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Looking for God in all the wrong places…

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“He who dies with the most toys wins” in a quote attributed to Malcolm Forbes, a very wealthy man who amassed an incredible collection of homes, motorcycles, and other expensive ”toys”. It’s a quote I’ve heard many times, sometimes in jest, sometimes in earnest conversation.

In our consumer driven society, acquiring “toys” seems par for the course for most of us. Whatever your hobby, it seems as though their is an endless array of necessary choices one must purchase in order to reach a certain level of contentment.

Therein is the rub, of course. At what point in our lifetime do we reach that magical zone of contentment, where the never-ending quest for more “toys” has been fulfilled?

For some, such as the hoarders depicted in the popular TV show of the same name, contentment is as elusive as stumbling upon a long buried pirate’s treasure chest.

In reality, the wealthy and affluent are not much different. The major difference, if any, would be the quality and cost of the ever growing mountain of “stuff” they accumulate.

What drives us to seek fulfillment and contentment in “things”?

I’ve read a number of scholarly papers and articles on this subject, and there are many different opinions cited as the answer to this question.

No surprise there, is there?

Yet when we take a look at the Scriptures, there seems to be a very logical reason for this type of behavior.

We are looking for God in all the wrong places.

Void of God’s presence in our lives we feel incomplete, unsatisfied, and altogether inadequate. Because the bonds that tie us together with God have been severed by sin, we seek out other ways to replace the spiritual void within us.

So we try anything and everything to fill the emptiness. Except for God, of course.

There is a very real danger in trying to replace God with “stuff”. In fact, Jesus told us to have our guard up against trying to replace the missing relationship we are designed to have with God.

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”    ‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Being constantly bombarded with ads for the newest car,boat,motorcycle or jewelry, one would think that it truly was a matter of “he who dies with most toys wins”.

Jesus shows us the fallacy of such a mindset. It isn’t about what you accumulate in this life that matters most.

What matters most in this life is allowing Christ to fill that void created by our broken relationship with Him.

Where are you looking today to find fulfillment and contentment in life? Is every room in your home jammed to the rafters with inanimate things?

If this describes you, it’s time to stop looking for God in all the wrong places.

You would be amazed to learn that He is nearer than you think!

Be blessed,

Ron

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Temptation as seen through God’s eyes

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One of the most commonly quoted but misapplied verses in the entire Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13. This is the verse that speaks to us about enduring temptation.

When this particular verse is referenced it is almost always stated that “God won’t allow us to be tempted with more than we can handle”. While that is true, it is only partly true. Here is the verse I’m referring to:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
I Corinthians 10:13 NKJV

There are several components to this verse that I would like to bring out in this post. Let’s begin with “no temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man”. Often when we are tempted, we tend to gravitate towards the thought that no one has ever had to endure anything like this.

When we are tempted, or tried, it is only natural for us to feel as though it is overwhelming, as though it is so great that we cannot overcome it. Our finite minds struggle to garner a measure of faith and hope that we can endure the temptation and yet come out of it victorious.

The scripture makes it clear however, that when we are tempted it is a “common” temptation, meaning that it is the same temptation that everyone deals with. We are drawn away from Christ by lust, impure thoughts, greed, malice, and a whole host of common temptations.

In short, we aren’t special.   Sorry!

Next, we read that God is faithful. Most of us know that, but when we are being tempted our nature is to question whether or not He will stand with us. Feelings of panic often set in, followed by doubt and confusion about whether or not we will have to deal with this alone. It is at this point that we must fall back on the promise that “He will never leave us nor forsake us”.

This is where God wants us to simply trust him, and to trust the process.

Finally, we come to the part of the verse that I alluded to in the beginning. The part that is most often misused or misapplied: “But with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”.

When people quote1 Corinthians 10:13 they almost always leave off this part of it, which is rather strange because it’s actually the best part! To say that God won’t allow us to tempted with more than we can handle is great. But that’s only part of the story.

In reality, God doesn’t withhold temptation from us. Did you ever question why that is? Well, there are likely several reasons, not the least of which is that He knows that in order for us to grow in faith; we must be stretched beyond our comfort level.

That’s an uncomfortable thought, isn’t it?

We could look at this another way and ask why doesn’t God just put a shield around us to prevent temptation from coming against us in the first place? Many of us would no doubt choose this option if we could, for who wouldn’t rather not have to deal with such things?

