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Why we must resist spiritual pride

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Pride is one of those things that all of us possess in one form or another. Having pride in one’s appearance, taking pride in a job well done, or being proud of your children are all different types of pride that are looked upon as favorable.

Having a sense of pride however that borders on arrogance and superiority are not thought of as admirable traits, as most of us are not drawn to individuals possessing them.

When those traits creep into the church they lead to spiritual pride, or thinking too highly of ourselves. When we allow such pride to overtake us, we become unreasonable, rigid, self-serving, and see ourselves as nearly infallible. This does not reflect the nature of Jesus Christ.

For the Christian, this is a very dangerous place to be in because we become hardened to the Spirit of God. We are no longer malleable in the Masters hands, having convinced ourselves that “I’m in complete control, not God”.

Additionally, any Christian, especially one in leadership who operates under the guise of “it’s my way or the highway” is headed for a fall because the scripture makes it clear that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble”. [1]

When those in church leadership positions allow spiritual pride to enter their hearts, they seek honor for themselves and not God. Under the cover of their position or title they exalt themselves (the creature) instead of the Creator. [2]

You may be thinking that this is an extreme example, but I can assure you that it is not. As a matter of fact, there was a time in my past when I found myself in this very predicament, and I don’t think I’m too far off by saying many of you have struggled with this issue at some point in your life as well.

All of this matters because God has a divine plan for each of our lives, a plan where there is no room for a “haughty spirit”. [3] Part of that plan is to mold and shape us so that we conform to His image and not our own. God calls this a “transformation”, which the Apostle Paul spoke of to the church at Rome.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2  (emphasis mine)

When we become a born again Christian, a mighty transformation begins to happen in our lives. Because we live in this world and are a product of its ways, thoughts, and practices, this ‘conforming nature’ has to go if God is going to have his way in our lives.

In order for that to happen God has to first chip away at the “world” that has enveloped all of us. How does He accomplish this? This is accomplished when we are placed on the potter’s wheel as mentioned in Jeremiah. [4]

As the Lord deals with us and we begin to grow in our relationship with him, the transformation becomes visible for all to see. In essence, we are not the same person we were before we found Jesus. Old things pass away, all things now become new. [5]

During this process we must take care not to become spiritually proud and to think more highly of ourselves than we should. Again, the Apostle Paul speaks to this as well.

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans 12:3 (emphasis mine)

Paul is warning us here not to over-estimate ourselves. Don’t allow pride to enter your heart and cause you to become puffed up in your own eyes. This is a clear warning to be mindful of the dangers of spiritual pride.

We must not judge ourselves by our talents, our title, or our position in the church. Instead, we should measure ourselves by our Christian character. If Christ has been at work in our hearts, our character will be transformed, just as our minds are being renewed.

Anything less is not acceptable.

Be blessed, in Jesus name!

Ron

 

[1] James 4:6, 1st Peter 5:5

[2] Romans 1:25

[3] Proverbs 16:18

[4] Jeremiah 18:3

[5] 2nd Corinthians 5:17

 

 

This demon named “Regret”

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Is there one among us who has lived their life in such a manner that they can look back upon it and say “I have no regrets”?

I can state categorically that I am disqualified from being able to make such a claim. When we think of regrets we see images of things we wish we had not done, or at the least done them differently. I stand guilty as charged.

We remember conversations we’ve had with family and friends that did not turn out well, and we wish we had spoken with more kindness. Perhaps what we remember most is that conversation we meant to have, but never got around to having.

The voice of my wife on the night that her father passed away serves as a reminder to me about how it should be when we do things in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. As we drove away from her fathers home that night she looked at me and said this: “I have no regrets. There is nothing left unsaid between us. He knew how I felt about him and I knew how he felt about me because we often told each other”.

There it is…no regrets. Nothing left undone or unsaid. For the rest of her days on this earth my sweet wife can live peacefully knowing that there is no reason to look back and wonder ‘what if?’

The pain of regret for the rest of us is very real though isn’t it? That is why I refer to it as a demon. It brings with it pain and suffering over what might have been…what should have been.

