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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).

Giving

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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.

Tithes-And-Offering-Imporance-To-God-And-Business

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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

 

Encounters of the God Kind

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Have you ever had an encounter with someone that impacted your life so powerfully that you have never been the same?

Perhaps your spouse, a teacher, a famous person? How about a complete stranger?

My point is that we encounter all types of people along the way as we journey from here to there, and those encounters can be impactful both positively and negatively.

Reading the four Gospels, we find people of every social and economic class encountering Jesus. Rich young rulers, poor destitute beggars, religious leaders of various sects, even a tax collector or two thrown in for good measure. It seems Jesus was no stranger to any of them.

What I find so amazing about the encounters Jesus had with all of these people is that all of them share one commonality. That is, whenever anyone encountered Jesus, they never left the same way they came. In other words, their encounter with Jesus impacted them in ways that forever changed them.

Which brings me to the heart of the matter: if we have had an encounter with Jesus, how has it impacted our lives, how has it changed us for the good?

Those are powerful questions, aren’t they?

Recently, my wife shared an article with me that she happened upon which in essence declared “that because of grace, we are all a work in progress”.

The article further went on to make the case that when someone comes to faith in Christ it can take decades to weed out some of our bad habits and sins. Therefore, established Christians are not to think badly of, or look down upon these new converts that have yet to mature in their faith.

I find that I am in agreement with some of the points made in the article, and others I am in opposition to. For example:

I certainly do agree that we are all a work in progress. I know that I am!      Romans 3:23 tells us that “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Pretty safe to say that all includes each one of us, agree?

And no one could argue that our sanctification is a lifelong process in which God chips away at this veil of flesh every day, forming, molding, and shaping us into His likeness.

I also agree that we cannot sanitize grace. Let’s face it; sin is messy, dirty, complicated, and downright ugly in the face of a Holy God. Grace demands patience, for it cannot be rushed lest its work in us fall short.

Where I disagree however is with the premise that after decades of Christian living, our growth and maturity can remain negligible. While we can debate the expected growth and maturity rate of a new believer, I contend that anyone who has come into the very presence of Jesus will grow and they will mature.

Think of it this way; if you stayed at the same levels you were at while attending the 1st grade, you would never accomplish much over your lifetime, would you? Of course not! You had to grow, to learn, to mature, because all of these elements are necessary for your success.

It’s really no different when you become born again. You are a new creation in Christ. The old man has passed away, and a new man has taken its place. This new man is essentially starting over in the 1st grade of life, and embarks on a lifelong journey of learning.

What would happen to that new believer if they stayed in the same place? They would not grow, not mature, and not learn. In reality, they would exist and not much more.

Is that what the Lord desires for us? Hardly! Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.  III John 1:2

My prayer today is that we would understand that God wants us to grow and mature in our walk with Him. It is not His will that we stay the same, but rather that we have a life of blessing and abundance!

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

An encounter of the God kind will change you for all of eternity. Being with Jesus means you can never stay the same, for “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”…   Philippians 1:6

Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

Ron

 

How would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

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Would you change anything? Would you do anything different?

Would you notice the crying baby, or the fussy children?

Would you notice what the person next to you was wearing?

Would you take extra care in picking out what you would wear, or take no thought at all?

Would the volume of the music bother you as much as it usually does, or not at all?

Would you care that your favorite song wasn’t sung, yet again?

I’m jotting all of this down very early Sunday morning as I’m waiting to start getting ready for church. I woke this morning thinking, wondering, is there anything inhibiting my worship? And how would I worship if I had advance notice that this would be my last opportunity?

Worship

To offer Him praise and thanksgiving for all He has done in our lives,to take the time to express our gratitude to God for His many blessings. Isn’t that why we assemble on the Lord’s Day?

As I thought about all of this, my mind began to drift to the different types of worship we read about in the Bible.

Ritual Temple Worship

From the priestly worship inside the Temple we find the descendants of Aaron offering up animal sacrifices as an act of worship for the people: sin offerings, trespass offerings, guilt offerings, and on it goes.

Sacrificial Worship

The people often traveled great distances to worship, and let’s not forget that travel then was very hard and dangerous. Still, they went onward, determined to worship.

We see a man by the name of Elkanah going up yearly to the Temple to make sacrificial worship offerings. Year after year his wives went with him, and God received the worship of his wife Hannah, who was blessed with a son who you might remember was Samuel.

Emotional Worship

And how could we forget David, warrior king of Israel who danced in worship before the Lord with all his might?

Holy Worship

In the New Testament we read where there is worship in heaven, glorious, other-worldly worship where twenty four elders cast their crowns at the feet of God while crying Holy, Holy, Holy.

Whenever we find worship mentioned in scripture we typically find God responding to it, because we are told that God inhabits the praise of His people (Psalms 22:3)

Knowing all these things, the thought of “what if today was my last day to worship God” is front and center in my heart. Would we permit anything to inhibit our worship,if this was truly the case? Would all the things that we get hung up on now really matter?

As I continue working on this post, church has been over for nearly three hours. During the service today this topic was never far from my thoughts. Whether during the music portion, receiving the offering, or while being taught the word of God, I purposed in my heart that I would focus only on Him.

I couldn’t even tell you if anyone had a doughnut in their hand!😉

How then should we approach worship? Is there a right way to worship? Should our worship be limited by what our particular denomination allows, or considers acceptable?

Should our worship be traditional or contemporary? High Church or Cowboy Church? Quiet or loud, exuberant or solemn? Last time I checked, the Lord wasn’t handing out style points, but was looking for sincere hearts.

I don’t pretend to be able to answer those questions for you. I can, however, offer up this thought. I believe God expects, no demands, our very best worship. And what is “best” is different for each of us.

Take the busy single mom, who after working all day comes home exhausted knowing that her day is far from over. With kids to feed and bathe, homework to help with, laundry to be done, and a thousand other daily chores that won’t get done without her, her best worship opportunity might mean bowing her head and heart in the shower during her only 10 minute respite of the day.

Or think about the business man or woman who routinely works 80-100 hours a week. The pressure and stress never seems to let up, even on Sunday mornings. The advancements in technology have made intrusions into their quiet time with God almost predictable. For them, their best worship opportunity might be fleeting at best.

As I said, I believe God demands our best worship, and I believe He will meet with us, regardless of method, place, or duration. The important thing is that we acknowledge Him as Lord, and that we connect with Him as often as we can.

So, how would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

If you think you know the answer, why not try it out the next opportunity you get? After all, it could well be your last “audition”.

Be blessed,

Ron

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