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Prosperity…God’s way

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I don’t know about you, but even though I enjoy the Christmas holidays, I’m glad they are behind us. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever recover from the deluge of non-stop TV advertisements imploring me to buy a new car, a new refrigerator, or a new diamond necklace.

What with Santa touting a new Mercedes, the local appliance dealers reminding me they are offering a once in a lifetime opportunity, or just hearing the words “Black Friday” for the 14 millionth time, my brain reached the point where it stopped processing this stuff sometime about a week after Thanksgiving.

Am I the only one that watches these commercials of a husband giving his wife a brand new car (complete with $500 bow stuck on the top) and thinks “who really does this”?

Could anything say “it’s all about me” more than this?

Does anyone else find themselves asking how in the world did we ever become so enamored with things?

I’ve been thinking about all of this, as you can tell, and its got me to wondering about something. As a Christian, how do I guard my heart against adopting this same attitude?

How can I resist this madness while living in an overwhelmingly materialistic society that declares I should get whatever I want, when I want it, no matter how much I have to go in debt to get it?

The answer, for me at least, is to try to keep my heart humble and my thoughts focused upon the Lord. We have a Biblical example of this with King Solomon. Very early in his reign as king of Israel, Solomon had a dream in which God said to him “Ask! What shall I give to you”? [1]

Imagine what the response would be today should the Lord say such a thing! I think it’s safe to say that most would respond with a list beginning with “I want…”

Solomon however did not ask for a single thing for himself. He didn’t ask for money, a new chariot, or a new fleet of camels. Instead, he responded to the Lord out of his heart. Listen as he answers God:

And Solomon said to God: “You have shown great mercy to David my father, and have made me king in his place. Now, O Lord God, let Your promise to David my father be established, for You have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?”  [2]

What Solomon desired was wisdom and knowledge. Think about this for a bit. As king of Israel he had the right to ask for anything. What he wanted though was for God to equip him to lead the great nation of Israel, and he understood that this would require him to possess certain tools if he was going to be able to do this.

Would you believe that God still operates this way today? That’s right. If God calls you He will equip you. It really is as simple as that. Of course, we sometimes try to make it much more complicated than that, but the fact is God calls, he equips, and he qualifies those he has called to his work.

Getting back to Solomon, when he answered the Lord’s request he was answering from his heart. He didn’t have time to wake up, rub the sleep out of his eyes, and put together a list of ‘wants’.

What God did was go straight to the heart of the matter. See what I did there?

Because Solomon’s heart was pure before the Lord, he received far more than he asked for.

Then God said to Solomon: “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life—but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king—wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.”  [3]

Having a heart for the things of God places us in a position where He will not only give us the desires of our heart, but in addition the Lord will add much more.

This is an area where so many have gotten way off track today. We have a sense of entitlement running rampant in the church that says in so many words that God “owes us” abundant blessings just because we call ourselves Christians.

I hate to burst your bubble, but the Almighty does not owe us a single thing. That’s right, God is not under some type of binding contract with us that forces him to bless us in any way, shape, or form.

To think that we are in a position to demand anything from God is akin to the spoiled children I see in the stores who whine, cry, and scream when mommy and daddy won’t buy them the shiny new toy they want.

To be clear, the Lord desires that we prosper, even as our soul prospers. [4] One of the ways we achieve this prosperous life is found in the book of Joshua. Here we find that as Moses was giving his final instructions to his successor, he also gave him the secret to real prosperity.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success”.

So we find that prosperity not only comes from having an honest heart towards God like Solomon did, but also from reading and meditating upon God’s word. Putting God first, as Solomon did, reflects an attitude of gratitude.

And that, my friends, is where the blessings of God flow freely from.

Have an awesome day in Jesus name!

Ron

[1] 2 Chronicles 1:7   NKJV

[2] Chronicles 1:8-10   NKJV

[3] 2 Chronicles 1:11,12  NKJV

[4] 3rd John 1:2

 

Five traits you never want to see in your pastor

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There are few occupations that can rival that of being the pastor of a church. Pastor’s are expected to be all things to all people, and no matter how good of a job they do it is a guarantee that someone will not be happy.

Depending on the size of the congregation, a pastor is called upon to do everything from visiting the sick and shut-ins to mowing the lawn and cleaning the restrooms. In very large congregations they also serve as a type of CEO, overseeing all manner of programs and activities.

Did you also know that a pastor is expected to be a mind reader? That’s right, they’re supposed to be able discern what you’re thinking and whether or not you’re having a good day or a terrible day.

Sounds like a carefree, fun, and exciting occupation doesn’t’ it?

