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Why is this so difficult?

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Giving to God what is rightfully His. Why is this so difficult? Is it because His requirements are so out of reach for us mortals that we give a weak, anemic effort?

To answer that, let’s first understand what His requirements actually are.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?   Micah 6:8

Anyone? Can anyone give a reasonable explanation as to why it is so difficult for us to do just these THREE things? To do justly and treat people fairly, to be kind one to another, and acknowledge that there is One much greater than any of us…is this so hard?

Or how about this? (emphasis mine):

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ‘ Matthew 22:35-40

Anyone? Can anyone give a reasonable explanation as to why it is so difficult for us to do even these TWO things? For us to love God with our entire being, and to love one another as much as we love ourselves, is God asking the impossible of us?

It seems so trite, so obvious for us to say that the reason we struggle with doing these very doable things is because we live in a fallen world. Or that it’s because the enemy is hard at work.

As if he hasn’t always been hard at work.

Here’s what I think. Like everything else in life, we make time for the things that are important to us. With unending devotion we sacrifice for what we deem necessary. We exert monumental effort to achieve our dreams.

Don’t we?

And the things that are not important to us…..

Ron

 

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It’s what comes OUT of a man that matters…

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Do you agree that we often place far too much emphasis on outward appearances? And in doing so, are sometimes guilty of misjudging someone? After all, isn’t it still true that looks can be deceiving?

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Consider this lesson from the gospel of Mark.

One day Jesus was confronted by a group of Pharisees and scribes because they had observed his disciples eating bread with unwashed hands.

You see, the Pharisees were all about maintaining outward appearances, and they used this opportunity to inform Jesus that his little band of followers were now defiled for failing to keep up with tradition.

Then, as now, we humans seem to have this need to elevate ourselves while tearing down others. Why is that?

At any rate the Pharisees were all about outward appearances and traditions, believing that putting on a good external show somehow equates to a healthy inward relationship with God.

NOT.

Hmmm…makes one wonder if not a lot has changed over the space of a couple thousand years. OK….back to the topic at hand.

After Jesus admonished the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”     Mark 7:9 NKJV

In other words, Jesus is telling them that they rejected God’s word and his teachings in favor of their own man made traditions. And this is a snare that all of us must be on guard to avoid. Jesus came to set us free, but I dare say many of us are ensnared in traditions of our own making, thus rendering the word of God of no effect.

traditions of men

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Instead of worrying about and focusing on trivial things that mattered little, if at all, in the grand scheme of things, Jesus went on to explain to them what truly defiles a man.

And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.””
Mark 7:20-23 NKJV

Notice anything missing from this list? None of the things on it are matters of tradition or outward appearance, but matters of the heart!!

What defiles us, what condemns us are the evil, sinful acts born out of an unregenerate heart. That’s what Jesus is saying here. A heart that has resisted the love of Christ and has determined to forge its own path is a heart that is capable of doing the unthinkable.

As lest any of us should be lifted up with pride because we are so good, residing within each of our hearts are the seeds of each of the sins Jesus mentions above. I don’t care who you are, that’s a powerful and sobering thought.

The point is, our good intentions will never be good enough, but instead a life lived apart from God will give way to a heart that is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it”?   Jer. 17:9

There is but one cure for such a thing; the Lord Jesus. He alone has the cure for what defiles a man. Only Jesus can transform our hearts from one of stone into one that is fully alive in Him. He is the heart mender.

It’s what comes out of a man that matters most, and when Jesus has been given control of our lives we must continually strive to gain control of the flesh that produces the things which defile.

Walking with Jesus is not about keeping church or religious traditions, it’s not about maintaining appearances or your standing in the church. Walking with Jesus is about relationship, one that produces the fruit of the Spirit, not the deeds of the flesh.

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Be blessed,

Ron

 

Two of the hardest “EASY” things to do

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Have you ever thought about how we Christians go out of our way to make life harder than it needs to be?

Consider the church or assembly where you worship. I imagine there are certain rules that you are expected to follow in order to be a member in good standing. For instance, some churches have rules on attendance, and others prohibit smoking and drinking. No gambling is also found in most list of rules.

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Some churches still prohibit women from wearing makeup and jewelry. These are typically associated with long jean skirts for the ladies and white shirts for the men. UGH. When will we ever learn that personal holiness begins in the heart and not the closet?

Oh, and did you know there are different rules for the Methodists than there are for the Baptists? Did I mention the rules in the Black church, whatever that is? In addition to all of this, perhaps most important of all are the unspoken rules, which of course everyone is somehow supposed to know.

There can be no room for personal liberty in such an environment, as personal liberty might allow one to step out of order, thus creating chaos, and if there’s one thing we like about rules it is that they bring order.

Now, I like order, to an extent. Order, or Rules, brings with them a sense of stability and security, and who doesn’t appreciate that?

I do not like order however that is so inflexible that I cannot be free to express myself. Here’s a personal example of what I’m talking about. I like color, lots of color, especially bright colors. Maybe it’s because I have a degree of color blindness and struggle to see color like everyone else. Whatever the case, I love bright, bold colors.

On Sunday’s I always wear a suit to church. Why?  Because I like wearing them. I also like wearing a tie to church, which I am acutely aware, goes against the norm these days. But I won’t wear just any tie. No boring, ugly ties in my closet! That’s why I wear ties that are bold, colorful, and bright.  Like this for example….IMG_0111

Sorry, but no dress codes for this guy!

OK, back to my topic. One of the greatest problems with church rules is that we expect everyone to follow them, thus creating carbon copies of ourselves in the process. And as if that weren’t bad enough, we will follow up on our rules by making even more rules.

So, are all of these rules necessary to be a follower of Jesus? Do we really need a list of can’s and can not’s? Well, let’s consult the manual, shall we? Surely there we can find some direction.

In the gospel of Matthew, chapter 26 we find the following:

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.   Matthew 22:35-40  KJV

twogreatestcommandments

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Love the Lord. Love your neighbor.The two hardest “easy” things you can do.

It’s because we the Church make it so. Not the Lord. Not the Word. WE make it so hard. It’s as if we cannot fathom that loving the Lord and loving your neighbor could be enough. So we add our own special flair to it in the form of Rules.

And look what we’ve made of the church!

All of the Law and all of the prophets hang on just these two commandments. Nothing else is required. No list of Rules. No list of do’s and don’ts. No clothesline religion here, no sir.

All of the Law and all of the prophets hang on just these two commandments. This easy, this simple, this uncomplicated.

Maybe the reason we make it so hard is because of the word “love”. If it were anything else, perhaps it wouldn’t be so troubling, but love, well that hits us right in the heart doesn’t it?

Just like it’s supposed to.

Be blessed,

Ron