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Being separate from the world does not mean ignoring the world

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In such a time as this, when the lines of distinction between the church and the world are growing ever more indiscernible, we must exercise caution in order not to fall prey to deception and false teaching.

While there are a great many beliefs today that are outright heresies, there are also beliefs that contain a modicum of truth yet miss the mark entirely when applied incorrectly.

Such is the case with the teaching that Christians are to separate themselves from the world. Certainly, no true follower of Christ should argue that we are not to emulate the world and its behavior. Nor are we to align ourselves with its un-Christ-like ideologies. Scripture makes this very clear; I believe.

We must be careful however in our application of this teaching because God has called us to be salt and light to this world. Or to put it another way, if we are to be effective witnesses for Christ we must interact with this world. We cannot hide our light under a bushel. [1]

To sequester ourselves apart from the world is to destroy both our witness and our credibility. The world today is in desperate need of a Savior, and you and I have been assigned the awesome responsibility of taking the Savior to the world, not hiding Him from the world.

It’s true that God has called us to be a people set apart unto himself. Sadly, due to a misapplication of this concept, many people use this as justification in setting themselves up as morally superior to everyone that doesn’t subscribe to their erroneous doctrine.

We see this attitude on display among pseudo Christian cults, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as certain “fringe” Christian groups like Oneness Pentecostals. Both groups consider themselves to be the “elect of God” and anyone not in agreement with their doctrines as apostates, thus condemning any “outsiders” to be lost. [2]

Obviously, we need to examine the scriptures in order to determine the truth about the whole notion of separation from the world. Here is what Paul said about this in his teaching to the church at Corinth.

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.”

 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”

“I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty.”
   2nd Corinthians 6:16-18

So, is Paul teaching that Christians are to have nothing to do with those outside the church of God? Of course not! That is the hallmark of a Pharisee, to see oneself as superior to others because of religious position or tradition. [3]

Paul is saying here that once we have been born again, God’s Spirit takes up residence within us and we then become His dwelling place, or temple. As such, God both lives in us and walks with us, all of which means we are on intimate terms with the Creator.

This special, intimate relationship requires that we abstain from those things, or idols, that defile our hearts and corrupt our intimacy with the Father. We may be in the world, but not of the world.  [4]

What are these idols Paul speaks of, the ones we are to come out from and separate ourselves from? Some are obvious, such as having no other gods in our lives, but some are not so obvious. And dare I say they can be different for all of us?

An idol is essentially anything that comes between you and your Creator. Whatever consumes the bulk of your time, or so much of it that you have little time left to worship God, is an idol.

For some of us it is sports. Maybe TV takes all your time. Or a job that demands most of your waking hours. It could even be your boat, golf clubs, or fishing rods. For some of us it’s our electronic devices, such as cell phones and iPads.

What Paul is NOT saying in these verses is that we are to cut off all contact with anyone who isn’t part of our tribe (church). True enough, we should not hang around with people who are obviously negative influences. None of us should desire to become best friends with the neighborhood drug pusher, for example.

The fact remains however that even the worst among us needs a Savior, just as you and I did at one time. We may not have been the neighborhood drug pusher, but we were just as lost as they now are before coming to Christ. Our hearts were just as sin-laden as any other lost person. [5]

After all, sin is sin, and lost is lost. Race, ethnicity, income, ancestry, or any other factors notwithstanding, everyone needs the Savior. That’s why Jesus came: to seek and save that which was lost. [6]

Paul tells us that because God now dwells within us, we are the sons and daughters of God. As such, our light should shine before all men that they might come to know Jesus Christ as Lord. [7]

Come out from among idols? Absolutely! Separate ourselves from those things which turn our hearts away from the Lord? Without question!

Please don’t however, turn away from anyone in need of a Savior just because they aren’t like you. Don’t distance yourself so far from them that you can no longer have compassion on their plight.

Remember: that was you and I at one time.

