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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).

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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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Brooksvillechristianchurch.org

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

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The Great Divide…

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Having just moved to SW Florida from Ohio I have been trying to get my bearings and learn a little bit about the area we’re now calling home. Aside from the obvious beauty of the ocean,the beach,and the various rivers and harbors,I have been struck by the lushness of it all. The locals say we are heading into Fall but for this country boy from Ohio when it’s in the upper 80’s it sure seems like summer time to me!

One thing I’ve learned that isn’t different from Ohio however is that there are large numbers of poor and hungry children here. In this immediate area the percentage of children qualifying for free or reduced school lunches ranges between 48 and 75 percent,depending on the county.

So what’s so remarkable about that,you may ask?

Well,for starters, the amount of wealth in this area is staggering. Homes costing upwards of sixty million dollars can be found within an hour of me. Yes,you read that right: $60 million dollars! Million dollar homes don’t even raise an eyebrow in this part of the country.Talk about culture shock!

And lest you think that unbelievable consider that there are certain country clubs charging upwards of $250,000 just to join! Which,by the way,does not include the monthly costs of up to ten thousand dollars.Hopefully for those who can afford such things,membership does have it’s privileges!

With all of this wealth as a backdrop it seems impossible that such a large part of the population struggles to provide enough food for their families.

But of course this is by no means unique to this area. Wherever you live in America this same condition exists. Cities large and small,rural or metropolitan areas,pick any part of the country, all have similar conditions. As a matter of fact,it’s always been that way. It just hasn’t been as noticeable as it is now.At least to me.

The Great Divide

The gulf between the haves and the have not’s has likely never been wider than it is right now. The disparity in income levels appears to be ever increasing.Some might say it’s just me getting an up close eyeful of “the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer”. But I don’t think so.

Now please understand,I harbor no animosity,jealousy or bitterness towards anyone who has accumulated great wealth.It’s none of my business frankly.So I certainly don’t know what I’m missing (if anything).

Just as it’s none of my business what people do with their money,or to what charities they may donate to.

But I am troubled when I read in the papers where hundreds of thousands,and in some cases millions of dollars,are raised for a particular cause or event while children are hungry.Forgive me,I know it’s none of my business,but my lack of education and social status prevents me from understanding why priorities are what they are.

Being exposed to the magnitude of wealth in this area,albeit from a great distance,has perhaps brought to the forefront of my heart and mind something that has long troubled me.

I come from very humble stock. I’ve never had wealth nor do I anticipate ever having it.I have no rich uncles.What I do have however are memories of what it’s like to be hungry as a child.I know what empty cabinets and a bare refrigerator feels like.Few things in life are more cruel than having little, if anything, to eat.So it is very easy for me to have empathy for those who are struggling just to put food on the table.

The vast wealth of this nation is rivaled only by the depths of poverty to which some must try to overcome.I understand how hard it is to climb up from the depths of despair in order to make a better life for your family.Now try that while being hungry most of the time.Is it any wonder so many simply give up?

On the subject of poverty,I recently read part of a speech given by Herbert Hoover on August 11,1928 before a huge crowd at the Stanford University stadium.I was struck by the timeliness of it all as I was writing this particular post. In it Hoover had this to say about poverty:

“Given a chance to go forward with the policies of the last eight years,we shall soon,with the help of God,be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation”.

Eighty eight years ago this speech was given to a loud,enthusiastic crowd of supporters.

In that time the world has changed exponentially.Atomic weapons have been developed and used.New nations have been birthed while others have faded into obscurity.Another world war and several lesser wars have been fought all across the globe since 1928.

Manufacturing and farming technologies have advanced in unimaginable ways.For more years than I can remember,America has fed a large part of the world.In America today,more food is grown than at any other time in our history and many still refer to us as the “bread basket”.

Yet for all of our technological advances,for all of our knowledge,for all of the great wealth we have,we still haven’t come close to fulfilling the words of Herbert Hoover.

Perhaps we should finally try something different to eradicate the poverty issue in America.

Maybe for once we should look at poverty as a heart issue and not a social issue.Maybe if instead of staring at statistics and charts,instead of developing more programs to throw money at, we look into the faces of those who are desperate.Maybe we should look past the color of someone’s skin or nationality,and instead look into their eyes.

Or could it be that we are too afraid of the reflection we would see?

