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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

A sure and steady anchor

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As I look out the window of what we refer to as our multi-purpose room(the ladies of the house refuse to give me complete control of it so I can’t call it my office), everywhere I look I see signs of life.

Here in Florida the grass has been growing for quite a while now. Since March I’ve been mowing once a week, and in a few more weeks the rainy season will change that to a twice-weekly chore.

Songbirds are constantly singing their unique songs, while a chorus of screeching jays, cardinals, and blackbirds announces the arrival of a bobcat, now hidden in my flower bed. Little gray squirrels run about the yard, chasing each other in an endless game of tag.

If I look to my right, I see pots of shrubs I started from cuttings a few months ago. Just beyond them is a pineapple plant that I grew from a rooted top of a pineapple bought at the grocery. Another one sits in a glass jar, awaiting the development of its own root system.

Palm trees are everywhere, which reminds me I need to call someone to trim the tallest ones. I no longer have the balance I once did, so climbing a 20’ ladder no longer seems like the wise thing to do.

The jasmine are beginning to bloom in force, filling the yard with their musky fragrance. Pink, red, and coral hibiscus are showing off their brilliant colors, as are flowering shrubs I potted up months ago but can’t recall the names of at the moment.

If all of this seems a bit idyllic, it’s because it is. Though I may be surrounded by homes, traffic, and people all running here and there doing whatever they are doing, this is my refuge.

You see, I need a place where I can get in touch with the things that matter to me. Whether it’s getting my hands in a flower pot, mowing the lawn, or simply enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of a myriad of living things, these are the things that ground me.

This does sound pretty nice, even if I do say so myself. And I do not want to give the impression that like the Apostle Paul, “I have learned that whatever state I find myself in, I am content”. I wish! Yet I know all too well that any peace and contentment would be impossible were it not for the anchor of my soul that holds this all together.

Jesus is that anchor and the rock that I rest upon.

While I do not have great wealth, I am rich in ways that no amount of money could purchase. When you possess the love of Christ, the desire for material wealth fades into obscurity.

I would like to think that you also have a place of refuge, a place to get away from the daily grind and the stresses of this life, a peaceful place to enjoy the things that are most important to you.

Most of all, I trust that you are anchored in Jesus Christ. Without Him, any such peace and contentment would be impossible.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

There’s got to be more…

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How many of you ever feel like “is this it, is this all there is”?

I feel this way almost every single day. Not because I want more stuff. I don’t need another car. I have no desire to get a boat. My house is plenty large enough, and my wife has decorated it to rival anything a professional interior decorator could do.

stuff-need-more

Doublingdollars.com

In truth, I have more than enough of everything.

Yet still I feel wholly unsatisfied, as though something is calling me to seek for that which is not from here. To commune with One far greater than I. To launch out and into the deep and discover who knows what.

Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.  Psalm 42:7

You have no idea how many times I’ve wished I could be like most people I meet up with, who seemingly just go through life without much care for things that are beyond the necessities of life.

For reasons that I’ve yet to completely uncover, God did not wire me this way. For some reason I care deeply about what matters most to God. Some say far too deeply, but I say how do you turn it off?

I care deeply about the Church, for example. I care that the church of Acts has all but disappeared from this planet. I care that expressing the love of Christ to those who are undone without him is now considered to be the job of the paid clergy.

I grieve that our pulpits are filled with people looking for a paycheck instead of a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). My heart breaks to see people who’ve been broken by sin come into God’s house and leave the same way they came.

I care deeply about the plight of children who are abused, exploited, and violated, oftentimes by adults who are charged with loving them and nurturing them into adulthood. Jesus said in Luke 18:16…

But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

My heart breaks upon hearing or reading of what our children are enduring at the hands of drug crazed parents. Just yesterday, I read where a mother was charged with selling her young daughter for $6,000 because they had no other way to get money to survive on.

“Suffer the little children” indeed.

I care deeply that millions will lose sleep and stand in line to buy a new TV,  yet will not give a dollar to support a food bank or local missions outreach. Watching people trample one another to be among the first customers in the store is heartbreaking because I know there is a Savior wondering why they don’t run to Him with the same zeal.

black_friday 3

PCWorld.com

The Apostle Paul said that he had learned to be content in whatever state, or condition he happened to be in at the time (Philippians 4:11). I suppose some would say that I should apply this to my own life. To be sure, so far as the things of this world go, I am very content.

It’s the things that are not of this world however that I long for more of.

Because there just has to be more.

Be blessed, in Jesus name

Ron

Create in me a clean heart,O God;

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Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.   Psalm 51:10-12

This was the prayer of David after he had fallen into deep sin. This once humble shepherd boy turned giant killer, the apple of Gods eye, has been knocked off of his lofty throne by pride, arrogance, and lust.

