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For the lost

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What really matters to you from a Kingdom perspective?

Probing a bit further, what do your spiritual priorities look like?

I have been thinking about all of this for several months now because I have been feeling very restless in my soul. It’s almost like I am being pulled in another direction, a direction far from my comfort zone. A Holy discontent with the religious status quo. Knowing that change is forthcoming, yet not having a clue as to what/when/how. Maybe you can relate?

I know that this feeling has to do with my desire to be more personally involved in ministering to others. Organized, institutionalized church where the format never changes may work for others, but it leaves me scratching my head wondering about how impersonal it all is. It leaves me wondering if God did desire to show up some Sunday, would He need to ask to be put on our program?

I have come to realize that I have reached a crossroads in my life where I can no longer be content to just show up and throw money at a situation or problem, or toss an envelope in an offering plate. No, I want to see the faces of the people who need that money. I want to see their faces because I know that tangible things are just a part of what they really need. These unknown faces need to see the love of Jesus demonstrated.

It is this demonstration of love that people crave.

At times it seems to me that the Church is losing its passion for those on the ‘outside’, content to coddle and entertain those on the ‘inside’. It makes me wonder if we have become ‘too good’, at least in our own minds, to be bothered by those less fortunate than ourselves when we take measures to shield ourselves from lost, hurting, and desperate people.

Is this not our mission? Is this not why Jesus came, to seek and to save that which was lost? [1]

Years ago a church I attended decided that a good way to minister to the community was by having a food bank that gave away food to the needy. To be honest, more than a few of us questioned that need, wondering if these needy people actually existed in our small town. Imagine our great surprise that as the word got out, people began showing up at all hours of the day!

It was heartbreaking to see these families who had very little to eat, especially little children. And to think that prior to our starting the food bank we didn’t even know these needy people existed! Hearing their stories would always touch me deeply, and I suppose this is where I learned to love the downtrodden.

Now, places exist that are funded by churches and community service groups so the needy have a place to go to away from the church. This serves two purposes: 1, hurting people have a centralized place to go to receive help, and 2, the church doesn’t have to get its hands dirty.

An institutionalized clearing house for the hurting if you will, where the opportunity for personal contact from the church is lost.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t believe that this is what Jesus meant when he taught that we were to have mercy and compassion for the lost and needy among us. We give money to far away places, content that we did something for someone whose face we will never see. We have bought into the world’s philosophy that if you throw enough money at the problem, eventually it will fix itself. [2]

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I’m driving around and see so many people who are obviously struggling, I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t more that can be done to help them. Please understand me, I am not advocating for more government handouts or more welfare type programs. Those are temporary, stop gap measures(at best).

Of course, there are a great many well funded programs already in existence to help those in need. The question I am asking though is are they the right kinds of programs?

No, what I’m referring to are more and better opportunities. Better paying jobs for instance would enable a person to afford better housing, higher quality food, and an overall better quality of life. Sometimes just an equal opportunity is all that is needed to lift someone up and out of poverty because I firmly believe that all most people want is a chance, and equal chance to succeed.

This nation is rich beyond anything most of the world can imagine. We have an obligation to “the least of these” to do more for them than giving them monthly handouts. [3]

Our churches should be on the front lines, fighting to see that these people are given the respect and dignity they deserve as human beings. Our churches should open their doors and their checkbooks because after all, it is the church that is in the mercy business, not the government. With the tremendous resources our churches have at their disposal, we could make significant inroads into improving the plight of the poor and needy if they would once again pick up the mantle.

An “institutionalized clearing house for the hurting” is not the answer. Demonstrating the love of Jesus with a personal touch followed up with practical, tangible “put your money where your mouth is” blessings would have a tremendous impact for those in need.

I close this post with a song about compassion for the lost. I heard this song a few days ago, and instantly recognized it as one I used to listen to regularly a long time ago. I pray it will touch your heart.

 

Ron

[1]Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

[2]For the record, I am 100% in favor of missions giving as long as their is a regular accounting given of those funds

[3] Matthew 25:45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

 

 

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“I am the Lord…”

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I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:”    Isaiah 45:5   KJV

God revealed himself to his chosen people Israel as “I am The Lord” over 160 times. Repeatedly, God felt the need to remind his people that they need not look to another god because there wasn’t any other, that He stands alone as God.

This was necessary because Israel was surrounded by nations who served any number of false gods, and as Old Testament history shows us Israel went after these gods time and time again.

Indeed, idolatry was something that Israel struggled with throughout its ancient history, eventually leading to the destruction of both Jerusalem and the entire nation of Israel.

In today’s world however, many take offense at this verse, believing that it is the height of arrogance for anyone, including God, to declare Himself as the One True God. Today we seem to want to have options for everything, including our God.

