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Why is this so difficult?

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Giving to God what is rightfully His. Why is this so difficult? Is it because His requirements are so out of reach for us mortals that we give a weak, anemic effort?

To answer that, let’s first understand what His requirements actually are.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?   Micah 6:8

Anyone? Can anyone give a reasonable explanation as to why it is so difficult for us to do just these THREE things? To do justly and treat people fairly, to be kind one to another, and acknowledge that there is One much greater than any of us…is this so hard?

Or how about this? (emphasis mine):

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ‘ Matthew 22:35-40

Anyone? Can anyone give a reasonable explanation as to why it is so difficult for us to do even these TWO things? For us to love God with our entire being, and to love one another as much as we love ourselves, is God asking the impossible of us?

It seems so trite, so obvious for us to say that the reason we struggle with doing these very doable things is because we live in a fallen world. Or that it’s because the enemy is hard at work.

As if he hasn’t always been hard at work.

Here’s what I think. Like everything else in life, we make time for the things that are important to us. With unending devotion we sacrifice for what we deem necessary. We exert monumental effort to achieve our dreams.

Don’t we?

And the things that are not important to us…..

Ron

 

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Where is the Lord?

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That was the question Jeremiah heard from the Lord.

We don’t hear much about prophets today,unless it’s something about the fact that there are so many false prophets in the world.discernment

True prophets are not popular people. In fact,if you were called to be a prophet in Old Testament times you were virtually guaranteed a life of hardship. The prophets mantle was one of harsh words,condemnation,and “thus saith the Lord”.

Not exactly the ingredients necessary to make friends. Then again, God never sought out His prophets from a Charm School either.

Jeremiah was one such prophet. A prophet during the last 40 years of Judah’s existence,Jeremiah became known as the weeping prophet. He had been given a harsh message to deliver to Judah,which was made even more challenging because he possessed a sensitive and broken heart over the condition of his people.

Unfortunately for Jeremiah,this tender spirit made his anguish even more intense as his family,friends,kings,priests,basically the entire nation of Judah rejected his words.Called of God at a young age,rejection and loneliness were to become his two constant companions for the rest of his life.

As God began to speak into the life of His young prophet,it becomes apparent that he will have little time in which to “grow into the job”. Almost immediately, Jeremiah hears these words from the Lord:

The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.  Jer. 2:8

The fact that the priests weren’t even asking where the Lord was says volumes about the moral and spiritual condition of Judah. They had become so insensitive to the presence of God that they did not even recognize that He had departed from them.

Forsaking the Lord,Judah had installed a new religion,one that included the worship of nearly everything except God.In doing this,they had long ago stopped wondering why the Lord’s presence had departed from them,and why they no longer enjoyed His blessings. For them,it had become business as usual.

Herein lies a great danger that the church must guard against today. In our “we must have it now” culture the pressure is on to produce results. This has largely been brought about by the church departing from the biblical model of church growth in favor of a more corporate mentality.

It is my firm conviction that this pressure to perform has brought about a devastating change in our approach to a Holy God. Instead of waiting upon the Lord in our own “upper rooms”,we have instead invented a new church paradigm where results can be manufactured at will.

Church services are now planned down to the minute,much like a board meeting. From the opening greeting to the closing prayer,everything has been carefully scripted.Statistics are consulted as though they were inspired data points.Results are measured in percentages,not souls.Business plans,not God,are the driving force behind our actions.

There is an incredible and valuable lesson that we today can learn from the question “where is the Lord?”. That being that when we no longer see the manifestation of God’s presence in our midst,alarm bells should be going off.

When I speak of the manifestation of God’s presence,I am referring to the acts of love,kindness,mercy,and compassion that are the hallmarks of a transformed life.I am not referring to the foolishness that passes for God’s presence in many churches today.

Any pastor today who is shepherding a congregation where these traits are not outwardly and abundantly apparent for all to see,should be greatly concerned about the overall spiritual health of that congregation.

Think about the church you currently attend. Do you see the fruits of lives transformed by Christ,or is it business as usual in your church?

Perhaps most tragic of all is this: has God departed and we don’t even know it?

Something for us to think about this Lord’s day.

Are you satisfied with just one day of Christmas?

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Am I the only one that thinks we’re getting ripped off here?

December 25th. Christmas Day.Here for just 24 hours then gone until next year.

Right this moment the TV news is touting yet another heartwarming story about someone reaching out to someone else just in the nick of time to avert a disaster of some sort. I love that.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been hearing these kinds of stories regularly on the evening news. People from all walks of life start performing incredible deeds of kindness and generosity.

Some good news is indeed welcomed right now,especially given that we have just survived an incredibly cold,mean,and heartless national election. Yeah,we could use some good news for a change!

What I have never understood however is why these types of things only seem to happen at Christmas time? Maybe they do happen all the time,but you sure don’t hear about them like you do at Christmas.

Or at least it seems that way.

Some people call it the magic of Christmas. Others say that Christmas just makes them feel good. Then you have those that declare that its the spirit of Christmas.

Whatever you call it,what I want to know is where is it the rest of the year? Why can’t we have that Christmas feeling all the time? And just where does the spirit of Christmas go after December 25th?

Why don’t we give extraordinary tips at the restaurant every day to help out that single mom whose waiting on tables to help make ends meet? Surely they can use the help throughout the year.

Why is it that Christmas is the only time of the year when you hear about the “secret santa’s” paying off someone’s layaway at Walmart? Is Christmas the only time of the year when people use layaway?

Just yesterday I saw where hundreds of volunteers showed up to put together Christmas dinners for the homeless and needy in this area. What is it about Christmas that makes people do what they would not do in July?

Could it be that Christmas is the one time of the year when we actually open the door to our hearts so that we can then see the needs of others? If so…why? Why not every day?

Could it possibly be that at this one time of the year Jesus becomes real to us? To all of us?

Why do we wait all year to show a little kindness and compassion to others? Surely those wonderful traits are needed throughout the entire year,aren’t they?

In this cold,callous world showing acts of kindness and mercy are often viewed as a type of weakness.After all,only the strong survive,right? Is that why we refrain from doing them at other times?

Whatever the reason for the sudden outpouring of love and kindness,don’t you wonder why it can’t be this way all the time? Could it? Can it? Do we dare hope that it could be?

Here is what I think. I think it starts with one person. That could be you. Or it could be me. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that we open our eyes to the needs of others. That we allow ourselves to feel. To care.

What matters is that we recognize that we are so blessed to have so many good things,and that for the grace of God any one of us could be that person in need of some Christmas love.

Frankly,I’m not satisfied with one day of Christmas. Not when I know how easy it would be to keep the true meaning of Christmas going day after day.

Pipe dream you say? Pie in the sky? Maybe it is. But I’ve always heard that if you’re going to dream,dream big.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Ron