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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.

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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

 

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Our greatest ability must be our availability

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Have you ever noticed how that some of us Christians seem to have a need to be recognized? You know the type I’m sure.    We drop subtle hints about the level of our giving, or we imply that we are at a different level than others by saying “God told me”.

We  toss around the names of well-known preachers as though we have full access to them, when in reality we buy their latest DVD series and attend a conference or two. I guess the monthly email we receive is somewhat akin to full access?

Contrast this mindset with the teachings of scripture, and you will see a problem with how highly many of us think of ourselves, and how far off track we’ve gotten. For example:

And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.  Matthew 23:12 (NKJV)

Jesus leaves no room for discussion on the matter of pride and self-indulgence. If we set ourselves up to be better than others, make no mistake about it, we will be humbled. In case you haven’t experienced it yet…stick around, life has a way of humbling the proud.

Right here is where you can say Amen!

The same goes for those of us who deem ourselves spirituality superior to others. We who boast of being blessed, did this blessing come about from the sacrifices of others? Are we living high off of the widows mite?

Or what about those of us who believe we have been given an “inside track” to some previously unrevealed bit of biblical knowledge? Christendom has plenty of teachers who are puffed up, believing they have received a special revelation from on High.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,   I Peter 5:6 (NKJV)

My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad.   Psalms 34:2 (NKJV)

Scripture could not be clearer. We are not to think more highly of ourselves than we should. It is God who exalts, who raises us up. If we are to brag, or boast on anyone it must be the Lord Jesus!

Let’s be real here, shall we? Out thinly veiled attempts to disguise the fact that we want to be the recipient of adoration and praise are easily seen through. Besides, while we can fool men, we cannot fool God. He knows our motives, of this we can be sure.

The Christian life was never meant to be one of pride and arrogance, but of service from a humble heart. What we the Church have done with Christ’s instruction in Mark 10:43   “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.“….is an offence to a Holy God.      emphasis mine

Our task, our mission, indeed our greatest act of Christian service, is simply to make ourselves available to God so that we might be used of Him to reach a lost soul.

This requires a servant’s heart on our part. It requires us to think less of ourselves and more about others. Basically, it requires us to conform to God’s Word, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and to separate ourselves from the mindset that says “it’s all about me”.

Our greatest ability is not how well we sing. I believe God would rather hear the birds singing their heavenly song than the most popular Christian singer around.

Our greatest ability is not in how well we preach. I believe God gets greater joy out of his children extending grace and mercy to others, from being the hands and feet of Jesus, than from any sermon preached by Graham, Spurgeon, or Whited.

Our greatest ability is not in how much knowledge we accumulate during our short time on this earth. I believe the Lord revels in our childlike faith and dependence upon Him more than an education from the most prestigious university.

Our greatest ability lies in our availability, in our willingness to say “send me Lord, for I am making myself available for your will and for your service”.

My prayer is that we will take this matter to heart, that we might pause long enough to ask ourselves how available we are to Him. To ask ourselves if we fully understand that this life isn’t about us, but about positioning ourselves as humble servants so that we may serve others.

After all, it’s not our church. It belongs to Him.

Be blessed on this Lords day,

Ron

 

It’s not the size of the gift…

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It’s funny, in an odd sort of way, how we Christians try to impress the Creator. As if we mortals could do such a thing. Sometimes it seems as though our positions, titles, and degrees have gone to our heads to the extent that we actually believe God is fortunate to have us.

Do you suppose the Almighty notices how many letters follow our names? Or what prestigious school we graduated from? Or how many Facebook “friends” we have? Thankfully, we serve a God whose ways are “higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).

I personally believe it would take a lot more than that to impress God!

Of course, there are other ways we common ordinary types try to impress the Lord. Take giving, for example. I’ve known people who go out of their way to make sure others know how generous they are with their church giving. Jesus had a thing or two to say about those folks (Matt. 6:4).

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Contrary to what some would have you believe however, its really not the size of the gift that matters to God. Take this familiar story for example:

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said,“Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God,but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.””    Luke 21:1-4

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When the poor widow gave her two mites, or the equivalent of less than a penny, Jesus said that she had given much more than the rich people who had given large sums of money. How is this possible?

The rich gave of their great abundance. They had money to spare. What they gave would never be missed. Their gift required no real sacrifice on their part. I see this played out today as I read about the ultra wealthy and their giving in the local newspaper near my home.

