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Blessed are the poor in spirit…

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Over the next several days I am going to be sharing my thoughts about The Beatitudes. Like many of you, I love these rich teachings of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, and their application to our lives is as real today as they were to the crowd gathered on the side of a Galilean mountain nearly 2000 years ago.

My sincere hope is that these basic, foundational truths as taught by Jesus will give us pause to spend time reflecting on what is most important. I have found in my own life, for example, that there are times when I just need to step back, slow down, and revisit the basics from this sermon. It’s kind of like when your GPS needs to reorient itself, if that makes any sense to you.

Found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter five, the Beatitudes contain some of the richest teachings of Jesus, giving us a very concise revelation of God’s principles for how to live our lives in a manner most pleasing to him.

The Beatitudes all begin with the key word “Blessed”. This word, as spoken by Jesus, indicates a fullness, or spiritual well-being coupled with an inner sense of joy and peace.  His love, caring, and daily presence in our lives is meant to give us a sense of contentment, or what we might call blessed.

It is important to note that the “Blessed” that Jesus speaks of here is not referring to the modern “churchianity” interpretation of the word that centers around prosperity or wealth. Jesus is not saying to those on the mountain side that they will all be getting a new camel in their driveway if they toss a few shekels in the offering.

No, Jesus is teaching about an entirely different kind of blessed.

With that being said, I’d like to dive into the Beatitudes in the order they are written, beginning with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

When we see or hear the word “poor”, most of us automatically assume a condition of lack. That is because we typically think of the poor primarily in terms of money or worldly possessions. While that may be true, there are other types of poverty, such as being spiritually or morally poor or bankrupt.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it very interesting that Jesus used the words poor and blessed together. Today we would call that an oxymoron, because we cannot comprehend how someone who is poor would also be blessed at the same time. They just don’t go together.

Or do they?

Because Jesus was not referring to wealth and possessions, these two words fit together like a glove when you consider that the poor he is referring to are those who are humble before God. They understand that on their own they have nothing to give in exchange for being granted access to the kingdom of heaven. They need help!

People who are “poor in spirit” are not arrogant or puffed up within themselves. They know that if there is any good in them, it is because of the Jesus that dwells within them. They are not self-sufficient but dependent upon the Lord. Self-righteousness is not a part of their DNA.

The question then is why are they called blessed?

They are blessed because they have had their eyes and hearts opened to one of the greatest truths ever revealed to man: the sufficiency of Jesus Christ.

This blessing from Jesus tells the poor in spirit that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Again, his focus is not on material poverty, but upon the condition of the hearers heart. If you really think about what Jesus is saying here, you come to the conclusion that the kingdom of heaven is made up entirely of those who are poor in spirit and have a contrite heart.

The message that Jesus is teaching here in the beginning of his sermon is clear. If anyone is to inherit the kingdom of heaven they must become poor in spirit, which requires a repentant heart. Those who humble themselves and declare their need of a Savior, to them is given the kingdom of heaven.

There is no other way to get there!

Up next is “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.”

Until then, be blessed and have a great day!

Ron

 

 

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I’ll take the prayer of faith any day…

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I was recently made aware of someone that has been dealing with some on-going health issues. It was nothing catastrophic, but serious enough nonetheless.

I made inquiries about their present condition and was told “They’re hanging in there”. Not sounding very convincing, I asked again and was told “They’ll be alright”. Still not convinced, I decided to probe a bit deeper as to how they were really doing.

The person proceeded to say “well, they don’t like to profess anything negative”. Of course, I immediately recognized this as classic word of faith (WOF) teaching because one of their beliefs is that your words have creative power, and you can bring negative things into your life just by speaking them.

My response? I told them that I believed in professing the TRUTH, in telling it like it is. If I feel great I’ll say so. If I feel sick I will say so. Saying “I don’t like to profess anything negative” doesn’t do one thing to mask the pain and discomfort when that’s what I’m feeling.

If you want to drill down to it, it’s actually dishonest to do this!

