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Do you believe, I mean REALLY believe?

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“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;”  and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”             2nd Timothy 4:3-4

The misguided congregation of Elevation church has done exactly that. They have placed in the position of pastor a young man that is openly sowing unbelief in the midst of his own congregation, and none dares to call him out on it.

This ‘pastor’ recently preached a message to his congregation, stating that he had doubts in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Furthermore, he claimed that no one in the congregation fully believed these things.” [1]

Wow! The ‘pastor’ of the church openly declared that none of his congregation was without doubt regarding the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. There is not one single person attending that church that is convinced by scripture of the truth surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ? What kind of a place is this?

This my friends, is an abomination. It is a slap in the face of Jesus Christ that an unbeliever such as this man would be placed in the position of shepherd over God’s people.

Yes, I’m sure many of you didn’t like that. It’s awful harsh and judgmental, isn’t it?

It’s also the truth.

At the end of this debacle the ‘pastor’ stated “I have my doubts. Is that alright? Do you need to find another church now that you know the man with the mic has doubts? I have my doubts.”

The answer the congregation should have given was a resounding YES!, followed by an immediate mass exodus to the nearest exit doors, never to return.

I may have doubts about my own capabilities, motives, and yes I even have doubts about my personal value to God’s kingdom. It’s a very normal and human thing to doubt such things about ourselves. If you’re reading this, I dare say you feel the same way at times.

That being said, I can however testify with 100% certainty that I have no doubts as to the truth of the death, burial, and resurrection of my Savior. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

Everything I believe about Him, indeed my very salvation is secured by the truth of His death, burial, and resurrection.

To doubt this is to acknowledge that I have yet to pass from death to life. [2]

If He did not die, I am still lost. If He did not raise from the dead, I am still lost. There is NO MIDDLE GROUND!

How can I be so certain about this? It’s because I have a relationship with Him! I know exactly who He is! Every page of scripture has His DNA embedded in it! He is the Word that was made flesh and dwelt among us!

What about you? Do you REALLY believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Or are you seeking for a ‘teacher’ who will lead you down the path of fables?

My sincere prayer is that you can answer YES to the former while rejecting the latter.

Be blessed and secure in His Truth!

Ron

 

[1] For the record, I do not endorse or agree with every article or post from the Pulpit and Pen.

[2] John 5:24

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The Hostile Act of Prayer?

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I have written before of the severe persecution of Christians in North Korea and other nations that are closed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sadly, that trend continues unabated as nearly every day a new story surfaces detailing the imprisonment, torture, and killing of believers.

When U.S. citizen Kim Hak Song was arrested in North Korea on May 6, 2017, he was told that his crime was the hostile act of prayer. Officials there had records of an email he had sent to his church asking them to pray for the people of North Korea, and they also knew that he had led morning prayers for a worship group.

Amazingly, after just a year in prison, Kim Hak Song was released from prison a few weeks ago in a “goodwill” gesture prior to the upcoming meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

While this news was received with gladness, there are still an estimated 50,000 Christians imprisoned in North Korea’s brutal prison system. Their “crimes” of being faithful to Jesus Christ have earned them unimaginable treatment including starvation, torture, forced abortion, and separation from their families.

For reasons I fail to understand, Christians here in the West remain willingly ignorant of the plight of their brothers and sisters in North Korea and other countries. It is almost like a game is being played out where if it doesn’t impact me, it’s not my problem.

What we fail to realize however is that this does impact us. Whether we like it or not, we are all one body, united in the Spirit. Christians suffering in remote prisons are no less a part of the Body of Christ than you or I.

You see, in the Kingdom of God we are all seen as equals, for the ground is level at Calvary.

While we here in the West argue over carpet colors, styles of music, the brand of coffee being served in the church cafe, pews or theater seats, or a hundred other insignificant items, thousands of our fellow believers are wondering if today will be their last day on this earth.

If you remain unconvinced as to our responsibility to care for those such as Kim Hak Song and the hundreds of thousands worldwide who are currently suffering for the cause of Christ, I offer these words of Jesus:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the,holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.

32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.

33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;

36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?

38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?

39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’    Matthew 25:31-40

I am not suggesting that anyone fly to North Korea to try and win the release of Christian prisoners. That would be incredibly foolish and you would no doubt find yourself in the same situation as thousands of others there.

