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The Beatitudes: conclusion

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As I have a very busy week ahead of me filling in for my Pastor, I need to finish up my thoughts concerning the Beatitudes. So even though it makes for a lengthy read, I have included the remaining four in this final blog.

Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.

Mercy is the act of forgiveness and compassion from someone who has the authority to punish you, but instead chooses to offer mercy. If you’ve ever been the one in need of mercy, and you know you have, you can surely appreciate knowing that your Father in heaven is merciful.

When we are merciful and forgiving to others, we give them a glimpse of the Father’s heart of mercy and forgiveness that is offered to all. As his representatives on earth, we must always be mindful that we are often the only examples of the hands and feet of Jesus that people will ever see.

Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.

The Bible talks a lot about the heart, doesn’t it? The condition of our heart as it relates to God is of the utmost importance in our daily walk. Having an impure heart, for example, keeps us from seeing God for who he is because having such a heart is like walking around wearing blinders.

Having a pure heart, however, allows us to see God in all his glory and splendor because our vision is no longer clouded by sin, judgement, or guilt.

When the Psalmist prayed “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me“, he was essentially asking God for a pure heart. [1] May this be our prayer as well.

Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

Would you agree with me that the world could use a few more peacemakers? After all, God is a peace-loving and a peace-making God, and we sure could use a respite from the constant bickering and fighting among ourselves today.

Peace is something that God has always desired for us. The whole history of redemption, starting with the fall of Adam in the garden to the death and resurrection of Jesus, is all part of God’s plan to establish a just and lasting peace between man and himself.

Not to be overlooked in this plan of redemption is God’s desire for men to also have lasting peace among themselves. It is never God’s will for men to quarrel and fight against one another.

If this message would somehow be heard by all today, what a different world we would be living in! All of us would do well to remember that if we are truly our Father’s children, we will display his attributes and character. What he loves, we will love. And God loves peace.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Persecuted. Not exactly a word that we associate with being blessed, or as some say today “highly favored”, is it?

Yet Jesus does calls us blessed if we are persecuted for righteousness sake. For certain, there are many types of persecution, and varying degrees of it as well.

Some will say that they are being persecuted because someone said something that hurt their feelings. Perhaps a promotion did not come your way and you determine that because of that, you are being persecuted.

I believe though that the persecution Jesus was referring to here is the type that results in the loss of liberty, freedom, and even one’s very life. So while American Christians have been spared (so far) such persecutions, regular readers will note that I have posted several articles on this blog detailing the severe persecution taking place in other parts of the world today.

Literally tens of thousands of Christians are being persecuted, imprisoned, and murdered for the testimony of Jesus in our day. Yet for all that, Jesus calls those of his servants enduring such persecution “blessed”.

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Let’s face it, the world in which we live is becoming increasingly hostile towards Christianity. Today, anyone who aligns themselves with Jesus is mocked, scorned, slandered, and generally treated with disdain.

This isn’t something new however, as Jesus said they did the same things to those who came before us. Our job is simply to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”. [2]

Peter even went so far to say that if we were insulted for the name of Jesus, we are blessed because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon us! [3]

I hope that this series on The Beatitudes has been both worthwhile and a source of encouragement to you. I never tire of reading these words of Jesus because they seem to fan the flames when we need a little spark to keep us pressing onward, and my prayer is that you feel the same way.

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] Psalm 51:10

[2] Philippians 3:14

[3] 1 Peter 4:14

 

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In the end, what really matters?

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You’ve no doubt heard the expression “he who dies with the most toys wins”. Based upon what I’ve seen in my life’s journey, I have no doubt that there is a segment of humanity that subscribes to this sentiment.

You’ve either seen them in your own neighborhood or driven to theirs to see how the other half lives. They have the biggest house and the nicest cars. They always dress like they just stepped out of a photo shoot. Cars, motorcycles, jet skis, boats, the best latest and greatest of everything.

To some people, great wealth is what they live and work for. It’s what drives and motivates them to get more and more, to achieve greater notoriety, to scale the ladders on their never ending quest to reach the pinnacle of their chosen profession.

Surely every man walks about like a shadow; Surely they busy themselves in vain; He heaps up riches, And does not know who will gather them.   Psalm 39:6

At the end of their life however, they must pass through the very same veil that you and I do. To be sure, there are no segregated corridors for the ‘well to do’. There are no golden staircases reserved exclusively for the uber wealthy.

No, all of us, rich and poor, black-white-brown-or whatever skin color you may have, all of us will travel the very same path into eternity.