The fact is however, that just as your own children must learn and grow, so must we as children of God. How stunted would our growth be if we never experienced adversity?

I believe there is another motive behind the Lord permitting us to endure temptation, and that is that until we are tried in the fires of temptation, we really do not know what we’re made of (in Christ).

Let’s use the analogy of a heavy weight boxer. If the boxer is only allowed to fight against equal or lesser skilled fighters, do you think he will improve? It’s not very likely. That’s why you will sometimes see a young fighter matched against a more powerful, more experienced one. It’s used to reveal to the young fighter how good he really is, but also to reveal the areas he needs to work on.

Isn’t it so when our faith is tested through various temptations? Instead of bemoaning the temptation, what if we approached it from the mindset that God is exposing an area of weakness within us that must be worked on?

Lastly, we must always be cognizant of the fact that God permits us to be tempted. We MUST grasp this fact. God permits it. This is where so many of us falter in our walk. God himself will never tempt us to sin, but he will allow us to be tempted by the enemy. What I’m trying to say here is that God is still in the works because He is still in control of our situation!

Even though He permits the temptation, He will not allow more than we can bear. In this fact we can take heart! In the midst of temptation, God is still there because He is going to make a way of escape in order for you to bear up under it. Plainly stated; the temptation will not overtake you if you will place your trust in Christ.

Something to remember, the next time you’re being pulled a dozen different ways.

Be blessed, in Jesus name.

Ronear tickled

 

Our greatest ability must be our availability

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Have you ever noticed how that some of us Christians seem to have a need to be recognized? You know the type I’m sure.    We drop subtle hints about the level of our giving, or we imply that we are at a different level than others by saying “God told me”.

We  toss around the names of well-known preachers as though we have full access to them, when in reality we buy their latest DVD series and attend a conference or two. I guess the monthly email we receive is somewhat akin to full access?

Contrast this mindset with the teachings of scripture, and you will see a problem with how highly many of us think of ourselves, and how far off track we’ve gotten. For example:

And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.  Matthew 23:12 (NKJV)

Jesus leaves no room for discussion on the matter of pride and self-indulgence. If we set ourselves up to be better than others, make no mistake about it, we will be humbled. In case you haven’t experienced it yet…stick around, life has a way of humbling the proud.

Right here is where you can say Amen!

The same goes for those of us who deem ourselves spirituality superior to others. We who boast of being blessed, did this blessing come about from the sacrifices of others? Are we living high off of the widows mite?

Or what about those of us who believe we have been given an “inside track” to some previously unrevealed bit of biblical knowledge? Christendom has plenty of teachers who are puffed up, believing they have received a special revelation from on High.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,   I Peter 5:6 (NKJV)

My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad.   Psalms 34:2 (NKJV)

Scripture could not be clearer. We are not to think more highly of ourselves than we should. It is God who exalts, who raises us up. If we are to brag, or boast on anyone it must be the Lord Jesus!

Let’s be real here, shall we? Out thinly veiled attempts to disguise the fact that we want to be the recipient of adoration and praise are easily seen through. Besides, while we can fool men, we cannot fool God. He knows our motives, of this we can be sure.

The Christian life was never meant to be one of pride and arrogance, but of service from a humble heart. What we the Church have done with Christ’s instruction in Mark 10:43   “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.“….is an offence to a Holy God.      emphasis mine

Our task, our mission, indeed our greatest act of Christian service, is simply to make ourselves available to God so that we might be used of Him to reach a lost soul.

This requires a servant’s heart on our part. It requires us to think less of ourselves and more about others. Basically, it requires us to conform to God’s Word, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and to separate ourselves from the mindset that says “it’s all about me”.

Our greatest ability is not how well we sing. I believe God would rather hear the birds singing their heavenly song than the most popular Christian singer around.

Our greatest ability is not in how well we preach. I believe God gets greater joy out of his children extending grace and mercy to others, from being the hands and feet of Jesus, than from any sermon preached by Graham, Spurgeon, or Whited.

Our greatest ability is not in how much knowledge we accumulate during our short time on this earth. I believe the Lord revels in our childlike faith and dependence upon Him more than an education from the most prestigious university.

Our greatest ability lies in our availability, in our willingness to say “send me Lord, for I am making myself available for your will and for your service”.

