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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

 

Why Thanksgiving is my Favorite Holiday

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Thanksgiving

Just saying the word conjures up special images and memories for each of us.

Turkey and dressing. Pumpkin pie and Pilgrims. Football and family. Tryptophan and nap time.

In our home it goes without saying that Thanksgiving Day is my favorite holiday. My wife Debbie is an amazing cook, and usually Wednesday evening will find me getting anxious to smell the wonderful things she will prepare for our family. As always, we will have turkey and all the trimmings along with just about anything else one would expect to see at a Thanksgiving feast. Come to think of it, I believe I’ve already asked her 3 or 4 times if she has everything in the house for the big day.

Of course, she teases me that the only reason I like Thanksgiving so much is because I love all the great food on our table. I’ll admit to the food being a very special part of the day, but there’s much more to it than that for me.

Thanksgiving is a Heart Thing

As a young boy growing up in rural Ohio, Thanksgiving was a time for family. My family would spend days in preparation, making sure of every detail, right down to drying the bread for my mom’s stuffing. Once the big day arrived, our home would be packed with relatives who had made the journey from as far away as 50 miles (no small sacrifice in the early 60’s).

All my aunts and uncles, cousins, and even people who I had never heard of before would gather in our home. No one even thought of watching TV, even though if the weather cooperated we could bring in two and a half channels. No, Thanksgiving was for catching up on each others lives around our huge dinner table.

Instead, all of us kids would be sent to play outside until it was time for dinner, which gave me the opportunity to show off to my city cousins a life they didn’t know existed.

For instance, we used to stand corn stalks up to make what is called a corn shock. These were made in the shape of a teepee and were wonderful hiding places from my girl cousins (and annoying sisters).

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From there I would take them on an adventure that rivaled any zoo they had ever seen. At our home we had cows, pigs, and chickens, none of which my city cousins had ever seen up close and personal. Boy, my cousins sure seemed to scare easily when they would hear a made-up story of how dangerous those animals were.

Back then, the men in my family always went hunting in the morning, returning just in time to eat dinner. How well I remember when I was deemed old enough to tag along with them. I had no gun, but it didn’t matter a bit because I got to be with my dad and uncles.

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When at long last my mom would announce that dinner was ready, we would all head towards the kitchen. Since there were so many of us, the grownups would fix our plates and we would then sit at the “little table”.

I really disliked those little card tables because the only people sitting there were us kids, and all of us knew that the “big table” was the place to be. I remember every year asking if this was the year I finally got to sit at the big table. I got used to being told “NO”, but still I had to ask.

I can still see what had to have been the biggest turkey in the store resting on a huge platter. Spilling all around it was the stuffing that we had prepared all that dried bread for. A gigantic bowl of mashed potatoes, along with an even larger bowl of chicken and dumplings sat on one end of the table. Bowls of green beans, cranberries, gravy, and other yummy things I can no longer remember filled the rest of the table.

I can remember eating so much food that my relatives would tease me that I was going to blow up. I didn’t care because being a skinny kid I could eat as much of anything I wanted and never gain a pound (oh for those days!).

After we had finished eating our dinner it was time for dessert, and I’m here to tell you that I could eat some dessert, especially my aunt Laura’s chocolate pie. I can remember there being apple pies, peach pies, blackberry cobbler, raisin pie (my dad’s favorite), and of course aunt Laura’s chocolate pie.

Those wonderful memories are tucked safely away in my mind. Those carefree days of family and friends are never far from me, and at this time of the year I think of them often. Though the years have created separation and distance in my childhood family, those are some of the best years of my life.

I regret not having had the opportunity to enjoy more of those years, but as fate would have it my dad passed away when I was 12 years of age, and for all intents and purposes life was never the same after that. Therefore, those memories are indeed precious to me.

Today, of course, things are much different. Thanksgiving is largely thought of as a day off from work and the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. What a shame, because in the rush to buy someone something a lot of memories are not being made around the Thanksgiving dinner table.

It goes without saying that I am one of those that has a really hard time with seeing Christmas trees showing up in October, and as we get later and later into November the inevitable deluge of advertisements for Black Friday start showing up, as if we needed one thousand reminders a day.

Around my house I’ll be the one asking a hundred times “wait…what about Thanksgiving? Why doesn’t anyone think of Thanksgiving like they used to? Why is it so hard for us to celebrate the idea of thankfulness”?

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So, while I am grateful for the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians celebrating the very 1st Thanksgiving way back in 1621, I can’t say that it was that event that sparked my love for Thanksgiving.

Neither was the Congressional resolution that resulted in President George Washington proclaiming Thursday, the 26th of November 1789 a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer” instrumental in instilling my love for Thanksgiving.

Even President Abraham Lincoln, who declared in 1863 that the last Thursday in November would become a federal holiday and a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens” isn’t responsible for my fondness of all things Thanksgiving.

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While all those events are important in our nation’s history, the real reason that I love Thanksgiving is because in my mind I get to be that kid again. I get to be surrounded by the people who mean the world to me, and I get to add more memories to an already overflowing basket of thankfulness and gratitude gifted me by our Lord.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

There really is an answer

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As we approach this particular Christmas season, I am more thankful than ever that my hope is found in the Lord Jesus instead of man. Today, what should be the happiest, most thankful and appreciative time of the year, sadly has been polluted with an endless stream of negativity from across America.