Having committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then having her husband killed in a vain attempt to hide his sin, King David found himself in bitterness and anguish of soul. As you read Psalm 51, the depths of this anguish nearly jumps off the page, and no doubt many of us can empathize with his sorrows.

For the rest of his life David would pay a tremendous price for his moral failures. Not only he, but his family as well would suffer the consequences of “the pleasures of sin for a season”. Indeed, his own son tried to take the kingdom from him, and never again would David know complete peace and contentment in his life.

thou-art-the-man_peter_rothermel_david_nathan_b

Thou Art The Man- by Peter Rothermel

There are several lessons to be gleaned from this tragic episode in the life of Israel’s beloved king, not the least of which is that none of us has to be a murderer or an adulterer to have need of a clean heart and a right spirit within us. All of us are in need of these things.

Everyday events can drain us, leaving us discouraged and feeling so lowly that we have to reach up just to be able to touch the bottom. Life, for all of its joys and triumphs, also brings with it incredible heartaches and disappointments. For these, we need the security of knowing that God is working “all things together for our good”.

Who among us doesn’t need renewal from time to time? Contrary to popular opinion, there certainly is no shame in acknowledging our own inabilities to “fix ourselves” by calling upon the Lord. As a matter of fact, He tells us to “cast all of our cares upon him, because He cares for us.”

I don’t know where you are in your walk with the Lord, but I’m craving a deeper walk with him. So many things in this life cause division and separation between us and God. Even good things, in excess, can come between us and our relationship with him.

The last thing I want is to be found like David, far from God, yet I know that if I don’t pray and study his word that is exactly what will happen. Our prayer then should always be like David’s; “Lord, cast me not away from your presence.”

In perilous and uncertain times such as we are living in today, all of us need the strong hand of the Lord to sustain us, to keep us pointed in the right direction. Let’s face it, we need Him!

David understood that even though he had committed horrible sins before his God forgiveness, albeit at a cost, was available to him. The son that was born to him out of the illicit affair with Bathsheba for example, would become sick and die. No amount of fasting and prayer for him could save his life, yet this event served a greater purpose in turning David’s heart back to God.

Having done that, he began the road back to once again having a clean heart, a right spirit, the joy of the Lord, and a restored relationship with God. Yes, there were consequences for his actions, however with God’s help; David was able to persevere in spite of them.

The grace of God is truly amazing isn’t it? A God that would forgive David is just as quick to forgive us for our own shortcomings. It really is as simple as calling upon Him to forgive us and create in us a clean heart.

Be blessed on this Lords day!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

Stuck at the starting gate…

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Do you ever think about whether or not you are making progress in your walk with the Lord? Are you growing in your faith? Are you steadily marching along toward the goal of spiritual maturity?

Tough questions for all of us, aren’t they? Even after all these years, there are times when I think to myself “am I really growing like I should be”?

Do you feel like instead of progressing, it’s more like you’re stuck in neutral?

If we’re being honest, does it feel like you’ve been taking two steps backwards and one step forward?

Or are you one of the millions that have started on a journey with Christ, yet you are neither going forward or backwards, like you’re not moving at all?

In other words, are you stuck at the starting gate?

starting gate

If this is you, then read on because this post is for you!

Being stuck at the starting gate describes those of us who know the Lord as our Savior, who attend church regularly, read our Bibles, and for all intents and purposes are doing all the right things. We’re on our way to heaven.

Yet for all of that, something is missing. There is no passion, no excitement, no enthusiasm for the things of God. Just going through the motions of “churchianity”. We’re described in the Bible like this:

“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;” Matthew 15:8

OUCH!

We’re present in body only. We can’t seem to find a way to become engaged. We just “are”. We’re stuck at the starting gate. Nothing moves us, nothing motivates us. We just “are”.

motivation not

This is a long way from the life that Jesus describes in the second half of John 10:10!!

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

The Abundant Life. You’ve no doubt heard about it. You’ve probably heard a sermon or two about it.  TV preachers talk incessantly about it. Book shelves are filled with volume after volume of authors who attempt to link prosperity with the Abundant Life. You know the ones:

  • The Laws of Prosperity
  • Blessed
  • Biblical Keys to Financial Prosperity
  • Christian Prosperity Secrets
  • The Prosperity Bible

OK, you get the point I’m sure. It seems there is no end to the amount of information out there about prosperity and the Christian. The world, and sad to say a great many preachers, says that living an Abundant Life means living a life of financial prosperity.

But that is NOT what Jesus was referring to when He spoke of the Abundant Life! Truth is, you can live an extraordinarily Abundant Life while being flat broke!

The Abundant Life is a life of meaning, purpose, contentment, joy, strength, and faith that culminates in eternal victory in Jesus Christ.

Now that’s an Abundant Life!