Be blessed, in Jesus name.

Ron

 

[1] Matt. 5:14,15…You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

[2] Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult because they deny the deity of Christ, which makes them anti-Christ even though they claim to be ‘Christian’. John 1:1 states “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. In their New World Translation, Jehovah’s Witnesses translate John 1:1 as “the Word was a god”, thus denying Christ His divinity.   Emphasis mine

[3] Matt. 23:1-7…Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.

[4] John 17:14…I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

[5] Colossians 1:21,22…And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight

[6] Luke 19:10…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

[7] Matt. 5:16…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

 

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What do you see?

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There.

In the pew.

Sitting over there.

What do you see?

Dressed for success?

Clothed in hand-me-downs two sizes too small?

A crisp, new outfit?

A rumpled,wrinkled shirt?

Who do you see?

The preacher’s daughter?

A woman branded with a scarlet letter?

Perfectly dressed boys and girls driven to church in a shiny new Cadillac?

Ramshackle kids from the other side of the tracks who arrived in an old school bus transformed into a makeshift Sunday School taxi?

What do you hear?

A heavenly choir?

A wannabe rock band?

Too loud?

Too soft?

Just right?

Whispers of “what is he doing here”?

The muffled cries of the broken and abused?

Yes, here in God’s house, the one place where at the foot of the Cross the ground is level for all….

What do you see?

Who do you hear?

Maybe the better question is do we see and hear the same things that Jesus does?

 

 

Playing With Fire

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It seems that everywhere you turn today people are mocking God with a greater intensity and frequency. Surely the fear of God has disappeared from the hearts and minds of untold millions of people who curse His name as easily as they curse at a dog.

This is not surprising however. After all, the Apostle Peter clearly warns us that in the last days will come “scoffers, walking after their own lusts”.  [1]

The Apostle Paul also goes to great lengths to warn the church of impending disaster, when in the last days the world would fall headlong into apostasy. In his 2nd Epistle to Timothy, he lists a multitude of dangerous and ungodly character traits that would be manifested in the hearts of unbelievers at that time.

When you see people described as “lovers of their own selves, blasphemers, fierce, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness” etc…, you can be assured that these people are playing with fire.   [2]

As we see these days closing in on us, I am so very thankful that in His mercy God saw me in my wretched condition and pulled me out of the miry clay. How many of us can identify with this beloved Psalm?

He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.   Psalm 40:2

Contrast these words of hope and restoration with the solemn warning from Hebrews about those who live their lives in outright rejection of God.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  [3]

To fall into the hands of the living God speaks to another part of God’s nature that unregenerate men choose to ignore. They would rather live their lives in any manner they wish, believing that in the end everyone gets in to heaven.

But that is not what is going to happen when we come to the end of our days. If we have not received Christ as our Lord and Savior, it will be a fearful thing because once we take our final breath, we are immediately confronted with this living God.

And that, dear readers, is playing with fire.

Ron

[1] 2nd Peter 3:3

[2] 2nd Timothy 3:1-5

[3] Hebrews 10:31

Fight the battles God has called you to fight

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But leave the rest to Him!

Be honest, how many of us tend to take on more than we should? How many of us get caught up in certain causes to the point of being emotionally ready to take on any giant that dares get in our way?

I know I am guilty of this. Certain subjects that I am very passionate about, like poverty, child abuse, abortion, and clergy sex predation are all subjects that tend to send me into full attack mode.

I imagine you have your own list as well, don’t you?

Yet other than to write a few words on a little-read blog, my efforts go largely unnoticed. Well, that and my blood pressure rises.

To be sure, I am a passionate person who always roots for the Davids in their struggles against the worlds Goliaths. Frankly, I think the world could use a few more passionate people who care about those who have no real voice. So, in that sense I don’t apologize.

Where I get into trouble though is when I stray too far out of my lane and end up in areas far beyond my capability to offer anything in the way of real,or tangible help.

