that Jesus came to achieve. Peace. Harmony. Love. Care. Oneness among believers.

Take heart, Jesus prayed for us:  “I want all of them to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me. I also want them to be one with us. Then the people of this world will believe that you sent me.” (John 17:21 CEV)

So whenever there is a lack of harmony or unity, our call is to do everything we can do to get back to the wonder and beauty of getting along with others. “Then the people of this world will believe that God sent Jesus.”

Submit to Jesus first. Give up your selfish ways. Put others’ needs before yours. Do all you can to disappoint the devil and glorify God. Work through misunderstandings. Be at peace.

Then you’ll be ready for the refreshing waterfall of His love, His grace, His anointing! Drench yourself in His unity. It’s where we find His blessings. It’s ready for you to enjoy!

 

(c) Rich Ronald. 2019.

Raise a Hallelujah? Yes!

There is freedom in praise!

There’s a new song many churches are singing today during their worship services. It’s called “Raise a Hallelujah” by Bethel Music.

For some of us it’s easy to praise God and sing “Hallelujah,” right? You’re going on vacation. It’s summer. The bills are paid. The kids are behaving. Life is good.

But there are others (most of us?) who are just not feeling it. There is pain. There is disappointment. Life is one big slog each and every day. How do we sing in the middle of the storm? How do we even manage a smile when we are feeling defeated?

The answer is this: We can praise God by the power of the Holy Spirit who is in every Believer.

There’s something amazing that happens when we praise God… especially when we offer a praise to God when it’s hard to do so. And we don’t have to have a beautiful singing voice. It might be as simple as viewing an amazing sunset and exclaiming, “Wow, God!”

I believe praise releases God’s love and grace and power and provision in our lives. You may have heard the story of two disciples of Jesus. They were in prison, locked in chains, because they had been sharing the Good News. But they didn’t let shackles hold them back.

Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn’t believe their ears. Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose. Acts 16: 25-26 (MSG)

There’s something about praise that sets us free. No matter what is holding you captive, bring it to the Lord in praise.

Let me encourage you to sing, to pray, to exclaim or even lament in the middle of your storm. Tell God how much you love Him. Tell God how much you trust Him.

And believe Him to bring you His freedom and His joy!

Raise a Hallelujah? Yes!

© Rich Ronald. 2019.

God Never Fails.

God will help you catch your breath.
You’ll find God right there.

God Never Fails. I’m pretty sure I’ve written that before. Maybe multiple times. But it’s worth repeating. Over and over again.

God never fails.

We fail, right?

Can I assure you, however, that for those who trust God and who follow Jesus that it’s okay to fail. I believe we all actually need to have at least one moment in our life, or multiple moments in our life, where we we fail… where we are broken… where we take all of the burdens we’ve been carrying and finally fall to our knees at the foot of the Cross and say, “Here, Jesus. I can’t do this anymore.” I believe we all need to get to that point where we stop kidding ourselves that we can be self-dependent and we fully cross the line to being dependent on God and God alone.

For me personally, I could share story after story where I was so broken that I just couldn’t carry the load any longer.  They include:

      • Each of the six times my employer at the time decided to change directions without me.
      • Too many times to count when parenting teenagers or adult children.
      • And the recent death of my Mom.

On each occasion, my knees couldn’t hit the floor quick enough. Did I fail or did my situation fail me? No matter. I couldn’t bear the weight alone.

The strongest people are those who fail… who acknowledge that they are weak and empty.

One of the greatest, strongest people of all time was Israel’s King David. He writes, “If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there.”  Then, look at the word picture painted by the Message translation: “If you’re kicked in the gut, He’ll help you catch your breath.” (Psalm 34:18 MSG). What an encouraging image!

Even when bad things happen to good people, God is there for you. Every time.

Perhaps your tending to a broken heart? Perhaps you’ve wondered where is the promised victory of the Christian life? In Luke 4 Jesus says the whole reason He came was to heal the brokenhearted, to release the captives and to bring sight to the blind. No matter what broke your heart, no matter what is holding you captive, no matter that you can’t seem to see your way out of your situation, can I assure you that Jesus came for you.

You may have failed, but you are not a failure! Take time, maybe even right now, to tell God that you need Him. Admit that you can’t carry this burden on your own. Tell Him that you’ll trust Him.

And then… do it. Lay your burden down and trust Him.  Cross that bridge and breathe in the air of a new found freedom and peace.  Jesus is waiting to help you catch your breath!

 

(c) Rich Ronald. 2019

Trust God. Period.

Some trust in chariots, some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the LORD our God.

Psalm20

David writes in Psalm 20:7:

Some trust in chariots, some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the LORD our God.

A chariot combined with a horse was one of the most powerful weapons of war in King David’s day.  The first six verses of the psalm suggest it is penned for the person who is in trouble or who needs to be rescued. Some have called this psalm a prayer for victory. When life has you against a wall, where is the source of any true triumph? It is only in trusting the LORD; it is only in trusting God.

Do you see what David did there? Look at the chariots. They are man-made objects. Sometimes we can trust in those kinds of things, right? Our homes. Our cars. Our jobs. Even our churches.

