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It’s time for an Attitude Adjustment!

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From where I sit on the front row, it would seem that an Attitude Adjustment within the Body of Christ would be in order.

It is way past time for a respite from the incessant bickering from the various Christian factions over on Twitter and Facebook about our nation’s current political climate.

Yes, that’s right. When people who are supposed to be Spirit filled servants of the Most High God lash out at one another with stinging, hate filled words, it’s gone too far.

The Church needs to put away the vitriol surrounding the ever-widening gap between the warring political camps, a gap that must be acknowledged as being about as far as the East is from the West. (Psalm 103:12, for those of you keeping score). 

Seriously? You don’t think the enemy is using division and strife to drive a wedge between the Body of Christ just as he is doing with this nation? Has the Church forgotten that God rules in the kingdom of men?

the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest of men.’   Daniel 4:17

It’s time to give it a rest and refocus our priorities.

Time for an Attitude Adjustment from God’s Word!

Paul the Apostle, speaking to the Philippians, urged them to become unified in love, esteeming others before themselves. 

Therefore, if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.   Philippians 2:1-4

Can you imagine what Paul might be told today if he were to preach at the National Mall in D.C. or at the largest church in America, and tell the assembled crowds that we should be of ‘one accord, of one mind‘?

Were he to admonish the populace today that it is not in our best interest to be consumed with selfish ambition, I’m certain he would be booed off the platform…or worse.

Esteem others better than ourselves? Look out for the interests of others and not just ourselves? Today the great Apostle would be labeled as insane and hurried away to the nearest psych ward.

Paul was a preacher of righteousness and were he here today, I’m pretty sure that he would not involve himself in the UN-Christlike activities of so many who claim to be Christs representatives.

No, I think Paul would instead boldly proclaim the Word of God, expecting the hearer to put aside the divisive rhetoric and submit to the authority of God’s Word.

I think it’s time for the church to have an Attitude Adjustment, and a good place to start would be to humble ourselves before God.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

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America is a Hungry Nation

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Americans are hungry.

Hungry for God.

Hungry for love.

Hungry for decency.

Hungry for morality.

Hungry for something to eat.

That’s right, Americans are also hungry for something to eat. The wealthiest nation on the planet struggles with a hunger problem. So much so that 1 in 8 people are struggling with hunger.

Would it surprise you to learn that 1 in 6 children are also struggling with hunger? Or that 1 in 4 African American children are hungry? Additionally, 43% of households receiving SNAP benefits(formerly Food Stamps)have children. If you’ve ever been a hungry child, and I have, this is staggering.

A quick glance at the Food Insecurity Map from FeedingAmerica.org shows just how pervasive the hunger problem is in America.

food insecurity map

If you click on the Food Map link above, it will take you to the Feeding America website where you can input your own demographics and see firsthand what the Food Insecurity Rate is in your area. Or you can simply hover over any state and see that particular state’s F.I.R.

Children are particularly vulnerable to hunger and the subsequent effects of poor nutrition. Unbelievably, 86% of the counties with the highest rates of child food insecurity are rural. What makes that statistic so unbelievable? Food is grown in rural areas!

African Americans, Latinos, Whites, Seniors, Urban Americans, Rural Americans, all are struggling with providing enough food for their families to eat. Right here in America!

Now, we can argue all day long about how and why we are in this predicament. And I’m quite sure we all have our opinions about America’s priorities. The fact is none of that matters to a hungry child.

None of that matters when our elderly citizens have to make the choice between buying medicine or food. Neither does any of that matter to the family that has to choose the poorest quality of food just to be able to afford to put something,anything, on the table.

The recent “Great Recession” may be but a memory to most, but to the tens of millions of Americans that are still reeling from the effects of unemployment,stagnant wages, and the ever increasing cost of living, it is a nightmare that won’t go away.

The point I want to make is that we can do better! We throw away 25% of the food we buy in America. Every single one of us tosses a pound of food each day in the garbage. Food that could go a long way in eradicating the hunger problem.

I encourage everyone to become better educated about this serious problem in America by going to FeedingAmerica.org and learning what you can do to ensure that our children, indeed all Americans have the opportunity to secure healthy,nutritious food for themselves and their families.

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

What does it mean to be Heavenly minded?

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Everyone is seeking something. That’s how God made us. We’re inquisitive by nature; always searching, looking, wondering.

Life would be pretty boring if we just sat around and became a lump of nothingness, don’t you think?

As Christians however, we must learn to temper our searching, looking, and wandering by prioritizing and aligning the things we deem so important against God’s Word. Paul explains it here in Colossians 3:1-3.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”.‬‬

Does this now mean that because I’m a Christian that I can no longer be passionate about my favorite cause? Of course not! If God’s children don’t participate in this earthly life, if we’re too Holy to get our hands dirty while ministering to others, of what value are we?

