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How Good Do We Have to Be?

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This is the title of a book written by Harold S. Kushner. Full disclaimer: before seeing this book on a shelf along with several other used books, I had never heard of either the author or the book, therefore I have no idea of its contents.

What intrigued me about it however was the title, because this is THE question that people have been asking for thousands of years.

Just how much do I have to do, and how good is good enough to make it into heaven?

We all know that the underlying belief system for many people is one based upon works. If you’re a good enough person, meaning that at the end of your life your good deeds outweigh the bad, that’s all that’s required to gain entrance into heaven.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard this all of your life. That’s how pervasive this belief is.

So, is it possible to be ‘good enough’?  If so, how exactly do you measure what ‘good enough’ is? Is there a sliding scale or barometer of ‘good’? Has the criteria for ‘good enough’ been made available to us all?

For the answer to those  questions, let’s go to the official source of information for understanding heaven’s entry fee: God’s Word.

The Psalmist declared that there were none that were good. Not even one!

The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.   Psalm 14:2,3

Jesus, in response to the question of “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”, said “Why do you call me good? there is none good but one, that is, God…”  Matthew 19:16,17

The man that asked Jesus this question was very wealthy, and believed (like many of us) that the key to inheriting eternal life was found in the word ‘good’. He likely thought he could donate a sum of money or possessions, or that by doing a “good thing” it would ensure him entry into heaven.

Unfortunately for this man (and billions like him), the scriptures are clear that any priority placed on ‘good’ is misplaced. That is because ‘good’ as defined by man is never going to be ‘good enough’.

That is why Jesus said that there is no one good, but God.

In other words, apart from God man can never be ‘good enough’ to inherit heaven. If he could, there would have been no need for Jesus to come and offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Indeed, He has died in vain if we ourselves could somehow be ‘good enough’.

If your church or denomination teaches you that God will accept you because of your good works, you are sitting under deception. God will only accept you because he sees that your sins have been covered by the blood of his only Son.

If we were to humble our hearts and really think about it, is there really anything within us that is good, except for the Lord himself? For me personally, I know that the answer to that is NO!

Any good found within me has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with Him!

How about you?

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

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America: a very dangerous place to be a child

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What does it say about a nation that abuses its children?

America has a long, sad history of abusing it’s most helpless and defenseless citizens. In the early 1900’s for example, when America was rapidly moving away from being primarily a farm economy to the age of industrialization, it quickly became apparent that there was a shortage of available industrial manpower.

So eager was this new industrial manufacturing economy for workers, that very soon the nation’s children began supplying a lot of the labor necessary to drive the engines of progress. With virtually no child labor laws to protect them, these children worked long hours in very dangerous occupations.

Children could be found working in coal mines, textile mills, tobacco farms, even selling newspapers on the streets. Deprived of sleep and proper nutrition, many children were pulled into machinery and mutilated, all in the name of ‘progress’.

child labor 1

Children working in a Georgia textile mill. Photographed by Lewis Hine (Library of Congress)

It wasn’t until 1938 that The Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal law that would prohibit most employment of minors, was passed. Even then many employers were reluctant to give up this lucrative source of cheap labor, often hiding from regulators any incriminating documentation.

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The “breaker boys” at a Pennsylvania coal mine, photographed by Lewis Hine in 1911. (Library of Congress)

Thankfully, for the most part, those days are gone and have been relegated to a place in the history of our nation. Children today benefit from the many labor laws that have been enacted to protect them, for which we should all be grateful.

Tragically, however, our children are now being subjected to many new kinds of abuse.

According to the web site love our children usa, each year, upwards of over 3 million children are reported as victims of physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, and death – and those are only the ones that are reported!

Incredibly, violence and neglect against children is reported nearly every 10 seconds. And because so many cases of child violence and neglect are never reported to the authorities, some estimates put the actual number of abused children at 3 times greater than what is actually reported.

If you’re counting along with me, that’s 9 million children a year!

What does it say about a nation that abuses its children?

Well, I know what God’s Word says about children, and it is a far cry from the exploitation and abuse being heaped upon them in this generation.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.    Psalm 127:3

As unbelievable as it may be, there is still one more aspect of child abuse that must be considered. In spite of the child labor laws that were enacted to protect our youngest workers, there is still a class of citizens who have no laws to protect them.

On the contrary, we actually enacted laws to destroy them. Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, over 60 million children,the most defenseless of all, have been destroyed while in their mothers womb.

“The fruit of the womb is a reward”?

One could make the case for the womb being the most dangerous place for a child to be in today’s America.

Ron

Substitute Preacher…

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As I mentioned in my last post, this past week I have been filling in for my Pastor, who is taking a few days off for some much needed rest.

Since we have both Wednesday evening and Sunday morning services at our church, I needed to prepare two different messages, and when you add in hospital visitation it was a busy week.

Well, not that busy, but busier than what has become my new normal since retirement.; )

If you’ve never done something like this, it is both exhilarating and somewhat frightening, especially if you’ve been “out of the saddle” for awhile. It also helps a great deal to know that there are people praying for you, and I sincerely appreciate those of you who lift me up in prayer.