And lets be real here, words only carry so much weight when they aren’t backed by substantive means.

To be the most effective, it’s important to focus on what we do best, or from a strictly spiritual perspective, to focus on what God has called us to do. If we stay in the lane to which we have been assigned, the Lord will take our efforts and bless and prosper them far beyond what any of us could do on our own.

When we try to take on areas outside of what God has equipped us to deal with however, well lets just say the results are almost always less than stellar.

It’s true, all of us have unique giftings from God, and every one of us is but one small part of the body of Christ. As such, we all have a specific role to play in order for this body to function at its highest capacity. [1]

Looking at the church, I find it both interesting and fascinating to see how the Lord puts this body together in a way that works best for His purpose. To see people who have specific gifts and talents use them for the Kingdom is nothing short of amazing!

God does things strategically, meaning there is purpose to how He places people in this body. Even though there are times when we may question this purpose because we cannot see the future, we can rest assured that all things work together for good.  [2]

There is a saying that gets tossed around the church that says to “bloom where you’re planted”. There is a lot of wisdom in those few words. For us to get to the point that we “bloom” requires time, patience, and sometimes plain hard work!

Far too often however we allow our eyes to become fixated on the green grass on the other side of the fence. When this happens we begin to doubt that the place where God has planted us will ever measure up to what we perceive to be on the other side of that fence.

That’s why we are to stay in our lane. We must focus on the battle, or work, that the Lord has called us to and not allow our attention to be diverted. Do what the Lord has called you to do and know that the rest is in His hands.

There remains a great harvest to be gathered before the coming of the Lord. By staying in our assigned lane, allowing the Lord to work in and through us, and fighting the battle we have been called to fight, the body of Christ is best equipped to reach this harvest.

Don’t try to take on more than you can handle. Be faithful in that which you have been called to do.

And leave the rest to Him!

Be blessed in Jesus name,

Ron

 

[1] Romans 12:4-6, 1st Cor. 12:12, 27,

[2] Romans 8:28

Weeping may endure for a night…

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But joy comes in the morning!

Weeping and sorrow may compass us about, but joy comes in the morning!

Discouragement and trials may seem to over take us, but joy comes in the morning!

Sickness and afflictions of every sort might be our constant companions, but joy comes in the morning!

Pain may rack these mortal bodies of ours, but joy comes in the morning!

Fear and all it’s torments might confront us on every side, but joy comes in the morning!

Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His,
And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.  Psalm 30:4,5

No matter what we are going through, it cannot outlast God. I want to say that again: no matter what we are going through, it cannot outlast God!

Many times in my life I have wondered where God was when I was dealing with things that were so much bigger than I. In those times it can be very hard not to put all of your focus on the problems because they can overwhelm the best of us.

All of us want our concerns addressed immediately, for that is our nature. We do not like pain, failure, or disappointments. Christians, especially, seem to have a built in tendency to think that we are somehow exempt from life’s struggles.

Of course, we know that to believe this way only serves to set ourselves up for discouragement when trials and temptations do come upon us.

I believe we would be better served to remember that what we really need to focus on is not how big our struggles are, but rather how big our God is!

The Psalmist David wrote a most comforting Psalm as he was comparing the heritage of God’s people vs. the certain destruction of the wicked. In this Psalm, David declares that while he once was a young man, the years have caught up with him.

Even so, in all of his many years David tells us that he had never seen the righteous forsaken! Think of that beloved. How many of us share David’s testimony? I know I certainly do.

I have been young, and now am old;
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken,
Nor his descendants begging bread.  Psalm 37:25

I have never seen the righteous forsaken. I have never been forsaken! God’s provision has carried me through in times when I could see no way out of a dark situation.

Like the time I had no grocery money and didn’t know where to turn. Only God could have provided in the manner in which He did. Watching a truck back into my driveway with bags and boxes of groceries is something I have never forgotten, and that was over 30 years ago!