What I am suggesting however is that you take just a few moments each day to pray for those I consider to be our generation’s true heroes of the faith.

They would willingly do the same for you and I, even at the risk of imprisonment.

Hostile Acts of Prayer? The only thing remotely hostile would be our continued indifference to the plight of those now suffering for Christ.

Be blessed in Jesus name,

Ron

For a detailed account of the scope and magnitude of Christian persecution in the world today, I invite you to go to https://www.opendoorsusa.org/  where you will find an amazing amount of information related to this matter.

What’s Behind The Door?

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That was the title of a message I delivered Wednesday evening at my home church. My scripture text came from Revelation 4:1-5.

1 After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.” 

2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.

3 And He who sat there was[a] like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.

4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns[b] of gold on their heads.

5 And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices.[c] Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the[d] seven Spirits of God.

The crux of my message was that God has so much for for His church than what we are settling for today. Just as the voice told John to “come up here”, I believe the Lord is speaking to the church to do likewise so that He may show us what lies behind our own door.

We cannot do the work of God if we stay in the same place, nor can we do it by doing the same thing the same way we’ve always done it and expect more from our efforts. Talk about the definition of insanity!! We need to finally get on God’s page!

I am convinced that behind the door is MORE.

More power. More love. More compassion. More faith. More strength.

More of everything the church needs to be Jesus to a lost and helpless world.

The question all of us must answer is this: are we willing to “come up here” to see what’s behind the door?

Think about it. Please?

Be blessed!

Ron

When “works” replace Jesus…

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Recently I came across an article that talked about pastors filling in their church calendars for the new year. The gist of this article dealt with whether or not the items that made their calendars was real ministry or simply “busy work”.

It made for interesting reading, especially when one of the pastors posted a link to his calendar for everyone to see. Imagine my surprise when lo and behold nearly every day of the week was filled from early morning till late in the evening.

Everything from early morning Bible studies and Zumba classes, afternoon staff and business meetings, to evening choir practice and healthy cooking classes filled this church’s calendar.

Frankly, it was the busiest church calendar I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them. At first glance one would be inclined to say that this church was very busy, and they certainly were. I couldn’t imagine them squeezing anything else into an already stuffed daily agenda.

There was something odd however about this church calendar. I couldn’t figure it out at first, but I couldn’t shake the notion that in spite of so many agenda items something was missing.

Then it hit me. There was something missing! In fact, I noticed two missing items. The first was that there was no time built into the calendar for corporate prayer. The second thing that I noticed missing was there was not one single event or activity geared toward anyone outside the four walls of the church!

As I studied this I was reminded of something that Jesus said to the church at Ephesus, one of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation.

2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 “and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.    Revelation 2:2-4(NKJV).    Emphasis mine

Lets look at these verses in detail because I think we might see ourselves in them.

Jesus recognized the works that the church had been doing. He called attention to their labor and patience, and how many of us can relate when it comes to having patience when doing the Lords work?

Jesus also mentioned the church’s disdain for those who practiced evil. All of us understand this don’t we? We are trying to live a Godly life in the midst of a perverse and increasingly evil society, and it’s only going to become more challenging.

He goes on to list several more very positive attributes of the church at Ephesus, leaving no doubt that He knew this church intimately. Hmmm…do you suppose Jesus knows the church you attend in such intimate detail?

At first glance this church could be the model for all other churches in the area. Things were going good, and I imagine there was quite a buzz about all the wonderful things the church at Ephesus was doing.

But, and there’s always a but, right? There was a problem in the church, a problem so important that Jesus couldn’t let it slide without calling their attention to it.

It all began with the word “nevertheless”. Just hearing the word sends thoughts of “uh oh, here it comes” to our minds. Even after all of the praise Jesus gave the church, there was a “nevertheless” that cast a dark shadow on what was an otherwise glowing report.

Nevertheless, he said, this church had lost their first love.

Ouch!

What does this mean, to have lost your first love? It means that the church at Ephesus no longer loved the Lord with the same level of intensity they once had. Their passionate love for Jesus had been replaced by something else.

They had lost their zeal for Christ. Typically when this happens, we just go through the motions of serving God. Our heart is no longer motivated by the love of Jesus, we become content to do as many good works as we can, placing our trust in the deeds themselves rather than Jesus.

