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A grateful and appreciative heart

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Now that the traditional day of Thanksgiving is over, I thought I’d follow up on my last post with a bit more on what it means to me personally to be both grateful and thankful, particularly in regards to our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

I feel it is very important to maintain a grateful and appreciative heart for the things I have received in this life. Notice that I said the word maintain. That means we have to work at it, otherwise it’s not going to happen. Maintaining a grateful and appreciative heart is all on us, and it doesn’t happen automatically. If you’ve ever slipped into one of those moments when you just don’t feel very thankful, you know what I’m talking about.

By the same token, that I am able to say I am a child of God often leaves me nearly speechless. If you could have seen the person I used to be, you would have numbered me with those who were destined for the scrap heap of humanity.

How God can find something useful in any of us leaves me scratching my head. Have you ever felt this way?

Even today, over 40 years after accepting the Lord Jesus as my Savior, I marvel at God’s unique ability to see past what we were and slowly bring to fruition what we are destined to become. Seriously, who but God can do such things?

I made so many mistakes in my early Christian life that I sometimes wondered why I should even bother trying to live for Him. Comparing myself to other, more mature Christians left me shaking my head wondering how in the world they do it. How could these people never make mistakes? How could they always be so faithful?

Well, as all of us know by now, none of us are perfect are we? Neither do we always have it all together like we want others to believe we do. You see, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been a Christian for four days, forty days, or forty years, we still live in a fallen world that is wrought with one peril after another. Everywhere we turn there are challenges and obstacles in our path.

Some days remaining faithful to Him seems more like a dream than a reality. Can you relate? Can I get an “Amen”!

I will be forever thankful for what God has done in my life. After much work and countless hours spent upon the Potter’s wheel, he has slowly transformed me from a wild, bitter, and angry young man into someone who is now almost unrecognizable from the person I was. I say that knowing full well that He still has much to do to help me to reach my full potential.

No one needs to remind me that I am a man who has been blessed far beyond what I truly deserve. The Lord has taken me from being a blasphemous, proud, and unthankful heathen to a man after God’s own heart. [1]

How could I not praise him for what he has done?

For all that the Lord has done in my life, nothing compares with how that in an instant He changed the course of my eternal destination. I who was once on the fast track to Hell and eternal separation from all that is good, has had his soul re-routed to a destination where joy shall never end.

As my friend Bill Sweeney says, it may sound corny, but I actually believe that one day I’m going to a far better place because of Jesus. [2]

I would be remiss if I failed to mention how thankful and how grateful I am to have by my side the most wonderful wife anyone could ever hope to have. The mere fact that she’s still here is a testament to her abiding love for me. When I think of how much she has had to put up with through the years, I am presented with a clear picture of love, dedication, sacrifice, and commitment.

This may surprise many of you, but I lean towards being very strong-willed(insert smile here). I suppose that comes from being raised the way I was, that and being in positions of authority and responsibility for a large part of my life. My point being, sometimes it isn’t easy to live with someone like me, yet my sweet Princess somehow manages to keep me in check.

She is the calming voice of reason when I want to take a situation in my own hands to right a wrong that may have been done. She is the great communicator in our home when at times I want to clam up, satisfied within my own mind that I know all there is to know about the situation.

I am convinced that God brought us together in a Divine manner at just the right time. Two broken and shattered lives, neither looking for or ever expecting to love again. Yet God somehow orchestrated things so that we would meet one day in the foyer of a church, a church she was visiting only because of a friends invitation.

I could never have imagined that this shy young lady who wouldn’t even make eye contact with me when we were introduced, would one day complete me in a way I never thought possible and that together we would write our own Love Story.

These are just some of the reasons why I am a thankful and grateful man today. And yes, it is true, there are days when I need to be reminded of all of this. When I am, I’m humbled once again at the realization of where I’ve come from and where I’m destined to go.

For all of this, I am forever grateful and appreciative to my Savior.

Have a blessed day everyone!