Regret is relentless in its goal of keeping our eyes fixed on our rear view mirror. The enemy knows that as long as he can keep us looking back, we will never be able to look ahead. Up ahead awaits victory, while behind us lies a minefield of defeat.

Past mistake and failures of every sort are hurled at our minds at warp speed, rarely giving us a moments respite from the battle. Oh, and the enemy doesn’t care a bit that a past regret wasn’t your fault. You see, even if it wasn’t your fault he wants to transfer ownership of it to you because once you own it, he will use it against you at every opportunity.

Do you see how diabolical Satan is?

The enemy doesn’t even care that when you became a Christian that you were made a new creation. It doesn’t matter to him that the Bible teaches us that ‘old things are passed way’. He has no regard for the fact that as followers of Jesus Christ we now have ‘the mind of Christ’.  [1]   [2]

None of that matters to Satan. All that matters to him is that you keep looking backwards and not forwards, back to the path of destruction carved by an endless array of regrets.

So what is the child of God to do about this demon named “Regret”?

One of the first things we must do is acknowledge that we cannot undo the past. We get no ‘do-overs’. The best we can do is try to make amends where necessary, but the fact remains that what’s done is done.  [3]

Another thing we must do is to turn the situation over to the Lord in prayer. Peter explains it best here:

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you”. [4]

When we give it to God we are to leave it with Him. Of course, this is easier said than done because the enemy will never accept this as the final word on the matter. As I said earlier, he will bring this up to you time and time again in an effort to turn your attention to the past and not the future.

The Apostle Paul went so far as to suggest that we forget those things that are in our past. Paul knew of course that if he was to ever fulfill his destiny in Christ, it would be because he steadfastly looked ahead and not behind him. [5]

Forgetting our past sins and mistakes is not easy. It never is. I’m sure many of us have forgotten our past sins and mistakes many times. No doubt, we will forget them many more times before we leave this life.

When Paul says to forget those things which are behind us, he wasn’t trying to say that they are zapped from our memories never to be drudged up again. What he meant was that we should be so forward-focused that the past stays in the past.

That is how we get the victory over this demon called ‘Regret’. We leave it in the past and focus on running the race that is before us. Regret is a crippling, joy stealing invention of the devil that has no power over us unless we give it power.

As for me and my house, we choose to look ahead to the future that God has ordained we should have. We are free, having been set free by the blood of the Lamb.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”. [6]

Keep looking straight ahead,

Ron

 

[1] 2nd Corinthians 5:17

[2] 1 Corinthians 2:16

[3] Matthew 5:24

[4] 1st Peter 5:6,7

[5] Philippians 3:13

[6] John 8:36

The next BIG thing

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I’ve been studying 1st Corinthians 2 where the Apostle Paul speaks about the gospel being presented in a demonstration of Spirit and of Power. I’m sure most of you are familiar with this subject matter, but for reference sake I’ll post a few key verses.

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.  For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1st Corinthians 2:1-5

Knowing the capabilities of Paul to more than hold his own in any theological debate, I find it interesting that he would start this letter by saying he wasn’t coming to them using excellency of speech or wisdom.

We know that this man Paul studied at the feet of Jewish scholars, and was well versed in the Old Testament scriptures. He most certainly had attained a high level of wisdom, and his knowledge of various languages gave him the ability to converse with nearly everyone. He disputed with the Jews and Greeks frequently, clearly demonstrating to all that he was on their level, so to speak.

Yet he said that he pretended not to know anything except for Jesus and him crucified. In other words, Paul’s heart was for winning souls. He knew that the key to winning these people was to become one of them. So he left his superior knowledge, education, and skills at home so that he might be received by these Corinthians.

Do you think there might be a lesson here for all of us today? Might we be better soul winners if we were to lose the attitude? Is it possible that if we humbled ourselves and got down on the level of those who are so desperate for hope, that we might actually have something to offer?

Paul went on to say that his preaching was not done with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power.

What he meant by that is that he did not come to entertain them as though he were some great orator. The people were accustomed to hearing speeches given by politicians, sages, philosophers, and other learned men of the day. As such, they were always on the lookout for the next BIG thing.