If we will hold on to His promises, weeping will come to an end and in it’s place will be joy unspeakable! Hold on to His promises, and watch how God will move on your behalf to provide exactly what you need, exactly when you need it!

Be blessed,

Ron

God’s Perfect Order

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I’ve often heard it said that God is a God of order. For example, He set the planets in perfect alignment with the rest of the solar system. In doing so, we find that Earth is positioned exactly where it has to be in relation to the Sun and Moon in order to sustain life.

So precise is God’s perfect natural order that scientists have learned that the Earth’s axis is tilted at exactly 23.4 degrees relative to the plane of its orbit around the Sun. It is because of this precise angle of tilt that we have our yearly cycle of four seasons. [1]

If the Earth’s axis were to somehow tilt even a 10th of a degree more or less either way, life as we know it would cease. Seasons would change dramatically, plant life could not adapt in time before dying, and the Sun would leave much of the Earth in darkness for months at a time. [2]

Only God has the capability to prevent such such a catastrophic event from happening. Were He not a God of perfect natural order, our very survival would be jeopardized.

So it is with God in the spiritual realm. God is a God of perfect spiritual order. He is the Creator, we are the created. He is high and lifted up, and his thoughts and ways are higher than ours.

Just as the Earth cannot survive without God maintaining it on its perfect axis of 23.4 degrees, neither can we live the life that the Lord intends for us to have when our relationship with Him is out of order spiritually.

We need look no further than our own daily walk with Him to see this in action. We know that there is only One who’s judgments are true and righteous, yet how many of us are guilty of judging others based upon the outward appearance? When we see someone for example who is of a different color skin than we are, does prejudice or bias kick in immediately? Are we instantly suspicious of them?

Or what about the person we see on the street that is obviously homeless? Do we look the other way when they look at us? Do we find their smell repulsive? Do we think to ourselves that they should get a job like the rest of us and stop being a bum?

Let’s be completely honest here. There are very, very few of us that can truthfully say that we never think such thoughts about others. As holy and pious as we want to believe we are, the fact is we are still 100% human, with our sin nature still intact. Fight it though we may, it is still very much alive in all of us.

If we are not careful, we can find ourselves living our lives in a manner we were never equipped to do. What I mean by that is we will find that we have positioned ourselves as judge, jury, and executioner over those we deem as “not like us”.

This is an attitude that affects the church as much if not more than the rest of society. We take it upon ourselves to determine who is ‘worthy’ of our love. We decide who gets ministered to based upon our own very flawed criteria.

When these things happen it is because things are out of God’s perfect spiritual order. It is when we override our conscious and walk contrary to God Word that we set ourselves up in positions we were never created to assume.

The late Rev. Billy Graham was often quoted as saying that “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love”. [3]

Think about that for a moment. Our job is to love. That doesn’t mean that we have to agree with everything someone says, especially if we know it violates God’s Word. It also doesn’t mean that we are required to condone the immoral lifestyle that a person chooses to live.

What it does mean is that we are not God. We lack the capacity to see past the veil of this flesh in order to know the heart. It means that as a flawed child of God, I am not qualified to act as judge.

Our job is to love, which is why Jesus said that the two greatest commandments centered around Love.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.   Luke 10:25-28

When God’s perfect spiritual order is established in the church, the end result is a community built upon Love.

Now that’s a community I want to belong to!

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] https://www.solarsystemscope.com/spacepedia/earth/orbital-and-rotational-characteristics-of-earth

[2] https://image.gsfc.nasa.gov/poetry/ask/q278.html

[3] https://relevantmagazine.com/god/14-billy-graham-quotes-helped-shape-american-christianity-update-new

When Religion Takes Priority Over Ministry

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Unless you live in a bubble, a cave, or in a penthouse surrounded by opulence, you cannot help but see the misery of suffering humanity all around.  On the TV, on the sidewalks of your city, standing in line at a food bank, dialing the crisis hotline, misery and suffering are things this world has an abundance of.