The only difference, of course, is in the final destination.

God created man a living soul, and whether our eternity is with Him in Heaven or in Hell with the devil and all those who rejected Christ, we will live on.

Our response to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world will dictate our personal eternal existence.

Is Jesus Christ your Savior today?

At the end of it all, that is really all that matters.

Ron

 

 

 

Calling evil good,and good evil

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Perhaps you have heard it said that things today are not what they appear to be. Maybe you’ve lived long enough to see the evolution of what used to clearly be either right or wrong now muddied to the point of uncertainty. You might have even noticed that what was once undeniably black or white has now been replaced with “fifty shades of gray”.

All of this is a result of man’s attempt to create a utopian society where he is god and master of his own destiny, where absolutes simply cannot be tolerated. Right or wrong are seen as relics of a people whose time has come and gone.

In their place has arisen a new code of conduct whereby a simple yes or no has been replaced with maybe. The position of absolute right or wrong has been declared extinct, giving rise to the more palatable position of undetermined.

What we are witnessing is man replaying one of the most insidious chapters in its history from Genesis 3:4, in what is commonly referred to as “The Fall” as recorded in the book of Genesis.

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”   Genesis 2:15-17

Here we see that the Creator has given clear, concise instructions to His highest creation. God did not use words like maybe or undetermined, but rather He specifically said “You Shall Not”, leaving exactly no wiggle room or uncertainty regarding His expectations.

Enter the adversary into the garden, knowing full well what God had said and what was meant by what He said. The enemy needed to do something about God’s clear instructions to Adam and Eve, because to do nothing would be to allow the relationship God had with man to blossom.

And that was something Satan could not tolerate.

So he came up with a plan to sow uncertainty in the hearts and minds of Adam and Eve. How would he do that? By insidiously twisting God’s Word to make what had previously been clearly understood as though it wasn’t clear at all.

Then the serpent said to the woman,You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  (Genesis 3:4)

With one seemingly innocent statement, the enemy of our souls planted doubt and uncertainty in Eve’s heart and mind, thus altering forever the relationship between God and man.

Good had become Evil, and Evil had become Good.

Now, if you’re thinking all of this is nonsense it is worth noting that history has seen this before. Try as we might to want to believe we are somehow enlightened to the point of discovering a new order of things, we are merely following in the footsteps of another nation that was also once the dominant power of the world.

In the book of Isaiah, chapter 5: 8-32, we see six “Woes”, or statements of judgement pronounced upon six types of sins.

  1. Greed
  2. Drunkeness
  3. Mockery of God’s power to righteously judge sin
  4. Distorting God’s moral standards
  5. Arrogance and Pride
  6. Perversion of justice

The distortion of God’s moral standards is called out in verse 20 of Isaiah chapter five.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Society today has chosen to retrace the steps of ancient Israel and Judah by exalting sin. How are we doing this? By calling perversion and immorality by another name. Today we refer to those sins as virtuous and freedoms of expression, while calling Godly righteousness evil or bigoted.

Sexual perversion is commonly known today as an alternative lifestyle, one that is openly accepted and applauded, while opponents of such conduct are labeled as haters and oppressors.

Pro abortion advocates are looked upon as caring people deeply committed to women’s rights, while pro life advocates are called extremists or religious fanatics.

Good has become Evil, and Evil has become Good.

So where is all of this leading us? I don’t have a crystal ball so I cannot predict the future. What I do possess however is God’s Word, and in it you will find a very clear description for where all of this is leading us.

Rather than me giving you the details, I urge everyone to read it for yourself and to become acquainted with what God has said is coming upon all the world. Here’s a hint though: read Paul’s letters to Timothy and to the Thessalonian church just for starters.

If you’re honest and open minded, you might be surprised to learn that none of this has taken the Lord by surprise. In fact, you will find that all of this perversion of justice has been foretold many times over in the Bible.

We are simply repeating the mistakes (sins) of those who have gone before us.

May God have mercy upon us is my heartfelt cry, even though we are undeserving of such.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

Does it really matter what you believe?

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According to some people it doesn’t. After all, don’t all roads lead to Heaven? And at the end of it all, isn’t God going to give everyone a free pass into Heaven? Or at the very least, give us another chance after death to make things “right enough” to earn a spot in heaven?

That actually sounds nice doesn’t it? I mean, if God is love and all, why wouldn’t He let everyone into Heaven? What kind of God would exclude good people anyway?

I used to believe this, every last word of it. You might say my “religion” was built upon the premise that if God was who people said He was, at the end of the game all of our scores will be added up and guess what?

