You are the gem of God’s garden.

This is my mother-in- law’s passion flower. The detail is exquisite! It just takes your breath away. Did you know that each bloom only lasts a single day to enjoy its beauty? And surprisingly there’s not a whole lot of blooms on the vine. Maybe just one each week. When they appear the whole family receives them with the joy God intended when He created these elegant garden gems.

Today we were blessed with two blooms! They’ll be gone tomorrow. But this day was their day to shine in all their splendor.

Reminds me of the words of Jesus:

“Can worry make you live longer? Why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow. They don’t work hard to make their clothes. But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth wasn’t as well clothed as one of them. God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. God will surely do even more for you!” (Matthew 6:27‭-‬30, CEV).

We need not worry. God is the Master Gardner. We are all His passion flowers. If we take the time to look at the details in our life, we will see that His beauty shines in and through all of His children. And I’m so thankful we get more than just a single day, aren’t you? We are created in His image! He loves to bless us.

May you bloom in all the extravagance of God’s beauty today, and tomorrow, and the day after that, and…

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Get Outside!

View from McAfee’s Knob along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia.

Just read an article that says literally “the best thing you can do right now is to take a hike.”

I’m all for that! It’s outside, in the fresh air. You are generally at a safe distance from others. It’s a simple form of exercise at your own pace. It will help clear your mind.

And, you can simultaneously pray…

Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

This great pandemic did not surprise God. We can trust Him to bring us peace and calm as we look to Him.

(This pic is from a hike this past Saturday along the Appalachian Trail.)

#peace #bestill #Godiswithus #takeahike #getoutside #appalachiantrail #mcafeesknob #zephaniah317

Isaiah 58. A Light Shining Like the Dawn of a New Day.

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 58.

Another wow and convicting chapter. Let me encourage you to read it directly for yourself today. It’s just 14 verses.

God, through the prophet, is asking us to examine ourselves, to look at the motivations of our own heart. How often do we do spiritual things for the show of it and then complain, wonder and ask why He hasn’t answered our prayers? When talking about the spiritual discipline of fasting, for example,

“Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after? A day to show off humility?” (v5, MSG).

I’m reminded of a time when I was once asked, “What is the one thing you want to be remembered for long after you are gone?” With my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, I replied, “My humility.”

Have you ever engaged in the spiritual discipline of fasting? There have been times when I have refrained from food for my situation, for my breakthrough. Here the prophet says, no, the goal of fasting is not for our benefit: “I’ll tell you what it really means to worship the LORD. Remove the chains of prisoners who are bound unjustly, free those who are abused.” (v6, CEV).

Then… then when your heart is in the right place, when we are focused not on ourselves but on what God wants, then… “Then your light will shine like the dawning sun, and you will quickly be healed. Your honesty will protect you as you advance, and the glory of the LORD will defend you from behind.” (v8, CEV).

God reminds us of His faithfulness, how He will provide life-giving water in the dry lands. This occurs when we give of ourselves first and put His ways above our ways; when we give food to the hungry and care for the homeless, for example. When we pray for others, even our enemies, before we pray for ourselves.

One of the other ways we honor Him is via worship:

“But first, you must start respecting the Sabbath as a joyful day of worship. You must stop doing and saying whatever you please on this special day. Then you will truly enjoy knowing the Lord. He will let you rule from the highest mountains and bless you with the land of your ancestor Jacob. The Lord has spoken!” (v13‭-‬14, CEV).

Indeed. The Lord has spoken. A good word from Isaiah 58 today!

 

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.
(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

Isaiah 39. Whatever happens, keep thanking God.

Even during a spring storm in the Midwest… keep thanking God. From 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Because of the importance of Israel and its people, and my personal love for The Land, I’m inviting you to join me through the key Old Testament book of Isaiah.  Each day I’m posting some simple thoughts about this complex prophet.

Isaiah 39.

“Hezekiah replied to Isaiah, “Good. If God says so, it’s good.” Within himself he was thinking, “But surely nothing bad will happen in my lifetime. I’ll enjoy peace and stability as long as I live.”” (v8, MSG).

This is Hezekiah’s reply to what one might think was bad news. Isaiah has just warned Hezekiah that God says that one day there will be nothing left in the kings’ palace. And that even his sons will be enslaved in Babylon.

Yet Hezekiah has this amazing attitude: “If God says so, it’s good.”

No matter if it appears to be possible bad news, if God is in it, it is all good!

And that really is the truth, you know? It’s all good. We can’t have a bad day when we’ve given the day to the Lord. We might have challenging situations, we might be facing trials, storms, unemployment, hunger or grave illness, but we have a choice. We can allow them to be opportunities to see God’s glory and grace.

This is similar to the advice Paul gives to the believers in Thessalonica: “Always be joyful and never stop praying. Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18, CEV.) There is great power in giving thanks. And that’s what Hezekiah was doing. And it’s what we are to do as well.

If you’re new to this journey through Isaiah, you can start here.

(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

 

Isaiah 26

Since returning from another amazing trip to Israel a few weeks ago, I thought it would be good to once again read through the prophet Isaiah. It’s so rich with visions of hope for the children of God and, yes, warnings about the future.

Today’s passages are filled with great promises!

“The Lord gives perfect peace to those whose faith is firm. So always trust the Lord because he is forever our mighty rock.”
Isaiah 26:3‭-‬4 CEV
You see that? “Perfect peace.” Ah… “Mighty Rock!”

Then there’s this encouraging word to persevere:

“People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, Steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit. Depend on God and keep at it because in the Lord God you have a sure thing.”
Isaiah 26:4-5 MSG

Two times he says “keep at it.” We must keep our minds set on God and our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). How many misunderstandings would we avoid if we kept our minds on the things that matter most to God instead of those things that matter most to us?