The word “pastor” is derived from the Latin noun pastor which means shepherd and is derived from the verb pascere – “to lead to pasture, set to grazing, cause to eat”. [1]

Pastors, or shepherds have the grave responsibility of feeding and protecting their flock. They have been entrusted with a holy calling from God to defend their sheep from all predators, and have been divinely equipped to do so.

I trust that your pastor is fulfilling his calling and is watching over you with the careful eye of one who understands that he will give an account to God one day as to how well he performed his sacred duties.

Noted pastor, teacher, author, and theologian John MacArthur gives what I believe to be one of the best descriptions of what a pastor’s responsibilities are. Check out the video below. Please Note: this is not an endorsement of all of John Macarthur’s teachings or of his “Grace To You” ministry. I am simply including his remarks here because I happen to believe with them regarding the primary role of pastors.

How wonderful it would be if every pastor fit the description offered by MacArthur.

Sadly, we live in a time now when there are numerous ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ filling the nation’s pulpits. The Bible refers to them as “hirelings”, meaning they are simply there to pick up a paycheck. In other words, to a hireling being a pastor is just a job. [2]

With this in mind, here are five traits you never want to see in your pastor.

  1. Your pastor is never broken before the Lord. True shepherds are humble and possess a servants heart and attitude. They live to serve others, not themselves. If your pastor is loud, proud, self-serving and arrogant you can be sure that his heart is far from the Lord.
  2. The pastor never mentions that the Lord has been dealing with him privately about spiritual matters. God always works through the leadership of the church. The shepherd is His conduit to reach the people. If the pastor isn’t hearing from the Lord either through the word or his own private prayer time, something is horribly wrong.
  3. The pastor never calls your church to a season of consecrated prayer. Prayer is the lifeblood of a church. It is the means by which God’s people express themselves to their Creator. A church that is not drawn together in unified prayer is a church on the downgrade.
  4. The pastor fails to hold himself accountable to the biblical standards of a shepherd. There are strict moral and spiritual character requirements for the position. This is necessary because not just anyone should be placed in such an important leadership role in Christ’s Church. When a pastor fails to meet the standards as set forth by the Bible, he is in effect degrading the office. [3]
  5. The pastor sees his role as primarily that of a cheerleader rather than one who faithfully proclaims the whole counsel of God. Being a faithful pastor is not for the faint of heart or those who lack the willingness to confront ‘sin in the camp’. At times a pastor must employ biblical correction of wayward behavior among the sheep. A pastor who only wants to be a cheerleader and never impose discipline is not fulfilling the role as intended. [4]

As I said earlier, I sincerely trust that your pastor is fulfilling his duties and watching over you with love, care, and concern. By the same token, all of us should be praying for our pastors that the Lord will guide, strengthen, and encourage them daily.

If however you see any of these traits frequently on display in your pastor, especially if these traits have been discussed with him by those he is accountable to, it may be time to start looking for a new one because your current pastor is no longer hearing from the Lord.

Yes…it is that serious.

Be blessed in Jesus name,

Ron

[1] Wikipedia

[2] Matthew 7:15, John 10:12-13

[3] 1st Timothy 3

[4] Joshua 7:20

Shikata ga nai

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This is my last post of 2018, and I wanted to leave you with one last tidbit of wisdom gleaned from my days of working at Honda. As I have mentioned previously, the culture I was immersed in at Honda provided an insight into a totally different way of seeing things.

For example, when confronted with situations we cannot control, many of us from western cultures react in somewhat predictable ways. Sheer panic, complete indifference, or somewhere in between best describe most of us I believe.

The Japanese however have the unique ability to deal with things that are beyond their control in a very unusual manner. One can only assume that because they are an ancient people, they have learned that no matter how bad things may be, eventually conditions will improve.

They sometimes use the phrase Shikata ga nai (pronounced shee-kah-tah-gah-NIGH),which means “it cannot be helped”. As the Japanese are overwhelmingly non-Christian, it is one of the ways they have devised to come to terms with situations beyond their control.

Earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions are all very real threats to the people of Japan. And they are all out of the control of any person.

Shikata ga nai, or “it cannot be helped” is a good attitude to have should a natural disaster strike and you are on your own. Such an attitude can help one move beyond the fault finding and blame game so common in our own society.

From the Christian perspective,there are also many things that are far beyond our control. If you doubt that, just do a quick mental review of 2018 and you will probably see what I mean.

Rather then take the approach of “it cannot be helped”, Christians know that we can call upon the Lord to help us through difficult situations.

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

As we say goodbye to 2018 let us always remember that we are never alone. Even when situations are far beyond our control, we do not have to resign ourselves to defeat.

We have a loving Savior who sets at the right hand of God, making intercession for us. He is in control of the chaos, he makes sense of the things that we cannot understand.(Romans 8:34)

Happy New Year everyone!

Ron

 

Whatever you do, do it with purpose!