We all get in because God is a swell guy that sees all the good works we’re doing. You know, working hard to get to Heaven and all that.

Being raised as I was without any religious or Bible education, I was simply doing what everyone else who was raised in similar circumstances was doing; I invented my own religious belief system. A system built upon my own works and good deeds.

And I was doing fine until…

One day someone told me that Jesus was the only way, that He loved me, and that He died just for me, and right then my “religion” was exposed for what it was: just another frail attempt by a sinful man to justify his own sinful behavior.

When I started going to church and reading the Bible for myself, I soon realized just how far off the mark I had drifted. As a matter of fact, reading the Gospels alone was enough to convince me that what one believes actually did matter.

You see, what I discovered was that according to the Bible, there was such a thing as right and wrong. Not only that, but I also discovered that my opinions about it didn’t really matter all that much, because you see the Bible confronted me with a TRUTH that rendered my own opinions pretty much worthless.

This is why it grieves my soul today when I hear people say “there’s good in all churches” (not true). Or when I hear people say ”well, they may not teach it just like the Bible says, but its close enough” (no, it’s not). Or my all-time favorite: “I know they say some things that don’t line up with the Word, but I just take the good stuff and throw away the rest”.

Is God so wishy washy that he considers close enough or good enough to be sufficient? I mean seriously, is this kind of like horseshoes, where close enough earns you points?

Do we really believe that close enough or good enough is really “good enough”? Is this really something we want to leave to chance? Isn’t it serious enough to want to know for certainty?

Can someone even define “good enough” or “close enough”?

And can we of our own making devise a religion that will make us good enough, much like I thought I had done?

Well, not according to God’s Word we can’t!

As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;  Romans 3:10

So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.  Mark 10:18

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Prov. 16:25

It DOES matter what you believe! It matters because it matters to a Holy God, and it is only because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ that we are saved today.

Good enough? Not me. The only good in me is HIM.

And that’s all that matters!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

What are you settling for?

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God has called us to live an Abundant Life, just as Jesus describes in John 10:10.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

I’m thinking that we are settling for far less than an Abundant Life, especially as Christians, the Body of Christ. For example…

By all appearances, we are content to go to church, listen to a few songs, settle in for a nice sermon that was designed to make us feel better about ourselves, then head quickly for the door in order to get a seat at our favorite restaurant.

Mediocrity Green Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds, Sun Rays and Sky.Content to leave exactly as we came.

Content to settle for yet another dry, lifeless, powerless church service.

 

The only thing worse than this is doing it all over again.

Every

Single 

Week

Surely, the enemy of our souls is watching all of this, gleeful in that we have succumbed to the spirit of slumber. This, in spite of Paul’s warning to the church at Rome:

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” Rom. 13:11

This is what settling does to us. It allows complacency to overwhelm our senses to the point that we no longer are even aware of what we don’t have!

Our churches have all kinds of musical talent for example. From keyboards and guitars to drums and full orchestra’s. Music fills the rafters. Yet it’s one lifeless, cold, ritualistic note after another, void of any anointing that might sear the conscious or break through a heart hardened by sin.

So we settle. And we clap. And we sing. And we clap some more.

And leave exactly the same way we came.

We have learned to be OK with settling. In fact, settling is now normal.

Our ministers now have access to scriptural knowledge like at no other time in history. Thanks to the Internet, entire volumes of reference materials are at our fingertips. Huge libraries containing thousands of works published by sold out men and women of God are accessible via a click of a computer mouse.

Yet for all of this available knowledge and wisdom, what we are presented on Sunday mornings are short sermonettes containing tidbits of scripture, but filled with stories about being a better you, or how to live your best life. To more than a few, this is a great time to take a nap!

bored_in_church-300x270

charleyreeb.com

These sermonnettes are nothing more than pulpit cheer-leading. They prompt us to feel the “rah rah rah” of the moment, but cannot prevent the euphoria from draining away when life suddenly interrupts our version of “churchianity”.

For that, we need the whole counsel of the meat of God’s Word.

Do you want to know the secret to living your best life, and how to be a better you? The secret is to die daily. That’s right, draw nigh to God and in the process you will crucify this flesh that demands more and more of the pleasures of this world.

Would it shock you to learn that God isn’t the least bit interested in whether or not you are living your best life? Would it surprise you to learn that what He is really interested in is that you submit your entire life to Him?

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Matthew 6:33

Give Him all of you FIRST, then the things you desire will come. Anything less than this is settling. Yes, seeking the kingdom of God first is a costly endeavor. It will cost you your WILL.

