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Just how FREE are you anyway?

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This post is a continuation of my previous post “The bondage of MORE”, where we saw that the need for “MORE” brings about a type of bondage that can be extremely difficult to break free of.

As anyone can tell you, when you are in bondage you are not free. You are a debtor, or slave to that which has you bound. Every choice and decision you make is centered around satisfying the source of your bondage.

Does that sound like freedom to you? Of course not, yet untold millions of Christians are living this very life today. They should be free, having been set free by God’s Son, yet find themselves ignoring the clear mandate of scripture to avoid becoming entangled again with the yoke of bondage. [1]

Jesus had much to say about freedom, and rightly so because he is the great Liberator. In one of his many exchanges with the temple Jews, Jesus had an encounter with them concerning the freedom that comes from knowing Him.

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. [2]

In these verses we find that Jesus has told the temple Jews of two distinct ways in which they can be free. Now, keep in mind that these Jews thought themselves above the need to be set free because they claimed to be descendants of Abraham. They were, of course, familiar with the social hierarchy where both free and slave co-existed. To them it was simple. The Jews were at the top of the ladder, while Gentiles and slaves were at or near the bottom.

The first way they could know freedom was to abide in, or follow, the Word that Jesus taught them. If you will do that, He said, “you shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free”. In essence Jesus was telling them that if you will lay aside your religious traditions and instead follow me, you will be free. Free of guilt, free of sin, and free of bondage.

We understand then that truth brings freedom both in this life and ultimately eternal salvation. Where does this freedom producing truth come from? It comes from God’s Word. If they would accept the truths that Jesus gave them, they would be completely free.

The second way they could no freedom was to place their trust in the One who had the power to set at liberty them that are held captive. [3]  Jesus told them that “if the Son makes you free, then you are free indeed“. How could he make such a statement? It was because as the Son of God, He abides forever as ruler over the house of God. In other words, He alone has such authority.

All of this brings me back to the question “Just how FREE are you anyway”? This is a question that all of us need to answer. If we say we hold to the truth that “if the Son makes you free, then you are free indeed“, do our actions reflect this? If we agree that “the truth shall make you free“, are we living our lives as one who is not bound by the “lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life“? [4]

I submit that until and unless we are daily trusting in the Lord Jesus for our every need, we are not completely free. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t saved and on our way to heaven. It does not mean that we are not a child of God.

What it DOES mean is that we are living in a place where we shouldn’t be, which means we are unnecessarily having to struggle with things that the Lord can give us victory over. After all, “if the Son makes you free, then you are free indeed“.

There is no freedom like the complete freedom that God offers to us. Being “free indeed” means there are no chains still attached to us. There is nothing we are in bondage to. Our hearts and minds are free of guilt. We are free to live our lives in a way that pleases Him, not ourselves. Complete freedom in Christ means victory.

That’s how free I want to live my life, and I trust you do as well!

Have a blessed day everyone,

Ron

 

[1] Galatians 5:1  KJV

[2] John 8:31-36  NKJV

[3] Luke 4:18  ESV

[4] 1 John 2:16  NKJV

Does doctrine still matter today?

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In today’s post I’d like to address the issue of doctrine. Specifically, whether or not it really matters to the church today.

Doctrine is one of those words that many of us in the church don’t like because the very word brings to mind rules, regulations, and irrefutable, unarguable dogma. To some, doctrine takes all the ‘fun’ out of church.

What is “Doctrine”?

Doctrine is the belief or set of beliefs and principals that make up the essence of the Christian faith. These include (but are not limited to) the Virgin birth, the Incarnation, The Crucifixion and Resurrection, and the necessity of Salvation, among many others.

From these essential truths come the various creeds and theological positions that have evolved into the essentials of our faith. From as far back as the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy to the New Testament book of Revelation, doctrine has always been a critical component of our walk with the Lord. [1]  [2]

What “Doctrine” is NOT

Doctrine is not a list of rules and regulations that a particular church or denomination has put together in order to regulate your behavior. Some examples of this include forbidding the wearing of jewelry and makeup, forbidding members to attend movies, even requiring a specific dress code that includes the length of your hair.

