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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

 

The bondage of “MORE”

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Would you consider yourself to be satisfied?

Satisfied in what way, you might ask?

Well, generally speaking, are you satisfied with where you are in life and with what you possess (assuming possessions mean anything to you)?

Have you reached the place that the Apostle Paul spoke of when he said “for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content”? [1]

  • Whether you have a little or a lot.
  • If your bank account is running over with excess or your balance is nearing zero.
  • If the pantry is filled to capacity or the shelves are bare.
  • If your closet is filled with designer labels or thrift store bargains.

Satisfied, content, call it what you wish…. but are you there? If you’re like most of us, you are striving to get to that place, but you’ve yet to arrive. If that describes you, follow along with me as we take at look at this peculiar phenomenon we call “MORE”.

“MORE” is peculiar in that it is never enough. “MORE” never reaches the point of satisfaction. “MORE” demands that we never stop striving for it.

It is almost as addicting as a drug. At first “MORE” feels good, it strokes our ego and encourages us to keep after it. Pretty soon the old “MORE” just doesn’t cut it any longer so we take it to the next level. Bigger house. Bigger car.

Sooner or later we come to the realization that there is no end to the vicious cycle of “MORE”. Caught like a hamster on a wheel, there is no getting off point.

We are caught in the bondage of “MORE”, and many of us are in its clutches.

Such is the way of society, isn’t it? We are constantly bombarded with ads that remind us its time for a new car/watch/washer/TV, and if you don’t get with the program and go after it you will be thought of as a dinosaur.

Contentment? Satisfaction? Complete?

Those words never cross our minds as we continue this mad rush for “MORE”.

Now, lest you think this scenario is only played out in the world, let me remind you that this very same game is being played out in the Church every Sunday. That’s right, the Church has its own version of this madness to attain “MORE”.

”8 steps to create the life you want”. [2]

“You need more money”. [3]

”Favor, abundance, and joy”. [4]

All of these and thousands like them are reminders that you don’t have enough, or that you aren’t enough. You are incomplete without the “MORE” being hawked from the pulpit today.

This is what happens when God’s Word is no longer enough for us. We take our eyes off of God’s Word and are seduced by the bright lights and promises of easy blessings. The lure of the carnival barker convinces us that if we put our money down, we’ll go home with the big prize.

”MORE”

Christians everywhere are addicted to it. We just have to have it, and can’t live without it. We are enslaved by it. We all know better of course, but once caught in its web, this addiction proves a daunting adversary.

Do you want to know why all of this has befallen us?

It is because we have exchanged the freedom we have in Christ for the shackles and chains of this world. And here’s the real tragedy in it: we’ve done it willingly, even gladly. The simple freedoms we enjoy in Christ are lain aside in favor of pretty packages of “MORE”.

Sadly, every one of us is guilty to some degree of doing this, proof enough that “the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak”. [5]

This, however, is not the end of the story because we know that Jesus Christ is the bondage breaker! There is hope in Jesus Christ for a new beginning, a new start. Those shackles and chains can just as easily be broken as they were when we first came to know the Lord!

I’m going to conclude this commentary on “MORE” in my next post entitled “Just how FREE are you”?

Until then…

Be blessed in Jesus name!

Ron

 

[1] Philippians 4:11  NKJV

[2] Crefflo Dollar  

[3] Brian Houston

[4] Joel Osteen

[5] Mark 14:38  NKJV

What are YOU good at?

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The other day my wife handed me a piece of paper on which she had quickly written something she had heard somewhere. Here is her message:

“In the church we’ve gotten really good at worship, but not so good at service to the Lord.”

As I reflected on this it struck me in a profound way that what she said was very true. For so long our churches have focused so much of their resources on creating the perfect “worship environment”(whatever that is), that it’s come at the high cost of neglecting others, and more importantly, Him.

If we aren’t serving others, how are we Christlike?

If ministry is not our primary purpose, what exactly is our purpose?

If we aren’t being salt and light in this world, why does this world even need us?

If we aren’t anointed and equipped for service, then who is doing the work of the ministry?

Father, as David prayed, so do I.

Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Teach me that serving others is serving You. Take the blinders from my eyes that I might see the needs that are all around me. Help me to understand that my neighborhood is my mission field, that souls hang in the balance, and that yes, I am my brothers keeper. Instruct me in your ways Lord, and let me not fail to praise you for the untold blessings that have been given to me. Amen

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

Giving to the Lord: just money or is there more to it?

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Last night my daughter and I were having a discussion on giving to the Lord’s work, specifically in the areas of tithes and offerings. I always love having these types of discussions with her because her perspective tends to mirror those of her generation. Which, btw, don’t always line up with my own!

We talked about the origins of tithing, the Law, the how’s and why’s of Old Testament  giving, and finally how Jesus and Paul spoke of giving in the New Testament. To be sure, like most millennials she had lots of questions, which, believe it or not, I actually enjoyed.

We spent a fair amount of time talking about giving to receive a blessing, vs. giving as an act of worship. Since she has been raised in a Christian home, she has learned by observing her parents that giving to the Lord’s work is not optional, but rather a part of worship.

She has also heard conflicting views on the subject, particularly among those who espouse the “sow your best seed now to receive a blessing” crowd that permeate the airwaves today. Being a very bright young woman, it thrills me to know that she will not be numbered among those who succumb to such error (insert proud dad smile here).