You no doubt have heard the expression that we can become “too Heavenly minded to be of any earthly good”. Speaking only for myself, I have yet to meet the person who accurately meets this description! Seriously, if any person becomes as Heavenly minded as Paul describes above, they would do more earthly good than they could ever imagine!

What Paul is saying to us is that as Christ’s representatives on earth we should be involved in what’s going on around us. We should care deeply about the plight of others. If not us, then who will?

But our first priority must be Him. If we will make Him our first priority, if He becomes the focus of our passions, our care and concern for others will be greatly enhanced.

You see, it’s only by seeking those things that are above, that we are then able to effectively reach out to those around us. Or to put it another way, before we can pour into others, we must first be filled ourselves. And we get filled by seeking those things which are above.

I think all of us would agree that we need more of Him at work in our lives. I know I certainly have enough rough edges to keep Him busy for a while! As we endeavor to seek those things that are above, we begin to die to self a bit more each day. Those rough edges become smoother, even our attitudes are improved.

Seeking those things that are above transforms our wants and desires into His wants and desires. When we seek to become more Heavenly minded we become more like Jesus. We love like Jesus. We have compassion like Jesus. The world can then see Jesus through us.

Isn’t that what this Christian life is supposed to be about anyway?

Be blessed,

Ron

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

Pimterest.com

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

Make America Great Again?

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Catchy slogans are just that: slogans.

make America great

They’re words on a billboard,magazine cover,or TV ad.

Oh, and they’re on ball caps too.

Mostly though,slogans are just words that someone thought would provide motivation to accomplish a goal or a task.

Did you know there are companies that employ people to make up slogans? I found that out when I was still working. Go to any trade show or conference and you will see booths plastered with eye catching slogans.

So while the slogan “Make America Great Again” sounds wonderful,we must be careful to understand that it is impossible for a simple slogan to make that happen.

It’s sort of like our paper currency. The slogan “In God We Trust” sounds wonderful. But does it actually encourage people to trust in God? I think you know the answer to that.

You see, patriotism and nationalism aside,and forgive me if I don’t sound like a team player here,but neither hard work,government intervention,or catchy slogans can make America great again. Any more than riots and demonstrations in the streets will make America great again.

I happen to believe that slogans and demonstrations aren’t what is needed in order for America to become great once again. Oh sure,they may effect change at the local level,and they can be effective at rallying the troops.

Our need however,is so much greater than that. For America to become great again she must look beyond herself. Far beyond herself.

Our priorities are out of order. We seem to think that we alone can fix what ails us. Lest we forget, the brightest minds and trillions of dollars combined have failed to right the ship.

This is what happens when a people is lifted up with so much pride that it replaces God with themselves. We cannot see the forest for the trees! We have bought into the lie that we are in control of our own destiny because our collective pride will not permit us to recognize One greater than ourselves.

And if we are brave enough to dig even deeper, what we have in America is a consciousness problem. As in…

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,” I Timothy 4:1-2   emphasis mine

Paul’s letter to Timothy contained an important message for the church of today. What we have failed to recognize is that as the church goes, so go the nations of the world. Think about that for a few moments.

I will end this post by saying this. A couple of thousand years ago a warning went out to a group of churches located in what we now refer to as Asia Minor.

revelation_Turkey_map

“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” Revelation 3:17,18

While the verses above were directed to the church of Laodicea, America clearly resembles these words from Revelation almost to a “T”.

Make America Great Again?

The only way for America to become great again is for Americans to make God great again in America.

I’d like to see that on a ball cap.

What happened to my church?

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“Ron,what’s happened to my church? It seems they no longer want us older saints. They are shoving all of us aside and replacing us with younger people. Don’t we matter any more”?

A precious,dear saint of God named Sarah* said those words to me over twenty years ago.In her confusion,hurt, and grief she wanted to let me know that she was struggling with all of the change that had suddenly engulfed her world.

Change can do that to us,to all of us,can’t it?

You would have to know this dear sister to fully appreciate her sense of despair.A woman of very humble upbringing,married but never able to have children,her church became her whole life.

Though limited in education and resources, she long ago had committed herself to doing all that she could do for her church. Indeed,it sometimes seemed as though the church was the family she never had.

She was there when the doors were open.She prayed daily for her church,not once but several times each day.And let me tell you,when Sarah prayed she got down to business with God! She had a way of praying that made me think that this woman was in touch with Something not of this world.

To her,the church was the very epicenter of her existence and she was determined to do everything within her modest means to ensure it remained healthy.She gave faithfully.She loved everyone.She also believed in “telling in like it is”,if you know what that means.She dished out love and correction with equal fervor.