But these are things that all have the potential to fall apart, rust, disappear or even close.

Or how about the living things like the horses? How often have we trusted in people only to have them fail us? Our spouse. Our children. Our boss. Our parents. Our friends. This list is endless because people are people. Often selfishness tends to put our wants before others’ needs. As a result, we don’t live up to expectations.

There is only One to whom we can confidently put our trust in: God. He will never fail us. He will never disappoint us. He will not fall apart on us or disappear. He will answer you “with the victorious power of his right hand.” (Psalm 20:6).

Certainly, it is important to build your marriage on trust or maintain the roof so rain will not leak into your house. Whether it’s a catastrophe or a minor offense, we will be let down by both the living and inanimate. “The chariots will rust and the horse will pull up lame.” (Psalm 20:7 MSG).

But we can confidently trust God! Period. He knows us and knows what is best for us. You can trust Him. You can! And, the victory we have in God’s economy is this: “God blesses everyone who trusts Him.” (Proverbs 16:20 CEV).

 

(c) Rich Ronald. 2019.

Blessed Like a Tree

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.

Ever feel like you’re on the cusp of something big? Like you are “this close” to a receiving a blessing of some sort? A really big blessing?

The Bible is full of “blessing” stories. The first is a promise from God to Abram.

Genesis 12:

The Lord said to Abram:

Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you. I will bless you and make your descendants into a great nation. You will become famous and be a blessing to others. I will bless anyone who blesses you, but I will put a curse on anyone who puts a curse on you. Everyone on earth will be blessed because of you.  Genesis 12:1-3 (CEV)

This is the promise to Abram, which means “Father” … who later became Abraham… “the Father of Many.”

Abram had no children. Yet because of his faithfulness to God, he became the father of Isaac, who became the father of Jacob, who’s name was later changed to Israel.  He had twelve sons, the heads of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, God’s chosen people, who crossed the Jordan River at Jericho and inherited the Promised Land.

This idea of Abram’s blessing is the picture of a conduit.  We are blessed with the express purpose of being a blessing to others. There is a continual motion with our hands of receiving and giving… receiving and giving… receiving and giving. Can you see yourself as both a receptacle and dispenser of God’s grace and joy and blessing?

Let’s jump a couple of thousand years to David, Psalm 1:

God blesses those people who refuse evil advice and won’t follow sinners or join in sneering at God.

Instead, the Law of the Lord makes them happy, and they think about it day and night.

They are like trees growing beside a stream, trees that produce fruit in season and always have leaves.

Those people succeed in everything they do.

Psalm 1:1-3 (CEV)

The Psalms are  mostly David’s journal, his intimate thoughts with God. These prayers detail his struggles, his joys, his defeats and his victories. He gets the concept of blessing through the Word of God. The idea of “thinking about the law” — or other translations suggest the phrase is “meditating on the Scripture” — is the picture of a dog, chewing on a bone. Or more precisely a lion growling over his prey, followed by licking and chewing it up. Taking his time. Enjoying the blessings of his spoils. Usually in solitude.

So, it is THAT person, who is like a tree growing beside a stream. Its roots are long and deep. Have you ever seen a tree growing on the bank of a river and its roots run long down the bank until they are touching the water? That’s the kind of tree we are to be, someone with long and deep roots. And that tree? It produces fruit!

These are trees that do not worry. They are blessed.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NIV)

And  just like trees “those people succeed in everything they do.” They are blessed.

Proverbs says “the roots of the righteous give life, and more life.” Proverbs 12:12 (MSG)

Blessing happens when we enjoy our times with God. Please hear that the only way we produce fruit, or more accurately when God produces fruit in us and through us, is when we enjoy, when we relish, when we love quiet times of digging into and digesting His word, lingering over it, often; when our heart is connected to His heart.

One more Bible story about blessing:

When Jesus taught His first sermon, what’s the key word He used? At the Sermon on the Mount, He affirms eight additional Blessings.

God blesses those people who depend only on him. They belong to the kingdom of heaven!

God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort!

God blesses those people who are humble. The earth will belong to them!

God blesses those people who want to obey him more than to eat or drink. They will be given what they want!

God blesses those people who are merciful. They will be treated with mercy!

God blesses those people whose hearts are pure. They will see him!

God blesses those people who make peace. They will be called his children!

God blesses those people who are treated badly for doing right. They belong to the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:1-10 (CEV)

One thing each of these Blessings have in common? These Blessings are given to those who are active, not passive.

You’ve heard “God helps those who help themselves.” That’s not in the Bible. That’s a quote most often ascribed to Benjamin Franklin. That’s not what I’m saying. Indeed, God’s grace is offered to all, because we really cannot help ourselves, right?

Here’s the true statement. Again from Proverbs: The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed. Those who help others are helped. Proverbs 11:25 (MSG)

Jesus is describing actions taken. Who receives blessings? Those who are depending and grieving. Those who are humble, obedient, mercy givers. Those who have a pure heart and who make peace and who do right.

