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Is there a mountain in your life that needs removed?

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Have you ever driven through the mountains? If you have, you have no doubt marveled at how the road was seemingly carved out of solid rock.

It’s interesting to see how the engineers overcame certain obstacles in the building of these roads. Some roads go right through the mountain in elaborately constructed tunnels, while others wind all the way around the outside of the mountain.

However the method, one thing is certain: it took a lot of very hard work to move that mountain in order to construct safe roadways in its place.

Much like those roadways, all of us have mountains in our lives that serve as giant obstacles to us. These mountains come in many shapes and sizes, and all of them have one thing in common: they are in our way, and we must find a way around them.

Fortunately for us, Jesus gave His disciples an important lesson in removing these mountains from their lives.

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.    Mark 11:22-24

Knowing that we are children of faith, all of us can say that we have been given a certain measure of faith. Understanding this, it should be easy enough to follow Jesus’ instructions, agree?

Except that when we look at our own circumstances in light of the verses above, we question just what kind of faith we actually have. After all, Jesus makes it sound pretty easy, doesn’t he? Just say the words and POOF!, it’s done!

Yet when we say to our own mountain “be removed”, it doesn’t budge. What gives?

The key to understanding this is when Jesus says if we do not doubt in our hearts, we shall have what we ask.

Talk about a mountain! DOUBT is the biggest mountain in all of our lives. Well, at least it is in my life. If we are to have the faith to remove these mountains from our lives, DOUBT has to go.

How do we accomplish this?

The answer my friends is found in our hearts. The only way to remove the mountains from our lives is to assume a fighting position, and for a Christian that means to humble our heart before God and pray.

You see, it is only when we pray that we bring God into the battle. Merely reciting a repeat after me prayer that someone else prayed is not believing in your heart.

This must be personal!

I have found that having ‘mountain moving faith’ is a process. A very long and arduous process. It’s a process built upon one small victory after another until eventually you have the faith to say to those mountains in your life “be removed”, and they will obey you.

If you have a mountain in your life that needs to be removed, I suggest the starting point is simply humbling our heart before the Lord.

Self needs to disappear into the background, while the Lord needs to come to the forefront. When we are diminished, He is exalted. Less of us…more of Him.

That is the foundation of ‘mountain moving faith’. When we build upon it daily, we will begin to see those impassable mountains begin to crumble before our eyes.

Have a blessed day!

Ron

 

 

 

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When Religion Takes Priority Over Ministry

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Unless you live in a bubble, a cave, or in a penthouse surrounded by opulence, you cannot help but see the misery of suffering humanity all around.  On the TV, on the sidewalks of your city, standing in line at a food bank, dialing the crisis hotline, misery and suffering are things this world has an abundance of.

But what if you don’t live in a bubble, a cave, or a penthouse and yet see nothing of the sufferings of humanity that are all around you? What then?

There is an old saying that goes something like this: “there is none so blind, as he who will not see”. The meaning of this is that there are people who willingly choose not to see by closing their minds and their hearts to their surroundings. [1]

Such are those in our day who are ‘religious’ in name only. They have the title but not the heart. They want the appearance of godliness but not the costs associated with it. To maintain appearances within the community they open their checkbooks, but never their hearts.

Jesus had a name for religious people like this. He called them hypocrites. Not a very flattering term, is it? And while it is easy to look at them with disdain, in all honesty, most of us would have to plead “guilty” to some degree of hypocrisy as well. Pretending to be something we’re not comes rather easily for us, does it not?

Jesus had an encounter one day with just such a person while teaching in the synagogue. Follow along with me as we find Him confronting the high priest on a certain Sabbath day.

Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.
And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up.
But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.”
And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”
The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?
“So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”
And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.   Luke 13:10-17

This story perfectly illustrates how religion separated from a relationship with Christ can become more important than ministry. The religious leader was concerned only with the letter of the Law, rather than the spirit of the Law. His strict interpretation was that no one should lift a finger to perform any type of work on the Sabbath Day, and in his view what Jesus did in healing the woman was work. Thus he was condemning Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.

Isn’t it amazing how ‘hard’ and uncaring religion can be? When it’s more important to follow your creed than it is to follow your heart, something is terribly wrong. When rigidly enforcing “the rules” takes precedence over serving others, we are out of step with our Savior.

For eighteen long years this woman had not been able to stand upright. Have you seen someone like this? I have seen several people in this condition, where their body was permanently affixed in a jackknife position. Some are so bad that their life has been condemned to staring at the floor because they can no longer look up. It is truly a horrible affliction. [2]

This is the situation that Jesus was confronted with that day in the synagogue, and I doubt He hesitated even for a moment to reach out to this woman. While everyone else came that day to hear the Law taught, Jesus had a divine appointment with someone in need of much more than words!