I’m paraphrasing here, but WOF adherents believe that if you speak positive things like blessings and prosperity, blessings will be coming your way shortly. However, speak anything they interpret as being negative such as pain, disease, or sickness, and bad things are coming upon you.

Now, the purpose of this post is not to do a comparative analysis of all that’s wrong with WOF theology. I simply want to point out that the scriptures do not teach what the WOF adherents believe as it pertains to sickness or disease. For example:

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.   James 5:14-16

James is recognizing that there are sick people among the congregation. Why didn’t he launch into the benefits of positive confession if indeed that is all that is required? Or why didn’t he scold the people for confessing negative things like sickness, or for their apparent lack of faith?

Instead, James says to call for the elders of the church to pray for the sick. He did NOT say to call for the elders to speak a positive confession over them. He told them to pray a prayer of faith.

Could it be that James knew what he was talking about? Well, I’d like to believe he did! While James apparently did not become a believer until after the resurrection1, he had no doubt seen the power of prayer up close and personal.

What he did NOT see was a Sermon on the Mount about the benefits of a positive confession. Nor did he ever see Jesus admonish a grief stricken parent for their lack of faith, or for speaking negative words.

What he DID see however was the power of prayer in action.

And that my friends, trumps a positive confession any day of the week!

Be blessed!

Ron

1 John 7:5, Acts 1:14, 1 Corinthians 15:7, Galatians 1:19

Integrity: a priceless commodity

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Integrity: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.   source: dictionary.com

We don’t hear much about integrity these days. No doubt the above definition will explain part of the reason for that.

Morals, ethics, and honesty seem to be in short supply just about everywhere you look. What used to be the bedrock qualification to gain acceptance into a noble field of endeavor, is now no longer a requirement for participation.

Did you know that the Bible has a great deal to say about integrity? The entire book of Job, for example, is a testament to one man’s concern for maintaining his integrity.

The book of Job is one of the oldest in the Bible, with many scholars believing that Job was alive during the time of Abraham. It is a powerful story of good vs. evil, and brings to the forefront the age old question of why do bad things happen to good people?

As we open this particular book, we see that Satan has presented himself to God and proceeds to ask Him to remove the protective hedge from Job. This was Satan’s vain attempt to prove whether Job’s love for God was rooted in his wealth and prosperity, or if in fact it was rooted in Godly integrity.

God then permitted Satan to afflict Job, which he does by causing the loss of all ten of his children, all of his wealth, and all of his material possessions. In spite of all of this unspeakable sorrow, Job held on to his integrity.

In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.   Job 1:22

Unfortunately for Job however, his time of testing was far from over. The day came when Satan once again presented himself to God.

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.” Job 2:3

Did you see that Job held fast to his integrity?

So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”   Job 2:4,5

After this Satan was then permitted to afflict Job physically, yet was ordered to spare his life. This is where we find Job being afflicted with boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. So severe was this torment, that even his wife urged him to put an end to it all by cursing God and dying.

There is much that we can identify with in the story of Job. All of us have suffered loss,whether it was through death, divorce, or abandonment.

Many can relate to losing their wealth and seeing their finances shattered to the point of bankruptcy. Indeed, there are many among us that have enjoyed life in the penthouse, only to see it all crumble before our eyes, leaving us to wonder how this could be.

As I write this I wonder how many readers are at this very moment suffering from a debilitating disease or an incurable condition? Have you been to the brink where you just wanted to end it all and put an end to your suffering?

If so, you can identify with Job.

Job had three friends who came to see him upon hearing of all the calamity that had befallen him. Like Job, in times of despair and suffering we need people to lean on, to draw comfort from. Of course, we need real friends, not the type who cast one accusation after another at Job.

Through all of the pain and suffering, the abandonment of those he once thought were his best friends, and most importantly the silence of God, Job maintained his integrity. How was this possible you may ask?

I believe Job had a “big picture” view of life. He knew that this life was filled with its mountains and its valley’s. Though he was the “greatest man in all the East”, he also knew that all of it could vanish in an instant.

This is why he continually offered sacrifices on behalf of his children. If they had inadvertently sinned he wanted to make sure they were covered.