Ask me how I know this!

Do you know what this is called? It’s called RELIGION, and it ceases to be about a relationship with Christ. The church at Ephesus abandoned their first love in exchange for cold, formal, impersonal RELIGION.

This is the same poison that has infected the Church today. The poison of RELIGION has suffocated the once fervent relationship she had with Christ. This is why there is such apathy in the pew today. We have supplanted relationship with form, with rules, with do’s and dont’s.

But it doesn’t have to be like this! There’s more to the story! In the next verse, Jesus gave the church at Ephesus an “out”. He told them to REPENT. That’s right, simply REPENT.

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”   Rev. 2:5   KJV

I believe that this is the message for the Church today. Remember where we came from, acknowledge we have strayed, repent and get going again.

Return to the love of Jesus, then watch how much impact our works will have on the world around us!

Maybe we should put THAT in our church calendars!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

What If…

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Recently, I watched a YouTube video produced by a church in Kentucky that featured a number of people giving their reasons why they had given up on the Church.

Listening to these heartbreaking stories, it quickly became apparent that there is a common theme among all of them. For these people, they believe the church has failed to reach them where they live.

The Church has stopped being the Church.

Tales of judgement and condemnation, outright rejection, and worse have left these people doubting whether there is any validity to Christianity. I mean, just imagine how you would feel if you had invited your family to your baptismal service only to be told by the pastor that “he forgot about it”.

The Church is the Body of Christ here on earth.

Do we truly understand what that means, or do we blindly accept the statement as just another one of those religious sayings?

The Church is made up of Christ’s representatives on earth. If that is the case, how representative of Christ are we when our primary purpose is to hand out judgment? How well are we representing Jesus when our churches are known as places of condemnation instead of love?

Speaking with those outside the Church, we hear that our churches have become places of rejection for all who do not look or act the part. Seriously, how many of our churches actually reflect the community in which they reside?

Much to the angst of many, I as well as a few others have been saying for some time now that the Church is broken. It is broken because those who are supposed to be the leaders of it do not know Him. If they knew Him they would go beyond the four walls of their castles and see how much hurt there is in their community.

And they would do something about it.

They most certainly would be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Because LOVE is the greatest motivator of all.

If they knew Him they would reach out, not with angry words of criticism and judgement, but in compassion and LOVE.

Ah yes…Love.

What if our churches actually believed and practiced LOVE?

‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

What if our churches actually believed and practiced this?

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

What if our churches actually believed and practiced this?

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.’  I Cor.13:1-3

What if…

What if the Church got back to being Christ’s representatives here on earth?

Here’s what I think would happen if the Church did this.

There would be a huge reduction in the problems that currently plague our society. Drug abuse, hunger, crime, divorce, abuse of all types, all would see a dramatic reduction if the Church got back to being the hands and feet of Jesus.

What if the Church somehow rediscovered the courage to LOVE those in our communities who are hopelessly trapped on the outside looking in?

What if….the Church started looking outward instead of inward?

Ron

Why Are We Here: Part 2

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Recently, I happened upon an online discussion about abortion. A key hot button of the discussion was that several of the more conservative participants kept referring to abortion as murder, while those from a more liberal perspective felt that using such a strong word demonstrated a lack of wisdom and compassion.

It didn’t take long before the gloves came off and the participants seemed to forget that they were on a Christian site. In short order, it got ugly. Real ugly. Words were said that certainly did not reflect the love of Christ. Feelings were hurt, and in the end nothing changed except for the fact that yet another wedge was driven between brothers and sisters in Christ.

All of which left me wondering about something. Do we not understand that the enemy excels at getting us to focus more on the things that divide us, rather than the things that bind us together? It seems that we Christians are so naive and gullible that we take the bait and swallow it before we ever have the first inkling as to what Satan is up to!

Am I the only person who thinks this way? Are the differences between us so insurmountable that even Jesus cannot bridge the gap?

Abortion has been one of the tools that Satan uses to cause division in the Church ever since it became the law of the land. Of course, he has many other tools at his disposal, but because abortion is one of those topics that people on both sides of the fence are incredibly opinionated about, it’s easy for the enemy to use it to sow discord among the brethren.