Did you notice how the high priest told Jesus that there were six other days in which to work? I guess he would have preferred that Jesus tell the woman to “come back tomorrow’ than for Him to heal her right then.

That’s another difference between religion and ministry. Religion doesn’t feel the pain of its adherents, rather it is more concerned that everyone fall in line and follow the established protocol. Real ministry feels the infirmities and sufferings of people, and does not wait around for prior approval to meet the need.

I love how Jesus turned the tables on the religious ruler by telling him if he had an animal that was thirsty, he would untie it and lead it to water on the Sabbath Day. By all accounts that too was ‘work’, so we see that the real issue here was not that Jesus was breaking the Law, but that this man’s religion was more important to him than ministering to the needy. In other words, this man had a ‘heart condition’ that would not permit him to offer comfort to the needy at the expense of his doctrine.

As Christians, this is not what we are to be. Knowing that Jesus came not for those who were whole, but for those that needed a physician, it stands to reason that such a mindset should be ours as well. [3]

As we gaze upon humanity with open hearts and minds, it is plain for all to see that people are imprisoned by sin, sickness, addictions of every sort, and are in distress and great need.

Our world is quickly losing its capacity to exhibit mercy and compassion, and is becoming insensitive to the plight of others. Additionally, we seem to have an insatiable appetite for gore, violence, and immorality. Such is the cost of a society that has rejected God.

May it not be said of us that we looked, but did not see. Rather, may it be said of us that we looked upon suffering humanity with the same eyes and heart that Jesus did.

After all, that is why we are here. Isn’t it?

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] This saying has been traced back to 1546, and has its origins in Jeremiah 5:21

[2] The affliction this woman had is known medically as Camptocormia, and is typically associated with another disease

[3] Scripture reference Mark 2:17

Calling evil good,and good evil

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Perhaps you have heard it said that things today are not what they appear to be. Maybe you’ve lived long enough to see the evolution of what used to clearly be either right or wrong now muddied to the point of uncertainty. You might have even noticed that what was once undeniably black or white has now been replaced with “fifty shades of gray”.

All of this is a result of man’s attempt to create a utopian society where he is god and master of his own destiny, where absolutes simply cannot be tolerated. Right or wrong are seen as relics of a people whose time has come and gone.

In their place has arisen a new code of conduct whereby a simple yes or no has been replaced with maybe. The position of absolute right or wrong has been declared extinct, giving rise to the more palatable position of undetermined.

What we are witnessing is man replaying one of the most insidious chapters in its history from Genesis 3:4, in what is commonly referred to as “The Fall” as recorded in the book of Genesis.

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”   Genesis 2:15-17

Here we see that the Creator has given clear, concise instructions to His highest creation. God did not use words like maybe or undetermined, but rather He specifically said “You Shall Not”, leaving exactly no wiggle room or uncertainty regarding His expectations.

Enter the adversary into the garden, knowing full well what God had said and what was meant by what He said. The enemy needed to do something about God’s clear instructions to Adam and Eve, because to do nothing would be to allow the relationship God had with man to blossom.

And that was something Satan could not tolerate.

So he came up with a plan to sow uncertainty in the hearts and minds of Adam and Eve. How would he do that? By insidiously twisting God’s Word to make what had previously been clearly understood as though it wasn’t clear at all.

Then the serpent said to the woman,You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  (Genesis 3:4)

With one seemingly innocent statement, the enemy of our souls planted doubt and uncertainty in Eve’s heart and mind, thus altering forever the relationship between God and man.

Good had become Evil, and Evil had become Good.

Now, if you’re thinking all of this is nonsense it is worth noting that history has seen this before. Try as we might to want to believe we are somehow enlightened to the point of discovering a new order of things, we are merely following in the footsteps of another nation that was also once the dominant power of the world.

In the book of Isaiah, chapter 5: 8-32, we see six “Woes”, or statements of judgement pronounced upon six types of sins.

  1. Greed
  2. Drunkeness
  3. Mockery of God’s power to righteously judge sin
  4. Distorting God’s moral standards
  5. Arrogance and Pride
  6. Perversion of justice

The distortion of God’s moral standards is called out in verse 20 of Isaiah chapter five.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Society today has chosen to retrace the steps of ancient Israel and Judah by exalting sin. How are we doing this? By calling perversion and immorality by another name. Today we refer to those sins as virtuous and freedoms of expression, while calling Godly righteousness evil or bigoted.