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Last night I spoke at our church from Daniel chapter one, which tells the story of Israel being carried away into Babylon and of Daniel being selected to stand before the king.

As heartbreaking as it is to read of God’s punishment for their rebellion, the captivity of Israel served a dual purpose.

As prophesied by Jeremiah, Israel was going to be punished for their continual rebellion against God by being carried away to Babylon as captive slaves for a period of 70 years. This was the fulfillment of that prophecy. [1]

While in Babylon, God used Daniel in miraculous ways to revel Himself to a people who otherwise would have never known about Him. Through his ability to interpret dreams and his unwavering faith in God’s deliverance, Daniel was able to turn the heart of the king of Babylon completely toward the Lord. [2]

None of this would have been possible however, had Daniel not maintained a positive attitude in spite of the overwhelming situation he found himself in.

Uprooted from everything he knew at a very young age, Daniel could have easily succumbed to bitterness and allowed his heart to become hardened towards his God.

Like so many of us, he could have asked God “WHY?” a thousand times, yet what he did instead was fall back on what he had already been taught, which was to keep God first in his life.

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.   Daniel 6:8

Daniel had purposed in his heart that despite his circumstances, he would not reject the Lord. In essence, he was drawing a line in the sand and letting everyone know that he would not be drawn into the sinful culture of his captors.

What does that say about this young man? Well, for one thing, it says that his faith in God wasn’t predicated by his feelings. If Daniel was going on feelings alone, I’m pretty sure he had much to be discouraged about had he chosen that path.

Being a hostage in the king’s court, separated from his family, the feelings of loneliness and abandonment could easily have overwhelmed him.

I have a standard answer to tell people who say that they haven’t sensed or felt God’s presence in their life for a season. That is that God has promised to ‘never leave us nor forsake us ‘. And that God’s promises trump our feelings. [3]

Every. Single. Time.

As I told the congregation last night, there are times when we find ourselves in situations that are not of our choosing. We did nothing to warrant the predicament we find ourselves in. Yet here we are, and we must choose how we will face adversity.

I have found myself in those situations and have been forced to endure hardship all because of the poor choices of someone else. While our own poor choices bring about consequences that must be dealt with, it’s quite another matter when you are forced to suffer because of someone else.

Can I get an AMEN?

Let’s face it, there can be no doubt that some things are just not meant to be understood by our limited ability to reason and comprehend. In those times, I believe God calls us to simply place one foot in front of another as we walk with Him. That is real FAITH my friends!

If we choose to be like Daniel, and purpose in our hearts that we will not defile ourselves with doubt and conformity to the world’s way of doing things, we can expect God to stand with us no matter how difficult the test.

God’s vision and hope for you far exceeds your present condition. Think about that, and rest assured that God has his hand upon you.

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] Jeremiah 25:11

[2] Daniel 2:48, Daniel 3: 28,29, Daniel 6: 26,27

[3] Hebrews 13:5

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness…

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“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.”  [1]

This fourth Beatitude is one that I particularly love because I believe it establishes one of the foundational requirements for Godly living. In it, Jesus used two of the strongest human needs, hunger and thirst, to express the passion with which we should pursue God.

Have you ever been so thirsty that it seemed your thirst just couldn’t be quenched? Did that stop you from drinking still more? Of course not! Even if it meant drinking several different things you were determined to quench your thirst.

For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.  [2]

Sometimes when I’m hungry, I’ll go to the cabinet and stand there looking inside, trying to decide what it is that I want to eat. I may grab this or that, and as soon as I’ve eaten it I’ll know that I made the wrong choice, so I’ll try something else.

In much the same way Jesus is describing the hunger and thirst for righteousness that we are to have. The desire for more of Him should permeate our being, as an insatiable appetite does for those that have not eaten.

David said O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You
….[3]

As the hart pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after you, O God…[4]

deer in the lake

anilogics.com

This type of intense longing is exactly the type of hunger and thirst that Jesus is talking about. It means we do not approach the Lord with an attitude of indifference, but rather a passionate zeal to know him and his ways.

To hunger and thirst for righteousness means we must make a conscious decision about which part of us gets fed. If we desire the things of the world more than God, those things will destroy our hunger for the righteousness that Jesus is speaking of in this Beatitude.

This is very dangerous because if we allow our zeal for God to be swallowed up by the pleasures of the flesh, we will spiritually die.

He who pursues righteousness and loving devotion finds life, righteousness, and honor.[5]

My prayer for all is that we are passionate in our search for a closer walk with God, that we develop a hunger and thirst for righteousness that can only be filled by Him.

Be Blessed!

Ron

 

[1] Matthew 5:6

[2] Psalm 107:9

[3] Psalm 63:1,2

[4] Psalm 42:1,2

[5] Prov. 21:21

What does it mean to be Heavenly minded?