Ron

[1] 2 Timothy 3:2 (KJV)

[2] For more of Bill Sweeney’s story of how the Lord has sustained him through a long battle with ALS, check out his website here: https://unshakablehope.com/about/

 

 

 

The Beatitudes: conclusion

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As I have a very busy week ahead of me filling in for my Pastor, I need to finish up my thoughts concerning the Beatitudes. So even though it makes for a lengthy read, I have included the remaining four in this final blog.

Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.

Mercy is the act of forgiveness and compassion from someone who has the authority to punish you, but instead chooses to offer mercy. If you’ve ever been the one in need of mercy, and you know you have, you can surely appreciate knowing that your Father in heaven is merciful.

When we are merciful and forgiving to others, we give them a glimpse of the Father’s heart of mercy and forgiveness that is offered to all. As his representatives on earth, we must always be mindful that we are often the only examples of the hands and feet of Jesus that people will ever see.

Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.

The Bible talks a lot about the heart, doesn’t it? The condition of our heart as it relates to God is of the utmost importance in our daily walk. Having an impure heart, for example, keeps us from seeing God for who he is because having such a heart is like walking around wearing blinders.

Having a pure heart, however, allows us to see God in all his glory and splendor because our vision is no longer clouded by sin, judgement, or guilt.

When the Psalmist prayed “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me“, he was essentially asking God for a pure heart. [1] May this be our prayer as well.

Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

Would you agree with me that the world could use a few more peacemakers? After all, God is a peace-loving and a peace-making God, and we sure could use a respite from the constant bickering and fighting among ourselves today.

Peace is something that God has always desired for us. The whole history of redemption, starting with the fall of Adam in the garden to the death and resurrection of Jesus, is all part of God’s plan to establish a just and lasting peace between man and himself.

Not to be overlooked in this plan of redemption is God’s desire for men to also have lasting peace among themselves. It is never God’s will for men to quarrel and fight against one another.

If this message would somehow be heard by all today, what a different world we would be living in! All of us would do well to remember that if we are truly our Father’s children, we will display his attributes and character. What he loves, we will love. And God loves peace.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Persecuted. Not exactly a word that we associate with being blessed, or as some say today “highly favored”, is it?

Yet Jesus does calls us blessed if we are persecuted for righteousness sake. For certain, there are many types of persecution, and varying degrees of it as well.

Some will say that they are being persecuted because someone said something that hurt their feelings. Perhaps a promotion did not come your way and you determine that because of that, you are being persecuted.

I believe though that the persecution Jesus was referring to here is the type that results in the loss of liberty, freedom, and even one’s very life. So while American Christians have been spared (so far) such persecutions, regular readers will note that I have posted several articles on this blog detailing the severe persecution taking place in other parts of the world today.

Literally tens of thousands of Christians are being persecuted, imprisoned, and murdered for the testimony of Jesus in our day. Yet for all that, Jesus calls those of his servants enduring such persecution “blessed”.

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Let’s face it, the world in which we live is becoming increasingly hostile towards Christianity. Today, anyone who aligns themselves with Jesus is mocked, scorned, slandered, and generally treated with disdain.

This isn’t something new however, as Jesus said they did the same things to those who came before us. Our job is simply to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”. [2]

Peter even went so far to say that if we were insulted for the name of Jesus, we are blessed because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon us! [3]

I hope that this series on The Beatitudes has been both worthwhile and a source of encouragement to you. I never tire of reading these words of Jesus because they seem to fan the flames when we need a little spark to keep us pressing onward, and my prayer is that you feel the same way.

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] Psalm 51:10

[2] Philippians 3:14

[3] 1 Peter 4:14

 

Blessed are the meek…

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As we continue this series on the Beatitudes taken from the Sermon on the Mount, we now find Jesus saying “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth”.

Meek… now there’s a word we don’t often hear today! Can you even remember the last time you saw that word in action? Let me guess and say it’s been awhile hasn’t it?

I’m dating myself here, but I can remember when meekness was a highly coveted character trait of those who identified with our Lord. It was visible too, no one had to tell you that sister Smith was a meek and humble lady. No, she demonstrated it in everything she did.