Nothing worth having is free, nor does it come easy. The rewards however, are priceless.

Why then do we settle for less than the Abundant Life Jesus spoke of?

What exactly are you settling for?

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

And we wonder why…Part 4

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As I conclude this series I want to begin by focusing on a key point of contention being tossed around today, that being that our school systems are somehow to blame for all of the recent school shootings.

What has brought us to this point in our nation’s history, a point where we find ourselves burying innocent children who have been murdered at school, is not an inept educational system.

Dysfunctional at times…absolutely. However, the current media fixation on all that is wrong with our schools being one of the leading causes of the repeated carnage taking place is just plain wrong.

Interestingly enough, if you were to look closely at the past six decades of education in America, you would see that our schools have always been used as a “battleground” of sorts.

For example:

  • In 1954 Segregation was finally outlawed.
  • In 1962 prayer was banned from public schools. The following year reading the Bible was also banned.
  • In 1972 Title IX became law, prohibiting discrimination based upon sex.
  • In 1983 President Reagan issued the report “A Nation at Risk”, detailing the ways in which America’s schools were underperforming.
  • In 2001 President G.W. Bush signed into law “No Child Left Behind” ,increasing funding while ushering in standards based reforms.
  • In 2010 President Obama’s “Race to The Top” program brought with it many additional education reforms.

It is obvious that the education of America’s children has long been a priority. For certain, mistakes have been made, but there have also been tremendous successes.

Today, our educational system is one of the best in the world. More importantly, our children continue to receive a quality education. While some countries may boast of better test scores, considering the sheer magnitude of our educational system I believe we do a great job.

I think we can also safely say that a lack of funding is generally not a problem (yes, I know, tell that to a teacher!). After all, the trillions of dollars spent on providing a good education testify of our commitment to continue doing so.

The problem of school shootings therefore does not lie with either the school or the government. Both of these entities continue to do what they’ve always done. Why anyone would think that either is to blame for the tragedies in our schools is beyond me.

Of course, there is that issue of finding a Scapegoat…

If not the schools system itself or the government, what then is the problem?

Here’s a thought for you: if you are 50 years of age and upward, how many school shootings happened while you attended school? In my case, there were exactly ZERO school shootings during all of my years of education. How about you?

Likewise, when I was in school we had exactly ZERO school psychologists. The closest thing we had to a psychologist was a guidance counselor, and I realize what a stretch that is.

Did you know that the position of school psychologist is currently one of the most in-demand and highest paid positions in the state of Florida? Not an educator of students mind you, but a psychologist. Think about that for a moment and let it sink in.

How have we gone from a nation where our children’s education was of such primary importance that generation after generation approved one tax levy after another in order to support our schools, to a nation where career educators today have less value than a school psychologist?

How have we gone from a nation where we would send our children off to school each day, confident that they would be taught the necessary skills needed to succeed in this world, to a nation where each day we say goodbye to them causes a nagging fear to surface that this might be the last time I see my child alive?

The hard question that no one wants to ask is this: WHAT HAS CHANGED?

What has changed is the heart and consciousness of America is now on life support. Our society has gone from a vibrant, thriving, God loving one to a society known more for its capacity for evil than its good works.

Our collective soul as a nation is on a death watch.

To put it in the simplest terms: as a nation we are sick. We have been infected with an incurable (by man’s standards) disease. And we need to accept the fact that this disease has infected every facet of our society, including our schools.

And we wonder why the killings?

Judging by the frequency of attacks upon our children, one could make the case that we would rather argue and cast blame than admit we have been inflicted with this disease so that we can then be able to ingest the antidote.

Which by the way, is NOT a school psychologist.

As long as we can argue and blame one another, we can avoid having to confront the real issue here. You see, it’s difficult to admit that we have a disease called SIN, because not only is God not welcome in our schools, neither is He welcome in our government.

And He is becoming less welcome in our homes each and every day.

Get rid of God; get rid of the sin issue. Get rid of the sin issue, we have cleared our consciousness of any guilt in the matter. It’s as old as the original sin in the garden! Isn’t that what we have done?

We can talk all day long about policy changes and new/more gun regulations in the hope that they will put an end to the murder of our children. Let me be the first to say that there must be changes made to prevent access to weapons of any kind by anyone. To continue allowing things to continue as they are is madness.

But let’s be perfectly clear about something: no policy or regulation has ever been implemented that will change a person’s heart, any more than a simple STOP sign will cause everyone to stop at the intersection.