My prayer is that we will take this matter to heart, that we might pause long enough to ask ourselves how available we are to Him. To ask ourselves if we fully understand that this life isn’t about us, but about positioning ourselves as humble servants so that we may serve others.

After all, it’s not our church. It belongs to Him.

Be blessed on this Lords day,

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

 

 

The risk of telling the truth

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Have you ever been faced with the dilemma of either telling someone the truth and risking a relationship, or not addressing a particular situation and allowing that same person to continue living what is tantamount to a lie?

This can be a difficult, stressful situation to find yourself in. On the one hand you don’t want to lose a friendship, yet on the other hand to say nothing is even worse. It’s the “silence is consent” conundrum.

As a Christian, I believe we are to speak the truth in love. Always.

In fact, we are commanded to address sin for the purpose of restoring the one who has sinned.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”           Galatians 6:1

Confronting the sins, or faults, or transgressions of another is never easy because all of us are just as guilty of our own shortcomings. It is important then that when we approach someone who is struggling in a particular area of their lives, that we do so lovingly and with grace.

After all, our purpose in doing so must not be to judge or condemn, but to restore that person to a right standing relationship with God. That is God’s plan for all of us, isn’t it? To be reconciled to God is the sole purpose for Jesus Christ offering Himself on the cross.

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,” II Corinthians 5:18

When we get right down to it, when we come to the end of our days, all that will matter is whether or not our hearts are cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. And when you consider that we are dealing with eternal things, it really does matter!

We know however that not everyone receives correction, or restoration, because the heart becomes hardened to the effects of sin. It’s not that a person doesn’t know or understand that their choices are sinful, but rather that they willingly choose to do so.

“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17

To these individuals, speaking the truth in love can often seem futile. It can also be costly because the hearer may not reject just the correction, but you as well. And this is very difficult for us to accept because we do not understand why someone would not receive what we are offering to them in love.

“Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” Galatians 4:16

Many Christians are being falsely labeled today as “hate groups” because they do not subscribe to the worlds standards for living. Taking a biblical stand for example against homosexuality will get you labeled as a “hater”. The same goes for supporting only Biblical marriage between a man and a woman, along with everything else the world is trying to peddle as acceptable.

This is important, because the foundation has been laid by groups such as the SPLC to categorize all Bible believing Christians as intolerant bigots who must be silenced. While the Church has slumbered (yet again), the process to do just that has made great strides.

Telling the truth, especially the Biblical truth to a person is not hate at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. To say nothing to someone living a lifestyle that Scripture condemns is the opposite of love, for in doing so you have assisted them in continuing down the path to certain destruction.

To lovingly confront someone with Biblical truth however is love, for you are demonstrating to that person that you love them enough to risk a friendship or the relationship for the sake of restoring them to a right relationship with Christ.

How big of a risk taker are you?

Be blessed!

Ron

 

“What will you do in the end”? Part 1

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That’s an odd question, isn’t it? Especially when you consider the source of the question is God Himself.

“An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land:

The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power;

And my people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?    Jer. 5:30,31    emphasis mine

This is a very pointed question that God asked of the children of Israel, isn’t it? The question was asked, not to elicit an answer, but rather to serve as an indictment against the children of Israel for abandoning their God.

God describes the condition of Israel at this time as both astonishing and horrible. What are supposed to be His spokesmen, the prophets, speak only lies in the name of God.

The religious leaders, or priests of the Tabernacle, rule by their own decrees, not God’s. Long abandoned is the Law, having given way to the sons of Aaron defiling the priesthood.

Even more incredible is the statement that “my people love to have it so”. Gone is the desire to do that which is right in the sight of God. It has been replaced by a passion for all things ungodly. Chaos is the rule of the land.

God is saying to them that once all the calamities come upon them that He has decreed, all of the gods they have prayed to will not be able to save them. He tells them that their priests cannot save them; nor can their leaders save them from the terror that is soon to envelop them.

So, Israel, what are you going to do then?

What will you do in the end, when I send an army upon your lands, an army without number, an army so fierce as to defy imagination? How will you handle it?

God is asking them “what will you do in the end” because He is about to permit the unthinkable.

History has recorded in detail “what they did in the end” when the Babylonian armies conquered Israel. They “handled” it by becoming enslaved by a people who wholly devoured them and their lands.

The irony of this is almost beyond belief! Israel, the very same Israel that God delivered from over 400 years of Egyptian slavery, has once again become enslaved by a nation more powerful than itself.