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Everyone is seeking something. That’s how God made us. We’re inquisitive by nature; always searching, looking, wondering.

Life would be pretty boring if we just sat around and became a lump of nothingness, don’t you think?

As Christians however, we must learn to temper our searching, looking, and wandering by prioritizing and aligning the things we deem so important against God’s Word. Paul explains it here in Colossians 3:1-3.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”.‬‬

Does this now mean that because I’m a Christian that I can no longer be passionate about my favorite cause? Of course not! If God’s children don’t participate in this earthly life, if we’re too Holy to get our hands dirty while ministering to others, of what value are we?

You no doubt have heard the expression that we can become “too Heavenly minded to be of any earthly good”. Speaking only for myself, I have yet to meet the person who accurately meets this description! Seriously, if any person becomes as Heavenly minded as Paul describes above, they would do more earthly good than they could ever imagine!

What Paul is saying to us is that as Christ’s representatives on earth we should be involved in what’s going on around us. We should care deeply about the plight of others. If not us, then who will?

But our first priority must be Him. If we will make Him our first priority, if He becomes the focus of our passions, our care and concern for others will be greatly enhanced.

You see, it’s only by seeking those things that are above, that we are then able to effectively reach out to those around us. Or to put it another way, before we can pour into others, we must first be filled ourselves. And we get filled by seeking those things which are above.

I think all of us would agree that we need more of Him at work in our lives. I know I certainly have enough rough edges to keep Him busy for a while! As we endeavor to seek those things that are above, we begin to die to self a bit more each day. Those rough edges become smoother, even our attitudes are improved.

Seeking those things that are above transforms our wants and desires into His wants and desires. When we seek to become more Heavenly minded we become more like Jesus. We love like Jesus. We have compassion like Jesus. The world can then see Jesus through us.

Isn’t that what this Christian life is supposed to be about anyway?

Be blessed,

Ron

Biting the hand that feeds you

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You’ve probably heard that expression haven’t you? It’s typically used when a person displays ungratefulness to others. For instance; if someone in your life helps you out, or provides sustenance to you and you act in an ungrateful manner towards them, you are “biting the hand that feeds you”.

The truth is that when ungratefulness surfaces on the outside, it’s merely reflecting what’s going on inside of us. Murmuring, complaining, ungratefulness, being unthankful, these are all outward symptoms of inward rebellion.

As Christians, we must be especially careful about complaining and being ungrateful. I wonder, how often do we check ourselves to see if we are displaying the symptoms of an ungrateful heart?

complain

aarc.org

There is an almost unbelievable example of this found in the book of Exodus. We all know the story of God’s great deliverance in setting Israel free from Egyptian bondage.

With excitement and enthusiasm the Israelite’s left Egypt, headed for a land that flowed with milk and honey.

Not only did God deliver them, but they left carrying the riches of Egypt with them! Gold, silver, and clothing in abundance were given to the children of Israel as their former masters sent them away in haste.

Yet just three days after walking through the Red Sea on dry land, the children of Israel began complaining. It’s important that we grasp this. Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for 430 years. Generation after generation knew nothing of freedom, yet within just three days of tasting freedom for the first time, they are already complaining! Here’s the story in detail (emphasis mine)ungrateful

1. “They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.

2. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness,

3. and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

4. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.

5. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”

6. So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt,

7. and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?”

8. And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD.”” Exodus 16:1-8

What is the key takeaway from this story? On the surface, it may appear to be that the nation of Israel is about as ungrateful as a nation could be. While that may be true, the key point here is that while Israel vented their complaints to Moses and Aaron, in reality they were complaining against God.

Moses told them that “Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD”. In essence, they were biting the hand that fed them!

So the million dollar question is this: are we any different than they when we complain,grumble, and generally have a terrible attitude?

I don’t know about you, but I too used to be a slave. I was a slave to sin and all that went with it, until one day God sent a deliverer to rescue me from my condition. What should my response be to what God has done for me?

When I’m going through difficult times, should I remind Him of how good I used to have it before I became a Christian? Should I remind God that I was doing well enough on my own? Should I say to God that I’d rather go back to my old life?

Of course not! I don’t care how my life is measured or by whom; at the end of the day I count myself among the most blessed of any people! My life has been just like everyone else’s, full of up’s and down’s, trials and successes.

At the end of the day however, what matters is that God has been right beside me through it all. I don’t understand some of the hard things, but I realize that I don’t need to understand everything. All I need to be sure of is that God is faithful, and as such He will never leave us or forsake us.

My prayer is that all of God’s children will appreciate Him for what he has done for us.

May we never bite the hand that feeds us!

Be blessed,

Ron

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