The biggest obstacle to changing the status quo is the fact that our society has yet to hit rock bottom, thus we do not yet want to change. As perverted as this may sound, apparently we have not yet suffered enough, or else we would take the necessary actions to right this sinking ship.

Until we acknowledge that we are incapable of piloting this ship apart from Almighty God, we will continue to flounder in the cesspool of sin and violence.

And our innocent children will continue to be killed.

I won’t bore you with one story after another from the Bible, because history itself is filled with examples of nations and society’s who have chosen the slippery slope of independence from God. And like the proverbial blind leading the blind, we too will fall into a ditch from which there is no escape unless we repent, humble ourselves, and seek His face.

As horrific as it is now, how loudly will this nation cry when these evil, sadistic murderers turn their guns on the nursing homes or the hospitals? How long will it be before someone bursts into a public library and commits the unthinkable?

Lest we forget, it’s happening in our churches right now!

Whereas this nation was once grateful, humble, and thankful for God’s mercy, compassion, blessings, and divine protection, we have in this generation decided that there is no place for God in America.

Accordingly, the innocent among us are now paying the price for the sins of the fathers.

This is our choice.

This is what we wanted.

This is what we received.

Let no one ever say again that God doesn’t give us what we ask.

May God help us is my heart felt prayer.

Ron

And we wonder why…Part 3

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Let us now draw our attention to the leadership of our churches here in America. In the face of a national crisis, which the murder of innocent school children certainly is, we should expect our Christian leaders to rise to the forefront in the fight against such heinous acts.

Appreciatively, many of the mainline denominations were swift to respond to the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, which was reassuring to many.

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for prayer and healing. Episcopal bishops are arranging for services of lamentation at churches around the country. The Presbytery of Tropical Florida has announced a “Vigil of Prayer and Light.

While all of this is good, what they all have in common is that they are reactive responses to the violence that has already occurred. In other words, they’re too late!

This level of violence is interwoven with America’s steep spiritual decline, and as such must be met head on with our spiritual leaders LEADING a proactive charge.

Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas, Texas, all of these horrific acts of extreme violence fade quickly from our memory. To be sure, these events shock us, bring us to tears, make us angry, and cause us to point our collective fingers at what we perceive to be the cause.

They do everything except cause us to change on the inside.

Where is the leadership in our churches collectively calling for repentance? Why don’t our leaders issue a call to adhere to 2nd Chronicles 7:14?

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

How is it that our church leaders can rail against the government, against gun manufacturers, against nearly everything except for SIN?

The problem as I see it that our Church Leadership seems more apt to jump on the bandwagon of blame, rather than lead the spiritual initiatives required to combat this issue.

Recently, I read a Tweet from one of the “rising young stars” in the Charismatic church who declared that he was angry at the Congress and angry at the President for not doing something to stop all this gun violence.

Well my brother, I’m so glad you said that because I feel like you should be angry. I’m angry too. Only, be sure you direct your anger in the right direction.

That’s right, I said it.

Before we blame the President and the Congress, the NRA, or the Conservatives or the Liberals, we need to step back and review what our church’s leaders have done to stem the tide.

For example, it shouldn’t be too hard to add up all the hours we leaders have spent on our faces before God pleading for the soul of this nation, should it? I mean, that is part of OUR responsibility, isn’t it?

And no, Facebook and Twitter “I’m praying for you” prayers do not count. I’m talking about the kind of praying that has all but been forgotten in our churches. The kind of praying that requires we first repent of our own apostasy before we call upon a Holy God.

And it should be real easy to add up how many meals we’ve fasted as we assail the throne of God on behalf of our children, shouldn’t it? That is what real men and women of God do, isn’t it?

I mean, if we’re going to blame someone else we ought to make sure our own house is in order, shouldn’t we? That is how this is supposed to work, is it not?

From where I sit on the front row, I am appalled at how carnal we church leaders have become. We wring our hands along with the rest of the nation, while God waits patiently for someone to “lay hold of the altar”, or to “stand in the gap” for this nation and its children.

Surely, the constant pleas from the grief-stricken parents should be enough to motivate us and drive us to our knees!

I can’t help but wonder however, how much longer God will withhold his rod of judgement. And just to be clear, the rod of judgement will be used first in the house of God.

America’s church leaders are not innocent bystanders in the battle against the forces of darkness that are attacking our children. Far from it. We church leaders have blood on our hands just as any other watchman who fails to sound the alarm.

In the 4th and final installment of the series “And we wonder why”, I’m going to address the question of “what has changed?”

Until next time,

Ron

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