A lot of prayer and study time is necessary to deliver God’s word effectively, at least that’s how it is for me. I understand that many ministers preach from a sermon outline they’ve purchased online, and many simply purchase an entire sermon series which they then tweak to fit their needs.

I decided long ago however that I could not do it this way, preferring instead to spend time in the Word and in prayer in order to hear from the Lord as to what He would have me to deliver to the congregation.

This is not something I take lightly, and I approach it as if the Lord Himself were listening. Which, of course, He is.

As it turned out, it was well worth the effort, and I am happy to report that both messages were received with a lot of sincere enthusiasm, and many reported to be encouraged and strengthened.

I count it a privilege to be able to pray with people who have been broken by the cares of this life. Hearing them pour out their hearts to God, and to be able to pray and weep with them is an honor I do not take lightly.

It is humbling to be reminded that the Lord will still use a willing vessel, and I am thankful for the drive and passion for ministry He has instilled in me.

Sensing the presence of God was just icing on the cake, and that makes it all worthwhile for me.

Have a great Monday everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

What are you settling for?

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God has called us to live an Abundant Life, just as Jesus describes in John 10:10.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

I’m thinking that we are settling for far less than an Abundant Life, especially as Christians, the Body of Christ. For example…

By all appearances, we are content to go to church, listen to a few songs, settle in for a nice sermon that was designed to make us feel better about ourselves, then head quickly for the door in order to get a seat at our favorite restaurant.

Mediocrity Green Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds, Sun Rays and Sky.Content to leave exactly as we came.

Content to settle for yet another dry, lifeless, powerless church service.

 

The only thing worse than this is doing it all over again.

Every

Single 

Week

Surely, the enemy of our souls is watching all of this, gleeful in that we have succumbed to the spirit of slumber. This, in spite of Paul’s warning to the church at Rome:

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” Rom. 13:11

This is what settling does to us. It allows complacency to overwhelm our senses to the point that we no longer are even aware of what we don’t have!

Our churches have all kinds of musical talent for example. From keyboards and guitars to drums and full orchestra’s. Music fills the rafters. Yet it’s one lifeless, cold, ritualistic note after another, void of any anointing that might sear the conscious or break through a heart hardened by sin.

So we settle. And we clap. And we sing. And we clap some more.

And leave exactly the same way we came.

We have learned to be OK with settling. In fact, settling is now normal.

Our ministers now have access to scriptural knowledge like at no other time in history. Thanks to the Internet, entire volumes of reference materials are at our fingertips. Huge libraries containing thousands of works published by sold out men and women of God are accessible via a click of a computer mouse.

Yet for all of this available knowledge and wisdom, what we are presented on Sunday mornings are short sermonettes containing tidbits of scripture, but filled with stories about being a better you, or how to live your best life. To more than a few, this is a great time to take a nap!

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charleyreeb.com

These sermonnettes are nothing more than pulpit cheer-leading. They prompt us to feel the “rah rah rah” of the moment, but cannot prevent the euphoria from draining away when life suddenly interrupts our version of “churchianity”.

For that, we need the whole counsel of the meat of God’s Word.

Do you want to know the secret to living your best life, and how to be a better you? The secret is to die daily. That’s right, draw nigh to God and in the process you will crucify this flesh that demands more and more of the pleasures of this world.

Would it shock you to learn that God isn’t the least bit interested in whether or not you are living your best life? Would it surprise you to learn that what He is really interested in is that you submit your entire life to Him?

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Matthew 6:33

Give Him all of you FIRST, then the things you desire will come. Anything less than this is settling. Yes, seeking the kingdom of God first is a costly endeavor. It will cost you your WILL.

Nothing worth having is free, nor does it come easy. The rewards however, are priceless.

Why then do we settle for less than the Abundant Life Jesus spoke of?

What exactly are you settling for?

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

5 reasons why I don’t fear the future

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The daily barrage of  political upheaval, North Korean saber rattling, “end of the world proclaiming” Eclipse watchers, frequent terrorist attacks, and America’s insatiable appetite for anything that pleases the flesh has left many Christians wondering if it’s time to head for the hills and await the second coming.

I can understand why those who are not Christians would think this way. After all, they have placed their trust and hope in governments, science, military protection and the like, all of which offer little solace in the face of a continual sense of crisis.

For the Christian however, none of these things should move us. Should we be concerned at the magnitude of evil we are confronted with on a daily basis? Of course we should, we are human after all. Yet there is a huge difference between normal concern about the things going on around us and outright fear.

With all that said, I thought I would list five reasons (in no particular order) why I don’t fear the future.

1. My hope is not in this present world, but in a world where there exists a new heaven and a new earth.  “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”    II Peter‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭

2. Jesus has given us a clear road map of upcoming events, therefore nothing should surprise us.  Read Matthew 24 in its entirety. Then read it again.

3. Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.  “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world“.   1 John 4:4

4. God has a plan for my life. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end“.  Jer. 29:11

5. God has me in the palm of His hand.   “The LORD is on my side;I will not fear.
What can man do to me?”   Psalms 118:6

So there you have it. Five simple reasons why I can lay my head down at night and not worry. I trust that everyone reading this can say the same thing.

For all of us who claim Christ as our Lord, we have a decision to make: either we believe God’s word is true or we don’t.

No fence sitting allowed!

Have a blessed day!

Ron