For those facing trials, there’s this:

“Our Lord, you always do right, and you make the path smooth for those who obey you. You are the one we trust to bring about justice; above all else we want your name to be honored.”
Isaiah 26:7‭-‬8 CEV

Finally, can this be our prayer?

“Who you are and what you’ve done are all we’ll ever want.”
Isaiah 26:8 MSG

Can we be content in God alone? I believe when we seek Him with all our heart, we’ll always find His peace. Even today.

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

So Good.

God is kind, but he’s not soft.

What is something that is “so good” you can’t live without it? You may recall the old ketchup TV ad that used a creative pun to promote their condiment as being “slowwww gooood.”

During the summer months some may have a favorite vacation spot that is “so good!” Others might find it to be an escape with a book or movie that is “so good.”

For the Believer, truly God is so, so good to us. He really is!

The Bible is full of promises of the goodness of God. But here’s the thing: God’s goodness does not depend on our goodness. Thanks to His grace, there  is nothing we have to do to earn His goodness.

Paul says it this way: But you cannot make God accept you because of something you do; God accepts sinners only because they have faith in Him. (Romans 4:5 MSG).

God also confirms His goodness through the writings of Solomon: God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. (Lamentations 3:25 MSG)

So, goodness comes to the faithful who wait, to those who seek.

Why is God good to us? Again from Paul:  God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness He takes us by the hand and leads us into a radical life change. (Romans 2:4 MSG)

That’s why He is good to us! It’s not just for the sake of our happiness or joy. No, God is good to us because He wants to see radical life change in us. He wants us to let Him guide us and lead us to true transformation!

And then, as we are inspired to grow, we can have an impact on those around us.  Think about it. If a group of people is inspired to accept God’s goodness, be led by Him, be more like Him, be transformed by Him, that group can collectively have a God-sized impact on the community in which they live. And that’s where God’s goodness get exciting!

You may be feeling like He is distant or ignoring you right now.  The key is to have the faith to believe, to passionately wait and to diligently seek.

You will see Him. And you will see that God is so, so good.

 

(c) Rich Ronald. 2019.

Trust God. Period.

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.

Want peace? Trust Jesus.

This is Graduation season! It’s “Pomp and Circumstance” for everyone from Kindergarten to College and beyond.  Graduates are parading across stages and moving tassels from left to right (or is it right to left?).  It’s a grand and glorious season for families everywhere.

What are the two emotions most people have during this time of the year? For both parents and graduates it is excitement, joy and pride for what they just accomplished. And simultaneous to that, it is fear for what is next on life’s journey. Will they be going away to college? Parents are worried about fall semester, freshman year and what their children might get into outside of the classrooms. Will they be off to boot camp? New recruits worry that they might be going off to battle. Will they start a new full-time job? New employees wonder if they will be able to do the work and then pay their own bills and live on their own.

When I graduated high school, a friend shared this promise with me, given by God to Joshua: “I have commanded you to be strong and courageous. Do not fear, do not be afraid or discouraged. I am the Lord your God and I will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Jesus echoed the same words in Matthew didn’t He?  The final words as He ascended into heaven are this: “Surely, I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Whether you are a graduate or someone going through the seasons of life, fear can be paralyzing. Are you between a biopsy and a diagnosis? The silence can be debilitating. Did you do something you regret and now have to have a crucial conversation with your spouse? The guilt can be crippling.  Are you facing a new transistion? I heard this recently: “I know I need to get a new job, but I hate change.” Fear in all of these situations can prevent us from taking action, right? Fear nibbles at our heels and creates static noise in our heads.

But Jesus silences fear with His love. He brings peace… His perfect peace to all who trust in Him. Practically, it might be a bit of rough road getting from here to there. That’s okay. Remember, He is always with us. Give Him your fears and your anxious heart and enjoy the harmony of His peace.

 

 

(c) 2019 Rich Ronald.

The Last Day is really the First Day!

As we concluded our time in Israel our tour guide, Ronen, challenged us with these encouraging words: “Make your nine days in The Land a collective Day One.”

Days Two and Beyond are what we do with the experiences we just encountered.

This has been my fourth trip to Israel. And each time I’ve enjoyed a very special heart-to-heart connection with my Father and Savior.

But we are always encouraged to give away that which we have received, right? And that’s why I’m passionate about The Land. That’s why I want as many people to experience it for themselves.

On our final day in Israel, we began it six miles south of Jerusalem in Bethlehem. Amazing to see the Herodian, the ruins of Herod’s palace. To think that Jesus was born in its shadow, and to see what became of the followers of Herod and the ways of Rome. I’m thankful for the grace and life of the little baby born in Bethlehem! And the significance of that life on all mankind, even you and me 2000+years later!

Children, you belong to God, and you have defeated these enemies. God’s Spirit is in you and is more powerful than the one who is in the world.
1 John 4:4 CEV

We then went up to Jerusalem and followed the path of Yeshua from the Mt. of Olives on Palm Sunday, to the Garden of Gethsemane, to the Antonian Fortress along the Via Dolorosa, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is the site of the crucifixion and the tomb.

My favorite spot today? Praying with a young man in our group on the Mt. of Olives. It was a special last day! Or like our guide says, the first day!

Off to Turkey for a few sites and then home!

I’m so very thankful for this opportunity to experience The Land. It’s such a special place.

Shalom!

_____

Come with me to Israel! I’ll be bringing a group back to The Land in October. Please join us!For more info go to www.gtitours.org/trip/ronald19