Instead of messages of hope, encouragement, and gratitude, which the people are desperate to hear, what we are getting instead is commentary and dialogue filled with hate, vengeance, and vitriol of every imaginable type.

Seriously, is there any wonder that so many have given up hope, or are on the brink of throwing in the towel? What we are being inundated with is EXACTLY why the Apostle Paul said this:

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  Colossians 3:2

In other words, Paul is telling us to focus our attention on those things that are eternal, not on those things that will one day pass away. And yes, the day is fast approaching when whatever is not anchored in God will be destroyed.

When I hear the TV commentators’ rail on and on about this or that, I sometimes shake my head in disbelief. How incredibly foolish it is to allow yourself to become so angry, even to the point of violence, over something that has no eternal value!

According to the Bible, there is coming a day when governments will no longer exist. No Democrats, no Republicans, no Independents, nothing. When Jesus comes again, he alone will rule, and he will be a party of One.

If only there was a way for this world to take a step back, take a deep breath, and rejoice for the blessings we do have!

The entire world should be rejoicing today because we are about to celebrate the birth of the Son of God. A birth like none other before or after. A birth that ultimately paved the way to reconciliation between God and man.

If that doesn’t get you fired up for Jesus, I don’t know what will!

I have no reason to succumb to hate today. I have no reason to be overwhelmed by the ills of society. I am not living as one in despair of tomorrow. The things of this earth have zero impact on my eternal destiny!

Because of Jesus Christ I am a new creature in Him. The old man has passed into oblivion, and a new man has risen to take his place. This is the message that the world needs to hear!

Since man’s fall in the Garden, he has lived a life far short of what his Creator intended for him to live. Because of that original sin, the world today bears the burden of rejecting God.

Yet the Good news, no, the Great News is that there really is an answer to the sin that plagues society.

That answer appeared two thousand years ago in a little town called Bethlehem, just six miles south of Jerusalem. That is where God sent the antidote for sin.

May we once again fix our eyes on that brightest of all stars, because just as that star led the wise men to the baby Jesus, it also serves as the answer for all of man’s problems today. There is a reason that the phrase “Jesus is the reason for the season” is so impactful.

It’s because He and He alone is the answer!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

Four reasons to avoid the Vortex of Negativity

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Most of us have seen a Vortex before, whether in person or on the news. A Vortex is easily identified by a swirling mass of air or water, such as in a tornado or cyclone. Here in Florida these are also found in waterspouts.

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No matter the type of Vortex, they all share at least two things in common:  1) if you get too close to one it will literally suck you into it, and 2) it will always leave a path of destruction in its wake.

Additionally, there is no escape from it unless it releases you from its deadly power. Even then, the end result will not be pleasant.

There is however another form of Vortex, perhaps more damaging than all those previously listed. It’s what I call the human “Vortex of Negativity”, and once it has you in its grip it will literally suck the life out of you. Here are four reasons why you should avoid it at all costs.

No.1 It will steal your Joy…Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, did you know that? But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Galatians 5:22).

If you have been around joyless people for even a few minutes you know how they can rob you of your joy. Many of us struggle with this. We’re happy, and then we’re not.

Joy killers are subtle; they rarely show up with sirens blazing, seeking instead to peck away at our joy in anonymity. Before you even know it’s happened, you find yourself struggling to find joy in anything because your joy has been stolen from you!

No.2 It will steal your Gratitude…A grateful heart is a thankful heart, one that will show up in our attitude. Paul, that great Apostle, understood the importance of thankfulness when he said that “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18).  In his song of thanksgiving upon recovering the Ark of the Covenant, David said “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever“(1 Chronicles 16:34).

The Vortex of Negativity is thankful for nothing, but rather seeks out the things that have not gone our way and focuses instead on what could have/should have been.

This Vortex is particularly dangerous because it will retard our growth and leave us to wallow in defeat. People who are ungrateful, especially Christians, are also some of the meanest people around. And yes, they are infectious.

No.3 It will steal your Confidence…When we have lost our confidence we begin to flounder. We are tossed to and fro seemingly adrift on the seas of life with no real purpose. We become double minded, unable to press forward with purpose.

This is not how God created you. An oft quoted scripture from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah tell us “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope“(Jer. 29:11). The Vortex of Negativity wants to hide from us the promise of God and instead get us to focus on what we ourselves can do. This, of course, is never enough to satisfy.

No.4 It will steal the life God has appointed you to…We are called and chosen to live a fulfilling and complete life. Jesus described it this way: “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“(John 10:10).

The Vortex of Negativity is a thief bent on stealing, killing, and destroying our lives one piece at a time until the notion of an abundant life is nothing more than a fairy tale.

The devil would like nothing more than to get our focus off of God’s plan for our lives so that he can then offer us an alternative. Without fail, the alternative he presents to us will lead us down the path of destruction. How could it not, when Jesus has already told us what the enemy’s motives are?

The “Vortex of Negativity” is a powerful force that works against us in many ways. Whether it’s to steal our joy, our gratitude, our confidence, or even the very life God has planned for us, this cocktail of negativity is the enemy’s design for your ultimate destruction.

But I have Good News this day! Your Bible declares that “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord.    Isaiah 54:17

No weapon, no device, no Vortex of Negativity that the enemy tries to destroy you with can prosper.

This is your heritage as a child of God!

 

 

 

 

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.

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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

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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!

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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