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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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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

 

 

 

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.

 

The Great Divide…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Great Divide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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