Someone will give a million dollars to a charitable cause, and at first glance it sounds almost unbelievable. That is until you realize that the person making the donation lives in a twenty five million dollar home, and likely has several such residences around the world. This is giving from their abundance.

Not making any judgements here, just offering it up for perspective. I’m pretty sure we’d all like to be in that situation!

The poor widow,on the other hand, though she gave little,gave out of the abundance of her heart what to her amounted to a great sacrifice. Her little offering was all she possessed. Yet she gave it all,holding nothing back.

You could say she was a sacrificial giver, but I think it goes beyond that. Her giving spoke volumes about her priorities. Her priority was to participate in the offering being collected for the treasury. In other words, she was not to be denied this opportunity to worship.

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The Bible doesn’t speak to this, but have you ever wondered if she hesitated in turning loose of those coins? She knew it was all she had, and no doubt it would be some time before she had two coins to rub together again. So it may have been a natural thing to hesitate in participating in this offering, especially if she had children to support.

Even though the above scenario sounds plausible, I don’t believe she hesitated for a second when she came to this offering. Again, this poor woman came to participate, not be a bystander.

For you see, that’s what worshipers do…..they actively participate, even if it means giving out of extreme circumstances, and they do it cheerfully (II Cor. 9:7)!!

No, it’s not the size of the gift that matters to God, but the size of the giver’s heart.

Giving to impress our Lord is pure folly, yet giving out of the abundance of our hearts is a sweet smelling sacrifice to Him.

Have a great day of worship!

Ron

A Matter of the Heart

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Heart Disease

Did you know that about 610,000 people die each year from heart disease? Or that 25% of deaths in the U.S. are attributed to heart disease? Add to these staggering numbers the fact that about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack each year.  Statistical source: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/statistics.htm

Unhealthy eating and drinking, lack of exercise, and stress are all major contributors to heart disease. We all know this, yet somehow we continue to justify our unhealthy lifestyles. Too busy, too tired, too whatever.

With these kinds of numbers it’s getting harder to find any family that has not been impacted in some way by heart disease. My own family, for example, has a long history of heart disease. Maybe yours does as well?

My father, older brother, all of my uncles, and even my mother has succumbed to this dreaded disease. Unfortunately, I too am being forced to deal with this monster.

As one who has this condition, I am always interested in learning about the latest procedures and techniques for dealing with heart disease. Suffice it to say that in the past 20 years, incredible advancements have been made in the treatment and diagnosis of this disease, all leading to healthier,longer,and more productive lives for the patient.

What a wonderful time we live in that doctors possess such incredible knowledge and amazing technology with which to work, and all of us are the beneficiaries of these advancements.

There is, however, a far more sinister type of heart disease that no doctor can cure. This type of heart disease strikes every person. It excludes no one, small or large, rich or poor, privileged or destitute. No one gets a pass.

What is this type of heart disease that is immune from the wonders of medical science?

SIN

That’s right. SIN is a heart condition, the outcome,or consequences of an inwardly rebellious heart. And it is consuming more lives on a daily basis than all other physical types of heart disease combined.

I won’t bore you with an endless array of statistics. Most are numb to them anyway, and it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ve heard it all before. Besides, as someone would surely say, how does one measure sin in the first place?

Of course, SIN cannot be measured, as in percentages and ratios. The aftermath of sin, however, can easily be calculated by the amount of human suffering left in its wake.

Take substance abuse for example. The following table gives a snapshot of self-induced human suffering in America that is almost beyond belief. Abuse of tobacco products, alcohol, and illegal drugs is astoundingly costly to our nation, exacting more than $740 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care.

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source: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics

One of the problems with the above information however, is that it attempts to “clean up” the damage by calling it abuse, rather than SIN. Substance abuse sounds so much better than SIN, doesn’t it? “Societal issues” is so much easier to stomach than SIN,would you agree?

By taking away that nasty word SIN, we eliminate the morality of it all. Besides, if we choose to use the word abuse instead of SIN, we are implying that the participants are somehow in charge, as in they alone choose to over indulge, or abuse.

It’s seemingly OK to indulge in the items listed in the table above, just don’t over indulge, or abuse them. Really?

Now let’s look at yet another heart issue that is taking a staggering toll on society.

The divorce rate in America currently stands at 40-50 %( depending upon which method of calculation is used-some cite a much lower rate). Irregardless, can any of us argue the point that divorce is primarily a heart issue? Specifically, a hardened heart issue with one or both parties?