Of course, this does not mean that God doesn’t want us to be blessed and prosperous. Of course He does. What we have to ask ourselves however is what good does wealth and prosperity do us if we are miserable, unhappy, living in fear and doubt, and without hope?

Or what good does wealth and prosperity do us if we can’t get past the starting gate?

If you’re feeling like you are stuck at the starting gate, I have great news for you! The only thing keeping you there is YOU! The Gatekeeper is Jesus, and he has left the gate wide open for you to walk through and begin the journey of a lifetime!

The key to an Abundant Life is Jesus!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

Looking for God in all the wrong places…

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“He who dies with the most toys wins” in a quote attributed to Malcolm Forbes, a very wealthy man who amassed an incredible collection of homes, motorcycles, and other expensive ”toys”. It’s a quote I’ve heard many times, sometimes in jest, sometimes in earnest conversation.

In our consumer driven society, acquiring “toys” seems par for the course for most of us. Whatever your hobby, it seems as though their is an endless array of necessary choices one must purchase in order to reach a certain level of contentment.

Therein is the rub, of course. At what point in our lifetime do we reach that magical zone of contentment, where the never-ending quest for more “toys” has been fulfilled?

For some, such as the hoarders depicted in the popular TV show of the same name, contentment is as elusive as stumbling upon a long buried pirate’s treasure chest.

In reality, the wealthy and affluent are not much different. The major difference, if any, would be the quality and cost of the ever growing mountain of “stuff” they accumulate.

What drives us to seek fulfillment and contentment in “things”?

I’ve read a number of scholarly papers and articles on this subject, and there are many different opinions cited as the answer to this question.

No surprise there, is there?

Yet when we take a look at the Scriptures, there seems to be a very logical reason for this type of behavior.

We are looking for God in all the wrong places.

Void of God’s presence in our lives we feel incomplete, unsatisfied, and altogether inadequate. Because the bonds that tie us together with God have been severed by sin, we seek out other ways to replace the spiritual void within us.

So we try anything and everything to fill the emptiness. Except for God, of course.

There is a very real danger in trying to replace God with “stuff”. In fact, Jesus told us to have our guard up against trying to replace the missing relationship we are designed to have with God.

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”    ‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Being constantly bombarded with ads for the newest car,boat,motorcycle or jewelry, one would think that it truly was a matter of “he who dies with most toys wins”.

Jesus shows us the fallacy of such a mindset. It isn’t about what you accumulate in this life that matters most.

What matters most in this life is allowing Christ to fill that void created by our broken relationship with Him.

Where are you looking today to find fulfillment and contentment in life? Is every room in your home jammed to the rafters with inanimate things?

If this describes you, it’s time to stop looking for God in all the wrong places.

You would be amazed to learn that He is nearer than you think!

Be blessed,

Ron

ear tickled

Looking for something to brag about?

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I was listening to someone today sing a song when they mentioned that it wouldn’t matter to them if they lost everything as long as they had Jesus. I thought that was a noble thing to say,and I really do hope they meant it.

I hope all of us would feel this way,especially since an ever increasing number of Christians are experiencing exactly that across this world.

For me the song made me stop and think hard about that particular statement. Would it matter to me if I lost everything except Jesus? My honest answer is yes,it would matter a great deal to me.

Shocked? Disappointed? You shouldn’t be, because if you’re anything at all like the average American,you love stuff as much as I do. And if I can go one step further while I’m being honest, I am learning that I love stuff far more than I should.

I do not fancy myself a Biblical scholar,and while I have studied the Word for close to forty years now,it is increasingly evident that I must have slept through this part from the Apostle Paul:

I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content — whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:12-13‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

The King James Version translate those verses to say that Paul had learned to be content in whatever state he found himself.Using these two verses as a measuring stick,it is apparent that I have a ways to go.How about you?

I love also that as great a man of God that Paul was,he still remained humble before the Lord. Though he had reached that place of contentment that so many of us struggle to attain,he had this to say regarding his position in Christ:

But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world. For both circumcision and uncircumcision mean nothing; what matters instead is a new creation.
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:12-15‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

Amazing isn’t it,what happens to a man who holds nothing back,but completely gives his life to God.He had it all at one time, respect of his peers,wealth and prestige beyond his fellow teachers.It was only after Jesus met him on a dusty road that he began to realize that he possessed nothing of real value.

If you’ve ever bragged on your own abilities,ever thought that you were smarter or knew best,or even once thought yourself just a little superior to those around you,just remember this man named Paul.A man that was taken up to the third heaven and heard things that are not lawful for  man to hear.A man that wrote most of the New Testament.

His boast was in the cross of the Master.All that the world could offer him meant nothing because he had died to the pride of life and the lust of the flesh. What mattered to this man of God was seeing the lost repent and come to Jesus.

Oh God,let this be MY prayer from this day forward.

If you have a few moments,give this song a listen. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

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