None of this falls under the heading of essential church doctrine necessary for salvation, but rather this is Legalism. What Legalism does is attempt to exert control over people, rather than permit them to enjoy the freedom they have in Christ. [3]

Now, you may be asking why any of this is important. It is important because proper doctrine in essential in the defense of the faith. This means that what you and I believe matters. It matters because it matters to the Lord.

For example, in speaking to the church at Pergamos in the 2nd chapter of the book of Revelation, Jesus is speaking to them about the issue of doctrine. Specifically, he told them that because they tolerated the doctrine of Balaam, a false teaching that led Israel into idolatry and fornication, it would be held against them.

They also had among themselves those that held to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. This false belief was one of compromise, rejecting the idea that complete separation between Christianity and the practice of occult paganism was necessary.

I find it incredibly interesting that doctrine was so important to the Lord Jesus that he actually called out those that were permitting false doctrine in their midst. This mindset is completely opposite of many in the Church today where doctrine has taken a back seat to belief systems developed to appease the mind of guilt and raise one’s esteem.

It has become a common thought today that while core doctrines were necessary for the development of the infant church, 2000 years later we have moved beyond the need for such rigidity.

For proof of this consider the church you attend today. Does it hold to the Biblical standards in it core doctrines? For that matter, does it still hold to its original doctrinal statements? Going a step further, does your church still officially hold to these truths yet never speak on them?

I believe we do the Lord a huge disservice by not proclaiming the essential, core doctrines of the Christian church today. I am firmly convinced that this lack of solid Biblical instruction is a large part of why the church isn’t the powerful voice it once was in society. Specifically, many of us have no idea why we believe what we believe. How then can we tell others, especially those outside the household of faith?

The answer to the question “Does doctrine still matter today” is a resounding YES!

Be blessed today,

Ron

 

[1] Deuteronomy 32:2

[2]. Revelation 2:14-15, 2:24

[3] “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed”.  John 8:36.  NKJV

Therefore the land will mourn

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It’s a dangerous thing for a nation to decide that God is no longer relevant. 

Whenever society enacts policies and laws that are void of any regard for God and his word, you can be sure that trouble will soon follow.

Any time that man becomes convinced of his superiority in matters of humanity and proceeds to embark on a path that takes him away from God, the remembrance of nations who long ago became extinct will remind him of the folly of such endeavors.

When mercy and truth are relegated to the furthest recesses of the mind and no place can be found for them in the halls of rulers, kings, or presidents, Satan is given free reign to pour out his wrath upon a society blinded by ignorance.

A people who have chosen not to retain the knowledge of God among them is by all accounts a people awash in sin and degradation, hopelessly entangled in their own filth, unable to know the cleansing freedom that can only be found in Christ.

1 Hear the word of the Lord,
You children of Israel,
For the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land:

“There is no truth or mercy
Or knowledge of God in the land.
By swearing and lying,
Killing and stealing and committing adultery,
They break all restraint,
With bloodshed upon bloodshed.
Therefore the land will mourn; …  Hosea 4

 

Our land is in a perpetual state of mourning, and as a result many have lost hope. Not just for today, but hope for a brighter future. Hope for a better tomorrow.

The most amazing thing about all of this is that God’s children do have hope. We, like faithful Abraham, are looking for a city ‘whose builder and maker is God‘ (Heb. 11:10).

Like the story found within the pages of the book of Hosea, we long for the day of reconciliation, when God gathers his elect from the four quarters of the earth.

We are living examples of a hope that is not of this world, but of a world to come where love rules and evil has been forever banished.

To many that sounds like a fairy tale, but to the Christian who is exhausted from years of unceasing spiritual warfare, it offers the promise of rest.  

I thank God that while I may be a resident of this earth, I am looking for the day when I become a citizen of heaven.

A place where mourning of any kind will never be heard again. Until then, may the Lord  somehow call us back to ‘the old paths, where the good way is…’   Jeremiah 6:16

Ron

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

 

Real heroes of the faith are still among us: part 2

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I am of the opinion that real heroes of the faith are still among us. They are not likely to be found however on TBN, Daystar, SBN or EWTN. You will not find them hawking their latest sermon series or music DVD at a church ministry conference.

You will find them however in the house churches in Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, and other nations hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ. While we here in the West live in relative peace and security,there are an ever increasing number of countries that are now hostile to the Gospel, as evidenced by the following “top 50 map”.