Christians are, of course, fully aware that there are those that teach that there are many paths to God, just as there are many today proclaiming the existence of many gods. True Biblical Christianity however refutes such doctrinal error, as we believe God to be the One True God, Jehovah.

You may be asking why any of this should matter to you. Well, it matters because all of us will face the day in this life when we will need God. Whether it’s a crisis of faith or a personal tragedy that brings catastrophic news, all of us will need God at some point.

It’s in those times of crisis that we need assurance that the One we call out to is indeed the “I am The Lord” of the Bible, and not an impostor.

This is when having a personal relationship with God, through His Son Jesus Christ, becomes most real in our hearts. To know that we can call upon him and that he hears our cry, is worth more than anything we could ever acquire in this life, and is yet another aspect of this Abundant Life we live in Him.

One of the greatest commentaries on this passage of scripture was penned by none other than Matthew Henry. I enjoy reading the commentary of Matthew Henry for several reasons, not the least of which is that it was written long before the divisive seeds of “political correctness” were sown in the Church.

In other words, he explained the truth of scripture without regard to man’s opinions.

I have included his commentary on Isaiah 45:5 so that you may read his clear and concise rendering of this verse.

“That he is God alone, and there is no God besides him. This is here inculcated as a fundamental truth, which, if it were firmly believed, would abolish idolatry out of the world. With what an awful, commanding, air of majesty and authority, bidding defiance, as it were, to all pretenders, does the great God here proclaim it to the world: I am the Lord, I the Lord, Jehovah, and there is none else, there is no God besides me, no other self-existent, self-sufficient, being, none infinite and eternal. And again (v. 6), There is none besides me; all that are set up in competition with me are counterfeits; they are all vanity and a lie, for I am the Lord, and there is none else.”

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A personal God. A personal Father.

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The word “Father” is an important one in nearly every society. To some, Father denotes the elder, or leader of the family. Others use the word Father when referring to someone who originated something, like the Father of a particular industry.

In today’s post however, I want us to look at how God was first revealed as our Father.

In the prelude leading up to Jesus teaching his disciples about how they should pray, on no less than five occasions do we find Jesus referring to God as “your Father”.         Scripture reference Matt. 6:1-9

Why is this important? It is important because with the words “your Father” Jesus did something that had never been done before.

He personalized Almighty God by attributing to Him an intimate nature.

Think about that statement. I cannot find one instance in the Old Testament where the Jews ever referred to God as their Father in the first person. When I first realized this I was stunned!

To think that the God who revealed Himself to mankind, first in the garden and then throughout the Old Testament history of the Jews, was never thought of in a personal way as Father was almost unbelievable.

In fact, studies have been done (by real scholars) of every book of the Old Testament, as well as every known Jewish writing up until about the tenth century, and there is not one single reference of a Jewish person addressing God personally as their Father.

This makes Jesus referring to God as “your Father” all the more remarkable!

As a matter of fact, the very first Jewish rabbi known to have called God “Father” was Jesus of Nazareth!  In Judaism, this was such a radical departure from tradition that it cannot be overstated in its importance.

So great was the Jews anger against Jesus for suggesting that God could have an intimate relationship with man, that He was somehow approachable by mere mortals, that it incited the Jews to want to destroy Jesus.

To refer to the One True God as “Father” was unthinkable to the Jews, who would have deemed such a name as disrespectful. Of course, they used many distinct names for God; in fact in the Old Testament they used as many as sixteen different names that were deemed appropriate when addressing God. Perhaps you have heard most of these?
* El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)
* El Elyon (The Most High God)
* Adonai (Lord, Master)
* Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah)
* Jehovah Nissi (The Lord My Banner)
* Jehovah-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd)
* Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals)
* Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There)
* Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness)
* Jehovah Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You)
* El Olam (The Everlasting God)
* Elohim (God)
* Qanna (Jealous)
* Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide)
* Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace)
* Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts)

None of these names, however, refer to Him as “Father”. They are all names that reflect Holiness, Worship, and respect. They reflect upon his many incredible attributes.

In revealing the intimate nature of God by referring to Him as “our Father”, Jesus introduced to mankind the concept that God Almighty was also approachable.

Jesus revealed to the world for the first time that God was not some cold, unfeeling entity in a galaxy far, far away. No, Jesus pulled back the curtain of religious mystique and revealed God as Father, a title that suggests intimacy and personal relationship.

Because scripture teaches us that God has adopted us into his family and made us joint heirs with his only Son, we have been granted the right and the privilege to come into the presence of God and call him Father.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”           Romans 8:14-17

A personal God, a personal Father, has adopted us into His family. We belong to Him, and as such we can call Him our Father.

I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t get any better than this for me.

Be blessed, and have a wonderful day,

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

 

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

extravagantworshipdance.wordpress.com

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!

The-Rocks-Will-Cry-Out_864px

rolchur.ch

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