Sexual perversion is commonly known today as an alternative lifestyle, one that is openly accepted and applauded, while opponents of such conduct are labeled as haters and oppressors.

Pro abortion advocates are looked upon as caring people deeply committed to women’s rights, while pro life advocates are called extremists or religious fanatics.

Good has become Evil, and Evil has become Good.

So where is all of this leading us? I don’t have a crystal ball so I cannot predict the future. What I do possess however is God’s Word, and in it you will find a very clear description for where all of this is leading us.

Rather than me giving you the details, I urge everyone to read it for yourself and to become acquainted with what God has said is coming upon all the world. Here’s a hint though: read Paul’s letters to Timothy and to the Thessalonian church just for starters.

If you’re honest and open minded, you might be surprised to learn that none of this has taken the Lord by surprise. In fact, you will find that all of this perversion of justice has been foretold many times over in the Bible.

We are simply repeating the mistakes (sins) of those who have gone before us.

May God have mercy upon us is my heartfelt cry, even though we are undeserving of such.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

From a child’s perspective

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I recently had an enlightening conversation with a friend of mine, and as we were talking he told me about something interesting that occurred in his church’s Sunday school class.

Being one of the teachers of 1st thru 5th grade students, he frequently tells me about some of the things the kids say and do, and I must concur that “Kids Say the Darndest Things”.

On this particular Sunday morning, it seems the lesson was on “Worry”. The gist of the lesson was that each child was given a piece of paper with 15 words listed on it. All of the words involved things you might worry about as a child.

The kids were instructed to circle the five things they would be most worried about from the list that included:

  • the death of a friend or loved one
  • forgetting your homework
  • getting lost
  • fear of the dark
  • being hungry

As each student turned in their paper the teacher tallied the scores, and the results were somewhat surprising. The #1 selection was the death of a friend or loved one. This is understandable, considering the trauma of such an event.

What was very surprising however was that the 2nd most popular selection was being hungry. Especially intriguing is the fact that none of the kids in his class know what being hungry feels like!

How sad is it that little kids who have never missed a meal worry so much about going hungry? What exactly does this say about our society? What does this say about our priorities as a nation? Better yet…

What Would Jesus Do?

Then the little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them; and the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of heaven” belongs to such as these. And after He had placed His hands on them, He went on from there.…   Matthew 19:13-15

Children are precious in the eyes of the Lord. Is it because our adult eyes no longer acknowledge the Lord that we are blind to this fact?

As a nation, we have rejected God and His plan for right living. In its place we have chosen instead to be inundated with 24/7 images of adultery, drugs, murder, prostitution, greed, abuse, divorce, and every conceivable type of debauchery imaginable.

And our children are growing up in these same homes, listening, wondering, and worrying if one day they too will feel the pangs of hunger, if they haven’t already.

If I’m being honest here, I sometimes wonder about the seeds we adults have planted in the minds of our children. The horrible things that we have exposed them to must surely be an affront to God.

Little kids are smart, much smarter than we like to give them credit for, and they instinctively know when things aren’t right. Given the opportunity, how long do you think it would take our children to prioritize the hunger problem in America?

It’s a crying shame that we as adults don’t have the same heart as they do.

Ron

 

Why are we here?

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Christians, a.k.a. the Church. Why are we here? What is our purpose?

One would think the answer would be obvious, but is it? In Acts 2 we read “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

According to this verse, the purposes of the church are 1) doctrinal,biblical teaching, 2) creating an opportunity for the fellowship of believers, 3) observing the Lord’s supper, and 4) praying.

While all of this is true, it barely scratches the surface because the Church is so much more than that!

Paul gave an excellent illustration of this to the believers at Corinth. He taught them that the Church is to be the visible, living, hands, mouth, and feet of God in this world. In other words…the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). We are to be doing the very things that Jesus Christ would do if He were here physically on the earth.

We are to be replicating the work He already did. This is one of the greatest travesties of our day, that the Church is constantly trying to reinvent itself in order to become more relevant. The die has already been cast friends, we simply need to do what Jesus did.

The Church consists of ordinary people held together by an extraordinary God for the extraordinary purpose of revealing His heart to a lost world. Why is the church here? The answer is so that we can be Jesus to the world!

As individual members of the Church, we are tasked with asking ourselves “does this world know by our actions that we are the hands,mouth, and feet of God”?

Something to ponder on this warm, sunny December day!

Ron

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?

do-not-judge

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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.

do-not-judge-2

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Be blessed,

Ron

 

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

 

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