2018 watch list

You will find these heroes living in unimaginable conditions in the prisons of the above mentioned countries. You will also find them in unmarked graves after being tortured and murdered for their faith.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammad Reza Omidi are names you probably don’t recognize, however they are truly modern day heroes of the faith.

Who are they, and why are they heroes of the faith?

These are four Christian men who happen to live in Iran, a nation that is extremely hostile to the Gospel. Because Christianity is viewed as a threat to Iranian national security, the Christian religion is severely persecuted there.

Their church looks a lot different than yours or mine. Church services must be held in secrecy in the homes of believers or other nondescript locations in order to avoid detection and arrest.

No steeples, no ornate stained glass windows, no neon sign out front welcoming attendees.

These four Christian brothers were recently given 10 year prison sentences for partaking in Christian worship. It was originally thought that they would receive “only” six year sentences, given their original charge of “acting against national security”.

The charges were upgraded however to “promoting Zionist Christianity” and running house churches”, thus an additional four years were added to their sentences.

But wait, there’s more. Two of the four were also sentenced to two years’ internal exile, far away from their families.

Additionally, “Mr Omidi, Mr Mossayebzadeh and Mr Fadaie are waiting to hear the outcome of an outstanding appeal against their September, 2016, sentencing of 80 lashes for the consumption of communion wine at the time of their arrest in May, 2016.”

Did you catch that? 80 lashes. EIGHTY LASHES for partaking of communion!

We here in the West seem to have a very cavalier attitude about church, worship, and all things God compared to those suffering persecution abroad. We decide when and if we want to go to church. We decide how serious (if at all) we wish to become about our faith.

We choose whether or not to attend church or go fishing (or countless other fun activities). We choose whether to believe the Bible or not, and in some cases choose to ignore certain parts of the Bible that may not line up with our personal feelings about it.

We Christians in the West seem to have a lot of freedom of choice, don’t we?

Maybe that’s why there are so few (if any!) real heroes of the faith living here. Having faith here costs us nothing compared to our brothers and sisters in Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan,etc.

We who live here get by on a cheap, easy believism type of religion that demands nothing of us. Count the cost as commanded by Jesus? I don’t think so. Count our blessings for certain, but we want no part of a religion that costs us anything.

We have succumbed to the spirit of Anti-Christ that says God exists solely to bless you and cause you to prosper. This is the same spirit that seeks to elevate man to a god-like status while denying the true God of the Bible.

You will find no heroes of the faith in such a religion. What you will find instead are greedy, selfish, all about me individualists determined to control their own destiny rather than submit their lives to Christ.

Rather than partake of Christ’s suffering as taught in the Word, what we really want is a pie in the sky genie ready to blow gold dust on us just because we have somehow convinced ourselves that we are a superior brand of Christian.

Contrast this so called Christian lifestyle with those living in places where just the mention of the name of Jesus can land you in prison, or much worse. One must conclude that these two groups cannot possibly be worshiping the same God!

There are real heroes of the faith living today, heroes who have forsaken all for the cause of Christ. The men and women who are being imprisoned, tortured, and killed are examples of the faith that the Church should be holding up as the gold standard.

Who knows, you and I might one day be required to look to their sacrifices as the model of faithfulness and endurance needed in order to overcome that which has come upon us.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biting the hand that feeds you

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You’ve probably heard that expression haven’t you? It’s typically used when a person displays ungratefulness to others. For instance; if someone in your life helps you out, or provides sustenance to you and you act in an ungrateful manner towards them, you are “biting the hand that feeds you”.

The truth is that when ungratefulness surfaces on the outside, it’s merely reflecting what’s going on inside of us. Murmuring, complaining, ungratefulness, being unthankful, these are all outward symptoms of inward rebellion.

As Christians, we must be especially careful about complaining and being ungrateful. I wonder, how often do we check ourselves to see if we are displaying the symptoms of an ungrateful heart?

complain

aarc.org

There is an almost unbelievable example of this found in the book of Exodus. We all know the story of God’s great deliverance in setting Israel free from Egyptian bondage.

With excitement and enthusiasm the Israelite’s left Egypt, headed for a land that flowed with milk and honey.