Without even trying!

Quite a contrast in our world today when those that display meekness, or a humble spirit, are thought of as weak, or somehow lacking in toughness. Funny, isn’t it, how that the world says that only the strong survive, yet Jesus said that the meek shall inherit the earth.

Who are the meek he is referring to? Jesus is speaking of those who are humble and submissive to God, who have committed their ways unto the Lord in all they do. They prefer others before themselves, for they have a servant’s heart.

They are the opposite of the proud, arrogant, puffed up and selfish world that they dwell in. While the majority are concerned about getting all they can get, the meek are more concerned that all get some, even if it costs them what should be theirs.

Jesus pronounced a blessing on those who are meek, saying that they will inherit the earth. That’s quite a statement isn’t it? To think that those who willingly defer to others, often doing without themselves, will one day receive such an inheritance is nothing short of amazing!

While not saying it explicitly, I think Jesus is telling us here that the day is coming when he is going to even the score, so to speak. Those that have walked humbly and upright before the Lord the meek and powerless, will one day find that God has been keeping tabs all along.

I’d say meekness will be a highly coveted character trait then, one that everyone will wish they had desired.

Up next is “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.”

Until then, be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

Blessed are they that mourn…

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In my previous post, we dealt the 1st of the Beatitudes, the promise made to those who are poor in spirit yet possess the kingdom. With this second Beatitude, we turn our attention to a promise that those who now mourn will one day be comforted.

Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted“. [1]

Whenever I hear the word “mourn” I think of a very deep sadness or grief, the kind that nearly overwhelms the soul. We humans mourn over all types of situations. It’s how we cope, or how we endure trials that are often beyond our capability to handle.

Mourning is an outward indicator of pain and grief. It reflects our inward sense of hopelessness over something that is usually out of our control. The loss of a loved one, for example, is one of the most common events that will cause us to mourn and suffer grief.

Of course, there are other types of mourning as well. In Jesus’ day for example, there was no doubt a spirit of heaviness upon the nation of Israel. This once proud, favored nation had succumbed to sin and found themselves under the authority of a foreign government.

No doubt Jesus himself was mourning the condition of his people as he looked out upon Jerusalem and lamented the fact that though he had continually called them back to righteousness, they had steadfastly refused to come. [2]

On a lesser extent, I’m sure that many of us today mourn the condition of our society, being forced to come to terms with the fact that what once was, is now gone forever.

Perhaps, like me, you mourn the present apostate condition of the Church. Knowing that Jesus gave his very life for the Church that now largely rejects him causes me to mourn greatly for what could have been.

Whenever we find ourselves in a place of mourning, it can be extremely difficult to see beyond our present circumstance to a place of having hope for a brighter day.

Jesus, however, said that those who mourn shall be comforted. So, what do we take away from that statement?

Perhaps the most important thing to learn from what Jesus said is that there will be an end to the mourning. Overwhelming as it may be in the moment, the source of our mourning must give way to the peace and the presence of God.

The Apostle Paul said that the peace of God surpasses all understanding [3], and it is during these intense times of mourning that He will show up, often when we least expect it, bringing the comfort of a peace beyond our own understanding.

That alone offers great comfort, because I can tell you from personal experience that there are times in our lives when it appears the pages of our circumstances will never turn.

To this very day, I mourn and grieve over certain things that I have been forced to deal with. And while the pain may not be as intense as it once was, it is still there, scarcely hidden beneath a thin veneer of faith and hope.

I thank God however that the story doesn’t end there, because Jesus said that comfort was coming! In fact, we are told that while weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning! [4]

We have inherited the promise of Jesus that we will be comforted. Whatever is causing us to mourn, it has an expiration date affixed to it. It will not last, nor can it defeat us.

I hope you will join me in clinging to the promises of God that one day, every tear will be wiped away. The day is coming when neither death, sorrow, or crying will ever be heard again. [5]

Until that day, take solace in knowing that God sees, hears, and understands the things that cause us to mourn.