The High Cost of Negativity

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The following headline in today’s newspaper immediately caught my attention:

“Groups pump millions into negative ads in Ohio”

The amount of money spent to discredit and defame another person is staggering,as the following paragraph from the story details:

“Spending this year by independent political groups with confusing-sounding labels like super PACS, 501(c)(4)s, and 527 organizations will almost certainly surpass 2012, when at least $85 million was spent in Ohio on the races for president,Senate,and the House of representatives.”Negativity 2

Sure could use a little good news today.

So let me break this down a bit more. Here in Ohio we have some of the poorest counties in the U.S. In the areas of the state hardest hit by the recent economic downturns(think “coal”),the state employment rates are at or above 9.6%,far above the nations 5.1% rate.The highest unemployment rate(Monroe county)comes in at a staggering 13.4%!(Source: March 2016 Office of Workforce Development – Bureau of Labor Market Information).

The lack of quality health care and housing for tens of thousands of Ohioans is appalling.According to a University of Akron study an Ohioan is born into poverty every 18 minutes.Am I the only one who finds this nearly unbelievable? And what of the nation? The numbers add up to millions!

Lest we forget,Ohio also has the dubious distinction of having one of the nation’s worse drug addiction problems.It has gotten so bad the the heroin “problem”in Ohio is making the rounds on the national news outlets.According to a CBS news report of 4/26/16,twenty three Ohioans are killed each week by heroin.

Sure could use a little good news today.

So let’s see if we understand all of this. The state of Ohio has an enormous employment problem,some of the highest in the nation. It has a severe drug addiction problem,so much so that every week another 23 people are killed by drugs. It has a depressing level of poverty,which by the way is being added to at the rate of another hungry mouth to feed every 18 minutes.

So yeah,I think that about sums it up.That’s a lot of negative information,is it not? Kind of depressing isn’t it?

Sure could use a little good news today.

Too bad we aren’t hearing much in the way of good news. What we are hearing however is that the special interest groups that control the finances required to elect your favorite politician are spending nearly $100 million dollars on negative TV and radio ads.

Wonder how much they give to fight poverty…lack of health care…hopelessness?

And don’t forget: the other 49 states are doing the exact same things.

One hundred million dollars spent on negativity. Negativity 1

Can you see what I see? I see heartbreak. I see destitution. I see destruction. I see a colossal crime being perpetrated against humanity. I see greed running rampant and an attitude of “it doesn’t matter what it costs so long as I get my way”.

Please don’t mistake this post as one of trying to drum up support for any particular candidate or party.I try my level best to stay away from entering the political fray because I know that my personal political views will not mesh with the majority today.It’s simply not worth it.I don’t discuss politics and I don’t allow myself to be drawn into mindless debates.

I am actually embarrassed and ashamed that as a state and as a nation,what we currently have running for political office is the best and brightest we can come up with. Or rather that money can buy.

Do you ever ask yourself “how did we ever get this way”?

From a Christian perspective I am deeply concerned about the precarious position America finds itself in today.Our enemies have uncovered our weaknesses,and they are many.The constant bickering and in-fighting among the various political candidates is a direct outcome of their lust for power and control,and serve only to widen the gulf between themselves and a desperate populous.

Can anyone argue that we are not reliving the actions of another nation that at one time was blessed beyond measure because they obeyed the Lord God? As we in America continue the downward spiral into the darkest reaches of sin,we continue to mirror ancient Israel who willingly chose to accept the leadership of fallen man verse the divine mandates of a Holy God.

And the LORD said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.     1Sa 8:7 NKJV

I ask you, how can we feed and clothe our people,how can we offer them an alternative to a lifestyle steeped in drugs,how can we create new opportunities for employment,when those who we elect to solve these problems have rejected the Lord in favor of corruption?

We need God. Whether you realize this or not,we need God.

More money is not the answer. Another politician is not the answer. Your preferred political party is not the answer. The Right is not the answer. The Left is not the answer.

And yes,in the interest of full disclosure even the church is not the answer.The wealthy church that does precious little to stem the tide of negativity in their neighborhoods has long ago abandoned it’s mandate of love and compassion.While the world that is outside the ark of safety in Jesus tumbles into an eternity without God,the church is more concerned with demonstrating it’s success and influencing the world.

All the while billions beg to see a demonstration of the power of the gospel.

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We are falling headlong into an abyss from which there will be no return,yet no one seems to care enough to acknowledge this.

The answer that America needs will not be found in an election booth this November.

It can only be found at the Cross, where we must repent of our backsliding deeds and return unto the Lord.

We simply cannot afford the high cost of negativity any longer.