If Paul had come to them as one of these, it is likely that they would have paid him very little attention. Paul, however, was hardly in the ‘entertainment business’.

The Apostle knew that the Corinthians had many voices vying for their attention. There was one voice, however that they had yet to hear from. This voice not only spoke at a level they could appreciate, but it was accompanied by a demonstration of God’s power.

These passages remind me of how desperate the Church is today for a demonstration of the Spirit and power of God. When I say that, I am making a clear distinction between the Spirit and power of God as Paul knew it, and that which is passed off today as being from God.

We have a lot of voices in the world today who claim to speak for God and to operate in His power. Sadly, these voices are nothing more than con men(and women), who have figured out that desperate people will shell out millions of dollars in hopes of receiving their miracle.

This is not, however, the power that Paul spoke of. As a matter of fact, the Apostle Paul would have soundly rebuked each and every one of these modern day deceivers.

Unfortunately, the Church isn’t aware of it’s desperate state. Instead, she is only too willing to continue down the path towards capitulation to the gods of this world.

Such is the price that must be paid when the Church embraces the world and its standards, instead of proclaiming herself as the standard bearer of Biblical truth and righteousness.

Oh how I wish that pastors everywhere would once again teach this to their congregations. Instead, what we have is a modern day system of idolatry, where pastor worship has become the norm.

Beloved, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God”(1st Cor. 3:19). Do not allow your hearts to be deceived by placing your faith in man. Whatever wisdom man has, it is temporal. It is fleeting, destined to pass away.

The power of God however is from everlasting to everlasting. It transcends the wisdom of man, indeed the natural man cannot begin to understand such power.

Paul desperately wanted the Corinthians to understand that their faith must not be in the wisdom of men….but in the power of God.

Instead of always searching for the next BIG thing, my earnest prayer is that we who know Him as Lord and Savior will come to experience His power in a very real and tangible way.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

What is your worship dependent upon?

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Worship: reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred. [1]

I asked the question ‘what is your worship dependent upon’ because I wonder if we believe that our worship is dependent on something we do or think.

For example, if our worship is dependent upon something we ‘do’, what is it that we must ‘do’ before we worship the Lord?

  • Do we have to dress a certain way?
  • Do we have to act a certain way?
  • Do we have to say certain words?
  • Do we have to belong to a specific church or denomination?

Perhaps it is something we must think, instead of ‘do’.

  • Do we have to think certain thoughts?
  • Do we have to think like everyone else?
  • Do we have to think about our frame of mind?
  • Do we have to think at all?

Maybe none of that matters. Maybe what matters most is the environment.

  • Is the music too loud?
  • Is the music the ‘correct’ style?
  • Are the lights dimmed?
  • Are the seats comfortable enough?

Can I be honest with you for a moment? Every single one of the things I mentioned so far has at one time or another negatively impacted my worship.

Want to know something else? That was very difficult for me to admit.

If worship truly is “reverent honor and homage paid to God”, can I honestly say that I was reverently honoring and paying homage to God when I allowed anything to negatively impact my worship?

Honestly…no I was not.

You see, there are times when this flesh rises in me and wants to show me that it is still in control, and it usually happens shortly after I have experienced the goodness and grace of God in a tangible way.

The ability to hinder our worship is one of the most effective tools in Satan’s toolbox. Jesus referred to this in a manner of speaking when he said that “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” …[2]

The thief of course is Satan. He is a thief and a liar, and he comes to steal many things from us. If we permit him to do so, he will steal our joy, our love, our compassion for others, even the victory we enjoy in our souls.

What he is most wanting to steal however is our worship. That is because Satan knows that if he can steal our desire to worship God, he has gained a foothold in our lives. The devil knows all too well that if he can get us focused on external conditions and circumstances, he can negatively impact the internal, or our heart.

The Apostle Paul also understood how important it is for the Christian to not allow the devil to steal anything from us, and we find him telling the Ephesian church to “neither give place to the devil”. [3]

What Paul is telling us here is that we are not to give the enemy any access into our lives. Closing every door of opportunity so that the devil will find no entrance into your home or life means just that. Do whatever it takes to keep him out.