But what if you don’t live in a bubble, a cave, or a penthouse and yet see nothing of the sufferings of humanity that are all around you? What then?

There is an old saying that goes something like this: “there is none so blind, as he who will not see”. The meaning of this is that there are people who willingly choose not to see by closing their minds and their hearts to their surroundings. [1]

Such are those in our day who are ‘religious’ in name only. They have the title but not the heart. They want the appearance of godliness but not the costs associated with it. To maintain appearances within the community they open their checkbooks, but never their hearts.

Jesus had a name for religious people like this. He called them hypocrites. Not a very flattering term, is it? And while it is easy to look at them with disdain, in all honesty, most of us would have to plead “guilty” to some degree of hypocrisy as well. Pretending to be something we’re not comes rather easily for us, does it not?

Jesus had an encounter one day with just such a person while teaching in the synagogue. Follow along with me as we find Him confronting the high priest on a certain Sabbath day.

Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.
And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up.
But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.”
And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”
The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?
“So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”
And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.   Luke 13:10-17

This story perfectly illustrates how religion separated from a relationship with Christ can become more important than ministry. The religious leader was concerned only with the letter of the Law, rather than the spirit of the Law. His strict interpretation was that no one should lift a finger to perform any type of work on the Sabbath Day, and in his view what Jesus did in healing the woman was work. Thus he was condemning Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.

Isn’t it amazing how ‘hard’ and uncaring religion can be? When it’s more important to follow your creed than it is to follow your heart, something is terribly wrong. When rigidly enforcing “the rules” takes precedence over serving others, we are out of step with our Savior.

For eighteen long years this woman had not been able to stand upright. Have you seen someone like this? I have seen several people in this condition, where their body was permanently affixed in a jackknife position. Some are so bad that their life has been condemned to staring at the floor because they can no longer look up. It is truly a horrible affliction. [2]

This is the situation that Jesus was confronted with that day in the synagogue, and I doubt He hesitated even for a moment to reach out to this woman. While everyone else came that day to hear the Law taught, Jesus had a divine appointment with someone in need of much more than words!

Did you notice how the high priest told Jesus that there were six other days in which to work? I guess he would have preferred that Jesus tell the woman to “come back tomorrow’ than for Him to heal her right then.

That’s another difference between religion and ministry. Religion doesn’t feel the pain of its adherents, rather it is more concerned that everyone fall in line and follow the established protocol. Real ministry feels the infirmities and sufferings of people, and does not wait around for prior approval to meet the need.

I love how Jesus turned the tables on the religious ruler by telling him if he had an animal that was thirsty, he would untie it and lead it to water on the Sabbath Day. By all accounts that too was ‘work’, so we see that the real issue here was not that Jesus was breaking the Law, but that this man’s religion was more important to him than ministering to the needy. In other words, this man had a ‘heart condition’ that would not permit him to offer comfort to the needy at the expense of his doctrine.

As Christians, this is not what we are to be. Knowing that Jesus came not for those who were whole, but for those that needed a physician, it stands to reason that such a mindset should be ours as well. [3]

As we gaze upon humanity with open hearts and minds, it is plain for all to see that people are imprisoned by sin, sickness, addictions of every sort, and are in distress and great need.

Our world is quickly losing its capacity to exhibit mercy and compassion, and is becoming insensitive to the plight of others. Additionally, we seem to have an insatiable appetite for gore, violence, and immorality. Such is the cost of a society that has rejected God.

May it not be said of us that we looked, but did not see. Rather, may it be said of us that we looked upon suffering humanity with the same eyes and heart that Jesus did.

After all, that is why we are here. Isn’t it?

Be blessed,

Ron

[1] This saying has been traced back to 1546, and has its origins in Jeremiah 5:21

[2] The affliction this woman had is known medically as Camptocormia, and is typically associated with another disease

[3] Scripture reference Mark 2:17

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