She read and studied constantly,and she had a way of presenting the gospel that made it seem to come alive.Though she never attended Bible college, she could hold her own and then some when someone wanted to show off their knowledge of the Bible. Listening to her one could almost sense the love of God embracing you as she spoke of her Savior.

Unbeknownst to Sarah however ,her world was about to be turned upside down.

A meeting had been called at the church.Something about needing approval for something or other.Comments were made during the meeting about the need to become more modern,to do things the way other,more progressive churches were doing them.

It didn’t seem to matter that the church was vibrant(oh my,you should have heard our choir!),attendance was growing weekly,or that we had an established ministry of feeding the homeless.

The community where the church was located enthusiastically embraced the church’s various ministries.The church was always mentioned as one of the denominations shining examples.

There was something very special about this church that you could feel the moment you walked into the sanctuary. Expectation.Enthusiasm.Loving people loving each other.New faces and kids everywhere. What could possibly be wrong with this?

Evidently,plenty.

We were told that we must change our focus. Time to shift our priorities they said. It’s a new day,a different time the leadership team declared.We needed to move away from “traditional ministry” and focus more on attracting a younger crowd.We needed programs and activities geared more toward them,we were told.

I never understood why we couldn’t do both.

Like good foot soldiers,everyone tried to follow this new ministry direction.After all,that’s what we’re supposed to do isn’t it? Bit by bit what was once a thriving faith community was reorganized into the church that leadership said the community needed. But it wasn’t the same any longer.

Tragically,it was not just the members who felt that way but the entire community noticed it as well.So much so that they stopped coming. Funny isn’t it,how those on the outside can tell there’s something wrong on the inside?

And here’s the real kicker: even the homeless stopped coming.They no longer felt welcomed in the church.You see,in the scramble to reorganize in order to make our church more attractive to the new audience they wanted,the homeless had been forgotten. Left out. Abandoned.

So they went elsewhere.Or nowhere.

As I said previously,this happened over twenty years ago. The church that I loved,the church that Sarah and so many just like her loved,closed it’s doors within a few years of that fateful meeting.What had once drew the multitudes from afar had ceased to exist.

It’s members scattered here and there,some finding a new church home while others never fully settled in someplace else. Some gave up searching altogether.As for Sarah,she found a new church home and immediately went to work for the Lord there.

You may ask why I am telling you this sad story of something that happened so long ago,and what could it possibly have to do with us today.Well,let me try to explain.

In this life we are privileged if we find something that so touches our hearts that it becomes a part of us.Like that one true love,the man or woman of our dreams.That one who will be your forever soulmate.They come around once in a lifetime and we treasure them dearly.

I feel the same way about God’s church.Even though I may say things about the church that many wished I didn’t,I love the church.I say the things I do because I have a very keen sense of what the church can and should be,and it is painful to sit and watch what has happened to the family of God.

I cannot,I will not remain silent.

Most of the readers of this blog are aware that I recently moved to another part of the country.Without a doubt,this has been a life changing event,one that has caused me to spend time in reflection,both past and future.

One part of this reflection is that I’m reminded how precious my memories of church are,especially as we attempt to find a new place of worship in what to me is a new and very different world.

You see,from my perspective church today isn’t what church used to be. Of course,there are many, many voices out there proclaiming that it can never be what it once was. Just as life can never be what it was.I get it.

Things change constantly,culture is ever evolving and morphing into the next new phase. I certainly get that. And I am not,as my sweet Princess loves to remind me,living in the past. This time.

I think of church as community,or family. My fondest memories of church seem to center around togetherness and gathering together to worship in unity and love. Perhaps it’s because growing up my own life was so void of those things that I cling to these precious memories.

And I’m struggling to find that right now.

Visiting a new church for the third time where the only two people that greet you are the pastor and his worship leader is not my idea of community. Can someone explain to me how 100 people can stare at you and never smile or offer a handshake? Hey…I even showered!

It begs the question to be asked “what,or who are you if your character more closely resembles a zombie than one of God’s children”? Ummm…where is this abundant life Jesus spoke about(John 10:10)?

Someone whose opinions I value greatly told me recently that “I should forget everything I knew about church. That church is dead and will never come back”they said.

“The best you can hope for is to just find a place to attend,sit through their programs,and realize that you have nothing to offer them by way of engagement or involvement.Just sit there,sing along,nod at the appropriate time,and go home”.

Talk about painful to hear!   My God!

I confess that this does not sit well with me. This is not the model that the Disciples gave us concerning the church. In fact,the Disciples would not recognize the church of today.

They were a part of something that was alive and powerful. The churches they established shook up the known world. Indeed,it was said that their message was capable of turning the cities upside down(Acts 17:6).