Whether you agree with abortion or not isn’t really the issue any longer. I don’t agree with it, nor do I believe it is a “right”, but then again I (unapologetically) tend to look at life through the lens of Scripture. This puts me at odds with a great many things taking place in our world today, not just abortion.

Obviously, many people, and that includes Christians, would object to my rather simplistic approach to this subject, and I have no problem with that. I happen to believe that God’s family is much larger than some of us believe it to be, and as such there is plenty of room for Christians who believe differently than I do. Insert 😊

Therefore, knowing that abortion is here to stay, is our best course of action to berate and condemn those who have an abortion, or has God called us to a higher purpose? Are we to continue down the path of division, or should we be seeking God for wisdom in how best to minister to those affected by abortion?

How would Jesus respond to the divisive issue of abortion? And of even greater importance, what would be His response to those who have had an abortion? I believe we can get a glimpse into how He would approach the subject by recalling His interaction with the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. Scripture reference John 8:3-11

As the story goes, a group of men brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in the very act of adultery. According to the Law, she was to be stoned to death. They were hoping however that Jesus would do something contrary to the Law so that they might have an accusation against him, thus giving the religious rulers just cause to eradicate him.

The story takes a very unexpected turn however when Jesus looks at the woman’s accusers and says to them “he that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone”. Their arrogant hearts condemned, as none of them were without sin; one by one they walk away. Can’t you just hear the stones dropping to the ground?

Jesus then looks to the woman and asks where her accusers are, to which she responds that there are none. Jesus then uttered what had to be the most gracious words this woman had ever heard. Deserving of death for her sins, Jesus tells her that neither does he condemn her, and to go and sin no more. Emphasis mine

This is how I see Jesus responding to the abortion issue. Notice that Jesus did not excuse the adulterous woman’s sins, but rather he acknowledged them for what they were, yet offered forgiveness instead of condemnation.

Jesus was much more concerned with forgiveness than punishment. Do you know why that was? It was because Jesus came to reconcile people to God. He could have delivered this woman to be stoned, but instead He offered her reconciliation! How amazing is that?

All of us have done things worthy of punishment, or worse. Some of us, like the adulterous woman, have committed sins worthy of death. Yet God, through His Son Jesus Christ, has chosen instead to forgive our sins and offer to us the gift of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Does this give us a “free pass” so that we can do whatever we want to do without consequence? Of course not. No one gets a free pass. We must repent of our sin and turn to Jesus.

‘‘He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation”.   2 Corinthians 5:17-19.  ESV

The Church has been entrusted with this message of reconciliation. We were not entrusted with a hammer of condemnation. Neither were we entrusted with the gavel of judgement.

Our ministry, our very purpose, is to extend mercy and reconciliation to a lost world that gropes in darkness. We can serve no higher purpose here on earth than to represent Jesus Christ in meekness and love to those left devastated and wounded by the poor choices they have made.

That we have made.

This world doesn’t need another argument for or against abortion. It needs the people of God to stand in the gap and offer comfort and hope to those who are struggling with issues that are bigger than they are. The world needs to see Jesus.

In all of us.

In every situation.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

Why are we here?

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Christians, a.k.a. the Church. Why are we here? What is our purpose?

One would think the answer would be obvious, but is it? In Acts 2 we read “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

According to this verse, the purposes of the church are 1) doctrinal,biblical teaching, 2) creating an opportunity for the fellowship of believers, 3) observing the Lord’s supper, and 4) praying.

While all of this is true, it barely scratches the surface because the Church is so much more than that!

Paul gave an excellent illustration of this to the believers at Corinth. He taught them that the Church is to be the visible, living, hands, mouth, and feet of God in this world. In other words…the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). We are to be doing the very things that Jesus Christ would do if He were here physically on the earth.

We are to be replicating the work He already did. This is one of the greatest travesties of our day, that the Church is constantly trying to reinvent itself in order to become more relevant. The die has already been cast friends, we simply need to do what Jesus did.

The Church consists of ordinary people held together by an extraordinary God for the extraordinary purpose of revealing His heart to a lost world. Why is the church here? The answer is so that we can be Jesus to the world!

As individual members of the Church, we are tasked with asking ourselves “does this world know by our actions that we are the hands,mouth, and feet of God”?

Something to ponder on this warm, sunny December day!

Ron

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