We also talked a lot about the motivation to give to the Lord’s work. Do we give out of fear? Do we give because there is a “church rule” about giving? Do we give because that’s just what we do? As I said, she’s a bright young lady and has a lot of questions!

Our discussion concluded with the understanding that giving, like most everything else related to the Lord’s work, ultimately is an issue of the heart. We give to the Lord not to receive a blessing, but rather as one more type of personal worship. After all, it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

We know that the Lord loves a cheerful giver (II Cor. 9:7), and as such we should not give grudgingly. As an act of worship, I believe giving should be looked upon as one more thing that we get to do for the Lord, not another thing we have to do.

For me, the highlight of our discussion was when she asked me “what about the poor, those that have nothing to give. Does God still bless them”? I think at that moment I saw my daughter in a different light, because she has a heart for the poor and underprivileged. I pray that she guards her heart well as she grows older and that she always remembers those less fortunate than herself.

Thankfully, she understands that as Christians we have an obligation to help the poor and to work to make their plight easier if possible. I wish all of us could come to the same conclusion because I think we could have a tremendous impact on our communities. If I really think about it, I can think of few things more pleasing to God than to aid the poor.

Tossing money into a basket or plate is one thing, the motivator behind our giving however is what is important. Giving from the perspective of a grateful heart is a wonderful part of our worship. A part that all are invited to participate in.

Have a wonderful day!

Ron

 

Heart Felt Worship

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You and I were created in the image of an emotional God.

Worship that comes from the heart is emotional. It elicits emotions from us in response to our being in the presence of God. Worship draws from our hearts what He has placed within it. In fact, you might even say that you were created to worship God!

Studying the scriptures gives us a beautiful picture of worship, and one quickly sees that worship is offered in many ways, but with one central theme: that of worshiping a living, loving, personal God.

Jesus said that God is a Spirit, and “they that worship Him must do so in Spirit and Truth”. He went on to say that the day would come when “true worshipers would worship the Father in Spirit and Truth, for the Father seeks such to worship Him”. John 4:23,24

Pick any Christian church, and the methods or styles of worship are as varied as the colors of carpet on the floor. Some go through a ritualistic form of worship, while others worship spontaneously. Some worship in silence and still others worship enthusiastically with guitars and keyboards blaring.

worship-696x371

Babylonbee.com

Then, there is this kind of worship:

And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep. Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod.”   II Samuel 6:13-14   NKJV

I look at David as one of those people who approached worship from the perspective of not having to go to worship, but rather privileged to get to go to worship. Not being made to go, but getting to go! What a difference perspective makes, wouldn’t you agree?

What is your perspective on worship? Do you have to, or do you get to? Is going to worship a habit, a ritualistic drudgery that you have come to accept as just another part of life?

Or perhaps you approach worship like David did; you worship with all of your might?

As David was “dancing before the Lord with all of his might”, do you suppose he cared what others in the group thought of him? Do you wonder if they were embarrassed by his worship, hoping he would settle down and act normally?

worship dance

extravagantworshipdance.wordpress.com

Do you think someone thought about pulling him to the side and telling him that “we don’t do it that way here”?

Here’s what I believe. I believe David was worshiping his God with his whole heart, and no one was going to deter him from doing so. David had a relationship with God, a personal one; therefore he determined to worship Him with reckless abandon. To David, there was no shame in that!

Far too often I believe we hold back from expressing our hearts to God out of fear for what others will think of us. In doing so, are we fulfilling the command of Jesus to “worship God in Spirit and in Truth”?

What on earth is wrong with God’s children worshiping their Creator with total submission to Him? If this walk with God is truly about a personal relationship, why do we withhold from Him that which He expects from us?

We all know the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, how that the people cried out “Hosanna to the King as they worshiped Him”. The religious leaders demanded that the people stop such worship, yet Jesus said that if the people didn’t worship, the rocks would cry out in adoration of Him!

The-Rocks-Will-Cry-Out_864px

rolchur.ch

Seriously, do we get that? Do we truly understand the implications here? God is to be worshiped, regardless of whether or not it fits someone’s preconceived notion about worship, or if we “fit in” with the crowd. Get this: style points don’t matter!

I believe true worshipers have a different attitude than those who simply go through the motions, from those who follow a prescribed method or style that has been predetermined by others.

True worshipers have an attitude of gratitude. This attitude determines the level of intimacy in our worship. If our attitude is one of merely going to a meeting rather than meeting with God, there is likely precious little intimacy involved.

On the other hand, when we approach our Lord in sincere gratitude for His blessings on our lives, there is a personal level of intimacy experienced that cannot be conjured up or manufactured. Simply put, it is real!

Above all else, I wish to be known as a worshiper. One who isn’t inhibited by the person setting next to me, or one who is concerned about whether or not I follow the proper worship etiquette.

In times like these, we should be expressing our innermost hearts cry to God with a purposeful heart of gratitude. In times like these, with instability the new order of the day, we should come boldly to the throne of grace with a heart prepared to give God our very best worship.

It’s up to you of course. You can leave worship exactly as you came, or you can leave worship enthused, revived, and encouraged in Jesus name!

Have a blessed day!

Ron