If this weren’t recorded in Scripture, one would think this was a fable, for what nation could be so foolish as to allow this to happen to them again? Or, as we like to say today…who does this?

Indeed, what nation would ever permit itself to become enslaved after enjoying the freedoms and liberties afforded them by the Providence of the Almighty?

What nation would ever turn their back on the God who had blessed it beyond measure with such an abundance of natural resources, blessed its soil to produce food enough to literally feed the world?

What nation would ever turn its back on the God who blessed its citizens with such technological knowledge that it could harness the energy of the atom? Blessed it with economic prosperity beyond comprehension?

In Part 2 of this series, we will learn the identity of this nation, and also take a look into the “blame game” being played out before us.

Have a blessed Lord’s day!

Ron

How would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

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Would you change anything? Would you do anything different?

Would you notice the crying baby, or the fussy children?

Would you notice what the person next to you was wearing?

Would you take extra care in picking out what you would wear, or take no thought at all?

Would the volume of the music bother you as much as it usually does, or not at all?

Would you care that your favorite song wasn’t sung, yet again?

I’m jotting all of this down very early Sunday morning as I’m waiting to start getting ready for church. I woke this morning thinking, wondering, is there anything inhibiting my worship? And how would I worship if I had advance notice that this would be my last opportunity?

Worship

To offer Him praise and thanksgiving for all He has done in our lives,to take the time to express our gratitude to God for His many blessings. Isn’t that why we assemble on the Lord’s Day?

As I thought about all of this, my mind began to drift to the different types of worship we read about in the Bible.

Ritual Temple Worship

From the priestly worship inside the Temple we find the descendants of Aaron offering up animal sacrifices as an act of worship for the people: sin offerings, trespass offerings, guilt offerings, and on it goes.

Sacrificial Worship

The people often traveled great distances to worship, and let’s not forget that travel then was very hard and dangerous. Still, they went onward, determined to worship.

We see a man by the name of Elkanah going up yearly to the Temple to make sacrificial worship offerings. Year after year his wives went with him, and God received the worship of his wife Hannah, who was blessed with a son who you might remember was Samuel.

Emotional Worship

And how could we forget David, warrior king of Israel who danced in worship before the Lord with all his might?

Holy Worship

In the New Testament we read where there is worship in heaven, glorious, other-worldly worship where twenty four elders cast their crowns at the feet of God while crying Holy, Holy, Holy.

Whenever we find worship mentioned in scripture we typically find God responding to it, because we are told that God inhabits the praise of His people (Psalms 22:3)

Knowing all these things, the thought of “what if today was my last day to worship God” is front and center in my heart. Would we permit anything to inhibit our worship,if this was truly the case? Would all the things that we get hung up on now really matter?

As I continue working on this post, church has been over for nearly three hours. During the service today this topic was never far from my thoughts. Whether during the music portion, receiving the offering, or while being taught the word of God, I purposed in my heart that I would focus only on Him.

I couldn’t even tell you if anyone had a doughnut in their hand!😉

How then should we approach worship? Is there a right way to worship? Should our worship be limited by what our particular denomination allows, or considers acceptable?

Should our worship be traditional or contemporary? High Church or Cowboy Church? Quiet or loud, exuberant or solemn? Last time I checked, the Lord wasn’t handing out style points, but was looking for sincere hearts.

I don’t pretend to be able to answer those questions for you. I can, however, offer up this thought. I believe God expects, no demands, our very best worship. And what is “best” is different for each of us.

Take the busy single mom, who after working all day comes home exhausted knowing that her day is far from over. With kids to feed and bathe, homework to help with, laundry to be done, and a thousand other daily chores that won’t get done without her, her best worship opportunity might mean bowing her head and heart in the shower during her only 10 minute respite of the day.

Or think about the business man or woman who routinely works 80-100 hours a week. The pressure and stress never seems to let up, even on Sunday mornings. The advancements in technology have made intrusions into their quiet time with God almost predictable. For them, their best worship opportunity might be fleeting at best.

As I said, I believe God demands our best worship, and I believe He will meet with us, regardless of method, place, or duration. The important thing is that we acknowledge Him as Lord, and that we connect with Him as often as we can.

So, how would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

If you think you know the answer, why not try it out the next opportunity you get? After all, it could well be your last “audition”.

Be blessed,

Ron

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