What do you suppose is the price of divorce to America just in dollars? According to published reports, a conservative, minimum cost of $112 billion dollars annually is attributed to divorce in America.

And you ask, where does our money go?

We live in a fallen world, one that has been decimated by SIN, or outright rebellion against God. Things like substance abuse, divorce, crime, and the like are not however the causes of SIN. They are merely the output of an unregenerate,or unrepentant heart.

While medical science is not equipped to treat SIN or it’s contributing factors as they relate to the heart, I know Someone who can. His name is Jesus, and He has the antidote for every unregenerate, unrepentant heart.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.   Psalms 51:10

What would happen if all over America, millions of professing Christians were to pray that simple prayer that David prayed after he had been confronted of his sin? I believe we would see a dramatic reduction in SIN (or abuses if that makes you feel better) and a dramatic increase in love for one another.

Our SIN induced heart issues,while untouchable by medical science, are the very reasons why Jesus came to this earth in the first place.

When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.   Mark 2:17

Looking for a solution to your “matters of the heart”?  Look no further than Jesus my friend. He alone has the antidote for all of our heart issues.

Be blessed,

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

 

Let it go

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Sometimes, you just have to let it go and simply trust.

Trust that Someone much bigger than you has it under control.

For most of us, there aren’t too many things more difficult than that.

We just aren’t wired that way. Instead, we’re a people who have to maintain control of the situation.

If you are a get it done, whatever it takes type of person, letting go and putting your faith in,well, faith, is not easy.

 

Yet this is exactly what God asks of us. He asks that we step back and allow Him to take control of our situations.

That thing that we insist upon having…control….He asks us to relinquish it to Him.

As difficult as that can be, what makes it possible is something that Jesus promised to us.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
‭‭John‬ ‭14:27‬ N‭KJV‬‬

Words to live by.

Words of comfort and rest.

Words of assurance that in every situation, we are secure in His love.

Words that remind us that we can trust Him and let it go.

Be blessed!

Ron

Which is better,being perfect or being anointed?

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A week or so ago my wife and I were asked to sing a song at the new church we’ve been attending for the past few weeks. Being thrilled for the opportunity, we gladly accepted the Pastor’s invitation. We chose an older song that was both familiar to us and one that my wife thought would bless those in attendance.

After practicing the song a few times at home we were ready by the time the mid-week service rolled around on Wednesday. The only music was me on the guitar, and due to some issues with my guitar’s pickup I wasn’t able to amplify it but had to play through a microphone. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but in this case I was not able to hear it clearly while we were singing.guitar sunset

To make a long story short, I stumbled a few times both while singing and playing. The worst was when I tried to play and sing a particular note but because I couldn’t hear it well enough, my fingers went one way and my voice another. Huge embarrassment right there!

Anyway, we got through it and took our seats. Much to my great surprise a lady whom we didn’t know came to us and shared that that particular song was exactly what she needed to hear. Soon, others also expressed their appreciation for our heartfelt song.

Meanwhile, in musicministry-v3spite of all the wonderful comments, yours truly was none too happy over his poor performance. Which brings me to the thought behind this post.

I beat myself up for several days because I was embarrassed at not hitting the right notes, so much so that the resident Princess reminded me that being perfect seemed to be more important to me than ministering to someone’s need.

Ummm…OUCH!

I knew exactly what she was getting at. Rather than permitting the Lord to work through us to minister to a hurting heart, imperfect as our song was, I wanted instead to display perfection in our capabilities. Did you get that…OUR capabilities?

Now, don’t get me wrong,  I believe we should do our best no matter what avenue of ministry we’re working in. To be sure, our version of the song that night would not win any contests, but what it lacked in perfection, it made up for that in that it touched someone’s heart.

When you get right down to it, isn’t that what ministry does? It reaches the heart and does the work of the Holy Spirit, a work that we ourselves cannot do. It is only when we yield ourselves to the Spirit that He is able to accomplish what needs to be done.The-Ministry-of-the-Holy-Spirit

All of us have been called to minister in one way or another. In fact, Peter tells us that “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God“.   1 Peter 4:10

My prayer is that I will get out of His way and permit Him to do what He knows needs to be done. If that involves a sour note or two, what does it matter so long as the end result is someone being strengthened in their walk with the Lord?

Have a blessed day!

Ron

 

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