Proverbs has two additional blessing promises:

God blesses everyone who trusts him. Proverbs 16:20 (CEV)

And then there’s this one:

When God blesses his people, their city prospers, but deceitful liars can destroy a city. Proverbs 11:11 (CEV)

I believe God wants to bless your city, your state, our county. But I don’t believe we are called to sit around and wait for it. I believe He will continue to bless this Land through each person who trusts in Him.

Jesus had an encounter with a dad who was hoping that the Messiah might heal his son. The boy’s father says: “Please have pity and help us if you can!” Jesus replied, “Why do you say “if you can”? Anything is possible for someone who has faith!” Right away the boy’s father shouted, “I do have faith! Please help me to have even more.” Mark 9:23-25 (CEV)

Maybe that’s our prayer too? “God, please give me more faith.”

That takes us full circle back around to Abraham. It was his faith that allowed him to see and believe that he’d have as many descendants as the stars in the heavens. It will be our faith, and our taking action steps — not passively sitting around waiting — to receive God’s blessings. And then its up to us to be obedient to pass them on… to our family, our neighbors, our city, and our country. And through our passing them along, we are blessed!

 

(c) Rich Ronald. 2019.

Christ is Enough. He is more than Enough!

The Cross Before Me

We sang Hillsong’s “Christ is Enough” this past weekend at our church. Like many worship songs today, it is a mash up of a new song with an old hymn. The lyrics to the new song:

Christ is enough for me.

Christ is enough for me.

Everything I need is in you.

Everything I need.

Through every trial.

My soul will sing.

No turning back.

I’ve been set free.

Then, the lyricist adds the words to the 19th Century hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus:”

I have decided to follow Jesus. The cross before me. The world behind me. No turning back. No turning back.

Christ is enough for me. How do I know this? Personally, I have experienced His provision first-hand during trial after trial. And, the Bible is peppered with God’s promises proclaiming it:

Luke writes, “Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one.” Acts 4:12

Christ is enough for me. How do I know this? Paul writes, “You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need.” Philippians 4:19

Christ is enough for me. How do I know this? The Psalmist writes, “You’re all I want in Heaven! You’re all I want in earth. When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock-firm and faithful.” Psalm 73:25-26

Christ IS enough. No matter if we think all our good deeds means we get to go to heaven, it doesn’t work that way. No matter how much we exercise or how many skin tightening facial cremes we use at night, we cannot control that we age, that our flesh and heart will fail. No matter how much we try to plan and control all the many and mini details every day, failure is a part of life. And that’s the point. Only when we get things in the right order can we find true freedom. God is our strength! He is enough. He is more than enough! The cross in front of us. The world behind us. No turning back.

The story behind that old hymn is inspiring:

“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” is sung to a traditional folk tune from India, and it is named after the northeastern Indian state once home to tribes known as “head-hunters” due to their custom of collecting heads and hanging them on their walls. In his book Why, God, Why?, Dr. P. Job says that 150 years ago a Welsh missionary converted a man, his wife, and his children to Christianity. After the village chief demanded that the man renounce his faith, he spontaneously sang the now-famous words, “I have decided to follow Jesus.” Reportedly, the chief ordered his archers to kill the man’s two children, threatening to kill his wife as well; but the man sang, “Though no one joins me, still I will follow.” The archers shot his wife, but still the man refused to deny Christ, and he was executed while singing: “The cross before me, the world behind me.” It was said that the chief was so moved that he declared, “I too belong to Jesus Christ!” and the entire village converted.

Can I assure you: Christ is enough. He is more than enough for whatever weakness,whatever stress, whatever illness, whatever failure, whatever brokenness you are facing today. He will meet your every need. Let Him be your strength. Put the cross in front of you and the world behind you. Jesus is enough. He is more than enough!

(c) 2019 Rich Ronald.

____

Notes:

“Christ is Enough” by Hillsong Worship. Written by Jonas Myrin and Reuben Morgan. CCLI # 6514035.

Story behind “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” from Christian Classic Ethereal Library, CCEL Times 6.10 (October 3, 2011), accessed May 22, 2019.

Come Holy Spirit

Join us weekly for the Overflow sermon series at Oak Hills Church, San Antonio.

When I was a college student in the late 1970’s, I went to a Christian Woodstock-like event. 30,000 young adults, camping and worshipping Jesus in a farmer’s field in Western Pennsylvania.  Keith Green, Phil Keaggy and The Sweet Comfort Band were among the lineup of musicians. It was a week of worship and praise and teaching and fellowship. It was a spiritual milestone for me as I acknowledged and “received” the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It was the first time I felt free to raise my hands in worship.

When I called my mom later to tell her all about the event, I told her I had been filled with the Holy Spirit. Her response? She was very encouraging. Then, with great wisdom, she affirmed my step of faith by saying, “I believe being filled with the Holy Spirit is a daily practice; we are to be constantly filled, even to overflowing!”

It was my mom’s way of quoting Acts 13:52 which says this: “And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (NASB)

Each day, every day, we can say “Come Holy Spirit. Fill my thirsty soul. So that we might overflow with your love and grace and mercy and joy to those around us.”

 

(c) Rich Ronald. 2019.