Job lived by the creed that his integrity could not be bought nor compromised. Read the following words he spoke to his friends as he declared his intentions to hold fast to his integrity to the very end.

As long as my breath is in me,
And the breath of God in my nostrils,
My lips will not speak wickedness,
Nor my tongue utter deceit.
Far be it from me
That I should say you are right;
Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.
My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go;
My heart shall not reproach me as long as I live.   Job 27: 3-6

What a difference it would make in this world if more people lived like they believed this! Can’t you just imagine what it would be like in our churches alone if all of us who profess Christ lived this way?

While we may not hold influence over the masses to the point of convincing them that this is the better way, we can do our part to see that we ourselves adopt the same convictions that Job had.

Integrity is a priceless commodity.

The good news for all of us is that we don’t have to purchase it, nor could we. Jesus Christ did that for all mankind when he died on an old rugged cross. Our integrity is rooted in Him, for He is our righteousness!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

faced with the appalling loss of his possessions, his children, and finally his own health, Job still refuses to curse God.

 

Prosperity: God’s way

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Last week my wife and I were privileged to minister at the Eastview Church of God in Dayton,Oh. It was so wonderful to hear my wife sing the praises of God while I accompanied her on the guitar.She is such a blessing in my life and there is no doubt that God himself smiled upon this unworthy man the day she came into my world.

Since it has been far too long since my last post,I thought I would share a bit from the message I delivered last week.I do apologize for this,but we are currently consumed with moving and I haven’t had the time to really think about the blog.

My message for the day was based on 2nd Chronicles 15:1-8. The theme of these verses is God’s clear instruction that if you walk with Him, he will walk with you,but if you turn away from Him he will also turn away from you.

Though Judah had previously enjoyed God’s blessings they now found themselves broken,discouraged,and defeated. They had in effect walked away from God.

Sin will destroy a nation.

Every time.

Yet because Asa turned his heart to the Lord God gave him rest and peace during his reign. Stability was also one of the hallmarks of Asa’s reign as he ruled for 41 years. Contrast that with the fact that during those 41 years, Israel had crowned seven different kings!

Asa tore down the pagan gods. He even destroyed the images his own mother had erected!asa-cuts-down-image

Clearly there is an historical precedent that we could learn from by examining what the Lord said unto Asa. Lets read together from my text from last week’s message.

1 Now the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded.

2 And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.

3 For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law;

4 but when in their trouble they turned to the Lord God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them.

5 And in those times there was no peace to the one who went out, nor to the one who came in, but great turmoil was on all the inhabitants of the lands.

6 So nation was destroyed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every adversity.

7 But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!”

8 And when Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had taken in the mountains of Ephraim; and he restored the altar of the Lord that was before the vestibule of the Lord.       2nd Chronicles 15:1-8  NKJV

“The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you”.

Could the God of heaven make it any more plain than this?

Contrast this Word with what America is hearing from its pulpits today. We are being told that the way to prosperity is to GIVE. TV preachers constantly use the same tired,worn out shtick that if you give,it will be given to you…

Of course the Word says that. But the last time I checked,there were also an additional 65 books of the Bible that teach us the full understanding of God’s plan of prosperity!

Can you imagine that the God who said that the earth and the fullness thereof is the Lord’s is at all behind such lunacy?

For us to prosper as individuals and as a nation,the die has been cast. There is no “formula” or “special prayer” that will cause us to prosper.You can give all you have to your favorite hipster preacher and it will not prosper you one bit so long as their remains sin in the camp!

No, it is a heartfelt commitment unto the Lord that brings prosperity to our lives, to our nation.

“For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law;”

Sound familiar? Recognize any similarities? Hello North America!!

“But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!”

Clearly,God wants to prosper His children. But it can only happen when we turn again to the Lord.He will not prosper us if we are double minded,if we live like the world and partake of it’s sin. God said rather that He would turn away from us.

I told the congregation that I’m around people all day who make the sign of the cross but speak as though they spend most of their time in the bars! It should be obvious to anyone that we cannot have it both ways!

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.   3rd John 1:2  KJV

Have a blessed Sunday everyone!