I don’t know about you,but I’m not seeing any communities being turned upside down for Jesus today. I’m not seeing the lasting effects of a life changing encounter with Jesus Christ.What I am seeing is a church that has embraced the world while forsaking its roots.

In our zeal to be more culturally attractive we have forsaken the old paths(Jer 6:16). In their place we now have a politically correct, counterfeit church that wouldn’t dare rail against sin for fear that what is hidden in its own tents might be exposed for the world to see.

See,I told you I wasn’t going to remain silent.

Please understand me. I am not against necessary change,especially if it means winning the lost and ministering to the needy. I’m all in. Matter of fact,I’m getting desperate to find a place where I can get involved! Refusing to change when it is necessary can be fatal!

What I don’t understand is why we can’t do all of that,and still be the church. A powerful church emboldened by the Holy Ghost to be the hands and feet of Jesus…to all people. Isn’t that our assignment? I mean…where’s the love?

I guess I’ve now lived long enough to fully understand what sister Sarah said all those years ago:”what’s happened to my church?”.

  • Sarah is not her real name.Out of love and respect for her I have chosen not to reveal her real name.

Priorities

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Priorities. We’ve all got them don’t we?

For most of us,priorities are fluid in that they are constantly changing and evolving.

If you’re like a lot of people,your priorities will usually end up on an itemized list like this:

No doubt your list will differ from my list. Yours may look more like a top ten list,while mine may have just a couple of items on it.For many, priorities revolve around family or career,or perhaps your education.Some people are very good at putting their priorities on a list,while others of us struggle to sort it all out.

Whatever it is that makes your list will become a goal that you must work hard to achieve.After all,nothing is given in this life.If you want it you have to earn it.And that takes work.A lot of hard work.

Jesus talked about priorities too.In fact,He even told us which ones should make it to the top of our lists.You can read all about it in the book of Matthew,chapter six.

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   Matthew 6:19-21  NKJV

Lets look into these verses a bit deeper.Notice the first words Jesus said were for us NOT to lay up treasures,or our priorities, on this earth because they were subject to destruction.Subject to failure,destruction,loss, and disappointment.Isn’t that the nature of things here on earth?

Now,if you and I were to compare these words of Jesus to our personal list of priorities,or our list of treasures,would we find that our list is in harmony with His words?

Or would we find that our personal list of priorities are pretty much dominated by earthly,or material things?Not saying we can’t or shouldn’t have priorities while we’re on this earth,but is your list of priorities dominated by them? Is your list out of balance? Many of us are probably like that aren’t we?

Life definitely has a way of twisting our priorities around.

  • Bills to pay
  • Dr.visits
  • Job loss
  • Divorce

All of these and countless others are life events that can turn our world upside down,and along with it our list of priorities.Which tells us that focusing the majority of our priorities on earthly things will leave us longing for something better.

Which is why Jesus tells us exactly where out treasures,or priorities,should be.He said they should be in heaven,because in heaven there will be no destruction of them.

Heaven.That place that you heard about as a child but maybe no longer believe in.That place where there is no night.That place where every tear is wiped away.That place where sorrow and pain will never make an appearance.

That place.Jesus told us to place our treasure,or our priorities,in heaven.

Maybe Jesus understands more about our nature then we like to let on.Maybe Jesus knew something about what motivates us.Maybe that’s why Jesus said this:

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.

Your treasures,or your priorities, will capture your heart.If your treasures,or priorities,are carnal than your heart will be as well.If our focus is predominantly on self or what we can get,it’s a sure bet that our heart will be intently focused on those things.

Funny thing about Jesus.He never left us guessing as to whether or not there was a “middle of the road” position to take did He? That is clearly evident with these few verses as well, for if we are earthly minded,our heart will be also.Oh,we may give a token thought or action to things above,but our first priority,our best efforts, will be geared towards the things of this life.

If we are heavenly minded,our heart will be also.Our hearts are fixed on heaven,on things eternal.We look forward to that day when we leave this life and step into a new one,one where things are not corrupted.Where thieves do not break in and steal.Where the Lamb is the light of the city.

Priorities.We’ve all got them don’t we?

Mine are changing with the passing of time.Having been a Christian now for 40 years my priorities have been to be a good provider for my family and to make heaven my eternal home one day.And I can see more clearly than ever before that both my treasures and my heart must be on things above.

The important things are the things that last,not the temporary things that we work so hard to attain.One day all of those earthly,temporal things that we prioritized in this life will sift through our fingers like grains of sand, and be gone.

They don’t seem all that important when you look at it this was,do they?

Laying up our treasures in heaven,having our hearts fixed on heavenly things,these are the things that stand the test of eternity.

Priorities.Where are yours today?

Be blessed,

Ron

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