If you will remember, Paul was known in Hell [4] and was locked in a battle with Satan that lasted until he drew his last breath. He knew this adversary well, and understood the ramifications of ‘playing with fire’.

So determined was Paul that Satan would not steal his worship that we find him and Silas singing praises to God at midnight while both were in prison! There feet may have been bound in the stocks, but their worship could not be chained! [5]

Beloved, our worship is not dependent upon any external circumstance or situation. It doesn’t matter if the lights are too bright or the songs too fast. All that matters is that our hearts are engaged with our Creator.

When that happens, all external hindrances fade into obscurity. Those voices telling us not to worship because this or that is not to our liking are silenced.

This is when we fully understand what David meant when he said this prayer:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. [6]

All of us, especially me, need to approach the Lord with a clean heart and a right spirit, or attitude. This is what opens the door to our worship.

Be blessed everyone,

Ron

 

[1] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/worship

[2] John 10:10

[3] Ephesians 4:27

[4] Acts 19:15

[5] Acts 16:25

[6] Psalm 51:10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Why can’t people just be nice…?”

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That was the comment I received from my wife this morning as we were out enjoying a nice Christmas day walk, relishing the sunshine and warmth of 73°. Sorry, I couldn’t resist…IMG_20180612_055103

I had asked her if she had given any thought yet to 2019, and if there was anything she had hopes for in the coming year. True to her nature as the kindest, most gentle person I’ve ever known, she just wants people to treat one another with kindness.

As she pointed out to me, there is so much anger, malice, and evil in this world today that Christians can’t just talk about love any longer, but must demonstrate love for one another.

Listening to her this morning, I was reminded of a preacher by the name of Paul who gave us an entire chapter on the importance of love. You can find this amazing teaching in 1st Corinthians, chapter 13.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  1st Corinthians 13:1-7   ESV

Understanding that Paul was given great faith and power, whereby he did many great miracles, only serves to heighten the importance of his teaching about love.

You see, Paul the Apostle understood that the foundation of the Church was love. Going back to John 3:16, we know that to be true because of these words that Jesus spoke.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”.

Jesus came because of love, served God and man in love, and ultimately gave his life out of love for you and I. Jesus is the head of the Church, and he built, and continues to build his Church on love.

To treat people with respect, to love them as Jesus does, or as my sweet wife would say “just be nice”, requires us to walk humbly before the Lord. It requires us to live our lives in daily submission to Him who gave his best for us.

I hope that going forward all of us will see the importance of being nice, treating one another with respect, and living our lives in a manner that brings honor to our God.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

There really is an answer

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As we approach this particular Christmas season, I am more thankful than ever that my hope is found in the Lord Jesus instead of man. Today, what should be the happiest, most thankful and appreciative time of the year, sadly has been polluted with an endless stream of negativity from across America.

Instead of messages of hope, encouragement, and gratitude, which the people are desperate to hear, what we are getting instead is commentary and dialogue filled with hate, vengeance, and vitriol of every imaginable type.

Seriously, is there any wonder that so many have given up hope, or are on the brink of throwing in the towel? What we are being inundated with is EXACTLY why the Apostle Paul said this:

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  Colossians 3:2

In other words, Paul is telling us to focus our attention on those things that are eternal, not on those things that will one day pass away. And yes, the day is fast approaching when whatever is not anchored in God will be destroyed.

When I hear the TV commentators’ rail on and on about this or that, I sometimes shake my head in disbelief. How incredibly foolish it is to allow yourself to become so angry, even to the point of violence, over something that has no eternal value!

According to the Bible, there is coming a day when governments will no longer exist. No Democrats, no Republicans, no Independents, nothing. When Jesus comes again, he alone will rule, and he will be a party of One.

If only there was a way for this world to take a step back, take a deep breath, and rejoice for the blessings we do have!

The entire world should be rejoicing today because we are about to celebrate the birth of the Son of God. A birth like none other before or after. A birth that ultimately paved the way to reconciliation between God and man.