Comfort is coming, in Jesus name!

The next Beatitude we’ll look into is “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth”.

Be blessed!

Ron

[1] Matthew 5:4

[2] Matthew 23:37

[3] Philippians 4:7

[4] Psalm 30:5

[5] Revelation 21:4

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit…

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Over the next several days I am going to be sharing my thoughts about The Beatitudes. Like many of you, I love these rich teachings of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, and their application to our lives is as real today as they were to the crowd gathered on the side of a Galilean mountain nearly 2000 years ago.

My sincere hope is that these basic, foundational truths as taught by Jesus will give us pause to spend time reflecting on what is most important. I have found in my own life, for example, that there are times when I just need to step back, slow down, and revisit the basics from this sermon. It’s kind of like when your GPS needs to reorient itself, if that makes any sense to you.

Found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter five, the Beatitudes contain some of the richest teachings of Jesus, giving us a very concise revelation of God’s principles for how to live our lives in a manner most pleasing to him.

The Beatitudes all begin with the key word “Blessed”. This word, as spoken by Jesus, indicates a fullness, or spiritual well-being coupled with an inner sense of joy and peace.  His love, caring, and daily presence in our lives is meant to give us a sense of contentment, or what we might call blessed.

It is important to note that the “Blessed” that Jesus speaks of here is not referring to the modern “churchianity” interpretation of the word that centers around prosperity or wealth. Jesus is not saying to those on the mountain side that they will all be getting a new camel in their driveway if they toss a few shekels in the offering.

No, Jesus is teaching about an entirely different kind of blessed.

With that being said, I’d like to dive into the Beatitudes in the order they are written, beginning with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

When we see or hear the word “poor”, most of us automatically assume a condition of lack. That is because we typically think of the poor primarily in terms of money or worldly possessions. While that may be true, there are other types of poverty, such as being spiritually or morally poor or bankrupt.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it very interesting that Jesus used the words poor and blessed together. Today we would call that an oxymoron, because we cannot comprehend how someone who is poor would also be blessed at the same time. They just don’t go together.

Or do they?

Because Jesus was not referring to wealth and possessions, these two words fit together like a glove when you consider that the poor he is referring to are those who are humble before God. They understand that on their own they have nothing to give in exchange for being granted access to the kingdom of heaven. They need help!

People who are “poor in spirit” are not arrogant or puffed up within themselves. They know that if there is any good in them, it is because of the Jesus that dwells within them. They are not self-sufficient but dependent upon the Lord. Self-righteousness is not a part of their DNA.

The question then is why are they called blessed?

They are blessed because they have had their eyes and hearts opened to one of the greatest truths ever revealed to man: the sufficiency of Jesus Christ.

This blessing from Jesus tells the poor in spirit that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Again, his focus is not on material poverty, but upon the condition of the hearers heart. If you really think about what Jesus is saying here, you come to the conclusion that the kingdom of heaven is made up entirely of those who are poor in spirit and have a contrite heart.

The message that Jesus is teaching here in the beginning of his sermon is clear. If anyone is to inherit the kingdom of heaven they must become poor in spirit, which requires a repentant heart. Those who humble themselves and declare their need of a Savior, to them is given the kingdom of heaven.

There is no other way to get there!

Up next is “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”

Until then, be blessed and have a great day!

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

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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

Can somebody give God some praise?

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We came through Hurricane Irma without a scratch. What can I say, except that we are humbled, grateful, and extremely blessed to have lived through something like this.

After a quick walk around the house this morning I didn’t see even a single shingle missing. Even the pool cage and the screen are still intact! Somehow or another we never even lost power, while so many millions here are in the dark this morning.

Thank you for every prayer that was prayed on our behalf.  You cannot begin to know how humbled we are by knowing that people we’ve never met would care enough to pray for us.

I’m reminded of something I told our church Wednesday evening, and that is that God is a giant killer! I also reminded them of David saying that if we fear the Lord, then we should also trust Him. Pretty sage advice, I think.

Be blessed everyone!

Ron

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