Not only did God deliver them, but they left carrying the riches of Egypt with them! Gold, silver, and clothing in abundance were given to the children of Israel as their former masters sent them away in haste.

Yet just three days after walking through the Red Sea on dry land, the children of Israel began complaining. It’s important that we grasp this. Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for 430 years. Generation after generation knew nothing of freedom, yet within just three days of tasting freedom for the first time, they are already complaining! Here’s the story in detail (emphasis mine)ungrateful

1. “They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.

2. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness,

3. and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

4. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.

5. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”

6. So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt,

7. and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?”

8. And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD.”” Exodus 16:1-8

What is the key takeaway from this story? On the surface, it may appear to be that the nation of Israel is about as ungrateful as a nation could be. While that may be true, the key point here is that while Israel vented their complaints to Moses and Aaron, in reality they were complaining against God.

Moses told them that “Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD”. In essence, they were biting the hand that fed them!

So the million dollar question is this: are we any different than they when we complain,grumble, and generally have a terrible attitude?

I don’t know about you, but I too used to be a slave. I was a slave to sin and all that went with it, until one day God sent a deliverer to rescue me from my condition. What should my response be to what God has done for me?

When I’m going through difficult times, should I remind Him of how good I used to have it before I became a Christian? Should I remind God that I was doing well enough on my own? Should I say to God that I’d rather go back to my old life?

Of course not! I don’t care how my life is measured or by whom; at the end of the day I count myself among the most blessed of any people! My life has been just like everyone else’s, full of up’s and down’s, trials and successes.

At the end of the day however, what matters is that God has been right beside me through it all. I don’t understand some of the hard things, but I realize that I don’t need to understand everything. All I need to be sure of is that God is faithful, and as such He will never leave us or forsake us.

My prayer is that all of God’s children will appreciate Him for what he has done for us.

May we never bite the hand that feeds us!

Be blessed,

Ron

How much longer will you carry that ball and chain?

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Most of us have heard the term “ball and chain” before. It used to be a common term that described an actual weight attached to the ankle of a prisoner, a method of prohibiting the prisoner from escaping.

You may have also heard it used derogatorily by a husband or wife who refers to their spouse as a ball and chain, meaning that they are being dragged down by a reluctant spouse. Hopefully not, but…

It is the rare individual that isn’t walking around carrying some type of baggage, or in this case a ball and chain, these days. As a matter of fact, I am hard pressed to think of even one person who isn’t.

All of us have been negatively impacted by someone or something in this life. Such is the cost of our living in a fallen world. The result of such encounters can leave us damaged and scarred, left to carry around the consequences like a ball and chain.

You know what’s interesting about carrying around a ball and chain? You never feel the impact of it as long as you’re sitting still. It’s not until you wish to get up and move on that you begin to feel the tug of it’s weight holding you back.

This is an apt metaphor for our Christian walk as well. How many of us live lives clouded by guilt, uncertainty, shame, and the like? Many of us do, of this I have no doubt.

We go through life carrying around all kinds of baggage, having learned to function to a certain degree in spite of the ever present weight of it all. This, in spite of the fact that Jesus said that “if the Son make us free, we shall be free indeed”(John 8:36).

How is this possible? It happens because we learn to navigate through this world from the security of our own comfort zone. Thus, as long as I stay in my box, or comfort zone, and do not try to move about too freely, all is well. I can manage the weight of the ball and chain, and still function.

But what happens to us when we feel God wanting to stretch us beyond our comfort zone, to get us out of our special box and move us to a new level? Well, if you’re like me, this brings about a degree of uncomfortableness and forces us to confront the ball and chain once and for all.

You see, sooner or later we must all deal with those things that hold us back. This is because God has a plan and a purpose for your life, and those plans don’t include you becoming comfortable enough to forever manage that ball and chain you’re carrying around.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.   Jer. 29:11

God’s plan for you and I is to be free from our past mistakes, to be free from the harm inflicted upon us by others. God has called us to a life of peace and love. The torments that have enveloped our lives are but shackles that must fall off in the presence of Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown weary of carrying around the ball and chain of past regrets. The things I cannot fix on my own, I must surrender to Christ. If we’re going to surrender all, then all must be willingly lain at the foot of the Cross.

Be blessed,

Ron

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