If that doesn’t get you fired up for Jesus, I don’t know what will!

I have no reason to succumb to hate today. I have no reason to be overwhelmed by the ills of society. I am not living as one in despair of tomorrow. The things of this earth have zero impact on my eternal destiny!

Because of Jesus Christ I am a new creature in Him. The old man has passed into oblivion, and a new man has risen to take his place. This is the message that the world needs to hear!

Since man’s fall in the Garden, he has lived a life far short of what his Creator intended for him to live. Because of that original sin, the world today bears the burden of rejecting God.

Yet the Good news, no, the Great News is that there really is an answer to the sin that plagues society.

That answer appeared two thousand years ago in a little town called Bethlehem, just six miles south of Jerusalem. That is where God sent the antidote for sin.

May we once again fix our eyes on that brightest of all stars, because just as that star led the wise men to the baby Jesus, it also serves as the answer for all of man’s problems today. There is a reason that the phrase “Jesus is the reason for the season” is so impactful.

It’s because He and He alone is the answer!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

The very real dangers of entanglement

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Are you one of those people who frequently says, “where did the time go”?

This happens to a lot of us, especially when we get too busy. Like when you’re burning the candle at both ends busy.

“Busy” probably describes most people but being ‘too busy’ is what I want to focus on with this post. In particular, I want to talk about how easy it is even on our best days for God to occasionally get left out, while on those ‘too busy’ days He likely isn’t even thought of at all.

I’m one of those who believe that the Lord is at work in our lives each day. Because of this, I recognize that His presence is also a daily occurrence in my life.

My point being that I never have to wonder if God is with me. I know that He is.

Now, does that mean I don’t have times when I question “Lord, where are you”? Of course not! Like all of you, I am sometimes slow to adjust to God’s timing, thinking that He should react immediately to my petitions.

We all know that the Lord just doesn’t work like that.

Well, at least He doesn’t in my life.

None of this however changes the fact that God is always with us. He is the faithful one in our relationship, and fortunately for all of us he is never ‘too busy’ for us, nor does he forget about us. I don’t know how He does it, but somehow, He always makes time for us.

We, on the other hand, can get so busy with this thing we call ‘life’ that God gets shoved aside. Just stop for a moment and think of all the things you’ve done today and add those to tomorrow’s ‘to do list’, and you get a picture of how busy your life really is.

Seriously, some of us could apply for the position of a circus juggler because we are constantly having to juggle our time and schedules.

What’s amazing about this is that we don’t even realize it. In fact, it’s our everyday, normal life isn’t it? It’s like a saying we used to use at work that “the abnormal has become normal”.

Herein is the danger of becoming too busy with life. We don’t realize how much of ourselves we are constantly pouring into other things, people, or causes.

All at the expense of allowing God to pour into us, which He cannot do because we are too busy with everything else but Him!

The apostle Paul recognized the danger of allowing ourselves to become entangled in a multitude of things, things that eventually entrap us much like a bird in a snare. In his 2nd letter to Timothy, Paul wrote the following:

No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”  2 Tim. 2:4

As in all of his writings, Paul sees the relationship we have with Christ as one where we are in a battle. We have been enlisted as soldiers in God’s army, with a duty to carry out His orders.

Paul understands that if we are to please the One who is giving us our marching orders, we cannot become entangled with the affairs of this life. To do so would cause our attention to be diverted away from the task He has assigned to us.

Many of you can no doubt relate to being pulled a hundred different directions at one time, and this is what Paul is warning us against. Simply put, if we have become ‘too busy’ to be able to respond to our Leader, we have ceased to be a soldier that is pleasing to Him.

All of us have causes and projects that we support or have any number of family obligations that must be attended to. Paul is not telling us to abandon those things, but rather to make sure they do not become a snare to us.

The key here is to strike a balance between life’s obligations and giving time and attention to the One who makes our lives possible.

By doing this, we don’t have to worry about becoming ensnared by the everyday affairs of this life. We can be productive, positive members of society and also good soldiers of the One who has called us.

Have a blessed day,

Ron

 

 

 

 

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